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Local News

Lisle family turns spotlight on sickle cell

Raising awareness of sickle cell disease are Dr. Lew Hsu (from left), pediatric hematologist at the University of Illinois at Chicago, Marqus Valentine, Sara Frankowski, intern in the department of hematology at UIC, Ashley Valentine (foreground) and mom Francesca Valentine.
Raising awareness of sickle cell disease are Dr. Lew Hsu (from left), pediatric hematologist at the University of Illinois at Chicago, Marqus Valentine, Sara Frankowski, intern in the department of hematology at UIC, Ashley Valentine (foreground) and mom Francesca Valentine.

LISLE – A Lisle family has been raising awareness about sickle cell disease and promoting a documentary called “Sick Cells,” a project by Marqus Valentine about his medical condition.

At a recent fundraiser hosted by Family Video in Lisle, a 10-minute trailer was playing on loop, highlighting Valentine’s closing statement in the film:

“I just want the world to realize that this illness isn’t what a lot of people think or isn’t what you read in a textbook,” he said in the news release. “This illness is attached to that person and that person’s family’s life. It affects your life. It affects the people who love and who are around you …”

Valentine was diagnosed with SCD at 6 months of age, when he was hospitalized for a pain crisis. SCD is a group of inherited red blood cell disorders, the news release stated. Healthy red blood cells are round and move through small blood vessels to carry oxygen to all parts of the body.

In someone who has SCD, the red blood cells become hard and sticky and look like a sickle, a C-shaped farm tool. The sickle cells die early, causing a constant shortage of red blood cells. This can cause pain and other problems such as infection, acute chest syndrome and stroke. The social and financial implications that accompany SCD are often overlooked.

SCD affects about 1 in every 500 African-Americans and 1 in every 3,600 Hispanic people in the U.S. However, SCD also affects people from Portugal, the Mediterranean basin, and Middle Eastern countries including Lebanon, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Yemen; the condition also has been reported in India and Sri Lanka, according to the release.

Valentine and Laura Zinger began putting a documentary together about sickle cell in 2008 to give insight into the lives of people living with SCD. The goal of the film is to raise awareness about the disease in hopes of sparking movement toward heightened quality of care for people with SCD and an overall better life.

At the event at Family Video, the mood was special when old classmates reunited after many years. In 2006, Tanya and Abby Tainter, Kelly Cieplak and Ashley Valentine, Marqus’ younger sister, were part of the first, all-female cheerleading squad to qualify for a state competition in more than a decade, according to the release. It had been almost 10 years since all four were in the same room. The benefit brought the former teammates together to promote a cause that affects thousands of people worldwide.

The film is in its fundraising phase at the moment. Ashley Valentine said people who want to support the project can visit www.sickcells.com/donate.

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