Sickle Cell Disease: patients recommend testing to curb spread

By Rose Afanwi 

Persons living with sickle cell in the North West Region of Cameroon have continued to advise  the population to always carry out their electrophoresis test, which will determine their health status as Carriers or not before engaging in to any relationship or union that may result in child birth. 

The call comes as recent statistics from the North West sickle cell Organisation discloses that many more children are born as carriers and the increasing trend may result to higher rate of sicklers in the region if the situation is not managed.

Sickle cell disease medics say is an inherited disorder,  that causes the body to make stiff, sickle-shaped red blood cells. The sickle cells can get stuck in the blood vessels,  causing severe and chronic pains, infection and other complications. 
Evangeline is an inhabitant of Bamenda.  She is in her Early fifties and has lived as a sickler from birth. She explains that although there were no myths in her culture associated with sicklers she was described by all as that child who was always sick and on certain occasions had to be taken to herbalist for treatment 

"My parents will always take me to traditional doctors and they will give me palm wine in a special cup and a special chicken which according to them was cure for my regular fevers" Evangeline opens up
The native of Tabekeng in Dunga Mantung  division of the North West Region was born into a polygamous family says she and her siblings were seen as children who regularly fell sick. 

As she grow older and went to school, she was educated on her condition and how to mitigate the constant crisis which sicklers are exposed to.To reduce the frequencies at which Evangeline has health crisis, she discloses that she advocates for sicklers, and stay permanently warm

  " I always dress in warm and loss clothes and avoid staying under the sun because it can cause me to become dehydrated. I take in plenty of fluids,vegetables and avoid alcohol. Most often I listen to my body cues and when I feel like the crisis are coming I go to bed and take pain killers. But when the pains become severe I rush to the hospital for immediate first aid" she said

Evaneline discloses that her worst experience was discovering  that people living with sickle cell, are described as corpses by their care givers and parents 

" I never knew sicklers were stigmatised but ten years in to my teaching career I came to school one morning and had an encounter with a parent whose child was diagnosed of being a sickler and the parents were very angry and said I cannot be wasting my money on a corpse." She added 
Evangeline explained that she felt embarrassed because according to her there are people who are suffering from worst health challenges than sicklers. 

However, Child birth she mentions has scared her off marriage and having any committed relationship 
" I know how the pains are when you are experiencing crisis and I can't bear to see my off springs in such pains. Although I may not have biological children  I have youngsters who call me mother and look up to me for their daily needs." She states 

According to her, she lives a normal life like any other  person and advises sicklers in the region to be optimistic and live happily. She adds that as sicklers grow older they gain the knowledge of better managing their health, there by reducing the dead rate among them, reason why after the teen stages they live longer.

Sickle cell disease (SCD), also known as sick cell anaemia, encompasses a group of genetic disorders characterized by abnormal haemoglobin in red blood cells. Symptoms that could be seen during early childhood may include Anemia, Frequent infections, Pain episodes, Jaundice, Fatigue, Swollen hands and feet. 

For now, the only known cure for sickle cell disease is currently hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT). However, Experts in the domain say  this is not an option for many patients as there is no suitable donor or the patient is too old for the transplant to be successful.

For other patients, there are various treatment methods that can help to reduce symptoms and increase the expected lifespan of individuals.

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