The Sickle Cell Anemia Torch of Life Run passed through Colborne on February 12 with little fanfare. Cramahe Mayor Marc Coombs and Deputy Mayor Jim Williams were at the town hall in Colborne to greet runner George Marcello.
Mr. Marcello has spent years in the Torch of Life Run, arrying it for more than 35,000 km since it first hit the road in 2000 on a cross-Canada tour. In its early days, the handle broke off the torch as it was on its way through Cobourg. A secondary school shop teacher used a piece of metal lying on the ground to repair it. The torch has since been held by millions of kids and been blessed by the Pope.
Mr. Marcello was on his way from Ottawa to Toronto on the current run. Despite a knee injury, he planned to be in Toronto by February 17 to hand off the torch to high school runners who were legging it to Queen's Park.
The run is being conducted to encourage official recognition by politicians of the potentially fatal blood disease. Sickle cell anemia can be treated if found in time, but Toronto General Hospital is the only hospital with the facilities.
There is little known about the disease which attacks blacks and orientals more than caucasians. Mr. Marcello feels that research will be done and treatment will be more readily available if Federal Bill C-605 is passed in Ottawa. Legal recognition will give it legitimacy and people's suffering can be recognised.
The disease can be treated if it is diagnosed in time. It appears to be similar to leukemia in some respects. Blood cells in patients with sickle cell anemia are sickle shaped. Once they have contracted the congenital disorder, patients become anemic and suffer excruciating pain, progressive organ dysfunction, visual impairment and premature death.
The treatment involves bone marrow transplants. Because it has not been registered as a disease, it is not known how many people suffer from it. Mr. Marcello says Canadians need to be aware of the symptoms.
Seventy-five per cent of Canadians with the disease live in Ontario.