Courage Spotlight – Sickle Cell Disease

There are many kinds of courage. Living with Sickle Cell Disease requires more than one of them.

Dontae Morrow is twelve, and does not want to be labeled the sick kid. He may have to live with sickle cell disease, but that does not define him. Being the minister’s son, however, does sometimes prove difficult to deal with.

He lives on Chicago’s south side where he and T’Shawn have become best friends. Truth is, he gets a little put off when T insists on “mothering” him, but that doesn’t interfere with their friendship. Medications and T’s care have kept him crisis free for some time…until the day the boys have an encounter with the Chicago Police Department that leaves him writhing in pain and fearing for his short life.

Sickle cell disease is a group of blood disorders that effect hemoglobin. It is the most common inherited blood disorder in the United States, affecting 1 in 500 African Americans, and 1 in 1,000 Hispanic Americans. The disease can also be found in People of Middle Eastern, Asian, Indian, and Mediterranean descent.

Extreme pain can occur in individuals with SCD during a crisis, when sickled blood cells clog the smaller arteries depriving tissue of oxygen. Thanks to advances in treatment, many people with SCD live long and productive lives. But SCD can also cut lives short due to anemia and the damage that can occur to tissue and organs when deprived of oxygen during a crisis. This can include the possibility of strokes, even in young children.

The good news is the FDA recently approved a new treatment for SCD, as reported here.

That’s why, even though he hates being the sick kid, Dontae mostly follows the rules designed to keep himself strong and healthy, such as eating well, getting enough rest, and keeping up with his checkups.  The problem is, he can’t avoid the stress that comes when a police officer stops him because he “fits the description.” Stress brings on a crisis, and a crisis means he can’t comply with their orders – not even when a gun is pointed at his chest.

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