PRESS RELEASE:-Nurses and doctors benefited from a workshop conducted by Sick Kids Hospital on the importance of taking blood samples from children at birth to detect the early presence of sickle cell disease.
Focus was placed on a more effective and accurate method of attaining blood samples.
Dr. Isaac Odamee, Pediatric Hematologist at the Hospital for Sick Children said Sick Kids Hospital, based in Toronto, Canada is one of the leading hospitals in the world. Through grant funding the hospital has partnered with six Caribbean countries to advance the care of children with blood disorders and Cancers.
“And we are doing this by health workforce strengthening, by training doctors and nurses in the expertise of looking after children with cancers and inherited blood disorders. We are doing this by education and training. We are doing this by trying to raise public awareness and creating a data base of all children who suffer from cancer in the Caribbean to quantify the problem, to see the outcome and to be able to measure whether the difference we are making can be translated into better survival.”
The Pediatric Hematologist indicated that St. Lucia stands out among the six Caribbean countries Sick Kids Hospital has partnered with having made the most progress in testing newborns for sickle cell disease.
For over 25 years St. Lucia has pioneered the testing of blood from the placenta at birth for the sickle cell disease, a point acknowledged by Community Pediatrician, Dr. Jacquline Bird . She said Sickle Cell Disease is the most common chronic disease which threatens lives of children and early diagnosis will lead to better outcomes.
“You would know, the cord blood or the blood from the umbilicus is a mixture of mother and baby so it’s not a pure testing of the baby. It’s been fraught with complications of misdiagnosis, false positives or underlooked sickle cell disease that looks like the trait. So we have a new method of testing the baby it’s self at birth”
Dr. Bird said via the new method, by the time a baby is four weeks old, tests would have already determined whether that baby has sickle cell disease and would be enrolled in the ministry of health’s comprehensive healthcare programme.
“So what this pilot is, is that we supposedly take every new born get a drop of blood from their heel to test for sickle cell disease. It’ s dropped onto a filter paper card and that card is shipped off to a central lab in Kingston Jamaica at the moment and within 48 hours we can have a diagnoses of sickle cell disease. Compare that with the original method or cord blood testing when parents are asked to come back in six weeks for their babies result.”
President of the St. Lucia Sickle Cell Association, Paula Caldron was excited about the possibilities this new testing method will provide for early detection and intervention.
“The fact that new technology has come about will require a different procedure however it will be more efficient and more effective. We will be able to identify more closely who are those persons who have sickle cell. We are indeed happy to be one of the islands chosen to start this procedure. What we have to do is to increase the educational process also for the parents and the mothers and know exactly what has to be done with the heel prick. And, babies even if they get a heel prick and they might cry, it really doesn’t hurt, it stops very quickly but the importance of the heel prick is to get that blood which now is being tested for sickle cell but later down the line it is quite possible that there may be other areas that they want tests for and that same blood can be used for that testing. “
Dr. Odamee believes this new approach is futuristic and feasible and is one that both parents and the medical community will accept and embrace as the way to go for sickle cell testing.