Tuesday, April 6, 2021



Every month when the time rolls around for my sister to get her routine blood exchange, we all get a little anxiety because we know that there is a possibility of side effects developing from it.

As a quick recap, my younger sister has sickle cell disease and like others, she suffers from the hallmark painful crises commonly associated with the blood disorder. After a lengthy and painful history with dealing with the consequences of the disease, we thankfully learned that in order to minimize those painful episodes of crisis, she could once every month, get a blood exchange procedure that in lay man's terms, simultaneously exchanges her blood that contained sickled red blood cells for blood that does not. She has been getting this procedure done every moth for a few years now and the frequency of her crises episodes have significantly reduced. However, there are possible side effects of a blood exchange you should be aware of because the truth is that when there is an introduction of something foreign to the body, in an attempt to protect it, the body can and often times will fight against whatever has been introduced, which in this case is foreign blood.

The most recent blood exchange she had done was last month and she did indeed develop a side effect of  fever and that usually signals the presence of a possible infection. The blood exchange procedure takes about 4 hours to complete, with another hour or 2 added for observation which is specifically to check for side effects. When one does present itself, depending on the severity, overnight hospitalization could become necessary for treatment and further observation. In my sister's case, she typically would develop a few side effects, which I will list in a bit but on this occasion, she developed a fever that indicated infection and upon examination through blood work and extensive blood cultures/samples, it was found that her white blood cell count was high (a sign that her body was fighting an infection); it was fighting an onset of pneumonia that was as a result of the exchange transfusion. Anti-biotics were dispensed immediately and that helped break the fever.

There are other side effects of a blood exchange in sickle cell you should know, some of which my sister experiences. It's usually a concerning time for the family because they last for a couple of days and can get serious if she is not constantly monitored. Some of these side effects include:

- fatigue

-nausea and vomiting

- dizziness

- chills or feeling cold

Other serious side effects include: blood clots, heart & lung problems, shock(if not enough blood is replaced) and changes in blood chemistry.

We have certainly come a long way as a family dealing with sickle cell disease and all its consequences but these blood exchanges have truly been a life saver for my sister. It is a safe  procedure that has drastically reduced her crisis and pain. This, in my opinion is the next best thing to a stem cell transplant and she goes for months now without suffering from a single crisis episode.

Till next time, I hope you have learned one more thing about sickle cell disease.

Excess Love,


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