September is Sickle Cell Awareness month. I have personally
learned a great deal about the disease from working with the exhibit “Sickle
Cell on Canvas,” the past two years at the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute
(BCRI). After working on this exhibit last year, I also learned a dear friend
of mine had the disease and ended up in the hospital while the exhibit was
still on display. All I knew was that pain was a key symptom and a crisis sent
one with SCD to the hospital frequently.
As we approach the opening of this year’s awareness exhibit,
I had the honor of interviewing my friend so I could really understand the
disease and shed light on this chronic illness that he lives with every day.
Kendall Chew, BCRI Education Assistant
Sickle Cell Disease is
a hereditary disease. My dad’s sister has it and he has the trait. My mom didn’t know she carried the trait as
The only reason my
parents knew I had it was because I had seizures at a very young age. I was
less than a year old. I was with my aunt, my mom’s younger sister.
(Since both of Trey’s parents carry the trait t was inevitable
that there children could have Sickle Cell Disease (SCD) or Sickle Cell Trait
(SCT). Trey’s brother has the trait.
It’s like any other
disease, but African Americans are the majority demographic that gets Sickle
What is a day like
I have to always be
mindful and stay hydrated with plenty of fluids. In my childhood I had the most
trouble because as a kid I wanted to play, so I had to learn patience. I work out
and that really helps with Sickle Cell. It’s called a Crisis when you have a
You have to watch out
when the weather changes. When I was in the hospital this past December, I did
too much in the cold and wasn’t covered up properly. They had to take my spleen
out in 2008, which happens. I was 26, newlywed. It was a crazy time. St.
Vincent’s was my second home. You can work out outside you just have to listen
to your body.
Sickle Cell Community
There is a lady at
church that has SCD, so we do a walk in the spring at Pleasant Grove Missionary
Baptist Church in Fairfield. The national community is based in Baltimore and I
have done design work for them in the past, so I stay connected with the SCD
Planning the Future
If my wife had SCD or
SCT, when it came to having children, it would be a conversation we would have
to have. I have SC (a type of SCD), but
if my wife had the trait, our child could have SS, which is the worse kind SCD.
The Body & Sickle
You are susceptible to
other diseases like pneuomonia. A regular cold can progress and become fatal if
you don’t jump on it properly. Your vision is changed. A lot of people with
sickle cell go on disability.(Trey was hospitalized at least once a year until sixth
I stayed with my pediatrician until college
because he knew a lot about the disease. African American doctors seem to know
more about it. If you have the trait, you aren’t at risk to getting it, but you
could have symptoms.
My First Memory of
I was probably in
third grade… I just remember being in a little room in the school, a sick room,
and I was probably outside playing and my arms, joints or my legs started to
hurt. My parents never treated me like a patient though. I played basketball at
the Y. But I was also last during the mile. It was hard for coaches, especially
white coaches, to understand why.
One time, I didn’t run
a mile fast enough and had to run it again. And I was struggling up this hill.
My dad had to come get me and I was hospitalized because of that. I was
kneeling by my locker and other students saw me struggling. That was in seventh
grade, so I was about 13. I was in the hospital for a week. From that point on
I would spend time in handicap P.E. or sit out at general P.E.
Hydration is key to
helping the pain. Last time I was in the hospital I got an allergy to an
antibiotic I was on. I got off penicillin in high school and I was taking it
daily. I try to take folic acid. I always have to have a flu shot. Sometimes
stress brings on a flare up and you have to step away from work and relax.
What Can We Do
Always give blood. We
need plenty of transfusions. We can’t give blood. Now we have a sickle cell tag
for your cars, so support your national and local organizations. We have a Sickle
Cell ball in February in Birmingham.
They’re testing a cure
in rats, so there could be a cure in our future. I have a heart for the younger
generations with SCD and parents of these children. Education is key.
Willie Wells, III, is a
native of Birmingham, AL and husband to Dr. Valencia Wells. He is the
owner of EscapeGFX®. Willie has worked earnestly to get it up and running
smoothly. "Art has always been a clear destination for me ever since I was
in elementary school. I was not sure what particular field I would go into, but
I knew that the creative field would be ideal for me." A graduate of
the University Of Alabama, Tuscaloosa with a double major in Graphic Design and
Advertising, Willie is a person that is adamant about being punctual and giving
the best efforts that he can, and this concept overflows into his company's
operations. He understands that there are deadlines that need to be met, and
other problems that may spring up, so the clients' work is done with a sense never discarding the high level of creative design. "The
customer is number 1 to me, and we, as a company, will venture many avenues to
reach your project's escape from mediocrity."