Once upon a time, in a small village on wheat farm lived a boy named James. James lived with his mum and dad and they had 10 pet goats. James’ favourite activity was to sneak into his yard and watch the stars shoot across the night sky with his pets. When James grew up, he wanted to become an astronaut. Late one evening, while James was in his yard, he noticed pain in his hands and chest. He began to cough and felt a little strange, his hands were hurting a lot. He knew he was not allowed to be outside at night and he could not go inside to tell his parents.
Suddenly, a shooting star appeared to be approaching James. He watched in awe as, what he once thought was a star, was actually a spaceship. From the space ship, a large beam of light emerged and before he could hide he was sucked into the ship. The ship was full of little yellow aliens who peered curiously at James.
After a long and bumpy ride, the space ship landed on the moon. James could see his planet Earth from here, though he couldn’t see his goats. The little yellow aliens opened the door of the ship and James was greeted by a much larger yellow alien.
“Hello James, my name is Sickle and I see that you have been experiencing some pain. My yellow friends have brought you to me because I need to tell you something”.
“I can see that you have a condition called Sickle Cell Disease. It is a disease in your blood, you are born with it and you cannot catch it from anyone or give it to anyone so don’t worry. There a lots of young boys and girls, just like you, with this disease.
Blood is a special fluid that runs through the rivers in your body, these are blood vessels. There are three kinds of cells in your blood – red cells, white cells and platelets.
Red cells are made inside your bones, every time you take a big breath in, these red cells carry the oxygen to every part of your body through the rivers.
In most humans like yourself, red cells are round, soft and squishy, like round donuts. But you James, are very special. Your red cells are shaped like a sickle, or crescent moons. When red cells are shaped like crescent moons they can get stuck in your little rivers. This stops your blood flowing properly through the rivers, and, like a dam, the blood cannot get past and anything past this point gets hungry for oxygen. This is why you have pain right now!”
“I have something give you to make your pain feel better”, the alien handed James some suspicious moon rocks, “make sure you take enough of these moon rocks so you don’t have to hurt anywhere”. James swallowed the small rocks. “You also need to drink lots of water during the day, this will keep your rivers nice and full – we don’t want a drought in your blood vessels!”
“Sometimes, if your body doesn’t have enough red blood cells, you might find you are more tired than usual, or your skin and eyes might look a little yellow. This is because your blood does not live as long as the round blood and it can be broken more easily by your body. This break down happens in a part of your body called the spleen. The spleen is important for protecting you from getting sick from certain bugs and your crescent cells can potentially be hurtful to your spleen.
I have some magic penicillin to give you for if your spleen gets hurt and if you ever become more tired than usual, I can give your rivers a drink with some special round blood to make you feel better.
Before I let you go home I need to tell you some very important things. If you have pain anywhere in your body or you feel unwell, you have to promise me you will let your mum and dad know. I don’t want you getting cold at night so it is best you watch the moon from your bedroom and make sure you drink a lot of water.
Here, I have one last magic potion for you, this is called hydroxyurea, and it will make the blood through your rivers floor more smoothly.
Now James, I have to get you back home before your parents worry! If you ever need anything just let your parents know and they will take you to see me.”
The spaceship dropped James home safely and the goats were baffled by his return. James was glad that he wasn’t in pain anymore and he knew exactly what to do if anything like this were to happen again. He ran straight inside to his bedroom and fell asleep rest assured that the yellow man from the moon would be there for him.
For more information about sickle cell disease:
The Sickle Cell Society believes that individuals with sickle cell disease have the right to quality care. This can only be achieved if funding is made available to educate health carers and other professionals about the condition. The Society aims to provide this.