Radio Rookies: Living With Sickle Cell Anemia

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Radio Rookies/WNYC

Bree Person, a senior at Washington Irving High School, faced a personal struggle. She wanted more people to know about sickle cell anemia, a disease she suffers from, but she didn't want people to know she had it.

In this report, which she produced with the Radio Rookies program, Pearson said she decided it was time to come forward with her story.

Dr. Suzette Oyeku is a pediatrician in the Bronx who specializes in sickle cell treatment and research. "Even though the disease has been described for more than a hundred years it’s still pretty invisible to many people," Oyeku says. "And there are many people that are suffering in silence."

Hear from Dr. Oyeku and Pearson on The Brian Lehrer Show here:

Sickle cell disease occurs more often among people from parts of the world where malaria is common. It is believed that people who carry the sickle cell trait are less likely to have severe forms of malaria. In the United States, where malaria is rare, one of every 500 Black or African-American babies is born with it.

Bree was one of those babies, and her Uncle Johnnie was another.

"My Uncle Johnnie’s disease was more severe than mine," Bree says. He was only expected to live to 18; but he made it to 38. While reporting her story, Bree asked her mom for the first time if she, too, had a life expectancy. Her mom told her 48.

"I didn’t know what to think about that," Bree said. "I mean, my mom is 41 now, and imagine, seven years from my mom’s age -- am I going to be totally unable to take care of myself?"