Parker parent Dr. A. Kyle Mack, attending physician in the Division of Pediatric Hematology/Oncology and Stem Cell Transplantation at the Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago and Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, recently spoke at Morning Ex on the topic of sickle cell disease (SCD).
Dr. Mack’s 4th grade daughter Alayna introduced him to the audience, speaking about her father’s work and sense of humor. As part of his presentation, Dr. Mack described the work of a pediatric hematologist—a doctor who takes care of kids with blood problems—and provided an overview of SCD, how it is inherited, the experience of patients with SCD and current therapies to help treat those who have it.
As an expert in hematologic conditions, Dr. Mack used overhead slides with illustrations and photos to demonstrate the difference in blood flow between healthy people versus those with SCD. He shared statistics regarding SCD’s prevalence in the U.S. and the world and ways to screen for and diagnose this disease early in a child’s life to ensure establishment of a comprehensive care plan before the child is two months old.
Those in attendance learned of the many chronic complications associated with SCD, including skin ulcers, renal failure and obstructive sleep apnea, as well as the range of treatment options available to help people with the disease, including penicillin, pain medication, good hydration and nutrition, hyroxyurea and stem cell transplants via bone marrow and blood transfusions. Dr. Mack provided details on blood transfusion treatments in particular, sharing:
- The majority of patients with SCD will receive more than one transfusion in their lifetimes.
- Most will receive at least one Red Blood Cell (RBC) transfusion by the second decade of life.
- Children with SCD and strokes will need 15 to 25 units of blood each year indefinitely.
- Twenty-five percent of patients with SCD may have immune reactions to donor red cells that may make them resistant to future RBC transfusions.
- Children with SCD need to receive the “best” antigen-matched blood to avoid this problem.
Dr. Mack stressed that the “best” blood for children with SCD goes beyond matching blood type; it involves getting antigen-matched blood donations from the same ethnic group as the patient. Despite the potential benefits of using blood from African-American donors, Mack shared that, while African Americans comprise 12 percent of the general U.S. population, they account for less than one percent of blood donors.
To help address this disparity, Lurie Children’s and the American Red Cross have developed the “Blue Tie Tag” program collaboratively to improve transfusion support for children with SCD. This program:
- Allows for self-selection by donors at both targeted and general drives
- Designates units to be directed to support children with SCD
- Notifies donors of sickle trait status
Dr. Mack indicated that children with SCD require 80–100 units of blood per month at the Comprehensive Sickle Cell Center at Lurie Children’s, and his goal is to collect enough units each month to support all patients with SCD in the Chicago area.
To help achieve this goal, Parker is partnering with Dr. Mack and Lurie to bring blood drives for SCD to the school on Tuesday, October 23 and Wednesday, March 6.
After fielding student questions following his remarks, Dr. Mack reminded all in attendance to encourage their families and friends to become regular blood donors and support the events at the school this year.
for photos from this Morning Ex.