DEBUNKING THE SICKLE CELL MYTH.

In most developing and under-developed society, due to the low level of development, there is a tendency to have a high level of ignorance and superstition. Over the past decades, there have been may myths that surround the Sickle Cell Anaemia Disorder, especially when it comes to Africa, and more important a populous country like Nigeria, where information is hard to spread and such superstitions are passed down from one generation to another.

Though the list is exhaustive, here are a few myths that have been passed on through the ages we would like to debunk.

MYTH 1

PEOPLE LIVING WITH SICKLE CELL DIE BEFORE AGE 21.

Hahahahahaah the worst of them all but one can’t blame those spreading these lies

OK, SO HOW DID THIS MYTH ABOUT SICKLE CELL COME ABOUT?

Sickle cell was not well defined till 1949. Typically, lots of children born before and immediately after that era died because there was a lack of awareness about it and no medical intervention as we have now.

It was easy for a child born with sickle cell years ago to die within their first 5 years from infectious diseases, stroke and some other complications that defied ordinary human knowledge. With the advance in technology, people living with sickle cell can now live well over 60 years of age and we have some records of some that are in their 70s, 80s and even 90s.

 

MYTH TWO

PEOPLE LIVING WITH SICKLE CELL ARE ALWAYS HOSPITALISED

People living with sickle cell have what is called Vaso-Occlusive Crisis

This happens when exposed to certain conditions like extreme cold, extreme heat, stress (physical, emotional…) infections….

Due to the shape of the blood, it easily gets stuck in blood vessels especially at the joints causing painful episodes that require prompt medical attention.

However it is not every single person living with the disorder that is always hospitalised, most live a regular life as some people with sickle cell have stayed years without having Crisis because they have come to understand their crisis triggers and learn to take better care of themselves.

I guess this debunks the myth, doesn’t it?
MYTH THREE

PEOPLE LIVING WITH SICKLE CELL CANNOT GET MARRIED

KNOWLEDGE IS POWER INDEED.

Lots of people living with sickle cell are married with children. Some do not even have crisis during pregnancy. What is important is that they have come to understand themselves, and they make sure they get the proper health care

People living with sickle cell can and in fact do get married but their spouses must be armed with knowledge on the condition and how to manage their spouse if they are issues

 

MYTH FOUR

PEOPLE LIVING WITH SICKLE CELL ARE FRAGILE
People tend to make snide comments about those living with SCD.

For example,

”  If i touch you now, you will die.”

“Are you even strong sef?
In my language they will say, ‘i karo aka” (not matured literally)
On the contrary, they are one of the strongest set of people on earth. Trust me, you don’t wanna experience what they go through because you may not survive. They may seem fragile physically sometimes but emotionally, psychologically and even in the physical, you don’t wanna try it.

 

MYTH FOUR

PEOPLE LIVING WITH SICKLE CELL HAVE PROTRUDING STOMACH

The spleen is an organ involved in the production and removal of blood cells in most vertebrates and forming part of the immune system.

When the spleen is enlarged, it makes the tummy protrude.

This enlargement happens when the spleen is damaged by sickle red blood cells.

PLEASE, IT IS NOT EVERYONE LIVING WITH SCD THAT HAS A  DAMAGED SPLEEN SO THIS IS NOT TRUE

So next time you hear some of these myths, do us a favour and take time to correct the person. Education is the key to breaking the cycle of ignorance.  If you do not know something, always ask the right quarters.

 Witten by

Maureen Nwachi

Maureen Nchekwube Nwachi is an advocate for Sickle Cell Disorder and is currently the Project Coordinator and Personal Assistants to the Executive Director at Sickle Cell Advocacy and Management Initiative.  As a sickle cell advocate, It gives her utmost joy and peace to see the world become better and she has chosen to be an advocate for persons living with Sickle Cell Disorder (SCD)

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