The University of Alabama at Birmingham Department of Medicine recently honored the Sickle Cell Disease Association, Central Alabama Chapter, as the chapter completed its $1 million pledge to the Adult Sickle Cell Clinic at UAB.
The development of treatments to extend the life expectancies for sickle cell patients has posed a new challenge in recent decades: how to help patients transition from pediatric to adult care. The Adult Sickle Cell Clinic at UAB opened in 1995 to ease that transition.
A $1 million pledge in 2010 from the Central Alabama Chapter, known locally as the Sickle Cell Foundation, has provided much-needed support to the clinic. Michael Bell, Foundation board president, accompanied by Foundation executive director Sharon Lewis, presented the final pledge installment at a ceremony in UAB’s Wallace Tumor Institute last month.
“The UAB Department of Medicine is fortunate to have the support of the Sickle Cell Foundation as we seek to address a disease that disproportionately affects African-Americans in our state,” said Seth Landefeld, M.D., department chair and the Spencer Chair in Medical Science Leadership. “Because of expert care provided by clinic director Rita Paschal, M.D., and her team, we are seeing a reduction in the number of emergency room visits and hospitalizations needed to treat the chronic symptoms of our patients.”
The Foundation’s support has also helped add a full-time social worker to the clinic staff, providing psychosocial services that can reach the whole patient. “It is a key to both longevity and a better quality of life for this vulnerable population,” Paschal said.
In sickle cell disease, patients experience episodes of acute pain when sickled red cells block blood flow and cut off oxygen supply to tissues. Over time, this can damage the spleen, brain, lungs and kidneys. Patients are susceptible to infections and often have severe anemia that requires blood transfusions.