World Sickle Cell Day aims to raise awareness about disease

Updated: Jun. 19, 2019 at 5:59 PM CDT
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LAKE CHARLES, La. (KPLC) - Wednesday is World Sickle Cell Day, aimed at raising awareness for the disease.

The disease is prevalent in Southwest Louisiana.

In 2018, there were 123 babies born with sickle cell disease in Calcasieu Parish alone.

Jarmanni Comeaux, a student at McNeese State University, is one of the nearly 100,000 Americans living with Sickle Cell disease.

He first noticed something was different when he couldn’t keep up with kids at school, then began to experience Sickle Cell crises.

“Some people describe it as glass, feels like glass in your veins," Comeaux said. "It’s a very blunt, relentless, persistent pain.”

That pain is a symptom of damage to nearly every organ in Comeaux’s body, to the point where he was given a life expectancy of about 35 years old.

Etta Pete, the Executive Director of Southwest Louisiana Sickle Cell Inc. said that’s because Sickle Cell Disease cuts off the flow of blood to vital organs in the body.

“Our blood cells are designed to be round, to go through our veins," Pete said. "But what happens to these people is that instead of cells being round, they take on a sickle shape, sort of like a quarter moon.”

Sickle Cell Disease is inherited.

If just one parent has the Sickle Cell Trait, then the child will only inherit the trait, and will likely never have symptoms.

But if both parents have the trait, then there’s a 25 percent chance with each pregnancy that the child will have the disease, which is why it’s so important to get tested.

“You have to be aware of your status, so that whenever you mate, or when you are finding yourself getting to that point where it’s getting serious, you need to know if you’re going to continue that relationship," said Retana Comeaux, Jarmanni’s mother.

As for Jarmanni, thanks to a bone marrow transplant from his sister, he’s now Sickle Cell-free and has a new lease on life.

“My next step is continuing school, I have about a year left in pre-medicine at McNeese State University," Comeaux said. "When I graduate, I plan on going to med school.”

He also plans to become a motivational speaker, spreading his story and raising awareness for the disease.

On Monday, June 4 at 7 p.m., Comeaux will be featured in a gospel musical at New Sunlight Baptist Church, raising awareness about Sickle Cell Disease.

The church is located at 515 V.E. Washington Street, Lake Charles Louisiana.

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