08/26/07 — Local club raising money to fight sickle cell

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Local club raising money to fight sickle cell

By Nick Hiltunen
Published in News on August 26, 2007 2:06 AM

Jewel Frazier remembers her friend Dolly Fields' daughter, a young 20-something who lost her life to sickle cell anemia years ago.

That's part of the reason she and others gathered Saturday for the Goldsboro Epicurean Civic Club's annual Sickle Cell Telethon at Berkeley Mall.

The group hopes to raise $100,000 to help battle the disease by the end of September.

Mrs. Frazier wants to make sure other young people do not lose their lives.

"They knew she had had it from the time she was a pre-teen," she said. "She had a lot of life ahead of her. She was a beautiful girl, too."

But such young deaths have become fewer, said Marcia Wright, executive director of the eastern chapter of the Sickle Cell Disease Assocation of America.

That's because life expectancy has increased as new treatments arrived and better pediatric care and checks become more common, Mrs. Wright said.

As recently as 1980, sickle cell almost always killed its victims at about 20 years old, she said. Now, patients can expect to live up to 50 years, she said.

The increase in life expectancy has led to different -- perhaps happier -- roles for members of the Sickle Cell Disease Association to play, she said.

"We're trying especially to get to our adolescents, to get them to be more prepared as adults, to better prepare them for a full life," Mrs. Wright said.

Curtis Meadows Jr., the Epicurean Club's chairman, said the annual event turned 23 years old this year.

"Awareness is the main thing -- making people aware of what this illness is all about and what we're doing to stop it," Meadows said in between ballet and gospel singing performances at the mall.

Sheriff Carey Winders was on hand for the event, speaking with Rep. Louis M. Pate, R-Mount Olive, for much of the event.

He said research into one disease can sometimes help with another.

"Every time they look for the cure for one disease, often they find a cure for something else out of it," Winders said, adding that a friend of his lost his wife to sickle cell anemia.

Pate said that "some populations don't realize how much impact this disease has ... and it's a disease waiting for a cure."

Ms. Wright said Wayne County has 75 documented cases of sickle cell anemia. A total of 320 documented cases exist between Wayne, Carteret, Craven, Greene, Jones, Lenoir, Onslow and Pamlico counties, she said.

Pledges can still be made through Sept. 30, by calling 734-6120.

Checks should be made payable to the Sickle Cell Association, Eastern North Carolina and mailed to: Epicurean Civic Club, P.O. Box 1882, Goldsboro, N.C. 77533.