BY TOBY PORTER
A six-year-old schoolgirl with sickle cell anemia was able to celebrate Christmas and new year only because she was given blood by a hero she did not know.
Now Angel Salami and her family are issuing a special plea for black blood donors because so few are coming forward to help sick children and adults who suffer from the disease.
Angel, of Wandsworth High Street, collapsed after being infected with a bug which is common but can be fatal for children like her who suffer from sickle cell anemia.
She had been tired and sleepy during a stay with her dad Kehinde, of Sydenham Avenue, Sydenham, – but her medication only made her vomit.
Minutes after he dropped her back home, her mother rang urgently to say Angel had turned blue and her tongue was green and they rushed her to St George’s Hospital in Tooting.
Medics found she had slapped cheek syndrome (SCS) – which only causes the face to inflame in most kids, but stops blood production in sickle cell sufferers, so the amount of haemoglobin, which carries oxygen around the body, tails off.
But she was able to celebrate Christmas with her nine-year-old brother Amari thanks to the kindness of a blood donor she will never meet.
“She would have died of organ failure if she had not had a blood transfusion,” said dad Kehinde, a youth worker who is also a sickle cell sufferer.
“It was very frightening for us to see. But the transfusion brought her haemoglobin levels back up. It gave her a new lease of life. This is the power of giving blood.
Within a day she was back at home. It was amazing. “Not many sickle cell parents are aware of how dangerous SCS can be for their child. And probably only one per cent of schools know how draining sickle cell can be – pupils often get labelled as problem children.
It can feel like being stabbed all over your body and then someone pouring acid over you.
Angel is relatively lucky because she only gets pain in her joints. This was her only major crisis.
“I was very worried. She was only six – she has not lived her life yet. “We desperately need more black people to give blood – only one per cent do at the moment.
I admit the message would not have resonated with me if it had not affected my own daughter.
One donation can save three lives like my daughter’s.
Without the help of a hero in the form of a blood donor Angel wouldn’t be alive today.”
Angel and her family are backing donations at St George’s in Tooting.
There are also extra sessions this year at centres in Croydon, Lambeth, Lewisham, Southwark, Greenwich.
Sickle cell disease is more common in black people. The patient’s blood cells form into a sickle shape and they get stuck in blood vessels, causing extreme pain, life-threatening infections and other complications such as a stroke or loss of vision.
Over 7,000 sickle cell patients live in London – more than double the rest of the country combined – and it is the fastest growing genetic disease in the country.