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Experts underscore importance of stroke screening in people with sickle cell disease

The disease puts youngsters at higher risk for stroke, which is why a regular screening, starting at the age of 2, is vital, says Dr. Hector Rodriguez-Cortes, a hematologist-oncologist with Broward Health.
The disease puts youngsters at higher risk for stroke, which is why a regular screening, starting at the age of 2, is vital, says Dr. Hector Rodriguez-Cortes, a hematologist-oncologist with Broward Health.

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – Every year, roughly 2,000 babies in the United States are born with sickle cell disease, the most common blood disorder in the country.

Specialists are now working to protect these children from a potentially deadly side effect of the disease, the risk of stroke.

It’s something that concerns Yolna Tribulant who is no stranger to sickle cell anemia.

Both her son and niece were born with the inherited blood disorder.

“It’s hard but I guess because I’ve been dealing with it for such a long time I’m used to everything and I knew the steps that there are in order for them to get medical care,” Tribulant said.

Dr. Hector Rodriguez-Cortes, a hematologist-oncologist with Broward Health said the disease changes the shape of red blood cells, causing them to be destroyed when they go through the vessels.

“And it’s amazing how that only one tiny small change can make this big change in the clinical aspect of the patient,” he said.

Rodriguez-Cortes said the disease puts patients at higher risk for stroke, which is why a regular screening, starting at the age of 2, is vital.

“The patient will be receiving an ultrasound and we will be looking at the vessels that go to the brain to make sure there’s not an obstruction that would put this patient at risk to develop stroke,” he said.

Tribulant’s son and niece are doing their best not to let the disease get in the way of doing the things they love.

“I approach myself and say ‘I have this thing but I won’t care, I will still try to do it and get healthier and do better and better things,” said 11-year old Makayla Julien.

Tribulant added, “I know what to expect so I kind of just live with the fact that they have the sickle cell and I just try to do my best to take care of them so they are able to live a normal life.”

The screenings typically continue until the age of 16, at which point the risk of stroke from sickle cell decreases.


About the Authors:

Veteran journalist Kathleen Corso is the special projects producer for Local 10 News.

Kristi Krueger has built a solid reputation as an award-winning medical reporter and effervescent anchor. She joined Local 10 in August 1993. After many years co-anchoring the 6 p.m. and 11 p.m., Kristi now co-anchors the noon newscasts, giving her more time in the evening with her family.