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Living With Unpredictable Pain: A Sickle Cell Disease Story


Growing up, Vismel Marquez wanted to join the police department and eventually work his way up to detective. Now almost 22, Vismel, says he knew that his dream job wasn’t to be. It wasn’t that he lacked the drive, courage or smarts. The fault is in his genes.

Vismel was born with sickle cell anemia. This inherited disease causes a mutation in hemoglobin, the oxygen-carrying protein in red blood cells. The defective hemoglobin causes some red blood cells to shape-shift, transforming from healthy donut-shaped cells that move easily through the bloodstream into scrawny, sickle-shaped versions. And because these misshapen red blood cells are rigid and sticky, they can’t move through the small blood vessels (microvasculature).

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