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Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Partner Spotlight of the Month: Ryan Clark Cure League

Every month here on our blog, we'll be highlighting one of our non-profit partnerships. This month, learn a little more about the Ryan Clark Cure League.

Pittsburgh Steeler Ryan Clark recently teamed up with the University of Pittsburgh and UPMC to raise awareness about sickle cell disease and funds for research. Sickle cell disease affects millions of people worldwide, and is the most common inherited blood disorder in the United States. It primarily affects African Americans and people of Mediterranean and Middle Eastern descent. Through the newly formed Ryan Clark Cure League, Ryan hopes to create a better future for those living with the disease.

Ryan has the sickle cell trait, meaning that he carries the gene for sickle cell disease. People with sickle cell disease inherit one gene from each parent for the abnormal, sickle-shaped hemoglobin. These cells become lodged in blood vessels, causing excruciating pain, infections, and potentially damaging vital organs such as the lungs and heart to the point of organ failure. Organ damage and even strokes can also occur in children and adults who have the disease. There is no cure for sickle cell disease and few successful treatments. People who have this disease live with chronic pain and frequent hospitalizations, and many die in their 40s or 50s.

Ryan’s sickle cell trait became a national story during the 2007 season when he first realized that he carries the trait in a game against the Broncos in Denver. Even though he does not have the disease, the high altitude conditions, such as that of Mile High Stadium, caused Ryan’s red blood cells to sickle. He became very sick and needed emergency surgeries to remove his spleen and gallbladder. Ryan’s subsequent inability to participate in away games at Denver—including the first game of the Steelers regular season on September 9th—continues to make local and national headlines.

Ryan is passionate about creating a better future for those living with sickle cell disease: He is partnering with experts at the University of Pittsburgh Vascular Medicine Institute and UPMC to build the world’s leading research program for patients with sickle cell disease, with a focus on finding better treatments that will improve patient care until a cure is found.

But Ryan can’t tackle this by himself—he needs help to expand this message of awareness and hope. Visit www.cureleague.org or call Kim Olsen at 412-647-4276 to learn more about how you can support the Ryan Clark Cure League.


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