For the first time in a year, Philomenia Johnson has some good news to report. A bone marrow donor has been found for her 15-year-old daughter, who has been battling sickle cell disease and the debilitating pain that comes with it for most of her life.
“It’s like breathing a sigh of relief,” Johnson said. “I’m not saying there won’t be hard times. But she can play.”
Sickle cell disease, which predominately affects African-Americans, is a genetic blood disorder that causes sickle-shaped red blood cells to exist where normally shaped red blood cells should. The misshapen cells stick together and block oxygen flow to areas of the body, triggering episodes of excruciating pain that cause fevers, chest pains, seizure, organ damage and strokes.
For Johnson’s daughter, Hidea Smith, the disorder has caused severe respiratory infections in her lungs and most recently, kidney failure, said Dr. Julie Kanter, who performs pediatric bone marrow transplants at Tulane Medical Center.
The chance of finding a permanent cure for Hidea by locating a bone marrow match was a long shot.
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