Group launches balloons at Woldert Park to raise awareness about sickle cell disease | Local News

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Pam Lomax came from Palestine on Saturday afternoon to Woldert Park in Tyler as a mother of two with sickle cell disease and to help recognize others struggling with the disease.

The Tyler-based African American Cultural Events Committee hosted a balloon release in the park to honor those who have died from sickle cell anemia, which is an inherited blood disorder.

The group used purple balloons to shine a light on the disease in honor of Sickle Cell Awareness Month September.

Lomax, who heads the sickle cell support group for Anderson and surrounding counties, said her 28-year-old son and 22-year-old daughter grew up with sickle cell disease and continue to struggle with the disease.

She said that they have endured a lot and that the support of others helps a lot.

“They are very strong people,” Lomax said. “They don’t want people to feel sorry for them.”

As a mother, Lomax said she has learned to do what she can to help her children, such as praying, talking to them and making sure they stay hydrated.

“I have to go back and let them become the adults they want to be,” Lomax said. “By the grace of God they are still here and it is because of the support they receive.”

Ebbie Starling, a retired nurse and member of the African American Cultural Events Committee, said that many years ago people viewed sickle cell disease as something that only affected black people.

Now people have realized that sickle cell anemia can affect those of all races and ethnicities.

“We don’t see it in the news. When a person with sickle cell disease dies, we don’t say why that person died,” Starling said. “For a long time, it was thought that sickle cell anemia was a black disease, but we know better now.”

Starling explained that the disease causes red blood cells to take the shape of a sickle and lack important levels of oxygen.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, sickle cell anemia can be detected at birth, and a child can inherit the disease when it receives two sickle cell genes (one from each parent).

Starling added that the more people talk about sickle cell disease, the more steps will be taken to help those struggling with the disease.

Treatments for sickle cell disease include drugs and blood transfusions. The only known cure is a bone marrow or stem cell transplant, according to the CDC.

Starling said there will be a blood drive on November 13 in Tyler to help boost the blood supply for those with sickle cell disease.

The training, hosted by the Texas African American Museum and the Empowerment Corporation, will be held at St. Louis Baptist Church, located at 4000 Frankston Highway in Tyler, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

People can make an appointment at redcrossblood.org and enter the referrer code “tylersicklecell”.

Gregory Buckner of the African American Cultural Events Committee said the group is working to raise funds for sickle cell awareness and scholarships for young people.

The committee also plans to mark World Sickle Cell Awareness Day on June 19 next year.

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