INDIANAPOLIS — A young girl living with Sickle Cell Disease is raising awareness and encouraging people to help kids like her. The disease impacts 1 in every 365 African Americans, causing problems for thousands of people here in Indiana.
“I was diagnosed when I was really little and I would go to the hospital a lot,” Corine Dolley explained.
The courageous 11-year-old girl is sharing her experience — in her words — to help people better understand Sickle Cell Disease.
“I think we just need to raise awareness about it,” she said.
Sickle Cell Disease is an inherited blood disorder that affects red blood cells.
“Your blood cells, they turn into vessels like a crescent shape,” Dolley said. “It’s really sticky and your blood can’t flow through properly because the blood cells are blocking the blood flow.”
It makes them inefficient in delivering oxygen throughout the body, causing pain, breathing issues and strokes.
“It causes intense and excruciating pain that can last for a few minutes to a few hours," Gary Gibson, the Martin Center Sickle Cell Initiative President said. “Sometimes days and sometimes for weeks people go to the hospital for treatment and then they may stay there for three weeks at a time or more.”
The Martin Center Sickle Cell Initiative is one of the oldest Sickle Cell centers in the country.
“Most people don’t really know what sickle cell is or don’t know a lot about it,” Gibson said. “But it’s an illness that causes tremendous problems for people.”
With a life expectancy of just 47 years old, Gibson said most people with Sickle Cell can’t physically work and need a lot of help. So they provide patients and families resources on where best to access healthcare, offering transportation assistance, a food pantry and a support group, to name a few.
“These folks were born with this,” he said. “They didn’t have anything to do with us. And it’s not fair to them.”
Dolley said her first “pain crisis” started when she was just 6 months old. But it hasn’t stopped her from still doing what she loves. A 6th grade student, she loves to skateboard, bake and cook, and she speaks French.
“It does get better and you can still live your life normally,” Dolley said. “It’s just you have it now.”
A lifelong disease, progress is being made. New discoveries, like bone marrow transplants, could mean a longer life for kids like Corine. Something as simple as donating blood can also make a huge difference.
Gibson said patients require a similar blood type match for donation, though, which generally can only come from someone who is African American, as well.
“What we see is a real lack of interest in donating blood in the African American community and our fellow brothers and sisters that are suffering from sickle cell disease really need you," Gibson said.
Because Sickle Cell Disease affects so many people in Indiana, the Martin Center requires financial contribution to provide all the services to patients and families.
You can help by making a financial contribution by clicking here, or a food and item donation to the food pantry.