MADISON COUNTY, AL (WAFF) - Glenn Merchant's sickle cell was diagnosed at a very young age. He said he was in and out of hospitals several times.
"My joints would swell and of course they would be painful," said Merchant.
A pain crisis usually sends the patient to the hospital. Merchant said most of his problems centered in the joints.
"I did go through a lot of crisis before school. I remember (…) after school and once I started school it was a little bit less," said Merchant.
When it comes to people with sickle cell anemia, a regular blood cell can be compared to toothpicks. They will pass all the way through a clear cylinder without a problem, but breaking the toothpicks changes the shape - nearly in a sickle shape, and they get stuck and clog same vessel.
Merchant described how a crisis hits him.
"It starts out like a slow ache and increases in intensity."
Merchant lost a brother to the disease. Most of his siblings have the sickle cell trait. One sister does not have the trait. His son carries the trait, but not the disease.
When two carriers marry, it increases the chances a child will have the disease.
Merchant changed his diet, eliminating chocolate and dairy and said that helps.
The disease left him disabled, but when he feels well enough, he volunteers at the North Alabama Sickle Cell Foundation.
He advises other to educate themselves about the disease and how day to day activities can affect them. He said that knowledge can make the disease "liveable".