Center provides care and compassion for people with sickle cell disease

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Chances are that your red blood cells are nice and round. But in some people, they're shaped like sickles. That can result in severe pain, strokes, organ damage and even death. A center in the metro is working to make life easier for people with sickle cell disease.

"We keep these warm blankets," said Donna McCurry as she wraps a blanket around her patient, Donnisha Bandy.

The warmth goes beyond the blanket.

"This is their home. A lot of patients will describe us as their family," McCurry said.

"Donna is sweet. She's sweet," Bandy said.

McCurry is a nurse practitioner who shares some motherly messages.

"Soda pop will dehydrate you," she said to Bandy.

Dehydration is one thing that can lead to a crisis for Bandy and other patients seen at the Sick Cell Comprehensive Resource Center at Truman Medical Center. It cares for 75 area residents who have sickle cell disease, an inherited condition in which sticky blood cells shaped like sickles clump and cause incredible pain.

"One person said it's like you've cut me open and pulled out my guts and twisted it," McCurry said.

"I wouldn't wish sickle cell upon nobody," Bandy said.

The center operates as a day hospital within a hospital Patients come for routine visits, but also acute care. They can bypass the emergency room.

"One of the advantages of this set-up is we know them. We know as soon as they hit the door what to start kinda looking at them," McCurry said.

They can tell whether the pain requires opioids which are strong pain medicines.

"They've had a lot of suffering. I get emotional because they do. They struggle and there's a lot of misunderstanding about their struggle," said the nurse practitioner.

Bandy has come to the center for five years and says her sickle cell crises have become less frequent in part because she's learned to take better care of herself.

"Like they really took the child out of me, you know what I mean," she said.

It's what can happen when you have a care family that really cares.

September is Sickle Cell Month. On Tuesday, September 27, the center will hold the Well Cell Festival from 5 to 8 p.m. at Truman Medical Center, 2301 Holmes in Kansas City. The event is for individuals and families living with sickle cell disease. For more information, call 816-404-4290.