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IHTC hosts annual ‘Sickle Cell-abration’ awareness concert

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The 365 day calendar is loaded with awareness months and holidays dedicated to celebration and wellness, but after immunization month in August, and before pink balloons are released into the air for breast cancer awareness month in October, there is a disease that impacts the lives of many beginning at birth – sickle cell disease.

The Indiana Hemophilia & Thrombosis Center will host its sixth annual “Sickle Cell-abration” event featuring a free concert starring national recording artist Raheem DeVaughn in addition to other acts such as Men in the Fire, Epiphany Dance Collective and other special performances on Sept. 6 from 6 p.m. until 10 p.m. with doors opening at 5:30 p.m.

The Indiana Hemophilia & Thrombosis Center believes the evening will be filled with education and entertainment.

Kisha Hampton of the Indiana Hemophilia & Thrombosis Center said although sickle cell does not discriminate against any race or ethnicity, African-Americans make up 85 percent of those affected.

“One in 10 African-Americans have the sickle cell trait, 1 in 500 or less have sickle cell disease and over 1,000 are Indiana residents,” said Hampton.

The occasion brings in about 600 people each year and has steadily increased numbers by 100 or more. The artists will perform at a new location, the Pike Preforming Arts Center, which holds more than 1,000 people and the hosts are hoping to fill all seats.

The month of September highlights sickle cell disease and educates the community. This disease impacts the hemoglobin, which rests in the red blood cells, and is responsible for delivering oxygen to the body. Experts say sickle cell is often referred to as a disorder due to the shape of the blood cells. Normal cells form a disk-like shape while those affected by sickle cell have sickle or crescent-shaped cells that often lead to anemia and prevents blood flow into vessels and organs.

The most common form is sickle cell anemia and those who discover the illness later on in life find they were born with the disease where they inherited two sickle hemoglobin genes – one from each parent.

According to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, it is possible for an individual to inherit one sickle hemoglobin gene from one parent and a normal gene from the other. In this case the individual is diagnosed with sickle cell trait, which differs from sickle cell anemia. These people are said to not have the official sickle cell disease, however they are able to pass the trait on to their children, similar to sickle cell anemia.

The first half of “Sickle Cell-abration” will educate attendees about sickle cell, feature patient and provider interviews, information booths, bone marrow registry and poems by sickle cell patients.

Hampton said many people aren’t aware that funding, blood donation, support and research are needed as much as other major health concerns.

“There are still many babies being born with sickle cell disease to parents who did not know they had a sickle cell trait, so testing is key. People with sickle cell are living and surviving this disease everyday and need help,” said Hampton. “Sickle cell is a global public health concern and its going to take a lot more collaboration, funding and support to control or eradicate. Come and enjoy some music. Listen to patients and start thinking about an action plan related to helping those living with sickle cell disease.”

While there is no cure available, treatments are available to relieve symptoms and pain, which may include blood and marrow stem cell, transplants.

For more information on sickle cell, visit the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute at nhlbi.nih.gov.

A chat with Raheem DeVaughn

Recorder: Why did you decide to participate in the ‘Sickle Cell-abration’ concert?

DeVaughn: I just started my own foundation, The Love of Life Foundation so I try and support anything positive involving the initiatives of health.

Do you have any personal ties to sickle cell?

I have family who have had sickle cell anemia, so I know first hand the pain people are in once it flares up. I remember my mom had a friend that died from the illness as well. It’s an honor to be involved in the concert.

Outside of the music, what is something you want the audience to take away from the event?

That it’s cool for artist to use their celebrity status to support great causes and to bring awareness to things other than what kind of car we drive and how many chains we have on our necks. I drive a nice car, I wear chains around my neck, but I also care about people. It’s essential when the youth are looking up to us and wanting to follow in our footsteps. To give that component is important.

How beneficial are free concerts that bring awareness to health and social issues?

I do free concerts often, but it’s not about the money. The most valuable thing in life is time and how you spend it. I am an adamant believer of ‘it’s not what’s happening now but the legacy you leave behind.’

Are you looking to perform music from your latest album, “A Place Called Loveland” or older releases as well?

When you have four or five albums it gets hard to figure out what songs to do but I’ve learned as a seasoned performer to do your hits. The new songs are always cool and the old songs are cool too. I remember doing a show for the tour in October (in Indianapolis) and the energy was good. Hopefully it will be a great turnout and we can rock the house. It will definitely be an entertaining show.

Do you have anything new in the works?

I’m actually mixing and mastering my fifth album, which will be coming out the first week in February in 2015. It’s going to be called “Love, Sex and Passion” and it’s part two to the album I just released.

See DeVaughn perform live at Sickle Cell-abration Sept. 6 at 6 p.m. at the Pike Performing Arts Center.

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