Hon. Jane Cordy:
Honourable senators, sickle cell disease is the most common genetic disease in the world, and the number of people born with it continues to increase. It is estimated that over 300,000 babies are born with sickle cell each year worldwide. In Canada, 5,000 Canadians live with sickle cell disease.
Sickle cell disease is caused by an abnormal form of hemoglobin, the molecule in red blood cells which carries oxygen throughout the body. With sickle cell disease, the red blood cells become deformed and the abnormal hemoglobin is not able to work properly. Normal red blood cells are donut shaped and they move easily through the body’s blood vessels, delivering oxygen to the organs. In patients with sickle cell disorder, the red blood cells become stiff and sickle shaped.
Sickle-shaped blood cells do not function like healthy red blood cells. The deformed cell does not flow easily through the blood vessels. This reduces the oxygen getting through the body to the organs. The result is clogged blood vessels and low red blood cell count.
The starvation of oxygen to the body’s systems most commonly manifests itself in severe pain, especially in the bones, but it can cause damage to shoulder and hip joints or chest pain from acute chest syndrome.
Those with sickle cell are born with it and spend a life time managing the disease. Regular blood transfusions, pain medication regimens and living a healthy lifestyle with smart dietary choices and physical activity all contribute to improved quality of life, but this is not a cure.
Sickle cell disease can be devastating for young people and can leave parents and families feeling hopeless as they watch their children suffer the pain of sickle cell disease.
I have spoken many times in this place about sickle cell disease and the effects it has on those living with it and their families.
Honourable senators, I am very proud to say that Canada will officially recognize June 19 as National Sickle Cell Awareness Day for the first time tomorrow.
Celebrations are planned all across the country. Tomorrow, in Toronto, the CN Tower, City Hall and the Princes’ Gate will be lit up in red to mark the day. Other cities like Verdun, Quebec, Vancouver, British Columbia, and Halifax, Nova Scotia, my home province, will have their city halls lit up in red for sickle cell as well.
On June 9, Nova Scotia promoted a blood drive in recognition of National Sickle Cell Awareness Day and the Mayor of Verdun made a declaration at the municipal council today. Other planned activities will include a balloon release ceremony in Saskatoon and Winnipeg. I feel privileged to be invited to celebrate with the Sickle Cell Awareness Group of Ontario at a flag raising ceremony at Toronto City Hall tomorrow.
Honourable senators, I am honoured to celebrate with the sickle cell community across the country the very first National Sickle Cell Awareness Day in Canada. The path to a cure begins with awareness. I encourage honourable senators to help me spread awareness about sickle cell disease with the people in your provinces and territories.
I thank you.