When Kristine Buchanan’s twins were born in 1997, they received the standard newborn screening blood test given to all babies. The results of this test are typically nothing to worry about. But for Joshua and Jordan, the tests indicated that both boys have the most severe form of Sickle Cell Disease (SCD).
SCD is a genetic disorder that causes the red blood cells to take on the shape of the letter “C”. Because the cells can’t flow normally through the body, they tend to collect in certain areas, causing great pain and organ damage.
The symptoms of SCD typically begin appearing about eight months after birth, when a newborn’s body begins replacing the blood they were born with. Jordan and Joshua exhibited a typical symptom of those with SCD when their hands and feet became swollen and painful. As a matter of fact, they didn’t start walking until their second birthday.
Kristine can attest to the special bond between Jordan and Joshua. “Even if one of the boys seems sick, I always take the other one along to the doctor as well,” Kristine said. “It amazes me how many times one of them would have a fever, but the other one would need to stay in the hospital.”
Symptom management is key to those families with SCD. The painful episodes that each boy endures about five times a year requires hospitalization and is often accompanied by blood transfusions and pain management medications. “I don’t think that most people realize how important it is for minorities to become regular blood donors,” Kristine said. “The closer the match is for the patient, the lower the risk for reactions and long-term complications. I’m just grateful for the blood donors who save my sons’ lives over and over.”
While the boys love school and outdoor activities, their illness limits some of their activities due to risk of infection and bleeding. Even so, Jordan and Joshua hope to become professional wrestlers when they find a cure for SCD one day. For now, they are students at Marcos de Niza High School and live in Chandler with their mom and three brothers.