Join me in giving back this Black History Month
For those of you who don’t know me, my name is Anthony Phillips, and I manage the Adult Basic Education program here at RCBC. Although many of you almost never hear from me, I’m reaching out today about something that is very near to my heart: sickle cell disease.
My wife Chevalle and I were blessed to have three children: Marcus, Kwame and Imani Rae. During my wife’s pregnancy, we learned that we both had the sickle cell trait and that our children would have a 25% chance of being born with sickle cell disease. Our boys were born with it and our daughter, fortunately, was not.
Early on, we were scared to death with Marcus, who is now 31 and living a productive life with his family. Kwame is now 28, "sickle cell-free" and living and working in NYC. However, throughout their childhood, my wife and I spent days and nights in Philadelphia's Children's and St. Christopher's Hospitals when this debilitating disease would cause our sons to experience what is called "a crisis." This occurred when oxygen did not enter the blood cells due to various factors. When this happens, the cells lose their smooth and circular shape, causing pain to the area of the body that they affect. Sadly, as a parent, there is literally nothing you can do about this except hold or massage your children, administer harmful pain meds or take them to the hospital for pain treatment, methods to increase the flow of oxygen and/or a blood transfusion.
Earlier, I mentioned that my son, Kwame, is now “sickle cell-free.” He suffered a stroke when he was six years old; he recovered very well, but this allowed him to be a candidate for exploratory treatments. We chose a program that would transplant the bone marrow of a sickle cell-free person into Kwame. Well, my daughter, Imani Rae, at age 12, bravely agreed to donate her bone marrow to her brother. Her bone marrow was successfully harvested in Kwame, and the rest is history.
Over the years, my wife and I became very active within the sickle cell community in the Delaware Valley area. I became supportive of the Sickle Cell Disease Association of Phila/DelVal Vicinity (SCDAA) and eventually became a member of their Board of Directors. I have been on the Board for well over 20 years. This organization advocates for the sickle cell community by educating and helping provide resources to families who have members with the disease. My wife served as the Sickle Cell Parent Coordinator for St. Christopher's Hospital for over 20 years.
So, where do you fit in here? Blood transfusions are a necessary part of medical treatment for many with sickle cell disease. You can help fill this urgent need by donating blood. As part of their lineup of Black History Month events, our African American Cultural Committee is hosting an American Red Cross Blood Drive for Sickle Cell Awareness from 10 am to 3 pm, on February 6. The event will take place at Al-Nasr Mosque in Willingboro, and you may register for it at redcrossblood.org.
Thank you for taking the time out of your day to read my story. Although the pandemic has kept us at a distance, it’s efforts like these that bring us together and show how we’re all connected.