The United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in 2008, established World Sickle Cell Day to boost awareness and remedy of the disease.
As the world commemorate the 11th Sickle Cell Day on June 19, 2019, Dr. Ejike Ihenacho, who spoke with Daily Sun, gives expert counsel on the genetic anomaly in some persons aas well as how it can be managed and prevented.
According to him, a person with sickle cell anaemia can live as many years as possible and fulfill his potential provided the disease is well managed. That’s to say, the person can live and lead a fulfilled if he/she is well nourished, live in a descent environment, receive regular and proper medical attention.
How can the number of children in the society with this disease are reduced, since its heredity?
It can be reduced if the genetical materials of intending couples are compatible. We have AA, SS, and AS genotypes. A man with AA and a woman with AA are good to go, but if both parsons are SS, it’s very dangerous. But, if a man is AS and the woman is AA, they would give birth to both AA, and AS because AS is dominated and suppressed by the AA Gene.
But intending couples with AS each should not marry. The danger in this case is that all the children may be SS or AS. Therefore, the pairs, AA and AA, AA and AS, can marry while (AS and AS), (SS and SS) cannot marry because they must have SS.
So it can be checked through proper medical precautions before one gets married. Though some persons are blindfolded by love and see no need to check the compatibility or otherwise of their genetic history, in the long run, they have no one to blame when things fall apart; so people must do the right things, it’s very important.
A situation where the mistake has been made by couples, what is the fate of their children affected by sickle cell?
Nowadays, if such children are well managed from the childhood, they won’t have problem. I have handled some persons with this case from infant. Today, they are adults fulfilling destinies. Problems set in only when they are not well managed. We recommend that such children take folic acid to stabilise their blood. When such person wants to marry, he/she must marry specifically AA so that they will have AS at worst.
Does a victim suffer any mental, psychological or emotional defects?
If the child is not well managed as I said, the chances are that they would suffer disabilities or some unbalances, which affects their body shapes; they may have short trunk, and other physical defects because it’s inherited from blood. But if they are well taken care of, they have no qualms.
Is there any other information for the benefit of families who have sicklers and intending couples?
Yes, the main challenge of sickle cell victims is lack of blood because they usually maintain low blood level, hence their cells are being destroyed. Thus, it’s the duty of every doctor to help every person with sickle cell anaemia from infant when they are prone to sicknesses, like malaria. More so, all hands must be on deck. Most importantly, the parents should guide their children while they are in relationship without knowing the genotype of the partner. Youths and intending couples must, as a matter of fact arm themselves with all relevant information needed before embarking on the journey of life to avoid this debilitating disease among others. Precaution remains a better option.
This is indispensable because most sticklers are born out unprepared marriages and products of unwanted pregnancy, but then since they are already out into the world, what can we do for them if not to manage them well? Then others must learn from the experience of victims of careless life. You can see how very young people indulge in immoral acts these days without taking necessary precautions.
So, we advise people that people check their genotype before embarking on any form of relationship. Also the private and public sectors, Civil Society Organisations (CSOs), Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) are doing well. The National Sickle Cell Centres across the federation must rev up the campaign for sensitisation and proper orientation to reduce the number of cases of Sickle Cell anemia, so that they can live comfortably and carry out their socio-economic activities, like any other healthy children in the society.
The Federal Ministry of Health should work hand in glove with relevant bodies, especially at international level to reduce this undesirable conditions, moreover, people should not ostracised nor treat them like underdogs.