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St. Jude patient Avery smiling looking up

St. Jude patient Avery


World Sickle Cell Day

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For more than 60 years, St. Jude Children's Research Hospital has been committed to understanding and treating sickle cell disease (SCD). Learn more about SCD and how you can help raise awareness and support St. Jude in our ongoing research. 


What is World Sickle Cell Day? 

World Sickle Cell Day is an annual day of recognition to raise international awareness around SCD and the challenges patients and families face when confronting this illness. At St. Jude, sickle cell is more than a disease that gets the spotlight for one day — it is a continuous effort to save children around the world. 

When is World Sickle Cell Day? 

World Sickle Cell Day, sometimes referred to as World Sickle Cell Awareness Day, is June 19

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St. Jude patient Za'Mya sitting on a hospital exam table with a mask on

St. Jude patient Za'Mya

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Sickle cell disease research progress at St. Jude 

Thanks to generous donors like you, St. Jude has made the following advances:

  • Developed one of the largest sickle cell programs in the country.
  • Treats more than 900 patients with sickle cell disease annually
  • Offers seven different clinical trials for patients, including a CRISPR gene editing trial
  • St. Jude is involved with many clinical research studies to investigate a variety of treatments for sickle cell diseases, such as the use of hydroxyurea. This drug boosts the level of fetal hemoglobin. Studies have shown that patients with higher levels of this form of hemoglobin tend to have fewer symptoms of sickle cell disease..
  • St. Jude also develops collaborative research partnerships with the National Institute of Health and other institutions throughout the world.

I want her to do everything and more – despite sickle cell.

Sickle cell patient Za'Mya's mom


Meet Za’Mya

Currently thriving, Za’Mya has been a patient at St. Jude since shortly after birth, when a newborn screening revealed she had sickle cell disease.

Read Za'Mya's Story

Abstract art by St. Jude patient Mariah.

Learn more about sickle cell research at St. Jude

St. Jude is leading the way the world understands, treats and defeats childhood cancer and other life-threatening diseases, such as sickle cell disease.

St. Jude has been committed to researching, understanding and improving standards of care for people with sickle cell disease since our very beginning. The first grant the hospital ever received was for the study of sickle cell disease in 1958, before the hospital was even built. 

St. Jude survivor Kimberlin holds a framed photo of herself when she was a patient.

Finding a cure for sickle cell disease

Scientific milestones mark the progress made by St. Jude toward finding a cure for sickle cell disease.

See Our Timeline

Patient Franzer stands outdoors wearing a smile and a school backpack.

Gene editing brings new era of hope for cure to sickle cell disease

St. Jude doctors and scientists work to help kids with sickle cell live longer, healthier lives in the U.S. and worldwide.

Learn More About the Research

Dr. Rudolph Jackson holds a slide in a historical photo of him in a St. Jude lab.

Making history 

When St. Jude opened in 1962, Danny Thomas vowed the hospital would treat patients regardless of race, religion or ability to pay. In 1968, Dr. Rudolph Jackson became one of the first Black doctors at St. Jude.

Learn About Dr. Rudolph Jackson

Maurice Walton Tate and her twin sister, Bernice Freeman, stand in white nursing outfits in a historical photo.

Forging a path

Driven by the tragic loss of her daughter who was born with SCD, Maurice Walton Tate was a nurse who served in many sickle cell units and helped forge a path for others. 

Learn About Maurice Walton Tate

St. Jude sickle cell patient Avery stands next to her mother and gazes up at her.

St. Jude patient Avery with her mom


St. Jude has given us the hope that she can be a child and enjoy life like any other 7-year-old. With St. Jude we can hope, and we can dream.

Sickle cell patient Avery's mom


Meet Avery

Avery’s mom, Valentine, can’t forget the day of her daughter’s kindergarten school trip to the zoo. Avery woke up early and excited for the adventure with her friends. A few hours later, everything changed. The teacher called and said Avery, who was diagnosed with sickle cell disease soon after birth, was in severe pain. Valentine picked up Avery and took her home.

“She cried all the way home, and it broke my heart,” Valentine recalled.

Read Avery's Story

Abstract art by St. Jude patient Mariah.

What is sickle cell disease? 

Sickle cell disease  (SCD) is an inherited blood disorder that affects a person’s red blood cells.

drawing of normal blood cells

Normal blood cells

drawing of normal blood cells

Sickled blood cells


Facts about sickle cell disease

1 out of 13 african americans in the U.S. has the sickle cell trait infographic

One out of every 13 African Americans in the U.S. has the sickle cell trait, with a chance of having a child with sickle cell diseases if both parents carry the trait.

1 out of 13 african americans in the U.S. has the sickle cell trait infographic

Approximately 100,00 people in the United States have SCD.

1 out of 13 african americans in the U.S. has the sickle cell trait infographic

According to the CDC, SCD is the most common among people with ancestors from Sub-Saharan Africa, South America, the Caribbean, Central America, Saudi Arabia, India and Mediterranean countries such as Turkey, Greece and Italy.





What does sickle cell disease do?

Normal red blood cells contain hemoglobin A, which carries oxygen from the lungs to all parts of the body. People with sickle cell disease have red blood cells that contain mostly hemoglobin S, which causes the red blood cells to change from the round shape to a banana or “sickle” shape. Some complications from sickle cell disease include:


•     infections
•     painful swelling of hands and feet
•     fatigue


•     stroke
•     organ damage
•     pain


The care at St. Jude helped us to not focus on her illness and focus more on her holistically. St. Jude didn’t just treat sickle cell, they treated Elani. They thought about her mental well-being, they thought about dental, things that we didn’t even think about.

Sickle cell patient Elani's mom


Meet Elani

Just days after she was born, Elani was diagnosed with sickle cell disease, devastating the family that already had big dreams for the tiny girl’s future.

“Initially, here’s this beautiful baby that you’ve been given,” said her mom, Darnita. 

But her baby would face a lifetime of challenges.

Read Elani's Story

Abstract art by St. Jude patient Mariah.

St. Jude has been a pioneer in  sickle cell care.

Vernon Rayford, MD

Dr. Vernon Rayford is an internal medicine and pediatric specialist. His support for St. Jude grew  as he began to feel kinship with renowned African American physician Dr. Rudolph Jackson, who helped St. Jude become a leader in care and research for sickle cell disease. 

St. Jude video

St. Jude is the kind of place that speaks to who we all are as people and what we want to accomplish for humankind.

David McKinney

Through workplace, family and fraternity, David McKinney has been a lifelong supporter of St. Jude. Now, he’s encouraging his son to join the mission. 

Patient Elani and her mother smile.

St. Jude patient Elani and her mother


Help us find a cure for sickle cell patients

Unlike other hospitals, the majority of funding for St. Jude comes from generous donors

Because of your support, we can provide children cutting-edge treatments not covered by insurance, at no cost to families.

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