HU Hospital Gears Up for 5th Stomp Out Sickle Cell Walk

Esther Agbaje, who has sickle cell disease, wrestles with the illness daily.
Hundreds turned out last year to march and walk to raise money and awareness in the fight against sickle cell disease. 

By Derell Bonner

WASHINGTON -- For Esther Agbaje, coping with the day-to-day pain caused by sickle cell anemia has been a constant struggle.

The sickle-shaped cells caused by the disease make the blood unable to pass smoothly through blood vessels, which can lead to damaged tissues and organs, severe pain, stroke or even death.

“Any number of triggers can lead to complications,” Agbaje, 26, said. “For me it’s stress. The most important thing for me and many others is to listen to the signals our bodies gives us and understand the limitations we have.”

As a board member with the Sickle Cell Association of the National Capital Area and support group coordinator for Sickle Cell Advocates of D.C., the Arlington, Va., resident is working hard to keep the disease, which primarily affects African-Americans and other people of color, on people’s conscience.

This month, Agbaje and others are telling everybody they can to come and support efforts to defeat this deadly disease through the fifth annual Stomp Out Sickle Cell Walk/Run.

The event, which raises funds and heightens awareness, is from 8 a.m. to noon Sept. 17. It will begin and end at Freedom Plaza, located on Pennsylvania Avenue, between 13th and 14th streets, NW.  The event will also include giveaways, refreshments as well as a blood drive and an organ and bone marrow registration.

During the event, Agbaje will join other sufferers with the disease and hundreds more supporters from community organizations and Howard University Hospital in reminding others about the disorder, part of an effort to help it lose its moniker as the “forgotten disease.”

To participate, visit: http://www.soswalk.org/walker_registration.html

Barbara Harrison works with sickle cell patients as a genetic counselor in the Department of Pediatrics at Howard University Hospital and has participated in the walk since its inception.

“The walk started as a joint effort between several hospitals, including Howard University Hospital, and non-profit organizations in the area to educate people about sickle cell and give those impacted a chance to shine,” Harrison said.

Organizers hope to raise $20,000, which will be used to heighten awareness and support clinical services and research for sickle cell. 

There is a $20 registration fee.  Sickle Cell is one of the most prevalent genetic diseases. An estimated 100,000 people live with the disease in the United States and millions more globally. Sickle cell disease is an inherited blood disorder that affects the red blood cells.

The walk coordinators say there are other ways to support their effort aside from running and walking. They need volunteers for a number of tasks, including assisting with setup, welcoming walkers, helping out along the walk route and cleanup. To volunteer, email: volunteer@soswalk.org

There is a Sponsor a Walker program in place for those who can’t attend but would like someone to walk in their place. Each walker sponsored will receive a T-shirt with the name of the sponsor. To sponsor a walker, visit: http://www.soswalk.org/sponsor_walker.html

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