Dr. Ibrahim Usman-Kusfa of Ahmadu Bello University Teaching Hospital (ABUTH), Zaria, has advised Nigerians to avoid stigmatisation against sickle-cell anemia patients as doing so would aggravate recurrence of crisis by over 50 per cent.
Usman-Kusfa, who is a Consultant Hematologist in ABUTH made the disclosure in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Zaria, Kaduna State on Thursday.
He said the call became imperative in view of the fact that some people consider sickle cell anemia patients as those already with dead warrants.
He advised families with a sickle-cell patient(s) to always give them collective support and encouragement to reduce frequent crises.
He identified the management aspect of the disease as one key area that needed to be looked into, saying that it entails counseling, supporting and nurturing the patients.
“The management entails counseling the patients, showing care and support as well as nurturing them so that they can cope with day-to-day activities in life.
“This management is not restricted to doctors, it also entails the parents, mother and father, other siblings in the house, people in the neighbourhood as well as the community at large,” he said.
According to him, the management of sickle cell anemia requires teamwork, assuring that once people integrate compassion into the management of the disease, it will pave way for a great improvement in the patients’ wellbeing.
The consultant appealed to Nigerians to see the wisdom in showing care, support, love, and encouragement to sickle cell anemia patients, assuring that such a move would go a long way in reducing frequent crisis.
He observed that the sickle cell patients did not just contract the disease as a result of their negligence but occurred as a genetic disease.
“Sickle-cell anemia actually is a disease that is genetic, meaning it is inherited from both parents, from the mother and also from the father, so, a child cannot inherit this disease from a single parent.
“A child must inherit it from both parents, one abnormal gene from the mother and one abnormal from the father. The disease is very simple to treat but very complex in management.
“What I mean by simple is that since we know how it happens and how it is acquired and we know that there are some drugs that alleviate or lessen the pains, actually, the pains are the hallmark of the disease.”
He, however, said that apart from pains there are other symptoms accompanying the disease going by what the patients present but the pains remained the major complaint.
“Since we understand that there are drugs that lessen the pains or even make it disappear for a long period of time, we have to go by it.”
The consultant appealed to Nigerians, especially intending couples to go for a “genotype test” to reduce if not totally eradicate the disease.
“Somebody may have an abnormal gene in him without knowing and if he marries a woman with the same abnormal gene, there is a likelihood of giving birth to a child with sickle cell anemia and the chances are 50 per cent.
“So, it is better and it is always advisable that intending couples should go to the hospital get their genotype known so that the doctor or health personnel can counsel them.
“But remember, the doctor or health personnel will not force them either to marry or not to marry but will just tell you the implication.
“For example, if the bride and groom to be are both carriers, we will actually tell them the implication, in case you marry and you eventually give birth to a child with sickle cell anemia, it will not be new to you,” Usman-Kusfa said.
He said there were many cases in the hospital where husbands blame their wives and wives blame their husbands that one was responsible for the disease.