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JIS News

Manchester resident, Miss Keino Ward, who suffers from sickle cell anemia, is appealing to Jamaicans to offer emotional and other support to persons with the disease.
She made the plea at a brief ceremony held at Total Body Therapy Centre in Mandeville on Saturday (December 5) where she received a $15,000 donation from the Caribbean District of Optimists International towards expenses for urgent hip surgery.
Sickle cell disease is a genetic blood disorder that causes red blood cells to assume an abnormal, rigid, sickle shape. The sickling decreases the cells’ flexibility, making normal blood flow difficult. Tissue that does not receive a normal blood flow eventually becomes damaged.
People with sickle cell disease suffer from medical conditions such as lung tissue damage; pain in arms, legs, chest and abdomen; and stroke. It also causes damage to most organs including the spleen, kidneys and liver. Damage to the spleen makes sickle cell disease patients, especially young children, vulnerable to bacterial infections.
Miss Ward, who is 29 years old, said it was at age 16 that she found out she had sickle cell disease. “Both parents had the trait, so I ended up with the full blown disease. It has been a struggle all my life,” she said, noting that she is in the hospital every three months with respiratory infections and other complications associated with the disease.
She told JIS News that because of the frequent stays at hospital, persons with the disease are unable to hold on to jobs and so cannot afford to purchase much needed medication.
“We have to be on pain medications. We cannot afford proper pain medications because most of us don’t work, or can’t work. It is a struggle to cope with it; we need to understand that there is a need to help each other,” she stated.
Chair of the Cancer Committee of the Caribbean District of Optimists International, Mrs. Heather Ambersley, said that the group heard of Miss Ward’s plight through operator of Total Body Therapy, Mrs. Andrea Brown.
“Although our banner is for children with cancer, the committee decided to assist Keino, because of Andrea Brown. She is the mother of Courtneyann Brown, whom the District tried to assist. Unfortunately she died, so we have assisted Keino in recognition of Coutneyann,” she explained.
Mrs. Brown, for her part, told JIS News that Miss Ward was a source of comfort during her daughter’s illness.
“Even when she is very sick and can barely talk, she wants to know how I am doing. It is not about the money, it is the thought of somebody else just calling to say ‘are you alright.’ If you can’t help financially, by just calling somebody or texting; it makes a difference,” she said.
The hip surgery, which will cost over $250,000, will correct severe pain, and maintain Miss Ward’s mobility.

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