By: Carolyn Coleman
Since September is National Sickle Cell Month, I wanted to share key facts about the disease as well as my family’s story.
Sickle cell anemia is the most common inherited blood disease in the United States, affecting more people than ALS, cystic fibrosis, and most pediatric cancers. Because of the population that it affects, it does not get as much press as other hereditary diseases.
Sickle cell anemia primarily affects people of African, Middle Eastern, Mediterranean, South American, and Caribbean descent.
While no one in my family has sickle cell anemia, some of my siblings carry the sickle cell trait (SCT).
People who inherit one sickle cell gene and one normal gene have the sickle cell trait. People with SCT usually do not have any of the symptoms of sickle cell disease (SCD), but they can pass the trait on to their children.
My siblings and I were made aware of the sickle cell trait when my oldest brother was about to get married. He and his wife-to-be went in for testing and found out that they both carry SCT. My other siblings and I decided to get tested at the same and found that some of us carry the trait as well. Fortunately for me, I do not have SCT.
What does it mean when both the husband and wife carry SCT? According to kidshealth.com, if both parents have SCT, their kid(s) could be born with sickle cell anemia.
According to St. John’s Research Hospital, sickle cell disease is inherited. If both parents have SCT, there is a 25% chance that any resulting child will be born with SCD.
It has been over 20 years since my brother and his wife found out that they both carry SCT and made a conscious choice not to have kids. Now, both my brother and his wife are the best aunt and uncle to many nieces and nephews, as well as godparents to many friends and family kids.
I encourage you to visit the Center for Disease Control to read the most up to date information on Sickle Cell Disease and Sickle Cell Traits.