Local Family shares their story about the Sickle Cell Disease

Springfield, MO—We are Denzel and Janelle Billy. We have three sons, Zaiden, Zo and Zaire. We have lived in Springfield for 10 years now, originally from Houston, TX. We moved here to attend school and got jobs after college and ended up staying. Denzel is a HS counselor and Janelle works in HR.
We have been Ujima Language & Literacy members since our oldest son was a baby, he’ll be six in January. Ujima has had a huge impact on all my children. I have been able to see to their love for books grow and it’s so beautiful to watch. My oldest son attended Ujima Summer Camp and the opportunity to emerse him with other brown kids was amazing. He felt comfortable and at home. I’m so thankful.
Outside of raising a family and working, another passion of ours is Sickle Cell Disease (SCD) awareness. Our middle son, Zo was born with SCD and every day is a battle. SCD is a genetic blood disorder that is very prevalent in the black community. It is often unheard of or not talked about enough. We share our journey through various platforms; you can check out our blog at HouseOfBilly.com or find us on YouTube at House of Billy.
Sickle Cell Disease is an inherited, lifelong blood disorder. In the United States, more than 80,000 people have SCD and it is one of the most common genetic diseases in the country. It is reported that in America, about 1,000 babies are born with Sickle Cell Disease. (Hope&Destiny) Our son, Zo just happened to be one of those 1,000 in 2018.
SCD has been a very difficult disease to manage due to the severity of it, the lack of access locally, coupled with the lack of knowledge. In our sons first year of life he was hospitalized over 5 times and needed multiple blood transfusions. Going from no knowledge to having to learn a lot in a little time was a hard, but we did what we had to. We had to advocate for our son, and I’m thankful we found the strength to do so. This journey of raising a child with a serious health condition has not been an easy one, but one we are very thankful for. Our son can light up any room he enters, he is full of joy and jokes.
People often ask us, “what can I do?” and my answer will always be the same, go donate blood! Donating blood can be life saving for someone living with SCD. Some patients have to have frequent transfusions just to live. Some of those can be as frequent as every two weeks. Having access to blood, specifically blood from black donors is in high demand. Most patients fall into one of the following blood types: A, B, AB and O, which are commonly found in black people.
To learn more about my family’s journey check out my blog at HouseofBilly.com or you can find us on YouTube at House of Billy.
To learn more about Sickle Cell Disease check out www.sicklecelldisease.org or www.SCInfo.org
Please consider joining us for a local Blood drive at Turning Point Church on September 11, 2021, from 10-2pm. Your donation would mean so much to those who are fighting SCD daily.

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