The Leavenworth Times - Leavenworth, KS
  • Motorcycle ride to raise awareness for sickle cell

  • Local groups are hoping to raise awareness this weekend for a disease they say can cause severe illness or even death in those affected, yet remains little understood.
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  • Local groups are hoping to raise awareness this weekend for a disease they say can cause severe illness or even death in those affected, yet remains little understood.
    Sickle cell disease primarily affects African-Americans, with more that 2.5 million people carrying the sickle cell trait and about 100,000 diagnosed with one of a host of sickle cell-related diseases.
    The first annual Buffalo Soldiers Riding for Sickle Cell motorcycle ride through Leavenworth County is being organized with the cooperation of the Kansas City Area Chapter of the Buffalo Soldiers Association and the Tonganoxie American Legion Riders as a benefit for the Uriel Owens Chapter of the Sickle Cell Disease Association.
    The ride, with registration from 9:30 to 11 a.m. Saturday at the Tonganoxie Veterans of Foreign Wars Park, will wind through 85 miles of Leavenworth County and other parts of the surrounding area in the hopes of raising some awareness of sickle cell and its related conditions. Registration costs $15 per vehicle, plus $5 for each of two meals provided along the route. According to one of the organizers of the ride, Carlton Philpot, all are welcome and encouraged to participate.
    “It's a motorcycle ride that's not just for motorcycles,” he said. “You can drive your car.”
    The route starts in Tonganoxie and travels through several stops with prize drawings and meals in Jefferson County: Perry, Ozawkie, Oskaloosa and McLouth before returning to Tonganoxie.
    Named for the characteristic shape of the red blood cells in those affected, those with the sickle cell trait have one copy of the gene that can cause hard, sickle-shaped red blood cells that carry oxygen throughout the body instead of soft, circular ones. Those with two copies that gene are at risk for sickle cell diseases. Both can cause lifelong health problems and neither has a cure outside of bone marrow transplants.
    Philpot said that's why a lack of awareness about the disease can be dangerous ― he said his 3-year-old grandson has sickle cell, a fact about which the daycare where he is a student was not aware when he came down with what normally would have been merely a high temperature.
    “The daycare center was not trained to recognize the symptoms of sickle cell,” he said. “So just two weeks ago, in the middle of the night, we had to take him to the hospital to have his temperature taken for a fever.”
    Philpot said part of the reason for timing the ride as they are ― National Sickle Cell Month is in September ― is because school is scheduled to begin soon, and the coalition of partners sponsoring the event hope to get the word out to help those children now preparing to start school. Many school districts don't require a test for sickle cell for student physicals, Philpot said, and the NCAA only recently approved a plan to begin testing in the 2014-2015 year.
    Page 2 of 2 - “It's not something to take lightly,” he said.
    This year's ride is only a start, and Philpot said in the future he would like to see the effort expand in the coming years, something he said is already in the works.
    “Next year, it will go national,” he said.
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