Bola’s Story: Life-saving sickle cell treatment highlighted in a new video sharing patient’s journey

Written by Leah Mahon
Published on 4th May 2021

FIGHTER: Bola is now a volunteer and advocate for finding more black blood donors to help those with sickle cell disease (Image by the Sickle Cell Society)

 Bola, a dedicated volunteer for the Sickle Cell Society, shares her story of living with sickle cell disorder and the treatment that saved her life. She was diagnosed with this disorder at eleven months and her parents were informed that she would not live past eleven years. Bola spent a large part of her childhood in hospital due to this condition. Sickle cell disease is a blood disorder, which primarily affects people of Caribbean or African backgrounds. This condition includes a variety of symptoms from anaemia, severe episodes of pain and over time can cause damage to the heart, liver and lungs.

 Three years ago, Bola was admitted to the hospital with pneumonia and came close to death. She was a participant in a new treatment, Exchange Blood Transfusion, which involved an exchange of a donor’s red blood cells that do not have the sickle haemoglobin with the patient’s red blood cells. This treatment was so effective that Bola has not had to spend time in a hospital for the past three years. She states that she is full of energy and is now able to use her time to pursue her interests. Exchange blood transfusion requires the blood donor to be of the same ethnicity as the patient for the treatment to be effective. Currently, only 1.5 % of blood donors are of African or Caribbean descent. Since 2018, Bola has been volunteering with the Sickle Cell Society, an organization that aims to bring awareness for the urgent need for more Black donors.

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