NHLBI Director Dr. Gary H. Gibbons spoke with radio host Yolanda Adams about what sickle cell disease is and how NIH-funded research has helped improve the lives of those who have the condition. Below is a transcript of the interview:
Yolanda Adams (Host): Welcome back to the Yolanda Adams morning show, it is a fly Friday. We always give you information that you can use and that can bless your family. This young man is no exception. He’s going to talk about today being National Sickle Cell Awareness and Sickle Cell Disease Day. He is Dr. Gary H. Gibbons. Welcome to the Yolanda Adams Morning Show sir, how are you?
Dr. Gary H. Gibbons: Thank you, it’s a pleasure to be with you.
Yolanda Adams: Yes, now we know that sickle cell disease is very prevalent in the African-American community. Can you give us some information on what Sickle Cell Disease is?
Dr. Gary Gibbons: Well, certainly. We appreciate this opportunity to acknowledge World Sickle Cell Day. It gives us an opportunity to raise awareness and to transmit our commitment to transforming the lives of patients who live with this devastating blood disorder. In brief, sickle cell disease is a disorder that is inherited from parent to child in which the child gets a copy of the gene that encodes hemoglobin, this is the protein that provides oxygen to all the tissues and if you have this sickle hemoglobin, you have an impairment of the ability to move oxygen around to all the blood tissues that it needs to function properly. This is a devastating disorder because it can cause complications like a stroke or heart failure to those patients who have this disease.
Yolanda Adams: So that’s why it is so important for us to understand the disease first of all and then understand those symptoms of the disease because usually people who don’t go to the doctor and haven’t gone to the doctor it’s hard for them to really understand how devastating this is because we usually find out at birth that we have sickle cell right?
Dr. Gary Gibbons: That’s correct. This is something that’s done as a screening test for all newborns in this country. It is a disorder that occurs in about 1 in every 365 births amongst the African-American community. So it’s not common but also it’s not too rare as well and in fact 1 in every 15 individuals typically of African ancestry, at least carries the trait, one copy of this disorder. It is when two parents get together and pass on both of those abnormal copies that you have a child with sickle cell disease. So it is important for people to be aware of this and to recognize this when it’s being screened in the children.
Yolanda Adams: Now what medical problems can be caused by sickle cell disease?
Dr. Gary Gibbons: So sickle cell disease, because sickle hemoglobin is unable to carry oxygen to the tissues, can affect children in a number of ways. First, in the developing brain -- their brains aren’t exposed to the proper amount of oxygen [and] that can impair that development and even cause stroke, where the brain cells die. In fact, 1 in 4 children with sickle cell disease may already show evidence of having had a stroke. You’re aware that that can be incredibly devastating to a child. And so that’s one of the [complications], so it can actually affect nearly every organ in the body.
Yolanda Adams: Now, I know you all are constantly doing clinical trials that are so important for the African-American community. Can you give us some updates on what’s good that’s going on? Cause I know there’s a lot of great things that are coming out of the sickle cell research that you all are doing.
Dr. Gary Gibbons: You are right Yolanda. The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, a part of the NIH, has been funding research for many years. In the 1970s, a child born with sickle cell disease might not even experience life past a high school age.
Yolanda Adams: Right.
Dr. Gary Gibbons: But that’s dramatically improved over the last several decades thanks to the research findings that we funded. We now -- with interventions and giving antibiotics and chronic transfusions, use of drugs like hydroxyurea -- have extended the lifespans [into the] 40s and 60s. We are committed to a research agenda for new knowledge to look at new drug treatments, therapies, that we can develop and ways that we can actually even imagine a cure for sickle cell disease.
Yolanda Adams: And we are all about living in balance here so that means that we talk about spirit, we talk about body, we talk about mind, we talk about exercise. What are the recommendations for a healthy lifestyle for someone who has sickle cell and for parents who will be helping their children or their loved ones who have the disease?
Dr. Gary Gibbons: We believe it is very important to empower patients, as you say, to take care of their bodies and to recognize and sense that they are getting the best possible treatment. So some of it is adhering to what we already know that works. And again, as you say, living a balanced and healthy lifestyle[is] important for them to sustain their health. In addition there are things that everyone in your listening audience could be helpful in. For example, for sickle cell disease patients, a blood donation can be a lifesaver since they depend on chronic transfusions, particularly in the African-American community where it is important to get those right matches of blood donations of these patients with sickle cell disease.
Yolanda Adams: Well that is so wonderful, now is there a website that we can keep in touch with the National Heart Blood and Lung Institute? And then give us your information
Dr. Gary Gibbons: So you certainly can come to our website National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, NHLBI, and we have a whole page of resources that provide this information, explains the disease, explains in how we can be more supportive as a community in helping these patients. We are also on Facebook and Twitter and so there are a number of ways to access that information.
Yolanda Adams: He is Dr. Gary H. Gibbons. He’s director of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute at the National Institutes of Health. We are so excited and so happy to announce that today is Global Sickle Cell Awareness Day, and doctor, we thank you so much for being here. Thank you for all of the research that you are doing. Thank you for everything that you have done to make our lives so much better.
Dr. Gary Gibbons: Well thank you Yolanda.
Yolanda Adams: Alright have a blessed day.
Dr. Gary Gibbons: You too.
Yolanda Adams: Bye, Bye.
Male cohost: Powerful information.
Yolanda Adams: Oh yeah.
Male announcer: Yeah.
Yolanda Adams: Yeah and everybody needs to know, you know because all of us know someone who is affected with or you know affected by the disease. They may not have it but you know someone who does know someone
Male announcer: It’s one of the…one of the diseases we talk about each and every year with St. Jude
Yolanda Adams: Yes, Yes
Male announcer: So that’s why you see the research is powerful and then getting out the valuable information and so here’s some great information that you received this morning. And we’ll have that again on our website…
Yolanda Adams: …Mm hmm…
Male announcer: …at the Yolanda Adams morning show.com if you get a chance to hear it in its entirety again. So, we are excited about that.
Learn more about sickle cell disease from the NHLBI: http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/sca/
Learn more about Yolanda Adams’ radio program “The Yolanda Adams Morning Show”: http://theyolandaadamsmorningshow.com/
Audio courtesy of Reach Media, Inc.