As a small child, Lukreesha Grant believed she suffered from “low blood.” The only medical term that was used for her condition was leukemia, she said.
Through blood tests taken during her first pregnancy, Grant, 33, of Pompano, discovered that she had the sickle cell trait. She learned also that her eldest son, Kevyn, now 15, also has the trait.
Of her other children, Nahja Shakir, 11, has the trait and Mikeelah Foster, 3, and De-mesjah King, have the sickle cell disease.
Karen Smalls always knew she carried the sickle cell trait but for years thought it meant she was anemic.
“I had no idea what it really meant to be a carrier and thought it meant the same thing [anemia],” said Smalls, president of the Sickle Cell Disease Association of Broward County.
People, Smalls said, need to know their status and what it means.
The association on Saturday hosted its Cell-ebration 5k Run/Walk, on the theme “Celebrating Help and Inspiring Hope,” at the Central Broward Regional Park in Lauderhill.
The event, which provided education on sickle cell and free screening for the disease, was sponsored by The Links’ South Florida chapter, Broward Health, Walking People United, Runners Depot, Running Wild and Mark Barb and Mike D. Paine.
Sickle cell disease, which affects about one of every 500 African Americans, belongs to a group of inherited red blood cell disorders. Normal red blood cells are round like doughnuts and move through small blood tubes in the body to deliver oxygen. Sickle red blood cells become hard, sticky and shaped like sickles used to cut wheat. When hard and pointed red cells pass through the small blood vessel, they clog the artery and break apart, causing severe pain.
People with sickle cell trait do not have the disease but are carriers who can pass it on to others who can get the disease.
The Cell-ebration 5k Run/Walk, now in its 34th year, attracted about 150 runners, walkers and supporters, Smalls said. It raised about $5,000 and more donations were expected. The first of this year’s South Florida sickle cell run/walk was held Sept. 11 at Sun Life Stadium in Miami Gardens, sponsored by the Miami-Dade association.
Money raised at Saturday’s event will be used to assist those with the disease offset household and medical expenses, Smalls said.
“Many are having trouble paying their bills,” she said.
The association has partnered with Florida Power and Light and Community Access Center to help them, she said.
The run’s overall winners were Warren Courtney, 35, of Boca Raton, and Christine Hiller, 36, of Fort Lauderdale. Each received a medal.
Smalls, who was diagnosed with the trait as an infant, found out last year that her 16-year-old son, Kadesh De’Silva, is also a carrier. His father is not a carrier.
Grant said her children Kevyn and Nahja got the trait from her. Mikeelah and De-mesjah, who have the disease, got it through “a combination of me and their fathers.”
If both parents have the trait, Smalls said, there is a one-in-four chance with each pregnancy of having a child with sickle cell disease. To inherit the full disease, an individual must receive the gene for sickle hemoglobin from both parents.
Smalls said that both parents knowing their status prior to a pregnancy allows them a choice.
“That’s why education about sickle cell and testing is so important,” she said. “Many carriers of the trait don’t display signs and don’t know until they have a child who later becomes ill.”
• For more information on sickle cell disease, log on to sicklecelldiseaseofbroward.org.
Cynthia Roby may be reached at CynthiaRoby@bellsouth.net.
Pictured: Marillyn and Otis Sanders