Doctors explain the importance of Sickle Cell Awareness Month

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MACON, Georgia (41NBC/WMGT)– September marks Sickle Cell Anemia Awareness Month. The disease causes red blood cells to become misshapen.

Gene mutations can cause sickle cell. The blood disease can be passed down from generations, cause lifelong problems and affect anyone at any age.

Venessa Harvey, founder of Cedric Sickle Cell Support Group in Macon, says her son suffers from sickle cell. She says he loves sports and hanging out with friends, but his disorder makes normal things difficult sometimes.

Harvey says her son’s illness has caused her family a lot of stress over the years.

“I have had my share of depression dealing with my son’s sickness,” Harvey stated. “My son has had probably about 3 or 4 different surgeries. My son just became able to start playing football again.”

Dr. Vishwas Sakhalkar, a Pediatric Hematologist and Oncologist with Beverly Knight Olson Children’s Hospital, says sickle cell can cause several other health problems.

“They have these different types of manifestations going on anywhere in the body where there’s sickling,” Sakhalkar said. “Pain is the most common manifestation. They can also get pneumonia, have stroke and chest pains, or gall bladder disease, and you can also have jaundice.”

Sakhalkar says every baby born in the US gets tested for Sickle Cell within their first two weeks of life. He says all parents must pay attention to the test results.

“If the newborn’s blood turns out to be abnormal they will send a letter to the child’s pediatrician. They will also try to contact the parents, but they need to be reading that letter. That’s the best way for them to know if they have sickle cell or not,” Sahkalkar said.

Dr. Sakhalkar says treatments for Sickle Cell include, medications for different stages of life, or bone marrow transplants.

To learn more about Sickle Cell Anemia and how it impacts people, visit the CDC’s website.

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Peyton Lewis is a 20-year-old reporter from Stockbridge, Georgia. She graduated in December of 2019 with her Bachelor's Degree in Journalism from the University of Georgia. She found a love for reporting after receiving a video camera for her 8th birthday. She and her friends would make mock newscasts in her backyard other creative content. Peyton's love for writing and creating videos pushed her to pursue journalism. In order to kick-start her dream of being a reporter, she left the traditional high school experience at the age of 16 to attend Gordon State College as a full-time student. She graduated with her Associate's degree two weeks before graduating from high school. Previously, Peyton worked as a news intern for 11 Alive in Atlanta, a radio intern for the Joy FM, and a reporter/ technical manager for Grady Newsource. Peyton dreams to become an investigative reporter that leaves a lasting impact on the world around her. She loves Disney, dogs, spicy food, musicals, and her family. Peyton also enjoys reading, watching movies, cheering on the Dawgs, and going on new adventures.