BALTIMORE, Maryland – (Ivanhoe Newswire) — Sickle-cell disease affects one hundred thousand Americans, whose blood cell shape resembles a crescent-moon, instead of being round and healthy. The defective cells don’t carry oxygen, so patients must undergo transfusions. Blood donors exist but they must be a perfect match. They’re called ‘blood twins.’ We meet a young Pennsylvania dad who lives a full life thanks to one of these rare donors.
Malick Burrow was born with sickle-cell disease. Both his parents were carriers.
Michelle Erickson, MD Medical Director of Blood Resources at WellSpan Health explains, “The cells themselves are defective. They stretch into this sickle shape and they won’t move through the blood vessels properly. They can’t get through and deliver the oxygen.”
Malick undergoes monthly blood transfusions, which remove sickle cells and replace them with healthy red blood cells. His rare blood requires a perfect donor match, known as ‘blood twins.’
Doctor Erickson says, “Most people think of a, b and o, and then they think of whether you’re positive or negative. Positive or negative means the d antigen. But there are many more blood antigens than just those.”
Doctor Erikson says all the blood variants would fill up a phone book, but each one of Malick’s blood antigens must match those of his blood twin donor or the body reacts.
“A patient receiving a poorly matched blood unit would have a blood transfusion reaction and it could be quite severe. It might induce hemolysis, so that those red blood cells would start to pop and break apart.” Explains Doctor Erikson.
Malick jokingly refers to the blood-twin transfusion as his ‘oil change,’ but it is terribly exhausting, physically.
“It’s not like hard to where I leave there and I’m exhausted, you know mentally wise.” Malick says.
He’s determined to set an example for his kids, who carry the sickle-cell trait, to never ever give up.
Mallick says, “I try to make it as normal as I can, because if I don’t, then you can go down a mentally wrong spiral.”
Doctor Erikson says, “There’s a blood twin for everybody, so we are looking for those twins to help our special patients.”
Malick is one of the lucky ones who found a blood twin.
Hospitals and blood banks need blood desperately due to aging donors and the effect of COVID-19. You might be the blood twin who makes a real difference. Donors do not need to match ethnicity to be a blood match.
Contributors to this news report include: Donna Parker, Producer; Kirk Manson, Videographer, Roque Correa, Editor.
BLOOD TWINS: A PERFECT MATCH
BACKGROUND: Sickle-cell disease is a genetic blood disorder characterized by abnormal hemoglobin, a protein in red blood cells responsible for carrying oxygen throughout the body. It is a hereditary condition, meaning it is passed down from parents to their children through specific gene mutations. One of the giveaway features of sickle cell disease is the propensity of these sickle cells to clump together and block small blood vessels, causing episodes of vaso-occlusion or a sickle cell crisis. These crises are intensely painful and can occur anywhere in the body, leading to severe pain, tissue damage, and, in some cases, organ failure. SCD affects over 100,000 people in the United States.The severity of sickle-cell disease varies widely from person to person. Some individuals may experience mild symptoms and lead relatively normal lives, while others may suffer from frequent and severe complications that can significantly impact their quality of life.
THE STUDY: Malick Burrows was born with sickle cell disease after both of his parents were carriers of the disease. Malick went to monthly blood transfusions to remove his sickle cells and replace them with healthier cells. In this case, rare blood cells need a perfect donor match also called, blood twins. Blood twins are needed to ensure there are no poor matches of blood donors that could cause serious harmful effects to those with sickle cell. A poor blood donor could cause hemolysis and cause red blood cells to pop and break.
NEW REGULATIONS: New bills have recently been passed in support of funding for Medicaid programs to help people struggling with sickle cell disease. Hospital banks are also in dire need of blood. Blood donation plays a critical role in healthcare, as it is essential for medical procedures, emergency situations, and the treatment of various medical conditions. Aged-out donors and the lasting effects of COVID-19 caused a blood shortage that reduces the number of available blood twins to treat sickle cell disease. Donors do not need to match any kind of ethnicity to donate blood today due to the blood shortages.
* For More Information, Contact:
Michelle Erickson, MD
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