Friday 25 June 2010

Nigeria: Why are we leading the Sickle Cell Disease tables?

A worrisome statistic
I am saddened to read that Nigeria ranks highest in the incidence of sickle cell disease [1] according to its Health Minister.
This is unfortunate because whilst procreation in a general sense predicates from social compatibility in terms of love and the emotional baggage it carries, there is a medical imperative for prospective Sub-Saharan African and African descent couples to ascertain their suitability for bearing children who are not prone to the disease.
It has been a standard part of our biology lessons that carriers of the sickle cell disease [2] gene have the possibility of bearing a child in four with the full-blown disease.
Between faith and daring-do
It is irresponsible for such parents to play Russian Roulette with a life on the uncertainty of what the child might turn out to be and it is faith completely misplaced regardless of religious conviction to hope that a child might not have the disease when it is clear that both parents are carriers.
The true test of faith and belief must be that either parent who had been a carrier had received the miracle of healing with the medical certification of that cure before engaging in the act of procreation.
It cannot be justified that because the parents have never suffered the ravages of sickle-cell anaemia their love, their faith and their hopes can be sufficient to assuage the almost certain very low quality of life of pain, of sickness, of disease and revolving hospital doors that the child will be subjected to.
There might however be aspects of ignorant, illiterate, rural and undeveloped communities that might not be too conversant with the genesis of sickle cell disease, but even they should be a minority in the year 2010.
A commanding responsibility
The excuse the children are God’s gift does not wash in this matter, a responsibility is demanded of us to ensure that we do not bring children into avoidable suffering especially that which comes with the knowledge that both parents are carriers of the sickle-cell anaemia gene.
As a child, I watched the 3 boys from the same family suffer from the disease, the eldest of them died at the age of 12. My mother recommended the use of the prickly ash bark [3] (orin ata) chewing stick which was supposed to have some palliative effects on sufferers but we were all affected by this condition because of the close friends impacted.
That was over 35 years ago, in 2010, there is just no reason why we should have such a high rate of sufferers born which goes on to reflect in high child mortality rates.
Misguided superstitions
The sway of the superstitious and the unintelligent application of the spiritual leaves many thinking child mortality is related to re-birthing cycles of abiku [4], ogbanje [5], witchcraft and other mythical or supernatural phenomenon when all that is required is a simple blood test and an intelligent decision not to copulate to procreate rather than wishing, hoping and praying in vain for what we have been given the intellect to decide for ourselves.
We really can save ourselves all the hassle and not bear children with the throw of the die of chance, if some medical procedure is developed to ensure the child does not take on the genetic trait, that would be fine but for the yet unborn, if you love her but you are both carriers, get the snip and get the cap – if you really want children, then, you true love might just be a wish while you seek another who would not leave you in danger of giving your child an avoidable life-long legacy with the possibility of the child pre-deceasing you.
Now, for those already born, one can only hope for greater medical discoveries that ameliorate the situation or even offer the possibility of a cure. God be with you, it was not a lot you chose but I do hope that your lives are as significant in the love, the hope, the faith and the achievements you can bring to bear in your families and communities in the midst of your sufferings.

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