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Children's MercyCommunity Blood Center’s Sickle Cell Disease program, known as Gift of Smiles, helps kids at Children’s Mercy Hospitals and Clinics continue to smile by providing donated blood from people who are an exact match to the child.

Sickle is the most common hereditary blood disorder, occurring in African-Americans at a rate of approximately 3 in every 1,000 live births. The severe form of Sickle Cell Disease is estimated to affect more than 50,000 African-Americans.

The disease causes the body to create abnormal hemoglobin, the protein that allows red blood cells to carry oxygen. Upon transferring oxygen to body tissue, the abnormal hemoglobin sticks together, causing red blood cells to become stiff and form a “sickle” shape. These sickle cells can block blood flow when they become stuck in blood vessels.

While normal red blood cells have a 120-day life span, sickle-shaped blood cells usually live for no more than 20 days. When bone marrow cannot produce enough red blood cells to make up for lost sickle cells, severe anemia may develop.

While Sickle Cell Disease can lead to numerous health problems, including pain, infections, anemia and stroke, many people who have Sickle Cell Disease learn to manage the disease and thus maintain a good quality of life.

Although there is no cure, treatment options include painkillers, antibiotics and blood transfusions, which replenish the supply of healthy red cells to replace the sickle cells. As a result, painful Sickle Cell Crises and organ damage are reduced or even eliminated.

More than half of all persons with Sickle Cell Disease will require a blood transfusion in their lifetime and the majority of those require multiple transfusions, using an average of four units each month.

To schedule a blood donation, please use our online scheduling system or Community Blood Center at 888.647.4040.