Sickle Cell Disease on the Suncoast

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Sickle-Cell Disease, named for the sickle-shaped cells is a hereditary blood disorder affecting primarily African Americans and Hispanics.

The disease carries a risk of various complications. There are many symptoms, from swelling in the hands and feet, severe pain and fever to episodes or crisis that can send you to the ER and one local mom speaks candidly of her loss and the urgency to find a cure.

"I'm hoping that they find a cure so that they'll be able to help other people that have this problem." Said Mary Leverett, her son Anthony died on Sunday of complications of the disease, he was thirty-four. She spoke of his character. "My son always said mama I'm not gonna let this stop me from doing the things that I want to do in life."

The disease affects more than 90-thousand Americans, flared up as knee pain this episode for Anthony, he had a cast put on and was treated medically for pain which was thought a result of pulled muscles. But, it got worse. His mom explained, "He was starting to hurt in his shoulders, he wasn't feeling good, he was having tremendous headaches, I mean tremendous headaches that he couldn't even see."

Sickle cells die early causing a shortage of red blood cells resulting in Anemia. When the misshaped cells get stuck in small blood vessels and clog blood flow it results in severe pain, organ damage and can cause serious infections, which can be fatal.

Captain Larry McGuire said Anthony was like a son to him, strong in his faith and dedication to his church, a family man, and the first person he knew with the disease

"He even lost his spleen, it may have been two years ago, I even called him the hollow man, because he was losing organs over the Sickle Cell." McGuire spoke of Leverett's passion for fishing, and called him a master angler. But said that knowing someone first hand with the disease shed some light. "I've always heard stories, it's a bad disease." He said.

About 1 of every 500 Black or African-Americans born are affected,

Leverett is survived by a wife and five children. His mother said she is staying strong because of one hope, "That they find a cure, so that others will not have to go through what my baby went through."

Signs of the disease start during the first year of life, usually around 5-months of age.

Anthony Leverett was diagnosed at one when his mom took him to the doctor for severe arm pain. She urges parents to get tested to help prevent them and their kids from passing it on to future generations. At this time there is no known cure, save for bone-marrow and stem-cell transplants, these are usually performed on children who have suffered little to no damage to the organs.

If you would like to pay your respects to the family the wake is on Friday from 5-8 pm at St. Stephens church in Bradenton, and the Service will be conducted on Sat at i:00 p.m. at BCC church in Bradenton.