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Blood disease claims Baylor employee+s young grandson

Sept. 10, 1996

Blood disease claims Baylor employee's young grandson

By Denise Crozier

Lariat Reporter

The blood disease sickle-cell anemia became deadly for 10-year-old Justin Harvey, and now his family needs financial assistance to deal with the crisis.

Justin Harvey was the grandson of Baylor employee Betty Harvey. His grandmother worked at Baylor in the campus dining halls and cared for Justin until her health declined.

According to the Agency for Health Care Policy and Research, children who have the sickle-cell disease are particularly susceptible to infections and other potentially fatal complications. The condition, which is characterized by abnormally shaped red blood cells, can cause jaundice; pain in the abdomen, muscles and joints; skin ulcerations and gallstones.

According to the agency, these sickle-shaped cells do not carry enough oxygen to the parts of the body but instead stick together to prevent proper blood flow. This results in pain, damage to internal organs and, often, early death.

According to the pamphlet, one of every 10 African-Americans and many other people have sickle-cell trait, and they are often not even aware of it. They do not suffer the effects of sickle-cell anemia, but if two individuals with sickle-cell trait marry, each of their children has a one-in-four chance of having sickle-cell anemia.

People with sickle-cell disease have a combination of genes for sickle red blood cells and other abnormal hemoglobin, the protein that binds to and carries oxygen.

There is no cure for sickle-cell, but most symptoms are relieved by medicines and proper treatments.

Alan Keller, a statistician at the Texas Department of Health, said the number of Texans who died from sickle-cell anemia ranged from 21 to 35 individuals between 1990 and 1994. Justin Harvey became a part of that statistic when he died in April of complications associated with sickle-cell anemia.

Harvey and his family were unable to obtain life insurance because of his medical problems. Now the family needs financial assistance to pay for his funeral expenses.

The Central Texas Sickle-Cell Anemia Association of Waco offers free education and testing programs for sickle-cell. The test requires a little blood from the arm or finger.

Keller said mobile services from the Central Texas Sickle-Cell Anemia Association provides free blood testing.

Each participant will receive the results of the test, and those found to have sickle-cell in any form will receive additional information through counseling and/or physician referral.

For more details on how to help Justin's family through this crisis, contact Gene Carter at the Central Texas Sickle-Cell Anemia Association in Waco.

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