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India Hardy has lived with pain since she was a toddler — ranging from dull persistent aches to acute flare-ups that interrupt the flow of her normal life.
The pain is from sickle cell disease, a group of genetic conditions that affect about 100,000 people in the U.S., many of them of African or Hispanic descent.
Afternoon - Heat - Mom - Porch - Athens
Sitting in the afternoon heat on her mom’s porch in Athens, Georgia, Hardy recollected how a recent “crisis” derailed her normal morning routine.
“It was time for my daughter to get on the bus, and she’s too young to go on her own,” Hardy recalled. “I was in so much pain I couldn’t walk. So, she missed school that day.”
Sickle - Cell - Disease - Blood - Cells
Sickle cell disease affects red blood cells, which travel throughout the body carrying oxygen to tissues. Healthy red blood cells are shaped like plump and flexible doughnuts, but in people with sickle cell disease, the red blood cells are deformed, forming C-shaped “sickles” that are rigid and sticky.
These sickle-shaped cells can cause blockages in the blood vessels, slowing or even stopping normal blood flow. An episode of blockage is known as a sickle cell “crisis” — tissues and organs can be damaged because of lack of oxygen, and the patient experiences severe spells of pain.
Hardy - Tries - Crises - Bath - Pads
Hardy tries to manage these crises on her own. She’ll take a hot bath or apply heating pads to try to increase her blood flow. Hardy also has a variety of pain medications she can take at home.
When she has exhausted those options, she needs more medical help. Hardy would prefer to go to a specialized clinic for sickle cell patients, but the closest is almost two hours away, and she doesn’t have a car.
Hardy - Emergency - Room - St - Mary
So, Hardy often goes to the emergency room at nearby St. Mary’s Hospital for relief. Until recently, the doctors there...
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