Kevin Waugh (Saskatoon—Grasswood)
2017-02-08 14:12 [p.8625]
Mr. Speaker, I rise today to honour Mr. Harold Chapman. Harold is the author of Sharing My Life: Building the Co-operative Movement. Harold will be recognized with the Order of Canada in May 2017.
Harold is only 99 years young. He has been a leader of this co-operative movement for seven decades. He established the Co-operative College of Canada, where he was principal for 18 years. The college is a national centre for co-operative education and research.
Harold was also involved in the development of the Saskatoon Community Clinic. It was my honour to present Harold Chapman with the Saskatoon—Grasswood Canada 150 citizen pin at McClure Place, where he currently lives.
The pin is in recognition of his contributions to Saskatoon—Grasswood, to the province of Saskatchewan, and the country of Canada.
Kevin Waugh (Saskatoon—Grasswood)
2017-02-08 18:25 [p.8659]
Mr. Speaker, it gives me great pleasure tonight to speak to Bill S-211, an act respecting national sickle cell awareness day.
The United Nations, the African Union, and the World Health Organization have all recognized sickle cell disease as a public health priority. They also all recognize June 19 of each year as World Sickle Cell Awareness Day. World Sickle Cell Awareness Day has been held on June 19 since 2008. That day was chosen to commemorate the day on which a resolution was officially adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations. It recognizes sickle cell disease as a public health concern.
Quite honestly, until last September, I had heard about sickle cell disease but actually had no idea what it was or how serious it could be. I had the opportunity, though, to meet with members of the Sickle Cell Association of Canada, including my constituent in Saskatoon—Grasswood, Mr. Craig Eling. Craig has been a big help in preparing me for my remarks in the House today.
I would like to give some facts about this disease.
Sickle cell disease is the most common inherited blood-related disease. The World Health Organization, the WHO, estimates that up to 5% of the world’s population are healthy carriers of the gene for sickle cell disease. It is most commonly found in people from sub-Saharian Africa, the Middle East, Mediterranean countries, and parts of India.
People get one gene from each of their parents. A person with one gene for sickle cell disease is known as a carrier, also known as sickle cell trait. Individuals live normal lives and are very rarely affected by their single gene, but here is where it becomes complicated. A person with two genes has sickle cell disease, also known as sickle cell anemia, and their lives are greatly impacted by this condition.
Sickle cell disease results in the production of abnormal red blood cells, which are shaped like a crescent moon or the letter “C.” Normal red blood cells look like a doughnut without the hole. Sickle shaped blood cells like to get stuck because of the points on either end of the crescent moon shape, which causes many of the issues associated with the disease. The most common place they get stuck is in the organ that cleans the blood. That of course is the spleen. Because they get stuck in the spleen, it withers away by the time a child with sickle cell disease is about 5-years-old. Although people can live without their spleens, they are more at risk of certain types of blood-borne bacterial infections.
As soon as children are diagnosed with sickle cell disease, some as early as birth, they are put on daily antibiotics to prevent an infection. At an appropriate age, they will receive extra immunizations. This also means that the presence of a fever in a person with sickle cell disease could indicate a bacterial infection and such situations are considered a medical emergency that requires prompt treatment with antibiotics and sometimes even hospitalization.
A normal red blood cell lives in the body for about 120 days, while sickle cells live for about 10 to 20 days. The body is constantly destroying the sickle cells and working to produce fresh red blood cells. This can lead to chronic anemia, where the blood is unable to carry enough oxygen to all parts of the body. The common effects of chronic anemia are ongoing tiredness, pale skin, weakness, and delayed growth in development in children.
A crisis occurs when enough crescent moon shaped sickle cells jam up in a blood vessel, causing a disruption of normal blood flow. The body tissues downstream of the blockage lose oxygen and begin to die, which causes, in some cases, severe pain.
If not promptly treated, the loss of oxygen can lead to permanent damage to affected areas. The most serious and really the most relatively common outcome of sickle cell disease is a stroke. This can occur in children as young as two years old.
To prevent crisis, people with sickle cell disease must stay well hydrated and avoid rapid temperature changes. Children often cannot play outside in winter. They are also asked to avoid intensive exercise, eat a balanced diet, stay well rested, and avoid smoking.
They are required to take a special medication every day to decrease the amount of sickle cells the bone marrow produces and avoid crises. The only cure for sickle cell disease is a bone marrow transplant, which, by the way, does not occur very often because of a lack of an appropriate donor. Even though we have a bone marrow registry connected to worldwide donors, the best chances of an acceptable match would actually be a person’s siblings.
Kevin Waugh (Saskatoon—Grasswood)
2017-02-08 18:32 [p.8659]
Mr. Speaker, I have this booming voice and usually everybody listens. I guess I will tone it down for the rest of this speech.
Some people with very severe sickle cell disease require frequent blood transfusions every three to six weeks. This procedure uses a machine that separates and discards the patient’s own red blood cells, while transfusing the non-sickle donor blood into the person. Because they are receiving so much donor blood on a frequent schedule, they require blood that is phenotypically similar to their own blood. This means a person with African heritage requires blood donated from a person with the same heritage. Thus, finding an appropriate donor is often an issue in Canada, although it is improving.
Once patients are started on scheduled blood transfusions, they also have to start medications to decrease the amount of iron that builds up in their body, which is a side effect of frequent transfusions. This treatment, as we all know, is very expensive, and often starts with a pump that releases the medication slowly into people though needles in their abdomens. Unfortunately, they are required to have the pump running, sometimes from eight to 24 hours a day.
One of the biggest challenges for managing sickle cell disease is when a person in crisis or with a fever sees a health care practitioner who is not familiar with the disease. Any delay in treatment can be life-threatening and, unfortunately, often is.
I have learned that in Saskatchewan we do not track the number of people with sickle cell trait, although in the last year the pediatric haematology met 14 new children in our province of Saskatchewan with carrier status. They now follow 17 children living in Saskatchewan, and many in my riding of Saskatoon—Grasswood, with the full sickle cell disease, a population, I might add, that has increased by 30% in the last nine months.
In Saskatchewan, sickle cell disease is primarily found in people who have immigrated to Canada or are first generation Canadians. Many of the new Canadians are actually unaware of their sickle cell status, until arriving in Canada and taking their child into a hospital with a crisis. This ultimately leads to a diagnosis of sickle cell disease for the person in crisis and a diagnosis of sickle cell trait for the rest of the family, even though the family is from a country with high levels of sickle cell disease.
We have many volunteers in my city of Saskatoon. In fact, they are arranging a blood drive targeting people with African, Caribbean, East Indian, Middle Eastern, and Mediterranean heritage. That will take place this March. We will have a big donate blood awareness.
The Sickle Cell Disease Association of Canada is planning to begin advocating for expanded newborn screening in my province of Saskatchewan, which would include testing for sickle cell anemia. Remember, as the number of people with sickle cell trait increases in Canada, there is more risk of children being born with sickle cell disease.
As I see it, there are three important things we can do to combat this disease. First and foremost, we all agree we can devote more resources to research and finding a cure. We can raise awareness, like we have tonight, through Bill S-211. Last, we can encourage all regular blood donations in our communities.
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