My Life as a Sickle Cell Anaemia Patient
My name is Lydia Ehireme Gana. I lost my dad when I was very little, I was 9 years old, he had cancer and everyday I miss him. I'm glad I have my mum and sisters and i am forever grateful for the love and support they show me every single day because being a parent and sibling to someone with sickle cell anemia is hard emotionally, physically, financially and psychologically.
I'd like to say I grew up like all the other kids but there were days when this obviously wasn't the case. My condition makes me a walking pharmacy with all the medication I am forced to take such as Paludrine, Nicosan, Folic Acid and B complex on a daily basis. I get stuffed with painkillers such as Ibuprofen, Tramadol and Pentazocine.
These pills help me through my periods of crisis. In case you're not familiar with what that is though, it’s triggered when some of my malformed red blood cells get stuck and have trouble travelling through my blood vessels as a result of their "sickle" shape. Sickle cell anaemia is an inherited disease. It affects the red blood cells by shaping them abnormally. I hate pills but they help me to cope with all the pain that I experience during a crisis. The only way to truly cure my disease is through a bone marrow transplant, which replaces the "factory" in my body which is responsible for producing red blood cells although it is advised that this procedure is done at an early stage of a sickle cell patient's life in order to avoid risks, complications and even death.
I manage my condition very well and a lot of people in my life don't even know that I have this disease, I don't tell people and probably because I do not look like a sickler it’s a bit easy for me to hide it from the world. I'd like to say this disease does not affect me mentally but it’s not completely true, it doesn't hamper my logic or reasoning but it’s emotionally draining. Most people are ignorant about this condition and those that aren't seem to have a subconscious feeling that I'm a liability. I was in a cab once and 2 people were talking about how useless the life of a sickle cell patient was, about how parents of sicklers shouldn't be encouraged to send the kids to school because they'll die eventually and at a very early age and are by default a wasted investment. I come across this everyday, people who feel that we are walking corpses...but here I am. I don't tell people about my condition because they automatically feel pity for me; they treat me like a feeble baby made of glass. I feel that people who talk to me and know I have this disorder always try to be nicer to me or treat me differently just because I have this condition. Although I realize that the empathy comes from a good place and they are not all really doing this out of pity I just want to be treated normally. A lot of people wouldn't shy away from that kind of preferential treatment but most times it gets annoying, I get depressed sometimes when I know that I got my way simply because the world sees me as a sickly person.
I haven't tried to take advantage of such treatment simply because it’s not who I am. I think it’s foolish for people to automatically believe me when I say that I didn’t do something wrong, when I easily could have and always give me the benefit of the doubt just because I'm a sickler. On the flip side, as a result of my condition my attitude towards life is in my opinion a lot better than the average person. I realised at a very young age the possibility that I could very well die whenever I have a crisis, it’s easy to make a lot of plans when you're in good health but it’s not the same for me. I take life a little more seriously and I was forced to grow up really fast and I have not for one day taken my life for granted. This has brought me closer to God and makes me appreciate each day and everyone in my life a lot more.
I only wish that I could do more to enlighten more people and change their mind-set towards this and have a more optimistic attitude and point of view, never underestimate the support you get from those around you...a little love goes a very long way I promise.
My condition may have taken its toll in one way or the other but I still have my dreams and aspirations. I'm a graduate today and that's just one of the many things I have to be grateful for.
Death is a grim reality for all of us but it’s a lot more real to me and as a result my relationship with God, my family and friends is one more thing I hold dear to me, I believe that by taking care of myself and trusting in God I will live my life to the fullest. All I ask is to be treated like the next person; I don't need any constant reminders that I'm this way. I'm only human and a lot of times I get depressed about having this disease. I have come to accept and recognise that unlike all the other “normal” people, I have a very interesting life story to tell...one I know will be a very long story, I am a very unique person, with a great outlook on life. I do have a right to life just like any other person. Things I do differently are mostly things I have already mentioned.
I'm an optimist and this attitude has brought me this far...I'm curious to see how far it will take me. I'm thankful and very appreciative of the imperfect person which I am today, there's a reason for everything and a purpose for everyone including me, I'll find mine eventually.