Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Blood & Sickle Cell Disease

Blood is the life force within our bodies. Like oil in an engine, we can’t run without it. We can live with a transplanted heart and we can live without a kidney. If we lose a limb, we can order up a prostatic part and keep going.

Blood, however, cannot be replaced entirely. Sure, we can get transfusions, which will supplement what we already have, but we need a full supply to live.

People with sickle cell have red blood cells with a shorter life span. Usually, red blood cells live 120 days. For people with sickle cell the red blood cell lives only 10 -20 days. When those short-lived red blood cells die prematurely it also causes anemia. To top that off, in addition to having short-lived red blood cells, the ones we do have are sickled shaped and lacking oxygen.

Transfusions may be needed if red blood counts get too low to sustain life. Blood is made up of red blood cells, white blood cells, platelets, and plasma. Blood is transfused either as whole blood (with all its parts) or as individual parts. Every person has one blood type (A, B, AB, or O). Also, every person’s blood has an RH negative or RH positive. When getting a transfusion, the blood type received must work with your blood type.
Getting many blood transfusions can cause too much iron to build up (iron overload). People, who require multiple transfusions, are at risk for iron overload. Iron overload can damage the liver, heart, and other parts of your body. Blood transfusions can also damage lungs, making it hard to breathe. Most patients recover, however, 5 to 25 percent of patients (who are very ill to begin with) develop life threatening lung injuries.

When getting blood transfusions there is a (small) chance of contracting a virus or infection. In addition, some people experience allergic reactions. (I once grew hair on my chest after receiving a transfusion.) Hey, I’m a woman and this ain’t supposed to happen.

At some point, most people with sickle cell disease will need a blood transfusion, some more than others. Overall, this life flowing fluid is a blessing. Those of us who receive it, thankfully do. Those of you who give it, thank god for you.

For more information see:
National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/dci/Diseases/bt/bt_summary.html

1 comment:

  1. Let's ask our friends to donate blood www.redcross.org