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Surviving Sickle Cell

By Vivian Oputa
Sickle Cell Disease is a genetic, hereditary, chronic, life-long blood disease, with several short and long-term complications; most common of which are what are popularly called ‘crises’ – bouts of pain that last for hours, days or even weeks at a time; along with anaemia or low blood counts, and chronic tissue or organ damage.

This disease is not a respecter of persons, but is most prevalent among persons of African descent, and as such it is an issue of national and global concern. It is estimated that about 4.2 million Nigerians are sufferers of Sickle Cell Disease. Therefore, I believe it is important for all of us to know some basic Do’s and Don’ts so that you are equipped to help a patient whether that patient happens to be yourself, your relative, a close friend or a total stranger.

Sickle Cell DON’Ts:
l  Don’t expose yourself to cold temperatures (whether natural or air-conditioning) because extreme cold will cause your red blood cells to sickle and form blood clots and then you fall into a crisis
l Don’t expose yourself to the sun for too long because intense heat could make you dizzy and/or faint, plus the heat would make you sweat, which gets you dehydrated and then you could have a crisis
l  Don’t expose yourself to dusty environments because you could get a respiratory infection and ultimately end up in a crisis

l  Don’t engage in any kind of prolonged physical exertion like running, strenuous exercises, any sport activities or even walking long distances

l  Definitely, don’t hang around anybody with any kind of contagious illness such as a cold, flu or cough, because your immune system is not so strong and you could catch the cold, flu or cough which could ultimately lead you into a crisis
l  Don’t let any mosquitoes bite you because you could get malaria, which means your already low blood level will go even lower and inevitably, you’re in a crisis.

Sickle Cell DOs:
n  Do eat a well balanced diet, including plenty of fruits and vegetables, and reducing fatty, fried and sugary foods
n  Do drink a lot of water (not too cold) and other healthy fluids to keep yourself well hydrated at all times
n  Do take Folic Acid, a good multivitamin supplement (without iron) and an anti-malarial drug as prescribed by a qualified physician

n  Do get a lot of rest  a good night’s sleep is a must (average 7 hours) and short naps during the day are also beneficial
n  Do stay happy! Try to maintain positive emotions by surrounding yourself with people and activities and that bring you joy!

What to Do in a Sickle-Cell Crisis
The goal is improve hydration and circulation immediately and relieve the pain. Here are some Quick Tips especially if you’re managing a crisis at home:

n  Ensure the environment is well ventilated and the temperature is not too cold or too hot.
n  Get as comfortable as possible – take off any and all tight fitting clothing, jewellery and shoes and wear loose comfortable clothing instead.
n  Drink a lot of water (NOT cold); and if possible, soak in a warm bath.
n  Stop the pain with a pain-killer as prescribed by a qualified physician.
n  Reduce all forms of stress, physical and mental and give the body as much rest as possible.
n  Find something to smile about; and if you forget everything else, please don’t forget to pray!’

This article can scarcely be complete without the most important Do; and it just so happens that this DO is for any and everyone out there that is NOT a sickle cell patient: Do test your genotype, today!
“When you meet someone of the opposite sex who you think you even remotely like, believe me, the first question you should ask, after ‘what’s your name?’ is not ‘where are you from?’ but ‘what’s your genotype?’”
The above is a quote from my upcoming book

“Through My Eyes, Then and Now!”  Written in simplistic language, I provide an up-close and personal look at sickle cell disease, by telling an inspirational true story of trials, tragedy and triumph – my story. It includes episodes from my childhood, medical facts and findings, and most importantly, my survival strategy  belief in God’s Love and faith in His Word.

Book Review by Award-winning Broadcaster, Essayist and Author of ‘In the Blink of An Eye’ – Eugenia Abu:
Through My Eyes:

Then and Now! is an awesome book about pain, and the triumph of faith. Written in an exquisitely conversational style, the author engages us all in the story of her life, the journeys of her life, and the beauty that is her life. Through the Author’s life, we encounter Sickle Cell Anaemia like never before.

The Author’s humour, matter of fact stories and special relationship with God gets us all ready to do whatever we have to, to find a cure for this debilitating disease. The Author is at once teacher, preacher, pain bearer and friend.
An incredible read. A real page turner. Should be on your shelf.

In conclusion, I believe that when it comes to this chronic condition, sickle cell disease, prevention is definitely better than cure. Nevertheless, a diagnosis of Sickle Cell Disease doesn’t have to mean a miserable, shallow and brief existence in a cruel world – there is a light at the end of the tunnel after all, for those who dare to believe.

Inspirational Writer, Performance Poet and Voice Artist, Ifueko Fex Ogbomo  a Sickle Cell Survivor!
For more inspirational articles from the author,


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