BloodCenter of Wisconsin improving quality of life for patients with sickle cell disease
Latoyia Webb is focused on the future. She’s setting new career goals and seeking the educational opportunities she’ll need to realize them. As someone living with sickle cell disease (SCD), Latoyia knows she may face obstacles along the way. She feels ready to face them now that she has treatment that is working for her.
Latoyia is one of 270 patients who receive treatment at the Adult Sickle Cell Disease Clinic at Froedtert Hospital, directed by BloodCenter of Wisconsin’s Dr. Joshua Field.
“I can’t thank BloodCenter and Dr. Field enough for the care he has provided me,” said Latoyia.
BloodCenter physician provides new hope
Latoyia hopes to promote a greater community understanding of SCD by working with BloodCenter of Wisconsin to recognize September as National Sickle Cell Disease Awareness Month. She’s also participating in Dr. Field’s clinical trial of a promising new therapy called regadenoson. Regadenoson has the potential to decrease the severity of painful episodes suffered by people with SCD.
“Sickle cell disease can be devastating,” said Dr. Field. “Therapies for the two most common complications, pain and acute chest syndrome, are very limited. Regadenoson has the potential to help people with SCD by decreasing the severity of these life-threatening problems.”
Latoyia was diagnosed as a toddler and struggled for most of her life to find
proper treatment. Like many individuals who live with SCD, she had difficulty
finding appropriate care. Throughout her childhood, Latoyia spent countless
hours in hospital emergency rooms — and in pain — because her treatment
options were limited.
As a young adult determined to earn her college degree, Latoyia finally
discovered treatment options that would allow her to focus on something
other than her pain. She received blood transfusions for a year and then
began taking a drug called hydroxyurea.
“I started to feel better. I was able to complete my bachelor’s degree at
UW-Milwaukee. The new therapy was a major part of it.”
Today, Latoyia is a paraprofessional educator for Milwaukee Public Schools,
and she plans toearn her master’s degree to become a special
The care Dr. Field provides to patients like Latoyia at the Adult Sickle Cell Disease Clinic is helping to bridge the health care gap for local adults living with SCD. His work is changing the way patients with this disease in Milwaukee are being treated, through comprehensive, specialized care that is preventing costly emergency room visits and hospital stays. In addition, he is developing new treatment methods and bringing cutting-edge therapeutics to his patients.
As new treatments are developed, patients like Latoyia are given hope.
“I’m grateful to be a part of the important work being done by Dr. Field and BloodCenter of Wisconsin,” Latoyia said.
About sickle cell disease
SCD is the most prevalent hereditary blood disorder in the United States. It affects 90,000-100,000 Americans and one in every 500 African-Americans. In Wisconsin, approximately 800 individuals are living with SCD. Most of them are African-American.
SCD causes red blood cells to take on a sickle or crescent shape, making it more difficult to flow freely through blood vessels. Insufficient blood flow to tissues can result, causing excruciating pain crises, increased infections and organ damage.
Blood donors are integral
Unfortunately there is no “one size fits all” treatment for SCD. Many patients rely on regular blood transfusions to keep painful episodes and other complications in check.
“People with SCD are less likely to experience complications if they receive blood of a type that closely matches their own,” Dr. Field said. “The best matches for individuals of African descent come from individuals of African descent because people of a common genetic heritage are more likely to express similar proteins on their red blood cells.”
There remains a great need for blood transfusions among people with SCD. Donations from the African-American community are needed to help the hundreds of SCD patients in our community.
Community members are encouraged to donate blood by calling 1-877-BE-A-HERO (1-877-232-4376), or by visiting www.bcw.edu/blood.