Sickle Cell Anaemia : 100 Reasons why I’ll Never Forget You
I watched a movie recently – In Sickness and In Health(2012) which reminded me of the way I found out my friend had this disease, sickle
cell anaemia. We were just high school kids and getting to know her, she told me her parents discovered her genotype shortly after she was
born because she had fallen really sick with swollen joints. This, in my opinion, is a pretty long time to be describing yourself as a sick
person. Everyone treats you like an invalid.
According to Dr Silvanus Okpe, Head of the Sickle Cell Unit of the Jos University Teaching Hospital (JUTH) about 3.4 million Nigerians
are currently suffering from sickle cell anaemia while about 40 million Nigerians carry the gene of reproducing sickle cell patients – See
In life, the little things we do may be what matters most. SCD is an incurable genetic disorder widespread in sub-Saharan Africa and among
descendants of Africans worldwide. Sufferers have no visible symptoms, but periodically experience severe pain and are also highly prone to
anaemia because the blood cells break down after only 10-20 days, rather than the usual four months. I lost my friend to SCD after a 31 year
The known clinical cure for SCD is a bone marrow transplant which is an expensive procedure for most people and importantly, bone
marrow donation from a non-sickle celled patient.
She was a beautiful soul. She taught me many things I know today and she never failed to bring a smile to people’s face, friends and family
alike. No one I knew had a bad word to say about her.
We attended the same high school, college and graduate school. We were almost roommates in grad school – we slept together, cooked
together, went to classes together and did lots of stuff together. I will remember her for many things.
She taught me to “count my calendar” to know my safe days every month which I promptly forgot at the end of my cycle because I knew she
would be there for me to ask her again.
She showed me how to fix a mean bowl of pasta and it was really remarkable – it cured a friend of malaria. LOL
She would say whenever she was sick (crises), all she needed was to be able to eat her favorite delicacy – amala with abula soup (yam flour
pudding with bean/vegetable soup). This was our signal that she was on her road to recovery and we could all relax.
We had lots of laughs – we would take ourselves out to dinner, pizza and drinks, the cinema, stage drama, theatre at a period when young
women expects men to do this for them. Late night talks about boyfriends, girl talk, trick and treating, swapping advise…… We did have fun
in grad school.
She was a generous soul, never begrudging any of her friends the use of her personal items, personal computer, printer, books, scarves, shoe,
she was a giving person and she would ask you to take whatever you asked for with a smile.
She had a kind word and a smile for everyone all the time. I could always call her up at anytime to ask her opinion about anything and I
could trust I would be getting an honest objective opinion, irrespective of the question.
I miss her for everything that she was. She was a bridge for most of my friendships as she never got angry at anyone. She was the one I
would report any of our annoying friends to, she would give the person a ‘talking to’ and everything would be fine again. No one ever got
angry with her. She was such a sweet person. Good people. She isn’t just a statistic, she was a loving person, she was my friend and I’ll
remember her every year when our birthday comes around.
“From available statistics, 100,000 infants die from sickle-cell disease in Nigeria annually, making it the number one sickle-cell endemic
country in Africa,” Sadiq Wali, president of the Nigeria Sickle-cell Foundation, told IRIN.
“Based on World Health Organization [WHO] indices, Nigeria accounts for 75 percent of infant sickle-cell cases in Africa and almost 80
percent of infant deaths from the disease in the continent”, Wali said.
You taught me so many little things so each time I look into my wash-hand basin and see the white mothball, I remember how you taught me
to leave it there to prevent stale air from the vent and to eat raw cucumbers so I can smell fresh “down there”.
Today is your birthday and I miss you Olubukola Oni, I know Lola misses you more and we won’t forget what you meant to many people.
Ayobola Raji is a Nigerian, Fulbright fellow, blogger, and a linguist. She would be writing about health/lifestyle, the Nigerian political/sociocultural
scene and her personal experiences in Nigeria.