By Sarah Chacko
Killeen Daily Herald
At age 13, Jazmine Bates has already suffered three strokes.
Her last one, at age 5, left her paralyzed for months. She had to learn how to walk and talk all over again.
It was very difficult, said her mother, Jackie. She is very strong.
About one in four children whose parents have the trait for sickle-cell anemia will contract the disease, Bates said.
Her three boys are carriers. Jazmine has the disease.
The support Bates said she receives from the Central Texas Sickle Cell Anemia Association, headquartered in Waco, has helped her in times of crisis which has a very special meaning to those with the genetic disease.
The association offers counseling, financial assistance and other services for those afflicted with sickle cell anemia.
At their telethon pledge drive Sunday, the association raised $11,000, a small portion of their $90,000 operating budget which solely depends on donations.
The Central Texas association helps clients find money to buy prescriptions that are needed more often than some insurance companies will cover and provide transportation to medical facilities, she said.
According to the National Institutes of Health, sickle cell anemia is caused when red blood cells become hard, sticky and crescent- or sickle-shaped. Normally, these cells are smooth and round like doughnuts.
Sickled red blood cells tend to get stuck in small vessels and block blood flow, which can cause pain, tissue damage and a low blood count.
Because sickle cells do not last very long, it is difficult for the body to make new red blood cells fast enough to replace them.
Normal red blood cells last about 120 days in the bloodstream, the NIH states. Sickle cells die after about 10 to 20 days. Because red blood cells move oxygen through the body, body tissues can become starved of oxygen and die.
Sickle cell anemia is an inherited blood disease, the NIH Web site states. That means you are born with it and it lasts a lifetime.
Iris Bradley of Copperas Cove is one of the oldest members with sickle cell anemia.
At 52, Bradley said she is beating the diseases life expectancy rate of 44 by staying hydrated and avoiding stress.
I am blessed to be standing here, she said. This disease is debilitating.
She lost her sister, who was 42, to kidney and liver failure, which occurs when dead sickle cells collect in vital organs. Her brother never made it to his first birthday.
Her daughter and grandchildren have the trait.
According to the NIH, a person with the sickle cell trait does not have the disease but carries the gene that causes the disease.
About two million Americans and nearly one in 12 African-Americans have the trait.
Sickle cell anemia is common in people whose families come from parts of Africa; Spanish-speaking countries like South America, Cuba and Central America; Saudi Arabia; India and Mediterranean countries.
The disease will occur in about one in every 600 African-American births and one in every 1,000 Hispanic-American births.
In the United States, sickle cell anemia affects about 72,000 people.
Killeen director Ruby Graham said there are approximately 24 people in the Killeen area who are in contact with the association.
Many do not seek help because of the stigma associated with the disease, she said.
Sickle cell anemia cant kill you, Graham said. But it causes you to contract diseases that can.
Aside from the risks of organ failure, those with the disease suffer great amounts of pain during a crisis, when the blood cells get stuck in vessels.
Rev. Eugene Carter, executive director of the CTSCAA, said the organizations goal is to get 3,600 people to donate $25 to meet its financial goal.
Graham said the association provides resources and education that communities often lack.
We have to have an organization that fills in and helps, she said.
Contact Sarah Chacko at firstname.lastname@example.org