JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – At 28 years old, Vanessa Baffour-Singletary balances life as a wife, mother and a career in educational policy.
But she has a battle to fight every day: sickle cell anemia.
“There are days when I feel fine and then all of a sudden pain would hit,” Baffour-Singletary said. “It feels like someone is hammering on your body in different places. Our pain is invisible. Sometimes people do not believe us.”
Sickle cell anemia is a genetic blood disease. For those like Baffour-Singletary who have it, their red blood cells do not form into a disc shape. Instead, they are crescent-shaped and can cause significant pain and organs to fail, among other ailments.
“For me, it is in a lot of my joints,” Baffour-Singletary said. “So, the blood is not flowing to my joints. I have a hip replacement. I take my medication. There are some chemotherapy drugs that I am able to take.”
She says the pain often leads to stays in the hospital.
Baffour-Singletary has already been hospitalized more than four times already this year alone.
People with sickle cell can also expect to need several blood transfusions in their lifetimes and possibly even bone marrow transplants.
That is where the community can help.
More people need to donate blood and be tested to see if they are a match to assist with bone marrow transplants.
James Skahn works with LifeSouth, which not only makes sure blood is supplied to local hospitals but helps find matches for blood transfusions and bone marrow transplants.
“We try to pair people who have similar antigen profiles in their blood with people that need the transfusion,” Skahn said.
According to LifeSouth, sickle cell affects African Americans at higher rates than other communities. One out of every 365 African Americans is born with it. The disease impacts between 90,000 to 100,000 Americans and African Americans make up roughly 70,000 of those cases, according to LifeSouth.
Baffour-Singletary hopes her journey educates others and encourages people to help make a difference.