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Comprehensive Sickle Cell Center opens acute care unit

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dignitaries at the sickle cell center's ribbon cutting
L-R: Chancellor Paula Allen-Meares, Medical Center chief medical officer William Chamberlin, center patient Bobbie Lee Arnold, Ill. Rep. Arthur Turner, center patient Don Wadlington, sickle cell center director Joseph DeSimone, U.S. Sen. Roland Burris, clinic outreach coordinator Bonnye Johnson and Ill. Sen. Donne Trotter.

Photo: Kathryn Marchetti

Sickle cell patients, caregivers and community leaders gathered to celebrate the opening of a new Sickle Cell Acute Care Unit and the relocated outpatient clinic Feb. 26.

Sickle cell disease is an inherited, lifelong disease of the red blood cells. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the disease affects 70,000 to 100,000 Americans. Approximately one out of 500 African Americans have sickle cell disease; one out of 12 African Americans is a carrier of the sickle cell trait.

The Medical Center’s Comprehensive Sickle Cell Center has nearly 40 years of experience in managing the disease.

“Chicago has a long and storied history of advances in the understanding and treatment of sickle cell disease, and the University of Illinois has helped write much of that history,” said William Chamberlin, chief medical officer at the Medical Center.

UIC faculty and clinicians from all disciplines have contributed to these advances, from identifying special infections in sickle cell patients to psychological factors associated with the disease.

UIC researchers were part of a National Institutes of Health multi-center study on the effects of hydroxyurea therapy on the frequency of pain crises. UIC enrolled three times as many patients in that study as the next closest institution, Chamberlin said.

Many sickle cell patients have experienced pain — a hallmark of sickle cell disease — since they were very young, said Bonnye Johnson, coordinator of community education and outreach at the Comprehensive Sickle Cell Center.

They often seek treatment in the emergency department, where clinicians unfamiliar with the disease sometimes mistake them for drug seekers, she said.

The new acute care unit can provide immediate treatment for pain, reducing the need for hospitalization and providing compassionate care, she said.

Studies have shown that immediate and aggressive intervention with intravenous analgesics and fluids can control pain and allow patients to return home rather than be hospitalized.

The Comprehensive Sickle Cell Center provides care to over 500 adult patients and 250 pediatric patients.

For more information on the center, call 312-996-5680.


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