Gina fights for sicklers
You would think that with volunteer projects at the McCam Childcare Centre, UNAIDS, Crawford Academy and Trailfinders of Canada Gina Hargitay’s lap would be full.
But two weeks ago, the 20 year-old beauty who took the Miss Jamaica World 2013 and Miss World Caribbean 2013 crowns formalised her association with yet another charity — the former Sickle Cell Support Club of Jamaica which was rebranded the Sickle Cell Support Foundation of Jamaica and launched on April 14.
This time however, the cause is personal.
“My brother has sickle cell thalassaemia and he always very healthy, until last year when he developed an auto-immune disease which means his body started attacking his liver. That trauma sent him into his worst crisis ever, to the point where we weren’t sure he was going to survive,” Hargitay divulged.
“My nephew also has sickle cell and I have a lot of family members who have the trait,” she continued.
Her brother Jamar is 28 and her nephew Akile is five years old. While her mother, Marlene, and her ex-husband have the sickle cell trait, she and her sister do not.
“Now that we’re aware of the disease we make sure that the family has been tested in order to prevent any future children in our family being born with the disease because it really is something that tears you apart… to watch my little nephew having to go to the hospital every minute with these really terribly painful crises, to the point where he almost passed away on a trip to Miami…” she said.
That reality, plus the staggering statistics which show that 1 in every 150 children is born with the debilitating sickle cell disease every year, were what moved Hargitay, who is completing her first year of studies towards a bachelor’s degree in History and Politics at the University of Westminster in London, to steal away to attend the launch and accept the ambassadorship for the Foundation.
“I wanted to lend my voice to this cause because it’s something that a lot of people in Jamaica really don’t understand the extent of. The NHF (National Health Fund) doesn’t even recognise sickle cell as a disease, whereas things like type II diabetes, which is self-inflicted, is recognised,” Hargitay said, her tone betraying both passion and frustration.
The Sickle Cell Support Foundation of Jamaica seeks to increase public awareness about sickle cell disease, encourage Jamaicans to test for the sickle cell trait and other abnormal red blood cells. It also acts as a public advocate for those affected, and assists individuals who have been marginalised by the illness with medical expenses, remedial education, training, and micro-entrepreneurial grants.
The Foundation also launched Sickle Cell Awareness Week 2015, to be observed from June 19 -25.
Hargitay will be on vacation from school then and plans to be present.
On diving her time between the several projects and school, the former Miss Jamaica World said she is good at managing her time and credited her mother and the rest of her family with helping her stay on top of things.
“I sacrifice personal time in order to do this and pick it back up whenever I can,” she told the Career and Education.
Source: Jamaica Observer
Date: April 26, 2015