FIGHTING SICKLE CELL: Few people can imagine the sensation of having what feels like broken glass lowing through their veins, yet the nearly 100,000 Americans who suffer from sickle cell disease—including Birmingham author and entrepreneur Tina Kay Hughes—deal with this pain regularly. Hughes will host a World Sickle Cell Celebration at Omni Photo Studio downtown on June 19 from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. to help raise public awareness of this overlooked illness. Sickle cell is an inherited blood disease. While healthy red blood cells are doughnut-shaped and lexible, red blood cells in those with sickle cell are hard, sticky and shaped like quarter moons. They often cause a painful build-up in the veins that results in that horrible broken-glass sensation. The disease can cause strokes, avascular necrosis, jaundice and ulcers. While it affects people of all ethnicities, it is more prevalent in African Americans. This year marks 100 years since the discovery of the disease. According to Hughes, this event will focus less on the disease itself and more on the possibilities of life with sickle cell. “This disease is not a curse, and it’s not doom and gloom,” Hughes says. “You can still do things in life. You just have to work with what you got instead of complaining about what’s going wrong in your life.” Hughes knows the symptoms of sickle cell all too well. Once a self-described work-a-holic, she was forced to slow down after work-related stress caused her to experience more pain. Over the past three years, she’s had her spleen removed, had countless blood transfusions and endured a constant stream of hospital stays. Now retired, she uses her time to help other sickle cell sufferers. “After I began to immerse myself in the community of sickle cell patients and began to talk to other patients, I would hear their stories about people’s cars being repossessed and how they’re treated like drug addicts in the emergency room,” Hughes says. “I even started experiencing some of it myself. I feel like God has put me on this journey to be a voice for the voiceless. I have more good days than bad. God has given me a voice to speak for others and a mind to write about things that are going on in the sickle cell community.” Entertainment at the event will be provided by such artists as Neo Jazz Collective, Jona Crooner, Mile Marker 7, Glenwood, Poet Jean Paul, Jarret Palmale, Takia Willliams and Tim Kelly. The event will include a silent auction. Omni Studio is located at 2309 First Ave. North. Tickets are $15 and are available at www.tinakay.net. Proceeds will be used to support Hughes’ patient advocacy efforts.