January 15, 2020

The “S” Factor

The other day I had just learnt about the death of someone who I met just some three weeks earlier, I was in shock. I called the person I met him through, I had questions I wanted answers to.

” What happened to him?”

“Where did he die?”

“Was he in an accident?”

“Was he sick?”

All sort of thoughts ran through my mind, he wasn’t sick the last time I saw him, or at least he didn’t look sick. So,  I wondered what could have happened, he in fact looked very happy and bubbly though with a calm countenance.

He had sickle cell anemia disease, and was mismanaged by the doctors during his last crisis. He didn’t make it out of the hospital, he died right there – I came to understand.

‘Ah!’ I sighed. That was another case of the many cases of SS deaths I have come to know of in recent times.

A year ago, someone I had known for years also died from the disease, his doctor was out of town when he fell into crisis, the other doctor on duty boasted to know just what to do to rectify the situation, turned out he didn’t know enough. He never left the hospital alive. Another one I know so well died from mismanagement, his doctors were on ‘strike’ hence they wouldn’t attend to him, he was taken to another hospital where he was mismanaged. He also didn’t make it out alive – sickle cell anemia got his life shortened.

I can multiply stories upon stories of people I knew personally that were ‘sickler’ but unfortunately are deceased today. They all died very painful and excruciating deaths at the prime of their ages. Leaving their families and friends in grief and sorrow.

Let me give a simple explanation of how sickle cell anemia occurs. It is a situation whereby your red blood cell which has a round shaped turns to the shape of a sickle. This is an evolutionary development and it is common to people in southern hemisphere area like Africa,  South America etc.  It is an evolutionary trait developed to fight malaria but the consequences is that the blood carries less oxygen around. A person is said to have a “SS” genotype. Meaning he must have inherited both “S” from each of the parents.

During fertilization, a haploid cell from the father called the sperm and another haploid cell from the mother called the ovum fused together to form a diploid cell, in other words both parent cells must have a ‘S’ each and both fusing together gave him the genotype ‘S’ the childs carries. That is, to have a ‘SS’ child, both parent has to be a carrier of the ‘S’ factor, that is either as an AS, SS or SC.

As young adults, it will be responsible of us to consider these things in our relationships, our genotype and it’s resultant effect on our coming generation. There are cases where both parents with the ‘S’ factor get lucky and do not have any sickler child at all, while some are so unlucky that they do have all their children as sicklers, others may have just one or two.

Another feat that makes it a serious issue in a country like Nigeria is mismanagement of patients by  health workers which is no news at all. There are some medical interventions available in working countries that may help. But more importantly,it’s all about creating a much more healthier society.

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Lover of books, animal scientist, fashion designer

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