OF LOVE, HOPE AND SICKLE CELL – Opemipo Akinosun
The test revealed that I am AA – a universal person because I can be with any one, then she asked; “have you ever thought about being with a Sickle Cell Patient?” Of course, I know what sickle cell means but I’m not sure I understood its implications in a relationship; Besides everyone that I knew with Sickle Cell Anemia died somewhere between secondary school and graduating from the University.
The first time it occurred to me that there are things that make me feel the way I feel in my body that I did not necessarily see; my science teacher was talking about cells. It still didn’t make a lot of sense beyond the four walls of the classroom. Red blood cells are made in the bone-marrow and they carry oxygen through hemoglobin (the protein inside the red blood cells). Interestingly, they also carry carbon dioxide from the body to the lungs so that we exhale. I knew enough to pass elementary science.
Several years after, I met a lady that looked like a blessing on earth. I was confused amazed and shocked to my bones that such beauty would stand next to me. I would usually shy away, but this one was different. If I allowed her to walk away without saying anything to her, I may never be blessed with the visuals of such beauty on earth again. I took my chances, said hello and received the rude shock of her response; her name is Chevonne. Since it was my first time, I didn’t realize that I needed a bag of things to talk about but Chevonne was nice and friendly. I fumbled through the shock of her response and we started talking. A few weeks after, she asked, Do you know your genotype? The answer was no. It had never occurred to me that my genotype was something to know or talk about. Then, I wondered what this has to do with the fact that I like Chevonne or want to be with her? Or how does this really matter. We talked a little more and I was encouraged to discover my genotype.
“Sickle cell anemia (HB SS) is a disorder of the blood caused by an inherited abnormal hemoglobin (the oxygen-carrying protein within the red blood cells). The abnormal hemoglobin causes distorted (sickled) red blood cells. The sickled red blood cells are fragile and prone to rupture. When the number of red blood cells decreases from rupture (hemolysis), anemia is the result. This condition is referred to as sickle cell anemia. The irregular sickled cells can also block blood vessels causing tissue and organ damage and pain” The reality of this definition is that sickle-cell patients have episodes of pain crises usually referred to as vaso-oclusive crises or crises for short. During these periods, the pain experienced by sickle-cell patients is excruciating, throbbing and extreme.
Many Sickle-Cell Patients live amongst us and live normal lives except times where a crisis (pain episode) could make the patient hospitalized. Sickle-Cell patients exist because people with AS & AS genotype copulate to produce children who take the S gene from each parent or an AS person marries a SS patient. Such that the children born take on the SS genotype.
Chevonne told me that she is a sickle-cell patient. I am AA Genotype so for sure our children will be fine. After all I’ve heard and seen about sickle-cell patients, my world broke down. I’m not sure if I can live with and support someone with this type of challenge. In my enquiry, I asked:
What is the biggest risk or complication I could ever face if I marry Chevonne? My doctor friend Nnamdi answered like a typical Nigerian – what are you afraid of? Chevonne dying? Or spending all your money in the hospital? She doesn’t need to be SS for all of this to happen. Even AA patients sometime end up bedridden, sick, and die early. He said to me, you have the benefit of knowing what it is now that you may have to deal with in the future, be her best resource, help her to minimize stress and support her to reduce the frequency of crises and you will live a beautiful long life with Chevonne.
Guess what, there are many advancements in sickle cell management today that support patients and help them to live a very long and healthy meaningful life even till their 80’s. There are challenges and complications but those mostly depend on the individual. There is no one size fits all approach. Some live long and healthy, some short, some really sickly and others super strong and healthy. The important thought in your mind should be: Is Chevonne always sick? Is she really fragile? Just so you know what you must deal with. Which ever answer you figure out, the decision is ultimately yours. You should know that sickle-cell is a challenge that can be managed, and you Mike, would be her best resource if you decide to marry her so dig in and learn all you can and be prepared.
Feedback: Mike is now requesting to know what someone who is not in love would ask. Please feel free to point Mike to real questions so that Nnamdi can help with responding to his questions. You can drop your questions in the comment section below. We will love to hear from you.
Editor’s Note: This featured post is made in commemoration of the World Sickle Cell Awareness Day celebrated on 19th June, 2018.