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Local woman turns family tragedy into a mission to help kids in Haiti with sickle cell

Posted at 11:11 PM, Dec 31, 2019

Valentine Joseph says three of her four brothers died when she was growing up.

One of them passed away in her arms.

They all had sickle cell disease.

Joseph said, "He was never properly diagnosed. Even today it's still an issue in Haiti. They all died in Haiti."

Joseph who carries the trait for the disease, hopes she can save lives in Haiti through her JayJ Foundation, which she started in memory of her brothers.

She says some area doctors want to help. "We will be launching the sickle cell initiative where we will be testing newborns and kids up to age 5. And if they do have sickle cell disease, we will be providing them with the necessary medication and treatment."

Joseph already visits Haiti helping with food and other supplies. Now it will be about sickle cell anemia, a disease that goes beyond her home country.

Dr. Nayf Edress, a pediatric hematologist and oncologist, says, "Sickle cell anemia is an inherited genetic disorder that affects the red blood cells. It is disproportionately affecting the African American and the Hispanic population."

Strides made in the U.S. in medications to help those with sickle cell.

"We are really excited. for over four decades we only had the same medications for the last four decades. It's really until last year we had one additional medication and this year that we have two additional medications. Hopefully these will be history in the making that we are witnessing", said Dr. Edress.

Meanwhile, Joseph hopes to make history by helping kids in Haiti diagnosed with sickle cell have a fighting chance. "I want to make a difference in one or two however many I can whether it's here and also in Haiti," she says.

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