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As September marks National Sickle Cell Awareness Month, there’s no better time than now to educate yourself on an issue that impacts Black people at a higher rate than any other race.
If you need a place to start, North Texas brothers David and Samuel Tshiongo have opened up about their own struggles with the disease in an effort to help other families in the same situation understand more about how to stay healthy and informed.
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13-year-old Samuel and 15-year-old David both suffered from sickle cell anemia in their own personal ways. David’s tale started just one week after he was born, with doctors immediately putting him on penicillin to prevent infection. Following a swollen hand at 6 months old, seizures throughout childhood that affected his ability to talk correctly and a diagnosis of moyamoya syndrome that resulted in two brain surgeries, he’s now a 10th grader that continues to work towards balancing his disabilities and even hopes to become a chef one day.
Samuel experienced symptoms for the first time slightly later in life compared to his older brother, getting diagnosed with sickle cell anemia at the age of two years old. Unfortunately, a case of malaria at 13 months old led to a stroke that further added to his uphill battle by affecting his ability to walk until the age of 11. As he told NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth, “One thing I have to say is that it gets easier with time. It becomes a routine and it gets easier because right now I’m not taking as many medications as I was five years ago.” He continued by adding, “It’s easier for me to do things because I find ways to work around sickle cell.”
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Both brothers work alongside Children’s Health as leaders in the efforts to spread sickle cell awareness. They’ve started a nonprofit called Fondation Les Frères de Zoé, which translates to Zoe Brothers Foundation, and they encourage those who want to help to inquire about being a donor at the American Red Cross and Carter BloodCare.
Black donors are especially needed given the “genetic similarity” to those who need repeated and/or regular blood transfusions. Do what you can!
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