By Brittany Metcalf, BS, CCLS
You may have noticed the gold and red ribbons around the hospital this month. Do you know why they are up? September is Sickle Cell Awareness month and Childhood Cancer Awareness month. As a Child Life Specialist at Upstate Golisano Children’s Hospital, I have the privilege of working with brave, resilient children affected by these conditions.
Sickle cell is an inherited blood disorder that affects the red blood cells. Normal blood cells are smooth, round, flexible and shaped like the letter “O”. If your child has sickle cell disease, his or her blood cells can become stiff, sticky and shaped like the letter “C”. This can cause a variety of problems: anemia, terrible pain crises, strokes, and organ damage. More than 70,000 Americans have sickle cell disease. The disease primarily affects children of African ancestry or Hispanics of Caribbean ancestry. Sickle cell disease can be managed through medications and red blood cell transfusions.
In the U.S., childhood cancer is the leading cause of death by disease in children under the age of 15. There are over a dozen types of childhood cancers. Here at Upstate Golisano Children’s Hospital, there is a saying “children are not just small adults”. This holds true for childhood cancers as well. If a child and an adult get the same type of cancer, the child’s treatment will be very different form the adult’s treatment.
Many children now survive thanks to new medications, ongoing studies and research being done. However, less than 5% of the federal government’s total funding for cancer research is dedicated to childhood cancers each year.
What can you do to help these courageous children?
- Donate blood at your local American Red Cross donation center.
- The 6th Annual Sickle Cell Anemia Walk-A-Thon is Oct 5th @ noon. This walk raises money for the Upstate Medical Children with Sickle Cell Anemia Fund.
- The CureSearch walk is on Oct 19th. Registration begins @ 11AM. This walk honors children whose lives have been affected by childhood cancer in the CNY area, while raising funds for childhood cancer research.
Who will you wear gold and red for?