Exciting testimonies from prominent Nigerians who have survived the sickle cell disorder have dispelled fears of people believing that as soon as an individual is diagnosed to be a sickle cell patient, the sufferer is condemned to death.
Although there is occasional pain which affects the individual in many ways, the testimonies which were given by people who have sickle cell disorder but have survived, married, given birth to children who have also married and enjoying their marriages have given hope to patients that the disease, according to the wife of Delta state governor, Edith Okowa, is not a death sentence.
The testimonies were given on Saturday at a well attended ceremony when wife of Delta state governor, Dame Edith Okowa, commissioned the Delta state sickle cell referral centre located within the premises of the state specialist hospital in Asaba.
Governor of Delta state, Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa; wife of Edo state governor, Betsy Obaseki, wife of Akwa Ibom state governor, Martha Udom and other prominent Nigerians were present at the event which also witnessed the presence of some persons with sickle cell disorder in the state.
Mrs. Bridget Ochuko Augustus, a mother of five children, stirred up the hearts of sickle cell patients when she gave a long story of her journey through her childhood till now that she has married, gotten children and she and her children are living happy and beautiful lives, having overcome the scourge.
Mrs. Augustus, who said she was diagnosed of sickle cell at age three, told the crowd that her father died when she was fifteen years but with determination and adherence to guiding principles, she survived the trauma, attended secondary school, university and graduated.
She said when it was time for her to get married, she bluntly told her husband that she was a sickle cell patient but her husband put that aside, they both prayed and got wedded and began living a blissful married life.
According to her, her first and second child were born through caesarian session, noting that after the second child, the doctors advised her not to go for another child but refused saying her mother gave birth to six, she cannot give birth to only two.
In all, she gave birth to five children where the last three were born without caesarian session, stressing that her life has been under the control of the grace of God. She, however, added that she, her children and husband have, over the years, lived under mosquito nets to avoid malaria.
She told the crowd that three of her children are in the university studying different courses of their choice.
In a similar vein, a retired chief laboratory scientist, Mrs. Vero Akokote, who will be clocking 68 years by November this year, said she has survived the sickle cell disorder. She said young people who have sickle cell should not despair as there is a future for them.
According to her, all her children have married noting that her husband is AA, hence there is no fear of her children having sickle cell disorder. She said she has never rushed any of her children to the hospital because of any ailment.
Justice Timi Excel, a judge of the Delta state high court, who is also has sickle cell, gave sterling testimonies of her survival stories, insisting that one can live with sickle cell and make meaning out of life.
Although Dr. Akinsete of the National Sickle Cell Centre had said that every year, about 150,000 children are born with sickle cell disorder in Nigeria and at least 100,000 die before they get to the prime of their lives, the testimonies of these survivors have shown that there is 100 percent possibility of surviving the scourge.
She said Nigeria should be in the forefront of the fight against the disease, adding that many sickle cell centres in the country produce different results from laboratory tests.
Professor Iwegbu, an orthopedic surgeon, said the problem of sickle cell emanates from the decision of two people who do not consider the consequences of their actions before going into marriage. He, however, added that sickle cell disorder is not a lost battle as it is curable through bone transplant.
During the event, Governor Ifeanyi Okowa called on Nigerians to impact positively on the life of people around them as such will engender the spirit of brotherhood among Nigerians.
He said the sickle cell facility which is well equipped was donated to the state by the 05 Initiative, a non-governmental organisation founded by Dame Edith Okowa, wife of the state governor.
According to him: “I am glad that the 05 Initiative was founded and committed to helping one individual at a time. As Nigerians, if we impact on the life of one person positively, that person will go ahead to impact on the life of another person and within a short period, we will have a country where the people will be willing at all times to help one another.
“This commissioning exercise is coinciding with the birthday celebration of my wife, while I say, happy birthday to her, I am glad that every year she celebrates her birthday touching the lives of other people.”
While thanking his wife for having the vision to assist people with sickle cell disorder and giving hope to the hopeless, Governor Okowa thanked donors to 05 Initiative, stating that the NGO was strictly driven by donations from individuals and agencies.
Dame Okowa in an address at the event said: “With the addition of this centre, it brings to 13 the total number of sickle cell clinics established by the 05 Initiative in its relatively short history; the other twelve clinics are located at Ughelli, Sapele, Oleh, Kwale, Eku, Patani, Koko, Otu-Jeremi, Agbor, Orerokpe, Issele-Uku and Umunede.
“Every one of these clinics is fitted with modern equipment, quality furniture, and manned by skilled and knowledgeable personnel because, as some of us here may be aware, sickle cell patients face peculiar health challenges including episodes of pain, frequent infections, delayed growth and vision problem.
“I am not expecting you to change the world; all I ask is that you change the world of one person; do that and you would have accomplished a world of good.”
Chairman of the occasion, Prof. Epiphany Azinge (SAN) had in an opening speech scored 05 Initiatives high in meeting with its vision, stating, “activities of 05 initiative have blossomed tremendously; the scorecard is impressive; 05 Initiatives is giving hope to the hopeless.”
“This sickle cell centre is the second of its kind in Nigeria and I congratulate and commend the founder of 05 initiative, Dame Okowa for her commitment to leaving a legacy that will endure for all time,” Prof. Azinge said, adding, “this will reduce high mortality rate in persons dealing with sickle cell disorder and I urge every good spirited individual and agencies to sponsor the programme.”