Saturday, September 19, 2015

Do You Really Know About Sickle Cell Disease? (Part 2)

The origin of the mutation that led to the sickle-cell gene was initially thought to be in the Arabian Peninsula, spreading to Asia and Africa. It is now known, from evaluation of chromosome structures, that there have been at least four independent mutational events, three in Africa and a fourth in either Saudi Arabia or central India. These independent events occurred between 3,000 and 6,000 generations ago, approximately 70-150,000 years.  So this just goes to show you that sickle cell disease (SCD) has been around for a very long time, since the 1600’s, and behooves me that the research, therapies, or even a cure has not been developed or discovered for brown people who are affected by this disease.  It is the only disease where the body mutated the red blood cells to preserve the body from malaria in the areas where SCD is known to originate.

The transatlantic slave trade was largely responsible for introducing the sickle cell gene into the Americas and the Caribbean. However, sickle cell disease had already spread from Africa to Southern Europe by the time of the slave trade, so it is present in Portuguese, Spaniards, French Corsicans, Sardinians, and Sicilians, mainland Italians, Greeks, Turks and Cypriots. Sickle cell disease appears in most of the near and Middle East countries including Lebanon, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Yemen.  The condition has also been reported in India and Sri Lanka. SCD is an international health problem and truly a global challenge.

The majority of sickle cell cases occur among African Americans who are either from Africa or can trace their lineage back to Africa. Other populations that the sickle cell gene is common in are located in the Mediterranean, Middle East, and India areas. These geographic locations are also home to the disease of malaria. It is believed that sickle cell anemia originated in these locations in response to malaria. People infected with sickle cell anemia are less vulnerable to malaria. This has caused an environment where people with the sickle cell disease survived due to less mortality from malaria. As the slave trade began, blacks that were transported to areas devoid of malaria no longer had a use for the sickle cell disease and so it became nothing but a debilitating hindrance.

There is a collection of clinical findings that was unknown until the explanation of the sickle cells in 1904 by the Chicago cardiologist and professor of medicine James B. Herrick (1861-1954).  Herrick’s intern Ernest Edward Irons (1877-1959) found "peculiar elongated and sickle-shaped" cells in the blood of Walter Clement Noel, a 20-year-old first-year dental student from Grenada, after Noel was admitted to the Chicago Presbyterian Hospital in December 1904 because he suffered from anemia.

It was not Noel’s only hospital stay, he was readmitted several times over the next three years due to what the doctors assumed to be "muscular rheumatism" and "bilious attacks". Noel completed his studies to become a dentist and returned to the capital of Grenada (St. George's) to practice dentistry. He died of pneumonia (which is a common reason of death for those living with SCD today) in 1916 and is buried in the Catholic cemetery at Sauteurs in the north of Grenada.

The disease was named "sickle-cell anemia" by Vernon Mason in 1922. However, some elements of the disease had been recognized earlier: A paper in the ''Southern Journal of Medical Pharmacology'' in 1846 described the absence of a spleen in the autopsy of a runaway slave.  This is common for most who have the SS hemoglobin, for the spleen to shrivel up like a raisin and is non-functional from birth.  However, those living with SC hemoglobin like myself the spleen is oversized and non-functional and will continue growing in the body until it ruptures.  I’ve experienced my spleen rupturing!  It grew to the point that it was beginning to move other organs around it, pushing to make more room for itself.  My spleen was removed and it was white and gray in color while the other organs around it were red and functioning properly.  It was the size of a premature baby, when a normal healthy spleen should be red like the organs around it and the size of a fist.

The African medical literature reported this condition in the 1870s, when it was known locally as ''ogbanjes'' ("children who come and go") because of the very high infant mortality rate caused by this condition. A history of the condition tracked reports back to 1670 in one Ghanaian family. Also, the practice of using tar soap to cover blemishes caused by sickle-cell sores was prevalent in the black community.

Linus Pauling and colleagues were the first, in 1949, to demonstrate that sickle-cell disease occurs as a result of an abnormality in the hemoglobin molecule. This was the first time a genetic disease was linked to a mutation of a specific protein, a milestone in the history of molecular biology, and it was published in their paper "Sickle Cell Anemia".

~By Tina Kay 

Sickle Cell Awareness Month 2015 (Part 1)

Sickle Cell Awareness month is September every year…and every year I share with you facts about SCD, information that will help people living with SCD, and how you can make a difference….but the most important thing I thought I could share with you, by not being transparent and sharing with you the good, bad, and real ugly with you, my FB family….Sometimes I think I’m simply wasting my time on this crusade to educate the public while trying to make life a little easier and worth living for people like me, who live with SCD….We need you (the person reading this) to do something this year!  Not another walk, run, gala, dare, or anything that is just fluff….In days to come I will share how you can help and give  lots of information about a disease that does not get much attention!  Watch out for “Painting for a Purpose Parties” and local high schools will compete against each other in the Birmingham, AL area, where you can find art work created by those living with SCD in an art gallery near you and how you can save lives and give people like me a better quality of life….You can be the change maker with it costing you very little to nothing but your time.  It’s time for a change and stop waiting for someone else to break the cycle and cause a change.

: In its simplest terms, the red blood cell is like a car driving throughout the body & every part of your body needs the oxygen that is supplied by the red blood cell.  So think of a regular red blood cell as a brand new shiny car that’s never been driven and is ready to take the road for an across the country trip (its shaped like a Krispy Kreme doughnut that’s nice an soft), all gassed up and ready to roll.  On the other hand you have a sickled red blood cell as an old lemon of a car (a Krispy Kreme doughnut that’s been sitting in the box for about a week, it’s hard, and someone has taken a bite out of it and put it back into the box) the air doesn’t work, it makes noises, cuts off whenever if feels like it causing traffic jams, parts are constantly coming off and just not very safe to drive)……A regular red blood cell has a life of 120 days & a sickled red blood cell will live in the body for 10-20 days at best…the job of the red blood cell while its taking this cross body (or country) drive is to drop off oxygen and pick up carbon dioxide and other bad gases that need to be removed from the body….The red blood cell travels through arteries & veins to get the job done and provide the organs, brain, tissue, bones, and even places in the body we don’t even think about with the oxygen needed to continue to do its job as a body…..However, the regular red blood cell has no problems getting through tight spaces because it was designed to be soft, squishy, and easy to maneuver throughout the body with no problems…..but the sickled cell isn’t even fit for the roads inside our bodies b/c they are hard, break easily, and cause traffic jams anywhere oxygen is needed within the body which is everywhere…..If the body does not have or get oxygen supplied throughout the body it dies (and everything needs red blood cells in the body to function properly).  So here we have a brand new cell (the shiny car) and a broken, damaged, and causing traffic jams throughout the body and can just barely make it to the state line on a cross country (body) trip.  The percentage of sickled cells found inside someone who lives with Sickle Cell Disease is extremely high (60-95%).  What are the chances that someone living with SCD living a long and awesome quality of life?

~Tina Kay    

Monday, March 30, 2015

Real Talk!

A girl like me needs blood every now and then, not just any kind of blood; I need donated blood!  It’s not because I did anything to cause myself to need blood I just happened to be born with sickle cell disease.  One of the only successful therapies for people living with sickle cell disease is blood transfusion or a blood exchange to help sicklers live a better quality of life, as well as a longer life!


Most normal red blood cells found in someone without SCD have red blood cells that last 120 days and work as a vehicle taking oxygen throughout the body; to the organs, tissue, bones, and brain.  It also has the job of picking up carbon dioxide and other bad gases to remove them from the body.  So think of blood as a vehicle with red blood cells sitting on the front and back seats being dropped off at different points throughout the body.  While dropping off the blood the gases are being thrown into the trunk to take it away from the body and discard.  Well those living with SCD  have red blood cells that last in the body for only 14 days therefore, the body is not getting the oxygen needed that is found in blood.  The vehicle in the body of someone living with SCD, the red blood cells, can be thought of as an old raggedy lemon of a car that will break down at any time.  So the blood does not get to all of the parts of the body and where there is no oxygen, there is death.  So, for a better quality of life and a longer life it is imperative that those living with SCD like me receive blood donated from people who are gracious enough to share their blood with people like me!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         Yes, a Girl like me needs blood every now and then; your blood!  When living with SCD, it is common to get blood transfusions and exchanges on a regular basis!  However, the best blood for an African American is the blood donated by another African Americans.  This holds true because genetically it is best to receive blood from someone whose genes align with one another.  This helps to prevent rejection and adverse reaction from a blood transfusion or exchange.  Unfortunately, only 37% of the population is eligible to donate blood, 10% actually donate and of that 10%, less than 1% are African Americans.


Blood is not only needed by those living with SCD but anybody!  Statistics say 1 in 7 people who go to the hospital for help will need blood.  Every 2-4 seconds someone in the U.S. needs blood.  More than 41,000 people need blood every day.  Without oxygen rich blood, the body does not get the oxygen that’s needed to survive.  And that is with any living thing, oxygen is needed. 


I am so grateful for the gracious people during my lifetime who have given a piece of themselves so I can live a longer life and have a better quality of life.  You may only know and see me as a pretty face, made up with makeup, and I love jewelry, clothes & shoes; but my appearance is about the only thing I can control in this life! When I awake each morning I count it as another blessing to do something for somebody else, the way others have given to me.  You see I was born with Sickle Cell Disease, not because I did anything, my parents had no clue in the 70's that they both had the trait that caused me to live with this awful disease.  SCD feels like a war is going on inside my body and I can't stop it!  So here I am, in pain most every day of my life, asking you who may be reading this to donate blood or donate funds....You can make a difference and you have the opportunity to save a life if only you would donate from the heart.  Help me and organizations like First United Community Foundation, the Alabama NAACP Conference, and Summit Media get 50,000 African Americans donate blood by December 31, 2015.  This campaign comes as a result of the 50 year anniversary of “Bloody Sunday”.  So many bled, were beaten, and even died for the rights we often take for granted these days but I want to encourage you to give blood every 60 days if you can starting April 18, 2015 at the kick-off event for the campaign “Arts For Life Festival” in Avondale Park from 10am-6pm.  For more information visit, Arts For Life page on Facebook, and Operation Push For Blood page on Facebook. Donate any amount by going to

By Tina Kay, NAACP Health Coordinator for Alabama

Friday, March 27, 2015

Donate Blood

Operation Push For Blood was created by Tina Kay because she was born with an inherited blood disorder (sickle cell disease) that has no cure and she needs blood often.  After needing blood and there was none available for 4 days she decided to make this one of her platforms, blood donation.   Many people don't realize that genetically it’s best that people who belong to the same ethnic group donate blood to one another to help decrease the number of complications that could possibly com along with using blood from another ethnic group.  In layman’s terms, it is best to receive blood from someone in your race (because more times than not there is a genetic match).  With blood transfusions and blood exchanges being common therapies for people like Tina Kay living with SCD, more African American blood donors are needed!  Tina Kay works closely with Life South Community Blood Centers who provide Alabama with approximately 95% of the blood in Alabama, because their specialty is blood and nothing else.  She's an amazing person according to Life South check it out

Tina has teamed up with First United Community Foundation (501c3), the NAACP (Alabama Conference) & Summit Media Group to get 50,000 African Americans to donate blood by December 31, 2015.  This campaign is in remembrance of our forefathers who shed blood and died for our rights during 'Bloody Sunday', so we are asking today’s generation to donate blood to save the lives of those who look like you.  However, if you cannot donate blood you can donate funds to help the blood donation campaign to help us reach the goal of 50,000 African Americans donating blood by the end of this year, however, donating both ways would be ideal!  Are you interested in entering your organization into the kick off festival to compete against other adult (civic, social, and professional) organizations?  All you have to do is email to enter your organization.  We as a people need to become blood donors for the remainder of your life, so that you can save many lives!

It is sad but true that the percentage of blood donated by black people is not filling the need, meaning more black people need to donate blood.  So, Tina Kay created a movement to educate, engage, and encourage blood donation in her community.  Most times Tina will use her own money to host blood drives in the form of competitions, challenges, festivals, events, and town hall forums to help increase the amount of donated blood.  She works with schools, churches, non-profits, organizations, and events to set up blood drives.  She really needs your help!  Studies have found that 37% of the population can donate blood but only 10% donate and less than 1% of that 10% are African Americans, if you are reading this and you do not donate blood on a regular basis now is your chance to make a difference by donating a kind contribution by visiting (Donate Blood or Donate Funds!)

Did you know every 2 seconds someone in the US needs blood, 1in 7 people who are admitted into the hospital will need blood, 1 blood donation can save the lives of 3 people, if someone started giving blood at the age of 17 years old until they were 76 years old, thousands of lives would be saved, and 4.5 million people will need blood every year.  In order to save lives and provide a better quality of life for others needing blood we need your generous monetary donation!  You never know, it could be your child or you in need of blood one day!

The kick off competitive festival for this campaign will begin Saturday, April 18, 2015 from 10am-6pm in Avondale Park (Birmingham, AL) see, Operation Push For Blood on Facebook, or Arts For Life Festival also on Facebook.  If you would like to enter your group or high school into the kick off festival (blood donation) competition or if you would like to host a blood drive please email
By Tina Kay