One’s perspective of life changes the day you witness firsthand a close relative or friend go through series of indescribable, agonizing levels of pain, watching them cry for help and there’s nothing you can do, administered pain killers becoming ineffective to the point of an eventual overdose. They have good and bad days, most of them go through life daily like the rest of us but with a constant internal fear of relapsing. That is a little snippet on the life of a Sickler.

Therefore, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention “Sickle cell disease (SCD) is a group of inherited red blood cell disorders. Healthy red blood cells are round, and they move through small blood vessels to carry oxygen to all parts of the body. In someone who has SCD, the red blood cells become hard, sticky and look like a C-shaped farm tool called sickle. The sickle cells die early, which causes a constant shortage of red blood cells…They cause pain and other serious problems such as infection, acute chest syndrome and stroke.”

Moreover, a genotype is the sum of heritable genetic identity, the overall genes transmitted from parents to their children. This means human present 4 types of hemoglobin genotypes: AA (normal), AS (carrier), SS (abnormal) and AC (uncommon & abnormal) :

  • AA can marry anybody (SS, AC, AS)
  • AS is better off with AA
  • AS and AS, AS and AC are too risky
  • SS and SS preferably avoid conception

Furthermore, the chances of a child being born with a genetic disorder can depend on several factors, one of which is the composite condition of the DNA passed on to the child by the parents – it does become predictable if a certain disease runs in the family. Nonetheless, no child deserves to come to this world with PAIN being the ultimate faith that awaits them. So please, let’s stop pinning it all on luck as we might eventually run out of it. Also, wilful ignorance and selective amnesia is the worst type of excuse we as humans use to avoid accountability for our poor choices in life. I cringe when people shun the genotype question as if it’s not in their best interest to seek the knowledge other than shy away from it and conclude nothing can be done by saying; “what must be must be” – yet we are in the 21st century and claim wokeness. It’s probably off-putting to bring this issue to the table without appearing desperate unless you are dating for fun. Otherwise the earlier this is figured out the better.

The 19th of June is World Sickle Cell Day, a day of raising awareness! Sickle cell crisis triggers do vary with the Commonest being:

  • Dehydration
  • Stress
  • Menstrual cramps
  • Sudden variation in temperature (extreme weather conditions)
  • Activities resulting in shortage or low concentration in air of oxygen
  • Infections or other medical conditions
  • Pregnancy
  • Alcohol & smoking …

Not every Sickle cell crisis requires a visit to the hospital as mild pains can be relieved at home with the followings:

  • Massage, meditation, acupuncture, or any relaxation techniques
  • Over the counter pain medicines
  • Heating pad or warm bath
  • Drinking water or other fluids
  • Distracting one’s mind from the pain by listening to music, watching TV or talking to someone

As a bystander or a friend how can you help?

  • Do not panic, stay calm and get help if possible
  • Reminding them to take their medicine & stay hydrated
  • Encourage healthy habits
  • Know the warning signs
  • Treat them as others there’s more to them than being a Sickler

Most doctors do help their patients in figuring out a treatment plan for mild pain episodes, which comes in handy. In case of emergency, one can let the paramedics know what to do whilst awaiting the in-house doctor’s arrival.

In conclusion, every country has several NGOs that are creating awareness and helping sicklers as much as they can, by providing a solid support system of various kinds to those that are unable to afford treatments.