Over the years our club has conducted numerous useful community projects financed by enjoyable community fund raising events. Currently, we present the Wesley Williams Memorial Scholarships to teenage students of Wadleigh, A.Philip Randolph, Rice, and Thurgood Marshall High Schools to help start young people up the ladder. From our various fundraising efforts we give special donations to local community groups. Each Christmas season we co-sponsor a dinner at the Canaan Senior Citizens Center in Harlem. We have worked with the Gift of Life Program to bring children with file threatening heart conditions to our community and house them before and after corrective surgery at Mt. Sinai Hospital. We send the baby back safe, fat, and happy. One of the unique aspects of being a Rotarian is that service projects are flexible and all Rotarians are free to create there own community or international project.
-Sickle Cell Anemia Education and Awareness is one of the main projects of the Rotary Club of Upper Manhattan with recent Paul Harris Fellow and club member Doris Wethers, M.D. who is the former Director of the Sickle Cell Program at St. Luke’s – Roosevelt Hospital and Professor of Clinical Pediatrics at Columbia University providing information and guidance in the club's efforts.
Sickle Cell Anemia is a serious condition in which the red blood cells can become sickle-shaped (that is, shaped like a “C”).
Normal red blood cells are smooth and round like a doughnut without a hole. They move easily through blood vessels to carry oxygen to all parts of the body. Sickle-shaped cells don’t move easily through blood. They’re stiff and sticky and tend to form clumps and get stuck in blood vessels.
The clumps of sickle cells block blood flow in the blood vessels that lead to the limbs and organs. Blocked blood vessels can cause pain, serious infections, and organ damage.
Normal and Sickled Red Blood Cells in Blood Vessels
Sickle cell anemia is an inherited, lifelong condition. People who have sickle cell anemia are born with it. They inherit two copies of the sickle cell gene, one from each parent. People who inherit a sickle cell gene from one parent and a normal gene from the other parent have a condition called sickle cell trait.
Sickle cell trait is different from sickle cell anemia. People with sickle cell trait don’t have the condition, but they have one of the genes that cause the condition. Like people with sickle cell anemia, people with sickle cell trait can pass the gene on when they have children.
Kenneth Rivlin, M.D, Ph.D of the Lincoln Medical and Mental Health Center is screening newborns for sickle cell disease and is promoting sickle cell trait counseling, care coordination and integration of community resources, and community understanding of SCD and traits. His research recommends that:
1) All pregnant women with SCT and mothers identified with an infant with SCT will receive genetic counseling, and appropriate extended family testing.
2) All women at risk for having an infant with SCD will be connected to a parent-to-parent support partner.
3) All infants with SCD will have yearly care plans coordinated between parent, Pediatrician, and Hematologist.
4) All families of infants with SCD will have yearly needs assessments, be connect to community resources and a parent-to-parent support partner.
5) SCD and trait education will be provided to family community support structure.
6) SCD and trait education will be coordinated with community-based organizations and other health outreach efforts.)
Anemia is a condition in which a person’s blood has a lower than normal number of red blood cells, or the red blood cells don’t have enough hemoglobin. Hemoglobin is an iron-rich protein that gives blood its red color and carries oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the body.
Red blood cells are made in the spongy marrow inside the large bones of the body. Bone marrow constantly makes new red blood cells to replace old ones. Normal red blood cells last about 120 days in the bloodstream and then die. Their main role is to carry oxygen, but they also remove carbon dioxide (a waste product) from cells and carry it to the lungs to be exhaled.
In sickle cell anemia, a lower-than-normal number of red blood cells occurs because sickle cells don’t last very long. Sickle cells die faster than normal red blood cells, usually after only about 10 to 20 days. The bone marrow can’t make new red blood cells fast enough to replace the dying ones. The result is anemia.
Sickle cell anemia affects millions of people worldwide. There are excellent treatments for the symptoms and complications of the condition, but in most cases there’s no cure. (Some researchers believe that bone marrow transplants may offer a cure in a small number of cases.)
Over the past 30 years, doctors have learned a great deal about the condition. They know what causes it, how it affects the body, and how to treat many of the complications. Today, with good health care, many people with the condition live close to normal lives and are in fairly good health much of the time. These people can live into their forties or fifties, or longer.
-Rotary's Polio-Plus Program that was started in 1985 is credited with the near-eradication of polio from our planet. We are very proud of the 2005 Wall Street Journal Editorial. The NY Times had a similar editorial but did not recommend us for the "Noble Peace Prize".
Wall Street Journal Editorial - April 12, 2005 "Today marks the 50th anniversary for the Salk polio vaccine. Poliomyelitis, also know as infantile paralysis, used to be one of childhood’s most feared diseases. A few years after Dr. Jonas Salk announced his vaccine on April 12, 1955, nearly every child in the U.S. was protected. Today polio has disappeared from the Americas, Europe and the Western Pacific and is nearly gone from the rest of the world. A too-little known part of this feat is the role played by Rotary, the international businessman’s club, which in 20 years adopted the goal of wiping out the disease. Rotary understood that medical breakthroughs are worthless unless people aren’t afraid to immunize their children and efficient delivery systems exist to get the vaccine to them. And so it mobilized its members in 30,100 clubs in 166 countries to make it happen. In 1985, when Rotary launched its eradication program, there were an estimated 350,000 new cases of polio in 125 countries. Last Year, 1,263 cases were reported. More than one million Rotary members have volunteered their time or donated money to immunize two billion children in 122 countries. In 1988, Rotary money and its example were the catalyst for a global eradication drive joined by the World Health Organization, Unicef and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. In 2000 Rotary teamed up with the United Nations Foundation to raise $100 million in private money for the program. By the time the world is certified as polio-free probably in 2008-Rotary will have contributed $600 million to its eradication effort. An economist of our acquaintance calls Rotary’s effort the most successful private health-care initiative ever. A vaccine-company CEO recently volunteered to us that the work of Rotary and the Gates Foundation, both private groups, has been more effective than any government in promoting vaccines to save lives. It’s become fashionable in some quarters to deride civic volunteerism, but Rotary’s unsung polio effort deserves the Nobel Peace Prize. "
It should be noted that our Polio-Plus program is only the tip of the iceberg. Tens of thousands of Club to Club poverty-eradication projects are completed every year. Most of these projects are not registered with any central agency or even with Rotary International. Therefore, there is no centralized annual accounting of these projects, but it is in the tens, if not hundreds of millions of dollars. Visit any developing country and it would be very difficult to find a region where a Rotary Club from an economically developed country has not built a school house, medical clinic, or ball field.