Worldwide millions of people suffer from a devastating blood disorder known as sickle cell anemia. African Americans and minorities are primarily affected. University of Texas Health Medical Center doctors have made a breakthrough discovery with this crippling disease.
Semaj Bailey lives by taking close to 20 medications a day, many mornings it’s a challenge for her to get out of bed and at the age of 36 she’s undergone several surgeries and blood transfusions.
“ When I was little I would tell the doctor it's like someone is taking a hammer and just chiseling away at each and every inch of my bone,” Semaj said.
She was diagnosed with sickle cell anemia when she was 8 months old. The blood disorder affects 90,000 Americans.
“It's almost like your body never rests because you always have this constant aching in your bones,” Semaj said.
She says her pain makes it difficult to finish getting her nursing degree or hold any type of job. One of her most freighting experiences was giving birth to her son and beforehand going into coma.
“I didn't see my son for 7 days so we both survived and I'm happy and blessed,” Semaj said.
She is a patient of Dr. Modupe Idowu with the University of Texas Health Medical School. Recently Dr. Idowu discovered patients with sickle cell anemia produce more of a substance which reduces the amount of oxygen in a person’s blood cells. Currently there is only one drug that is FDA approved for sickle cell disease but it comes with many side effects. Doctors say this breakthrough is major because they can focus on finding a drug without many complications.
“Typically they say the lifespan for a sickle cell patient is 50-55 and I think we just deserve to get old and gray,” Semaj said.
Doctors encourage all minorities to get tested for sickle cell because you could have the trait and end up giving birth to a child with the disease.