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Living with sickle cell

JAHQUIE MARTIN Special to the AmNews | 5/23/2012, 6:34 p.m.
Editor's note: According to Rep. Danny K. Davis, around 72,000 Americans have sickle cell disease....
Living with sickle cell

Editor's note: According to Rep. Danny K. Davis, around 72,000 Americans have sickle cell disease. More than 2.5 million people have sickle cell traits, including one in every 12 African-Americans. Davis has asked fellow members of Congress to support President Barack Obama's continuation for funding of the Sickle Cell Disease Treatment Demonstration Program, and the Registry and Surveillance System for Hemoglobinopathies initiative. Here, Brooklyn Boys and Girls High School student Jahquie Martin shares his story with AmNews readers.

My name is Jahquie Martin and I was born April 9, 1996, with sickle cell anemia. Sickle cell is a blood disease that causes me extreme pain. I have to keep my body hydrated so my red blood cells won't get stuck and clog my veins. My sickle cell has affected me since I was a baby.

Two months old is when I had my first sickle cell crisis. Around every six months, I would become sick and have to be admitted to the hospital. My sickle cell affected me differently at that age; I wouldn't go through pain, I would get high fevers or even catch pneumonia. Age 5 is when I started having painful episodes, and as I got older, the pain became more intense but less often.

One of the most painful episodes I went though happened when I was 11 years old. I was walking home from school when the pain just struck me, from my lower back to my legs. I immediately knew I had to go to the hospital. When I got home, my mother could tell I was in pain from my facial expression. At first my mother tried to take care of me at home by giving me Tylenol and codeine pills. She also tried to put a heating pad where the pain was, but nothing she did worked.

Since trying to contain it at home didn't work, my mother took me to the hospital. At the hospital they tried giving me Tylenol and codeine pills, but that didn't work for me--the pain was just too unbearable.

The doctors at the hospital decided to give me morphine and the pain temporarily stopped, so it worked. After that experience, when I get into a bad sickle cell crisis, I know that the only medicine that will work is morphine.

Now I rarely get into painful episodes because I drink plenty of fluids and take a medicine that helps prevent attacks called hydroxyurea, but when I do get a sickle cell crisis, it causes me excruciating pain.

On the positive side, I think anyone can overcome sickle cell if you take care of your body and watch what you eat, drink and do.

For more information, visit www.sicklecelldisease.org.