Sat | Jan 19, 2019

Sickle Cell Clinic fêtes children

Published:Friday | January 9, 2015 | 12:00 AM

Mel Cooke, Gleaner Writer

Inevitably, many children with sickle cell and those closest to them are regulars at the Sickle Cell Clinic at the University of the West Indies, Mona campus. Over the recent holiday season, however, they saw it in a different light from the norm - though the transformation was not for the first time.

Alphanso Blake, medical social worker, said that the Sickle Cell Clinic's now-customary Christmas event, held in the facility's parking lot, was organised for about 100 children ages three to 15 years old. However, there was always the possibility that more could attend, as persons come and go throughout the treat's time slot, which this year was between 10:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. Slated to perform were Melloquence, Rollie Fresh, dub poet and final-year medical student Princeton Brown, and DJ Cue from Newstalk FM, who played recorded music.

The treat attracted the support of a number of sponsors, among them Victoria Mutual Building Society, Good Life Water, Supreme Ventures, Restaurant Associates Ltd, Restaurants of Jamaica, The Gleaner, Prestige Bakery, Scoops, Nestlé, Wisynco, PriceSmart and Honey Bun. In addition, Blake said, there were individuals who made small contributions.

David Gordon contributed by taking photographs at the event.

It was a significant level of support and Blake said "maybe it is a spin-off from last year".

In addition to the performances, Eon and Robby did face-painting, a guaranteed hit with the children.

Educational component

While there was fun and games, Blake planned for an educational component so that persons could know more about living with sickle cell. To this end, there were quizzes "to test their knowledge, even as they have fun".

There is also the matter of making sickle cell more visible. "I still want to raise awareness to persons outside, so they know that this population exists," Blake said. It is a large number, as one in every 150 children born in Jamaica has a form of sickle cell. The clinic focuses on the clinical, research and educational aspects of dealing with sickle cell, with the treat falling within the clinical aspect.

Blake noted that as the treat is a visit to the clinic unrelated to illness, it helps create a sense of belonging and shows that the staff - which contributes to the event through participation and contributions, cares about the children.

Children who visit the Sickle Cell Clinic for treatment were hosted at the treat, Blake pointing out that it is not the only annual activity put on for the children and accommodation is made for the slightly older persons, with some overlap in ages. "We hold the summer camp for older children, 12 to 18 years old, in August," Blake said.

For the Christmas treat, naturally, adults accompanied the youngsters, but "the focus is on the children".

The door is always open for persons who wish to make contributions to assist the children who visit the Sickle Cell Clinic year-round. "I will always have someone who can benefit from it," Blake said.