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Sickle cell

Vesha Jamison is on a mission to spread awareness and education among her community about an inherited disease of the hemoglobin. Complications include infection and stroke.

Jamison said the Fourth Annual Vance Community Family Day will be held on Saturday, Sept. 21, at the Vance Community Park located at 465 Camden Road.

The event, which will include several vendors, health screenings, food and a walk, is held to raise awareness of sickle cell disease.

Sickle cell disease is an inherited disease of the hemoglobin. In sickle cell disease, defective hemoglobin causes the red blood cells to become stiff instead of flexible and to form a sickle, or a crescent, shape.

The Centers for Disease Control reports that sickle cell disease affects 90,000 to 100,000 people in the United States, mainly African Americans.

People with SCD, especially infants and children, are more likely to experience harmful infections such as flu, meningitis and hepatitis, but may also have some of the disease's other most common complications, including hand-foot syndrome and eye disease.

Onsite registration begins at 9 a.m. An opening ceremony, which will include a balloon release, will begin at 10 a.m.

"This disease is not something that a lot of people know about. And it affects our African-American community so heavily. I just think that there's not enough awareness out here about it," said Jamison, whose 9-year-old son, Dreylan, has sickle cell disease.

Jamison said the I Love Someone With Sickle Cell Family Day event will include a mile-long walk along the Vance Community Park track, along with informational booths manned by representatives from agencies such as Molina Health Care and the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control. Financial literacy and credit repair specialists will be among those on hand.

"We incorporated it as a family day because sickle cell definitely affects the entire family. So not only will we be doing sickle cell awareness, but I have also invited other vendors so that people in the community can be connected to other resources that they need," she said.

Jamison has her own nonprofit organization called DRE 365. Named in honor of her son, the organization focuses on raising awareness of sickle cell disease and is an acronym for its mission to "Dream, Reach and Empower" 365 days of the year.

"I realized at an early age when my son was a baby, really, that he didn't have a voice. So I had to be the voice. That's how I became an advocate. I have to be his voice until he is able to express himself. So with that, it's impacted our lives greatly because people don't realize what it takes to care for someone with this disease and what they actually go through," Jamison said.

"They're so resilient, they're such fighters. It's a debilitating disease. Pain is the hallmark. Think about having to be admitted into the hospital, having to take loads of medications daily, having blood transfusions, having other issues that are related to sickle cell disease on top of everyday life.

"Life does not stop just because you have a diagnosis. It affects not just the person who is living with the disease, but also their family members, caregivers and those around them," she said.

The theme of her first walk four years ago was Walk a Mile in My Shoes.

"Four laps around the track at Vance Community Park equals one mile. I encourage everybody to get their steps in. They come and look forward to walking," said Jamison, noting that the event has grown over the years.

"It's just going to be a fun-filled day. People can bring their lawn chairs if they'd like. We're accepting vendors up until the day before the event. I just want everybody to come out and enjoy, have good time and learn something, too," she said.

Individuals can register early online at www.dre365familyday@eventbrite.com. For more information, contact Jamison at 803-759-0700.

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Contact the writer: dgleaton@timesanddemocrat.com or 803-533-5534. Follow "Good News with Gleaton" on Twitter at @DionneTandD.

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