JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - September is Sickle Cell Anemia Awareness month and those with the hereditary disease are celebrating medical breakthroughs.
The Mississippi Sickle Cell Foundation reports advances in treatment that are are ridding sufferers of the disease.
Natasha Roberts' daughter suffered from Sickle Cell Anemia until four years ago.
“I gave her life twice,” said Roberts.
At 16, Tykiera James had battled the illness all her life, was chronic pain and hospitalized every two to three months.
Until she underwent a bone marrow transplant with stem cells donated by her mother.
That cured Tykiera of the disease.
“When you have a sick child you’ll do whatever you can to make your child better, and I did exactly that,” said Roberts. “I endured that pain to make sure that she could have a better life because she had endured so much pain throughout her life”.
In prior years the donor had to be a sibling who was an exact match.
According to doctors, now healthy parents who are a 50 percent match can donate their bone marrows to their children.
Dr. Melissa McNaull is the Director of the Pediatric Sickle Cell Program at UMMC.
The hematologist and oncologist said there are now more options for a cure through gene therapy.
“We take the person’s own bone marrow. Change it in the petri dish,” said Dr McNaull. “They still need to get chemo therapy to eliminate the bone marrow that’s in their body, but then they get their own bone marrow back that’s fixed. So they don’t need a separate donor at all”.
The hereditary blood disorder impacts roughly 4,000 Mississippians.
Tykiera is now 20 years old.
The Terry High School graduate, now attends Mississippi State University, majoring in biology.
She plans to be a pediatrician.