Evelina London patient raises awareness of sickle cell disease

Posted on Friday 11th October 2019
Tiana making a thumbs up sign with both hands

Tiana Francis giving a thumbs-up gesture with both hands

A seven-year-old with sickle cell disease, and her mother have made an important call for new blood donors.

Tiana Francis, 7, and her mother, Megan, have urged more blood donors, and particularly black blood donors, to come forward, to help patients with sickle cell disease.

Tiana and her sister red bows smiling and looking at each other, holding a 150 sign.

The red blood cells of sickle cell patients form into a sickle or crescent moon shape and treatment can include regular blood transfusions. The disease commonly affects people in the UK with an African or Caribbean family background, and people from the same ethnic background are more likely to have the same blood types.

Tiana, from Brixton, has had sickle cell anaemia since she was born. She comes into Evelina London every four weeks for a blood transfusion, and her additional treatments include folic acid, penicillin and pain relief. A week or so before each transfusion, she experiences an increase in her symptoms, like getting very tired and paler skin. She also can’t take part in PE at school due to her pain and fatigue. Tiana's mother or father always has to travel on school trips with her, and the family also has to watch out in case it rains or is too cold, which can have an adverse effect on her health.  

Tiana's mum was provided with a care plan from Evelina London. Megan says: “It’s very challenging because one minute she is OK, but then the next she’s ill or having severe pain episodes including stomach ache or joint pain, so we have to constantly watch her.”

NHS Blood and Transplant are urging more black people in London to register as blood donors and save lives. Over the past year, 11% more black people have started donating blood in Greater London but an overall shortage remains. There are donor centres in Edgware, Tooting and the West End, and mobile donation sessions are held in community venues such as church halls.

Megan says: “I would like to say to people that being a donor saves lives, it does count and it takes less than five minutes.

“Every black blood donation helps and it would be great to see a strong rise in blood donors coming forward during Evelina London’s 150 birthday year.”

Nkechi Anyanwu, community matron for sickle cell services at Evelina London, said: “It’s great to see that during Sickle Cell Awareness Month there is an upward trend in the numbers of black people in London who are saving lives by donating blood.

“The ongoing black donor shortage makes it harder to find the best matched blood for black people and this puts them at heightened risk of life threatening transfusion reactions.

“It’s safe, quick and easy to donate blood so we urge people of black heritage in London to register as donors to help save lives.”

Nationally, new NHSBT figures show that the number of black blood donors has grown over the past three years in response to urgent appeals in recent years, but NHS Blood and Transplant still needs 40,000 new black donors nationally.

Could you donate and help make a difference for patients like Tiana? Find out how to give blood.

Our Evelina 150 Stories.

150 years ago, Evelina London was born out of love, when Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild founded the hospital in memory of his wife, Evelina. Since 1869, we've been saving lives, improving health and inspiring better futures.