Blaze Eppinger is an open book, sharing his story about living with sickle cell disease in order to inspire kids going through the same thing.
Eppinger is an advocate for people with sickle cell, and works as a counselor and administrator at a camp run by the Sickle Cell Foundation of Georgia. He gives advice to the campers, answering their questions about how to explain sickle cell to others, and motivating them to live life to the fullest. As a kid, Eppinger wanted to attend the camp, and being able to work there as an adult is a dream. “It was timed perfectly,” he told The Week. “I’m at the camp like I wanted to be as a child, but in a different capacity. Maybe if I had gone as a child, I wouldn’t have come back as an adult.”
Wednesday was World Sickle Cell Day, which aims to raise awareness of sickle cell. About 100,000 people in the United States have sickle cell disease, and 90 percent are of African descent. When a person has a sickle cell disorder, their red blood cells become stiff and sickle shaped, which can block blood flow, leading to a painful sickle cell crisis. When people have a crisis, they go to the hospital for blood transfusions, and if their blood type is not available, they have to wait until it is delivered.
That’s why Eppinger is also an advocate for blood donation, working with the Red Cross to bring attention to the fact that only three out of 100 people in the U.S. give blood. Through the Missing Types campaign, people with rare blood types are encouraged to donate, so they can help people like Eppinger and the kids he works with at camp. “It only takes 10 minutes to acquire the blood, and one bag can help three people,” Eppinger said. “It doesn’t take long to make a difference in someone’s life.”
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