Froedtert sickle cell clinic nurse helps patients manage pain

Patients at Froedtert Hospital's adult sickle cell clinic call Cynthia Leonard "Mama Sickle."

"Our clinic is their medical home. Some place they can go where people know exactly what they’re going through, understanding the disease," said Leonard.

Usually, a person's red blood cells are round. That is not the case for someone who has sickle cell disease.

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"Their red blood cells are crescent shaped, like a moon," Leonard said. "When their blood cells are going through the body, they can get stuck and it causes damage and pain."

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention state sickle cell affects about 100,000 Americans, and the disease happens in about 1 out of every 365 Black births.

Cynthia Leonard

The Froedtert clinic opened in 2011, and it is the only adult sickle cell clinic in Wisconsin.

Leonard said one of goal of the clinic is to teach patients how to live with their pain.

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"Since we’ve been open, we’ve decreased admissions and length of stay in the hospital because of our clinic," said Leonard.

Working at the clinic, "helping people that look like me," Leonard said, is her calling. With more than 400 adult sickle cell patients getting care at the clinic, she said many are like family.

Froedtert Hospital adult sickle cell clinic

"I actually had one of my patients who became a nurse and went to her pinning and actually pinned her," Leonard said.

Leonard said, over the years, she always tried to remind her patients of something she hopes they keep with them: "They may have sickle cell, but sickle cell doesn’t have them."

Sickle cell treatment has come a long way over the years. Leonard said there are new medications, and with bone marrow transplants, Froedtert has cured three adult patients.

Black blood donors and Black bone marrow donors are great ways to help sickle cell patients, according to Leonard. 

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