Friday, July 26, 2013

A Hero's Sickle Cell Battle - Keone Penn

I always wanted to interview Keone Penn. In 1998, he was the 12 year old boy who was the first to receive an experimental stem cell treatment at Emory University Hospital. Keone received the first unrelated cord blood transplant which led to the first "cure" of sickle cell disease. 

Earlier this year, I searched for Keone to get a statement on how he was doing 15 years later. I found Keone's twitter account, and told him I was interested in catching up with him and his life after stem cell surgery. I got no response. I was disappointed, but not surprised. I've found that many people who've received stem cell treatments don't (or can't) talk about their experience (bad or good) for whatever reason.
Personally, I still wondered what happened to that brave kid. He paved the way for many others to have hope of a cure for sickle cell through stem cell bone marrow transplants and he was my hero.

Today, I got an email notifying the world of Keone Penn's passing. My heart sank with the news of the loss of this 27 year old young man. I was saddened for his family, who I could only imagine lived a life of sacrifice on a difficult road paved by their son.

God bless the memory of Keone Penn, friend in my head and my hero.    

Time Magazine Article - The Sickle Cell Kid

CNN Article - Boy Receives First Cord Blood Transplant For Sickle Cell

Obituary - Keone Penn, 27 Medical Trailblazer