HOUSTON, Texas - Thanks to a new medication, people living with sickle cell disease might have a chance at living a better life.
And the youngest patients are getting treated right here in our backyard.
The Sparks triplets, Alyssa, Aundreya, and Anaya, are 7 years old. Both of their parents carry the sickle cell trait, meaning each girl had an equal chance of having the disease.
But it was Anaya who was diagnosed.
"There are probably 100,000 people in the United States with this disorder," Yates said.
Dr. Amber Yates is the co-director of the Sickle Cell Program at Texas Children's Cancer and Hematology Centers. She says sickle cell disease is a blood disorder that affects the shape of red blood cells.
"Those blood cells have a difficult time going through all your blood vessels, and that's what leads to the problems of sickle cell disease," Yates said.
Symptoms of the disease include acute pain, infections, even lung and heart problems.
"We were prepared mentally for what this journey would be," Anaya's mother, Larhonda Sparks said.
It used to be that those born with the disease would experience complications and needed to go for routine maintenance and checkups, but thanks to a relatively new medication called Hydroxyurea, patients like Anaya are doing much better these days.
"That medicine has been amazing for her. Now we only come once every three months, unless there's an emergency," Sparks said.
June 19 was World Sickle Cell Day. It's a day recognizing the disease to get the word out about the importance of getting tested for the trait.
"This is not just a disease for African Americans. We see every race, every ethnic group these days," Yates said.
As for Anaya, she and her family are looking forward to what the future brings.
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