Each year in September, Texas Children’s Hematology Center celebrates Sickle Cell Awareness Month and Immune thrombocytopenia (ITP) Awareness Month. Our Hematology Center, directed by Dr. Jenny Despotovic provides the most advanced care to patients with these and other blood disorders.
The Sickle Cell Disease and Thalassemia Program at Texas Children’s Hematology Center, co-directed by Drs. Titi Fasipe and Venée Tubman, is the largest in Texas, serving more than 1,000 children a year. Our program offers the latest treatments for these inherited red blood cell disorders and conducts some of the top research in the field. The program’s multidisciplinary staff is made up of board-certified pediatric hematologists, hematology-trained nurse practitioners and physician assistants, research staff, as well as social workers and child life specialists. A few of our providers, including Dr. Fasipe, live with sickle cell disease themselves, giving them a unique perspective in caring for their patients.
In this Connect article, Dr. Fasipe and Nurse Practitioner Precious Uwaezuoke share why they chose to dedicate their profession to caring for children with sickle cell disease and how living with this disease has allowed them to better connect with patients and their family members who have sickle cell disease.
“I have the privilege of taking care of children with sickle cell disease and seeing them face their disease so bravely,” said Fasipe. “When I see the strength and resiliency of our patients, I realize that we can get through any challenge or any struggle because we are here for each other and we support each other.”
Dr. Tubman, who cares for patients with sickle cell disease here at Texas Children’s, also works with our Global HOPE (Hematology-Oncology Pediatric Excellence) Team to improve the prognosis of children with blood disorders in sub-Saharan Africa and is involved in sickle cell disease-related research.
“At Texas Children’s, I am thrilled to be part of a team of clinicians passionate about providing optimal care for children with sickle cell disease regardless of where in the world they live, as well as part of a collection of researchers dedicated to using basic science techniques to advance understanding of the biology of sickle cell disease and to develop new therapies. It’s truly exciting to be able take such a comprehensive approach to sickle cell disease care for today and for the future.”
Also, during the month of September, our Hematology Center team will help raise awareness about ITP (immune thrombocytopenia), an immune-related blood clotting disorder of platelets that can lead to excessive bruising and bleeding.
Approximately 60 to 70 new patients with ITP are seen at Texas Children’s Hematology Center every year. ITP, an immune disorder that results in low platelets, is caused when the immune system becomes dysregulated or confused. The normal function of the immune system is to defend the body against foreign invaders, such as infections. However, when it becomes dysregulated it can make antibodies that attack normal, healthy cells. In ITP, these antibodies are directed against the platelets, which lowers the platelet count and can lead to bruising and bleeding.
“We are actively pursuing research seeking to better understand the causes of ITP in children, and we are active collaborators on clinical trials and other research studies,” said Despotovic. “Our team is also involved in several studies related to the efficacy and safety of novel ITP treatment approaches for children as well as expanding treatment options for refractory patients to improve long-term outcomes.”
Virtual activities to raise awareness
Throughout September, Texas Children’s Hematology Center encourages staff to participate in virtual activities to help shine the light on sickle cell disease and ITP.
- Patient and staff videos: Throughout the month of September, we will feature inspiring videos from patients and families sharing messages of encouragement and support to other families impacted by sickle cell disease and ITP. Our Hematology Center staff will share video messages as well. The videos will be posted on Texas Children’s Cancer and Hematology Centers Facebook Page and our One Amazing Team Instagram Page.
- Making a Mark virtual art gallery opens: Presented by The Periwinkle Foundation, the Making A Mark® exhibition will showcase art and creative writing by children ages 3 to 22 who have been affected by cancer and blood disorders at Texas Children’s Cancer and Hematology Centers. The exhibit opens each year in September and this year it will be hosted virtually on The Periwinkle Foundation website. The exhibit will feature over 130 pieces of art and creative writing made by patients and their siblings. A panel of guest judges have selected 15 purple ribbon pieces which they feel convey a positive message about childhood cancer and blood disorders awareness. Click here to access the art gallery.
- Visit the Texas Children’s Blog for Hematology Center-related posts throughout the month. Stay tuned to Connect for more Texas Children’s awareness activities in September.
The Cancer and Hematology Centers’ outpatient team is hosting a variety of colorful activities throughout the month to honor each of the patient populations impacted by the diseases/disorders being honored in September.
Virtual activities in the community
ITP Awareness Month
Sickle Cell Awareness Month
- September 1: Sickle Cell Houston Amazing Race
- September 4-5: Houston City Hall Lights Up Maroon for Sickle Cell
- September 5: Marc Thomas Foundation Virtual Walk Across Texas (raises money for our patients and other patients to go to Camp Cell-a-bration and Camp Next Level)
- September 12: SOS Parent/Guardian Support Group Virtual TeleTalk Live
- September 17-19: Sickle Cell Disease Educational Seminar
- September 19: Be The Match and STAR Virtual 5K Walk/Run
- Month-long: We Run AS ONE Virtual Race for Sickle Cell
- Month-long: Howard University Virtual Cure Sickle Cell Now Move On Event
Click here to learn more about Texas Children’s Cancer and Hematology Centers.