An Acadiana family, forever changed by sickle cell disease is hoping their story will save lives.
Sickle cell disease is a group of inherited disorders, affected red blood cells.
The cells contort into a "C-shape" which can affect oxygen and blood flow causing pain, and infections.
The disease predominantly affects African-Americans.
One family is making it their mission to raise awareness.
Don Vallien was diagnosed with sickle cell anemia during his preteen years.
He died two years ago at the age of 44.
"As a baby he would just cry all night, tremble. Mom and dad didn't really know what was going on. They'd take him to the emergency room, to his pediatrician and no one even thought back then to test for sickle cell. They would say he had growing pains, he arthritis, stomach virus. Anything that way going on. Nobody knew what was going on and it would break our hearts. We felt helpless,” said Don's sister, Angie Vallien-Fields.
His sisters Angie and Gina say it was a learning process when they found out.
"We also had a guilt complex because we were healthy and he was limited in what he could do. The good thing with Don is after he aged, he learned his limitations and he took it not as a hindrance but more of I can make people aware and be a support,” said Don's sister, Gina Vallien-Readore.
It's a support system and legacy they'll continue for their brother and others with sickle cell.
“It took a lot of work to build where he got this awareness with the Southwest Sickle Cell Disease Foundation and we did not want to go to pass because it was too important to too many people who now have a support system,” said Readore.
The family will be hosting a Sickle Cell Awareness Event at Opelousas High School Saturday, September 25th starting at 9 A.M at 1014 Judson Walsh Drive.
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