For most of us, the summer represents fun: playing outdoors, cooling off in a pool and enjoying a family vacation.
But for the many children, teens and adults living with sickle cell disease, these activities can trigger an extremely painful “crisis” episode–the most common manifestation of this genetic, chronic, and deadly disease.
Crisis has been described as a severely debilitating pain: sharp, intense, stabbing, throbbing, and more uncomfortable than post-surgical pain or even childbirth. Worse, crisis can occur at any moment without warning.
Enjoying a summer day at the pool can end up in the hospital if you’re not aware of the crisis triggers. Crisis is the leading cause of hospital admissions among people with sickle cell disease. And, this recurring condition hospitalizes sufferers for 4-5 days on average, but may last a week or longer. Each year, there are about 100,000 crisis hospitalizations.
Crisis occurs when the level of “sickled” blood cells rises, blocks the small blood vessels, and reduces oxygen delivery and blood flow to vital organs and bone marrow. Over time, this can cause organ failure and early death. In fact, the typical life expectancy for people living with sickle cell disease is only 45 years.