Two weeks ago, I received a phone call from a woman who had stopped by my information table at a health fair. I had sent her a packet of information on sickle cell anemia. She thanked me and asked if I could send additional materials. She was participating the Stomp Out Sickle Cell 5K Walk in Washington, DC. She wanted materials to share with local people taking a bus to this event.
Sickle Cell Anemia is a disease that I rarely hear about. In my search for materials, I discovered newly released guidelines for the treatment of sickle cell disease. The guidelines include recommendations for drug treatments, pneumonia vaccines and blood transfusions. I printed out this news story, as well as materials on sickle cell diagnoses, pain management and tips for staying healthy. I mailed these materials ASAP. I’ll admit that I brought the packet to the post office myself, and paid the postage! I am wary of placing anything in the workplace mail room if I want it to move quickly. I know it takes a circuitous route before it reaches USPS.
Shortly after I received this phone call, I saw a Facebook post regarding the 8th Annual Sickle Cell Disease Awareness Dinner, sponsored by the Baystate Mason Square Neighborhood Health Center. I cannot attend everything, but I like to know what’s happening. I read the local papers. I follow social media for several health activist groups. I subscribe to several listservs and blogs. I network with people inside of Baystate Health, in hopes that they will give me a head’s up if a health event is in the works. At times, I am overwhelmed by the amount of information flowing toward me. I am notified about some events 4-5 times, and I totally miss out on other events.
I will admit that sometimes I just start hitting the delete button because I cannot digest any more information.
In September 2014, my awareness of sickle cell disease is growing. I remind myself that awareness is just the first step. The truest way to help someone is to make a connection. That connection cannot be contrived. Through some miracle, we connect with someone else.
This summer, I had a table at a crazy-busy health fair. I gave my pitch, offering to research any health question, to hundreds of people that day. One woman had a need. Her son had suffered from sickle cell anemia. She wanted to know more about his disease. A few weeks later, she requested additional materials so that she could help others. And, she will help people that I will never meet.
The Stomp Out Sickle Cell 5K Walk was attended by passionate health advocates, but (according to this blogger) was not covered by mainstream media. I believe her. I could not find any news stories reporting this event. I had better luck on Twitter. As with many issues, Twitter gives voice to those who do not catch the attention of mainstream media. Check out #SickleCellAwarenessMonth.