In an effort to create more awareness about thalassemia and sickle cell diseases, Hamad Medical Corporation's (HMC) Hematology section under the Pediatric department conducted an annual event (the 3rd Thalassemia and 2nd Sickle cell anemia day), from 19th to 22nd of June.
The first event included treating over 100 children affected by thalassemia and sickle cell diseases to fun and games at Villagio mall with a special appearance by popular Qatari television host Papa Linga. More awareness activities were held in the lobby of Hamad General Hospital, where visitors were informed about these diseases in children and the prevention and treatment options.
Thalassemia is the most common, inherited single gene disorder in the world which results in the reduced rate of synthesis of one of the globin chains that make up hemoglobin (red blood cells). It is an inherited disorder and affects children at an early age causing severe anemia. The affected child suffers from weakness, bone changes, affecting growth and other problems associated with severe anemia.
Sickle cell disease is an inherited blood disorder that affects red blood cells. In Sickle cell disease the red blood cells become sickle shaped, which causes blockage in the blood vessels. Apart from anemia the affected child may suffer from bone pain, abdominal pain, blocking of spleen and liver and in rare cases may also lead to stroke.
"We are currently treating 111 children (all aged under 15 years) affected by thalassemia and sickle cell diseases at HMC. The thalassemia patient requires monthly filtered red blood cell transfusion, which is provided at the hospital. The red blood cell transfusion causes excess iron deposition so the patient also requires "Iron Chelating" (agent to remove the excess of iron from body); this is a life long requirement for these patients, "said Dr. Naima Ali Al-Mulla, Head of pediatric Hematology/Oncology section at HMC. "A child affected with Sickle cell may require blood transfusion only in some cases. However, these disorders require substantial amounts of blood and we rely heavily on blood donors in Qatar to help us treat these special cases."
During the four day awareness program, HMC's pediatric doctors also emphasized the need for prevention of the diseases through pre-marital testing in couples, so that the carriers of thalassemia and sickle cell disorders can be screened and the issue addressed before a couple considers starting a family.
"Since thalassemia and sickle cell are both inherited autosomol recessive disorders, the parents of affected child are carriers of the sick gene. The parents themselves may be healthy, but since they are carrying the disorder, they will pass it on the new born. So it is very important for young couples to go for pre-marital testing to find out if they are carriers or not," said Dr. Mohammed Abulaban, Pediatric Hematology Consultant at HMC.
HMC has been championing the cause of children affected by thalassemia and sickle cell diseases and the organization currently offers free all round treatment to patients, which includes hospitalization, blood transfusion and other medical support and care needed by the affected children and their families.