Chronic illness is something that affects a person their entire lives if they cannot find a good treatment for it. The first woman to be cured of sickle-cell anemia by a stem cell donation given to her by her sister without requiring chemotherapy resides in Chicago. Her sister is a 100 percent genetic match for donation to Ieshea Thomas. Sickle cell causes underlying organ disease in addition to chronic anemia, as well as crisis pain in the chest, abdomen, and joints, with pain also occurring in the bones. Chronic illness is devastating to all who have it because some are easily treated and some are not. For example, diabetes requires the use of insulin.
Sickle-cell anemia treatment involves letting the donor’s bone marrow to exist with the patient’s original bone marrow. Sickle-cell anemia gets worse, not better and for Thomas, this means that it got worse after the birth of her daughter. Thomas had her first sickle cell crisis at 8 months old, and she is now 33 while receiving the cure for her sickle cell anemia. Four bags of frozen stem cells were hung on an IV pole just to infuse into Thomas’ body, which took one hour. Six months later, Thomas was cured of the sickle cell anemia. One in every 500 African Americans has sickle cell anemia.
Now take an illness like diabetes, whose origin can be traced to unhealthy dietary habits, genetics, as well as environmental triggers. Some people can have diabetes because of their weight, which is known as type 2-diabetes. Type 1-diabetes is a huge autoimmune disorder trigger or failure. Diabetes is often managed by insulin pumps or pills if type 2. Sometimes weight loss can cure type 2. Be that as it may, it would seem to environmentalists that our planet is often overrun by pollutants, which may or may not trigger illnesses like fibromyalgia or chronic fatigue and that is cause for concern.
Earth is a very polluted planet, what with plastic gyres being in every ocean, seeping into the digestive systems of wildlife and marine mammals. This pollution is not doing chronically ill people any good. Asthma could be caused by air pollution. The problem in Flint, Michigan with the water supply is also appalling. Even more dangerous is that the governor of Michigan has announced they will stop providing free bottled water, forcing the First Trinity Baptist Church to step in. While efforts have been made to reduce the lead contamination in the water that is causing the children of Flint, Michigan to suffer, 100,000 remain distrustful that anything is being done. A lawsuit was settled last year well before Flint agreed to replace 18,000 water lines by January 1, 2020. 6,200 homes have had their pipes replaced up until now. A lawsuit again could help get $4.1 million to help children get special needs education requirements met.
Pollution can also trigger chronic illness. More doctors, however, see that chronic autoimmune disorders can be genetic in origin. Something has to trigger the immune system to attack itself, however, as in lupus when no sufferer knows what system will be affected next. Lupus is very confusing to diagnose for this reason. Is it triggered by genetics or by our polluted environment? Working in a laboratory with chemicals can be very triggering to the body. Hypothyroidism is yet another autoimmune disorder that can be triggered by endocrine disruptors such as chemical pesticides.
We need to start addressing pollution as a planet. This could go a long way to making more people healthier. If we take steps to reduce our use of toxic chemicals that is since chemicals do cause a lot of illnesses. Some illnesses, however, are genetic in origin. This is a fact of life. However, at this point in human history, we are still able to have babies. This may not be true in the future if pollution gets worse. This is why we have to start working on the environment even as former laws are being rolled back by the current administration. Flint, Michigan has some serious water problems. Earth is by no means a clean planet to live on. This is something we have to deal with as a planet. Republicans do not help by being climate change deniers or avoiding the problem altogether. Chronic illness is caused by environmental problems. Clean energy is not always the perfect solution to the problem either. Pollution is a problem that is growing, unchecked since nobody is addressing the problem directly except for scientists. Chronic illness is permanent for many people but the lucky few who find a treatment. This is why I want to become a psychiatrist, if only because I want to help chronically ill people find better ways of dealing with their illnesses. Our planet needs to be cleaned up—that’s the bottom-line.