PublishedDecember 28, 2019
By Tola Dehinde
I thought this would be my last article not only in this year but also in this decade. I decided to reflect on this disease called sickle cell anemia and how it has affected me in the last decade. To be frank with you, sickle cell affected me more this decade than in other decades.
I look back and remember how at a time I had three jobs going and sickle cell was not a factor that I considered in anything that I did, simply because it was kept in the background. Don’t get me wrong, of course I fell ill, got up and kept moving.
As this decade started, I decided to relocate back home and be with my elderly mother. And as I was trying to adjust to living in Lagos and getting things in place, I am talking about my comfort; anything to help me not to fall ill, the unthought of happened. To be honest, I had no consideration about moving back home in terms of sickle cell. I mean, I had been living and working abroad for a long time and had been able to hold down three jobs at a go, so what is sickle cell? I did not give it any attention when I made plans to relocate.
At the best of times, Lagos or Nigeria as a whole is stressful and I wasn’t used to the stress I encountered; it was on another level. Long story short, I invariably fell ill and had a crisis and we thought it was going to be a small thing but days went by and I was getting worse. In the end, I had no choice but to be taken to a private hospital.
I was on admission for a week and I would just like to pause my story and thank my lovely big sister SS, my cousin Lawunmi and my mother who were with me day and night. I also want to thank my cousins and uncles as well; you are all the best.
After a week, I was discharged and it was only then that I realised that I had gone blind in my left eye! I was totally chagrined, terrified and pissed off; what is this, I asked myself? It was not a pleasant experience and so I researched about it and found out, this can be a sickle cell complication, called ‘sickle cell retinopathy or retinal hemorrhage.’ Here I was, once again, learning something new about this disease that I was diagnosed it.
In my mind, I thought it must have been brought on by the stress of being sick and all; hoping, praying that I would see soon however a few weeks by and I still could not see with my left eye. It became a situation whereby I was advised to see an ophthalmologist in Lagos. I was like, what! I just could not comprehend what was going on. Finally, I decided, I needed to come back to my base and see doctors who know me and about sickle cell and I trusted them.
I then came back and it was then I truly understood the expression ‘home is where the heart is. ’ At this point, I would like to thank my mum in London, who took me in and blessed me by looking after me and praying over me. I started going to my hematology clinic, was referred to one of the main eye hospitals in London. In time, I was told that I could opt to have an operation or wait and eventually, the burst blood vessels would clear. The consultant said he or she would not recommend an operation because once one started touching the eye, other things could go wrong.
I decided to not have an operation and fight the good fight of faith. In due course, the blood vessels started to clear. It was like peeling an onion to get to its core, and after about eight months of petrifying moments, wondering if I would ever see from my left eye, the whole thing cleared and I was able to see again and my eyesight is back to normal.
I have many other incidents of sickle cell complications and the most recent one was AVN (Avascular necrosis: death of the bone), that started about two years ago and was affecting my shoulders and knees. Again, I had to be strong until I had the operation a couple of months ago and the pains have subsided. It just feels good to be able to do the day-to-day things I was unable to do as the situation got worse. On the day I was going for the operation, I had my two brothers (from another mother) who came to accompany me to the hospital and before we left home, they prayed over me. Gosh, your acts of kindness will always be remembered, thanks guys.
In this last decade, I have also met some sickle cell warriors who have been brave enough to share their stories through this column.
As I have read some personal stories, I thought to myself that here I was bemoaning my lot, thinking I had it tough but some people have it tougher. For that I would like to salute all the sickle cell warriors who read this column and also friends of warriors who get in touch or pass the column on.
Can I encourage all sickle cell warriors not to give up and keep fighting this personal battle of theirs? I believe in kingdom connections and so my hope for you, in the next decade is that you will be sent people or that special person who would love you and would not lie to you about who you are.
You are special, sickle cell or not; sickle cell sets you apart, that is for sure but it is for a better outcome because people can see you or read about you and point at you saying, you are an inspiration to others who have nothing wrong with them.
I really do want to end this article by thanking my sister friends both near and far, the one who would come and pick me up before going to work and drop me at the hospital first thing in the morning when I am sick and need to go to the day clinic, among many other acts of kindness. I also want to thank my special sister friends who would come over and bring food or those who would not let me rest with phone calls, checking on me via texts and all.
I thank you all because we have a method that works for me. Some of you know that talking when I am in pains can be impossible and so you send me prayers I read. I also want to thank my brothers in Christ, who reach out to me from time to time, especially the one who lives in Ghana (you know who you are), I thank you all.
I truly wish you a happy New Year, a prosperous new decade, starting 2020.
If you would like to get in touch with me, do email me –
and do have a look on my blog on sickle cell – http://www.howtolivewithsicklecell.co.uk