Sickle cell disease changes the shape of a person's red blood cells. Instead of being flexible and disc-shaped, they are curved and stiff. These sickle-shaped blood cells don't flow through blood vessels easily and can clog the vessels. And if this happens, blood and oxygen can't get through, and parts of the body- the heart, lungs, and kidneys - can't work the way they should. The blockage also can cause pain. People with sickle cell disease sometimes have pain. When this happens, it is called a sickle cell crisis, or pain crisis.
But if that’s not enough, those with sickle cell also have to deal with issues surrounding this coronavirus sweeping through the UK.
Unsurprisingly, COVID-19 has been disproportionately affecting many ethnic minorities community and exposing health disparities we’ve known for years.
But there’s hope: one 7-year-old boy who has sickle cell and was stricken with COVID-19 has recovered.
The 7-year-old boy who recovered from COVID-19. Image credit WFAB.com
After several blood transfusions, Nasir Striggs, is on the road to a full recovery.
According to WAFB 9News is Louisiana's News Channel, Striggs went to Baltimore’s Sinai Hospital after his mother, Deshannon Striggs, noticed he was having difficulties at breathing.
He then tested positive for coronavirus, and an X-ray revealed he had pneumonia in both of his lungs.
Nasir’s mother says the entire medical team took really good care of Nasir despite him having sickle cell. The 7-year-old needed three blood transfusions.
“He had to keep getting stuck by the needle because the needle kept coming out,” Striggs explained. “To watch him go through that, it was really scary.”
In sickle cell disease patients, a blood transfusion is used to provide normal red blood cells to the patient’s body. The transfusions help lessen anaemia and reduce the blood’s viscosity, allowing it to flow more freely and ease disease symptoms and prevent complications.
After 3 transfusions, much distress, and many days into treatment, Nasir began to bounce back. His mother says support and prayers helped her get through the tough time when she thought that her son might have passed away.
Sickle cell disease (SCD) occurs in people who inherit two copies of the sickle cell gene, one from each parent. This produces abnormal hemoglobin, called hemoglobin S. [Hemoglobin is the protein molecule in red blood cells that carries oxygen from the lungs to the body's tissues and returns carbon dioxide from the tissues to the lungs.] When an individual inherits one copy of the sickle cell gene from a parent, the person is said to have sickle cell trait (SCT). People with SCT usually do not have any of the symptoms SCD and live a normal life. Image credit Thalassaemia International Federation (TIF)
According to The Sickle Cell Society website, family members and caregivers of people with sickle cell disease should take appropriate precautions and extra care to avoid bringing COVID-19 home. Hence, it’s important to constantly monitor patients and make sure not to get in contact with the patient during the isolation period.
They should wear gloves when coming in contact with blood or body fluids of patients with a COVID-19 infection and thoroughly wash clothes and highly touched surfaces such as counters, doorknobs, bathroom fixtures, and toilets.
If family members and caregivers show symptoms of COVID-19 themselves, they should avoid coming in contact with the patient until the self-isolation period is complete.
So, what can other COVID-19 patients learn from all of this?
“Just keep the faith. That’s the message, keep the faith,” Deshannon concluded smiling.