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Join Atrium Health Navicent Beverly Knight Olson Children’s Hospital in Raising Awareness for Sickle Cell Disease and Supporting Patients

September is Sickle Cell Disease Awareness Month

Atrium Health Navicent Beverly Knight Olson Children’s Hospital honors the young patients who live with sickle cell disease, and their families, this September during National Sickle Cell Awareness Month by raising awareness about the genetic condition.

Georgia ranks third in the nation with more than 10,000 individuals living with sickle cell disease, according to a 2021 Georgia State Senate Study Committee on Sickle Cell Anemia report. The disease affects about 1 out of 100,000 Americans, and 1 out of 365 African Americans, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

“In the month of September, Sickle Cell Disease Awareness Month challenges us all to spread awareness of this serious illness and make best use of expertise, newest medications and facilities with personal attention that are close to home, for patients in central and South Georgia,” said Dr. Vishwas S. Sakhalkar, an Atrium Health Navicent pediatric hematology and oncology specialist.

Sickle cell disease is an inherited form of anemia, a condition caused when the body does not produce enough healthy red blood cells to adequately carry oxygen throughout the body. Patients with sickle cell disease have red blood cells that become rigid, sticky and shaped like crescent moons that may become stuck in small blood vessels and slow or block blood flow and oxygen to various parts of the body. The blood cells may also die prematurely, causing jaundice, gall stones and injuries to organs, including the spleen, kidneys, lungs and brain. Symptoms of the condition include anemia, episodes of pain, swollen extremities, frequent infections, lung injuries, delayed growth, vision problems and stroke.

To inherit the disease, a child must have two parents who carry the sickle cell gene. It is estimated that about 1 in 13 African American babies is born with a sickle cell trait, which means they have inherited one sickle cell gene from one parent and one normal gene from the other parent. People with the sickle cell trait usually do not have any of the signs of the disease and live a normal life, but they can pass the trait on to their children.

Atrium Health Navicent HOPE (Hematology Oncology Place of Excellence) for Kids, a facility of Atrium Health Navicent The Medical Center, offers outpatient care for children with cancer and blood disorders, including sickle cell disease.

“These expert physicians and other dozens of highly-trained physicians, with help from a special team of nurses and other experts, work together tirelessly to care for and serve the children suffering from this lifelong, unpredictable, debilitating and severe illness that takes a serious toll on these children, their families and their caretakers,” Sakhalkar said. “Using our facilities, specialized equipment and expertise, we’re able to provide comprehensive care close to home for many patients.”

Atrium Health Navicent Beverly Knight Olson Children’s Hospital and Phoebe Health launched a clinical affiliation in 2021 to expand access to specialized pediatric care. The partnership allows rural patients in southwest Georgia to receive top level care from Atrium Health Navicent physicians. Phoebe physicians and pediatric patients have access to expanded services, including virtual and in-person pediatric specialty consultations, and the most advanced pediatric diagnostics available, along with the latest state-of-the-art medical treatments without having to travel far from home.

Surgeons, neurologists, hematologists, oncologists and endocrinologists from Atrium Health Navicent Beverly Knight Olson Children’s Hospital regularly visit the Phoebe Pediatric Specialty Clinic to provide follow-up and ongoing care management, including treating patients with sickle cell disease. The partnership also provides for telehealth services, working with Phoebe’s pediatric hospitalists to provide acute and intensive care for children admitted to Phoebe.

About Atrium Health Navicent

Atrium Health Navicent is the leading provider of healthcare in central and south Georgia and is committed to its mission of elevating health and wellbeing through compassionate care. Atrium Health Navicent provides high-quality, personalized care in 53 specialties at more than 50 facilities throughout the region. As part of the largest, integrated, nonprofit health system in the Southeast, it is also able to tap into some of the nation’s leading medical experts and specialists with Atrium Health, allowing it to provide the best care close to home – including advanced innovations in virtual medicine and care. Throughout its 125-year history in the community, Atrium Health Navicent has remained dedicated to enhancing health and wellness for individuals throughout the region through nationally recognized quality care, community health initiatives and collaborative partnerships. It is also one of the leading teaching hospitals in the region, helping to ensure viability for rural health care for the next generation. For more information, please visit