By Francies Ewherido
Sometimes issues you have dealt with come up again, prompting a revisit. On February 8, 2014, on this column, I wrote about a mother who stopped her son from getting married to his fiancée because both of them carry the AS genotype which can lead to giving birth to children with sickle cell anaemia.
You would think that with the wide-spread awareness and knowledge about this condition, young people preparing for marriage will take all the necessary precautions, but no, love is a cloudy weather, so they do not see clearly; they want to plunge into matrimony anyhow and worry about the consequences later. That is my experience in the past couple of weeks.
You hear arguments like: “We are worshipping a living God; he will not allow us give birth to sicklers.” I admire this mountain-moving faith. But my genre of faith is: if you are in a house that is collapsing, you thank God for giving you the eyes to see and legs to run and run for your dear life. You do not sit tight and challenge God, reminding Him about how he divided the Red Sea into two; therefore, he should stop the building from collapse. For me that is foolhardiness.
Another common argument is that modern medicine will enable them to know if the fetus carries the defective gene during pregnancy and if so terminate the pregnancy. Just like that; terminate the life of your unborn child. How many are you going to terminate? And if your parents had terminated your pregnancy, will you be here planning to terminate that of your unborn children. You are pampering a problem that should not arise in the first place.
The last argument I hear is that they will not give birth to children, rather they will adopt. This is easier said than done. Adoption, in this part of the world, is not widespread and the last option for many childless couples. If couples know they have the capacity to have biological children, the temptation will always be there to try.
I feel young people should face the harsh reality. I have told my children who have the AS genotype, young as they are, that when they are old enough to date and get married, they must know the genotype of their partners before the relationship gets serious. I do not want to hear excuses that “dad, we are too deep in love to part ways now.”
They might have the final say on who they get married to, but they will not get my parental nod/ blessing, neither will I take part in their wedding if the would-be spouse, like them, carries the AS genotype. It is immoral to deliberately bring a fellow human being into this world to go through the pains I see SCD patients experience. It is excruciating even for you just watching them agonise in pains. And when a loved one is involved, the helplessness you feel worsens your agony.
I have lost in laws and relatives to complications resulting from SCD. It is senseless going ahead to get married when both parties know they are carriers (AS). Youths need to be properly tutored at home, in schools, churches and mosques about the challenges associated with the AS/AS combination. We can excuse the ignorance of our forebears, but that is no longer tenable.
Theoretically, the chances of AS/AS parents giving birth to a child with SCD is one in four children ( AA, AS, AS and SS), but the reality is different. I have seen a family of five with no SCD sufferer, a family of three with two and a family of four with two sufferers. My point is that there is no need to gamble; yes, that is what it is, because it is not within your control.
Here, the cliché that “prevention is better than cure” is golden. Ultimately, I feel we should work towards a sickle cell anaemia-free society. It is possible.
For the benefit of those who might not be aware, “Sickle-cell disease (SCD), also known as sickle-cell anaemia (SCA) and drepanocytosis, is a hereditary blood disorder, characterized by an abnormality in the oxygen-carrying haemoglobin molecule in red blood cells” (Wikipedia). It is a condition where there is shortage of healthy red blood cells to carry adequate oxygen throughout the body. Usually, red blood cells are flexible and round, moving easily through the blood vessels. But in sickle cell anaemia sufferers, the red blood cells are shaped like sickles or crescent moons and become rigid and sticky.
These irregularly shaped cells can get stuck in small blood vessels, which can slow or block blood flow and oxygen to parts of the body, causing enormous pains to the sufferer. It can also harm organs, muscles, and bones.
Sickle cell anaemia is common among people of African descent. Three quarters of sickle cell anaemia cases in the world occur in Africa. The World Health Organisation estimates that two per cent of these cases are in Nigeria. There’s no cure for most people with sickle cell anaemia. However, treatments can relieve pain and help prevent further problems associated with SCA.
Today, every eligible voter has a date with history. Today is the governorship and house of assembly elections. The officials to be elected are going to run the affairs of your state for the next four years, counting from May 29, 2015. Their policies can have fundamental impact on your health, finances and other areas of your life and your families.’
Perform your civic duty for your sake and the sake of the future generation. Think right and vote right. Even in the midst of imperfections, Nigeria is on the path to greatness. Like the customer, the kingship of the Nigerian voter is being gradually restored. Claim it.