Right here in Memphis, we have one of the largest populations of sickle cell disease patients in the country. For these patients, daily life is often interrupted by pain that can last weeks – threatening their family life, career, education and social life. Sickle cell patients between the ages of 18-25 are also faced with a critical turning point of transitioning out of pediatric care into adult sickle cell care. This can be a frightening prospect, and many times patients do not make the transition, often going without the critical care they need.
What is Sickle Cell Disease?
The term “sickle cell disease” refers to a group of similar hemoglobin disorders. All forms of sickle cell disease are marked by anemia (a low red blood cell count) and by crescent-shaped red blood cells.
People with sickle cell disease have red blood cells that become hard and pointed and take on a sickle shape. Because sickle-shaped cells do not move easily through blood vessels, they often clump and block blood flow to the limbs and organs. Blocked blood vessels can cause pain, serious infections, organ damage and stroke.
How this affects children
Sickle cell disease is a blood disorder that is passed down from the parent’s genes to the child. It is inherited when a child has two sickle cell genes, one from each parent. Most children will start showing symptoms during the first year, often around 5 months.
Symptoms can include:
- Jaundice (yellowing of the skin, eyes and mouth)
- Pain or sickle crisis
- Acute chest syndrome
- Splenic sequestration (pooling)
Treatment may include:
- Pain medications
- Vaccines and antibiotics
- Regular eye exams
- Blood transfusions
- Stem cell replacement
Transitioning to Adult Sickle Cell Care
The Methodist Comprehensive Sickle Cell Center is a preventive outpatient clinic and dedicated emergency infusion unit specifically for adult sickle cell patients. Our transition program serves patients ages 18-25 who are transitioning from pediatric to adult care. Through this program, we provide much needed support and focus on their specific concerns.
Our transition program:
- Maintains a close relationship with St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, which allows us to be very familiar with the patient’s care
- Provides patient- and family-centered care, which means we welcome and value family involvement in the patient’s care
- Provides resources, including social and psychological care, in clinic
- Provides prompt referrals to other specialty doctors
- In cases of pain crisis, we can provide immediate treatment at our infusion center.
- Our excellent communication with the hospital staff means if a patient is hospitalized, we are able to monitor their care closely.
Our Center, in collaboration with St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, is also on the forefront of performing cutting-edge research:
- Testing new drugs that improve the symptoms of sickle cell disease
- Investigating the long-term outcomes of sickle cell disease
- Developing new clinical trials
- Studying a cure of the disease through bone marrow transplantation and, in the future, gene therapy
If you’d like more information about becoming a patient call 901.516.8785 or 901.516.8188.