Stem cell transplant for sickle cell patients

A possible cure for a debilitating disease. It strikes one in 500 African Americans. Many live day-to-day on heavy painkillers. Now a new take on an old treatment may put an end to their suffering.

Dr. Damiano Rondelli, University of Illinois Hospital Hematologist: Its a social issue. Its not just a medical issue. The cost, the family involvement its a really big deal.

It is sickle cell anemia, an inherited defect of the red blood cells. More rigid than normal round cells, the crescent or sickle-shaped cells get stuck in small vessels, blocked from delivering oxygen to organs, tissues and joints.

Dr. Rondelli: Damage to lungs, kidneys, liver. The major symptom is pain.

Beverly Means, mother: His hand and feet had swollen up, and I took him to the hospital and they were telling me he had sickle cell. Never heard of it in my life.

But it was a disease that would take over Beverly Means life and the lives of two of her sons, Julius and Desmond.

Julius Means, sickle cell patient: Some of my first memories having sickle cell, playing one day and the next day not being able to even walk.

Diagnosed at eight-months-old, Julius has struggled with sickle cell disease for 25 years.

Julius Means: In and out of hospitals all the time. The majority of the pain would hit me in my legs and my back. So being a young kid and not being able to play with the other kids was pretty awful.

Beverly Means, mother: It was mental torture. It was hard. Devastating to watch your kids and you can do nothing.

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Stem cell transplant for sickle cell patients

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