published Friday, June 15th, 2012

Sickle cell to take spotlight Saturday, World Sickle Cell Awareness Day

Carlous Drake, photographed in his father's recording studio Thursday, will host a gospel concert at Olivet Baptist Church on Saturday to raise funds for the Sickle Cell Foundation of Tennessee.
Carlous Drake, photographed in his father's recording studio Thursday, will host a gospel concert at Olivet Baptist Church on Saturday to raise funds for the Sickle Cell Foundation of Tennessee.
Photo by John Rawlston.

HOW TO HELP

• Passion of Praise Concert at Olivet Baptist Church. 6 p.m. Saturday. Donations requested.

• Sickle Cell Awareness Carnival at Coolidge Park. 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday.

• Local Bone Marrow Registry office is at 423-752-5951.

ABOUT SICKLE CELL

What it is: Sickle cell disease is an inherited group of red blood cell disorders. Abnormally shaped red blood cells get stuck in small blood vessels and block the flow of blood and oxygen to organs in the body. The blockages can cause repeated episodes of severe pain, organ damage, serious infections and stroke.

Who it affects: Sickle cell affects 90,000 to 100,000 people in the United States, mainly blacks. It occurs among one out of every 36,000 Hispanic-American births. It is especially common among people who have ancestry in sub-Saharan Africa, South America, the Caribbean, Central America, Saudi Arabia, India and Mediterranean countries such as Turkey.

Source: Centers for Disease Control

The pain from sickle cell is like placing your thumb on the table and having someone slam a hammer on it, says Carlous Drake.

Then there's the frustration of not being in school because of the illness and needing tutors to help you catch up on lessons that other classmates already know.

Drake dealt with that kind of pain and frustration until sixth grade, when doctors learned that a drug initially used for cancer patients also allowed him to live virtually pain free.

Now Drake, a 20-year-old local musician, husband and expecting father, lives a healthy life and he wants to help others who battle the disease.

He will be among millions of people throughout the world working to create more awareness about sickle cell disease on Saturday, recognized as World Sickle Cell Awareness Day.

Blood Assurance, Brewer Media and the Chattanooga Scenic City Sickle Cell Corp. will sponsor a Sickle Cell Awareness Carnival on Saturday at Coolidge Park. Proceeds will go to the Chattanooga Scenic City Sickle Cell Corp.

"We want to help out as many families as we can," said Philip Thomas, marketing chairman for the corporation.

Money raised will be used to help people with sickle cell get medicine and make ends meet, he said.

Drake will host a Passion of Praise concert at Olivet Baptist Church the same day with proceeds going to the Sickle Cell Foundation of Tennessee.

Sickle cell affects 90,000 to 100,000 people in the United States, mainly blacks, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. However, many people don't know they carry the trait, said Drake.

One major danger is, if two people who have the sickle cell trait have children, the risk is greater that their child will have sickle cell disease. If people know they carry the trait, at least they will be aware of the risk they take when they have children with someone who is also a carrier, Drake said.

A bone marrow transplant can provide life-saving opportunity for a child living with sickle cell. But many blacks and other minorities can't find bone marrow donors. Of the 9 million people on the Be the Match Registry, only 7 percent are black, according to the Chattanooga Scenic City Sickle Cell Corp.

In 2008, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution recognizing sickle cell disease as a public health concern and making June 16 an awareness day, according to the CDC.

Having sickle cell disease was a rough road to travel in the earlier part of his life, said Drake, but living through the disease and helping others live through it gives him purpose.

"Just because you have a thorn in your side," said Drake, "doesn't mean you can't live out God's purpose."

about Yolanda Putman...

Yolanda Putman has been a reporter at the Times Free Press for 11 years. She covers housing and previously covered education and crime. Yolanda is a Chattanooga native who has a master’s degree in communication from the University of Tennessee and a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Alabama State University. She previously worked at the Lima (Ohio) News. She enjoys running, reading and writing and is the mother of one son, Tyreese. She has also ...

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