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Sickle cell blood drive in Pottstown aims to "give the gift of life" to help boy living with the disease

Sickle cell blood drive in Pottstown plans to help boy living with the disease
Sickle cell blood drive in Pottstown plans to help boy living with the disease 01:59

POTTSTOWN, Pa. (CBS) -- The American Red Cross held a blood drive Thursday in honor of a young boy born with sickle cell disease. 

"That's my buddy," Vince Langston, of Reading, Pa, said. "That's my little man right there."

He was talking about Leghend Martin, his grandson, born with the genetic blood disorder.

"He had an episode one time," Langston remembered. "And his pain, I really felt it. There was nothing I could do. I was helpless."

Martin listed the parts of his body that can hurt. 

"My legs, both," he said. "And, my belly. And, my back."

His mother Kieshia Martin explained how a lack of knowledge about the disease can trigger a long trip from their home in Berks County for treatment.

"An hour. CHOP. We have to get all of our medical care in Philly because people in Berks County are afraid to touch him," she said. "He couldn't even get his teeth cleaned in Berks County."

She said chronic and severe pain is just one symptom. Martin has also developed heart problems and had an aneurysm. He is only 6 years old.

CBS News Philadelphia.

The American Red Cross estimated the disease affects 100,000 people across the U.S. One in 365 African-American babies are born with the disease. However, one in three African Americans have blood that is a match to help treat sickle cell patients who need multiple transfusions throughout their lives.

"Instead of getting angry that you can't do nothing," Langston said. "You try to figure out a way to make him comfortable."

That is what Langston did on Thursday at The Ricketts Center in Pottstown. He donated blood. Martin's father Sharron Grimmage said he is grateful if a donation matches Martin or someone else.

"It's anybody that comes, if it works out, if it helps him, that's just what we do," Grimmage said.

So, Langston and donors of all backgrounds rolled up their sleeves to give the gift of life.

"A good gift," Langston said. "And, it's a gift that can go beyond him."

The hunt for donations to help people like Martin continues on Friday, Sept. 15.

The Red Cross will have another sickle cell blood drive at the West Philadelphia YMCA from noon until 5 p.m.

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