The change is dramatic and immediate. Healthy blood brings Trey out of sickle cell agony to an active life free of pain.
Trey Blaylark has fought excruciating pain all his life, and only donated blood can end the agony. From the time he was diagnosed with sickle cell disease at two weeks old, the importance of a readily available blood supply has been paramount in his mother’s mind. “There hasn’t been a year that Trey has been in the hospital less than four times,” Rae Blaylark said. “Since sickle cell means that his red blood cells harden into crescent-shaped cells, we depend on transfusions to give him a new supply of healthy cells. I call it a ‘tune-up’ because it’s like getting new parts to keep you going for another 3,000 miles.”
Although Rae is the same blood type as Trey, she unfortunately cannot donate her own blood to help him. “Since I have the sickle cell trait—the gene he inherited from both his father and me—my red blood cells would ‘sickle’ in his body more quickly than those provided by a person without the gene,” Rae said. “Also, my blood is not an antibody match. So we depend on donor blood for all of Trey’s transfusion needs.”
Sickle cell disease affects mainly African-Americans. As a result, Rae and Trey take every opportunity to educate others about the risks posed to future generations and of the importance of blood donation. They also actively encourage participation in Memorial Blood Centers’ sickle cell donor program, which matches specific blood traits to those who need it the most. As Rae explains, “When those in our community donate, we’re more likely to find blood that’s a good match. I’ve seen my son almost comatose from pain and medication, and within minutes of his transfusion, he’s running, playing and acting as if he never had the disease. The change is dramatic and immediate; the importance of a healthy, broad blood donor pool is obvious.”