By Marie Y. Lemelle
Since the age of 8, Bone Davis has spent his entire life as a musical performer.
“I learned to play the bass, keyboards and drums,” he said.
He made a name for himself as a keyboardist, playing rhythm and blues and jazz with a diverse group of music legends including B.B. King, Chick Corea, Les McCann, Con Funk Shun, Nancy Wilson, the Blasters, Poison, Wild Cherry and the Wu-Tang Clan, to name a few.
A native of Texas, Davis has an interesting family history full of heroes and legendary musicians. His late father, George Bolin, was a member of the original Tuskegee Airmen.
Davis also grew up with a family that was involved in the Motown sound.
“My cousin Robert White was the guitarist for the Funk Brothers, who were the session musicians for most of the Motown recordings,” Davis said. “My favorite genres of music are R&B, jazz, hip hop and blues.”
Throughout his life, however, Davis has suffered from horrendous pain.
“For as long as I can remember, pain was part of my life,” he said. “The pain was from sickle cell disease and anemia.”
Both of Davis’ parents had the trait. Davis was diagnosed with sickle cell anemia at birth.
“It runs in my family, including my grandson and other relatives [they] are affected by sickle cell,” he said.
WebMD explains that with sickle cell disease, red blood cells don’t have their normal shape. Instead of a round shape, the cells are shaped like the letter C, a crescent or a sickle. They can’t carry oxygen to the body as well as they should. Too little oxygen can lead to symptoms like pain, shortness of breath, tiredness and infections.
Symptoms and signs can include abdominal swelling, fever, pale skin or nail beds, swelling in the feet and hands, and yellow tint to the skin and whites of the eyes.
Sickle cell disease can affect many different parts of the body including the spleen, lungs and brain.
Davis teamed up with Educational Awareness through Entertainment Association to heighten awareness of sickle cell anemia.
“I realized that my voice needed to be heard, especially because my peers in the entertainment industry are dying from it, like Rapper Prodigy, just last year,” Davis said. “Sickle cell anemia has always been promoted as a minority disease. It’s not. The public needs to know symptoms and alternative pain management methods.”
Sickle cell disease affects approximately 100,000 Americans. While the majority of the population who have it are African Americans, it is common among people from Africa, Asia, Europe, India, the Caribbean, the Middle East and the Mediterranean.
“Sickle cell disease can cause anemia, which means that you don’t have enough red blood cells to carry oxygen to your body,” Davis said. “I realized that most people don’t understand how sickle cell affects your body because you can’t see it.”
About one in 13 African-American babies is born with the sickle cell trait. About one in every 365 black children is born with sickle cell disease.
Pain episodes or crisis can occur without warning when sickle cell blocks blood flow and decreases oxygen delivery.
“The pain is sharp, intense, stabbing or throbbing,” Davis said.
When abnormally shaped sickle cells are stuck in arteries that feed the brain, they can block blood flow and cause a stroke.
A crisis can result due to illness, temperature changes, stress, dehydration and high altitudes. Quite often, a person does not know what causes the crisis.
Research studies found that the only way to cure sickle cell disease is with a stem cell or bone marrow transplant. This procedure is most often done in children under 16 who have had sickle cell complications like pain and strokes. Stem cell transplants aren’t done as often in adults because the risks increase as a person gets older.
Pain can strike almost anywhere in the body and in more than one spot at a time. The pain often occurs in the lower back, legs, arms, abdomen and chest. Sickle cell disease can injure blood vessels in the eye. Kidneys are sensitive to the effects of red blood cell sickling and there are a number of ways in which the liver may be injured in sickle cell disease.
People with sickle cell disease may also have trouble coping with pain and fatigue, as well as with frequent medical visits and hospitalizations.
Davis uses his entertainment platform to speak out, educate the public about sickle cell disease.
“There is hope living with sickle cell anemia with better understanding,” he said.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – www.cdc.gov
Bone Davis – www.bonedavis.com
El Portal Theatre – www.elportaltheatre.com
Mayo Clinic – www.mayoclinic.org
National Heart, Lung and Blood Institutes- www.nhlbi.nih.gov
WebMD – www.webmd.com