Microcosms of Injustice Found Throughout Sickle Cell Disease

Dr. Andrew Campbell from the Children's National Hospital in Washington, DC describes the inequities and injustices that are often seen throughout the sickle cell community. Just as George Floyd could not breathe, many sickle cell patients cannot breathe during acute chest pain syndrome. He presents an example of a patient who almost died because she was not heard. We need to listen to our patients. We need to acknowledge their pain. Their race, gender, age or sexual orientation should not matter when seeking care. In sickle cell patients, pain episodes can precede major complications that need treatment.

Dr. Andrew Campbell, sickle cell disease management plan, sickle cell trait, Sickle Cell Disease, sickle cell anemia, I can't breathe, CASiRe, Children’s National Hospital, acute pain episode, SCD

About this expert

Andrew Campbell, MD

Director, Comprehensive Sickle Cell Program

Children’s National Health System

Director of the Consortium for the Advancement of Sickle Cell Disease Research (CASiRe)


Dr. Campbell: 
I just want to say that sickle cell disease is an example of a health condition where our patients are not  heard, right. It's not the same as George Floyd which we, you know --  rest in peace. Police brutality needs to end absolutely. It's really an injustice. I can't really tell you how emotional I get when I heard that and what I saw. But I think what I've learned is these injustices, microcosms, you can have different microcosms of injustices in every field, in every aspect of our society. And in sickle cell, there are  injustices, there are inequalities. There are patients who are not heard or told they're not in pain. They're not heard when their health is going down the tubes clinically. 

And in some patients, they also say they cannot breathe when they have severe acute chest syndrome. I had a patient, she was telling a group of doctors that she couldn't breathe and they ignored her and she almost died. So I think this is a testament. I think his story is telling us, is teaching us that as  healthcare providers, if patients, regardless of color, come in and they  are feeling something's wrong with them, we need to treat them. Regardless of the color of their skin, regardless of sexual orientation,  regardless of age, regardless of gender, we need to listen to them. Because in sickle cell, if you have severe pain crisis, that can be a preceding symptom of severe complications in sickle cell disease. 

If you keep coming in, you go through the revolving door, no one's listening to you, it could be something more serious. We need to listen to our patients.


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