FATTI GIWA ABDULRAHMAN (Guest Writer)

A Sibling’s experience

What started out as a quiet morning that particular day. If only we knew that the worst was yet to come.

I was about 6 or 7 years old when  my aunt and her husband arrived at our home in Maiduguri from Suleja with the news of the death of my elder sister Nafisat (may her soul rest in peace). She must have been in SS2 or 3 at that time in a boarding school; FGGC Kwali Abuja and my Aunt was her Guardian there. She had barely left home some weeks before her passing as she came home for the holidays.

I remember it was the 1st day I witnessed my dad cry. My brothers all withdrew to their rooms and cried out their lungs. My immediate elder sister and I were desperately trying to look sympathetic because we were too young to understand the loss. My mom, on the other hand, was unconsolable!!!!! She was not eating and  had to be sedated to sleep most times. It was very painful to watch.

The memories of how my sister was always sick are one I should never forget . The countless visits to the hospital, the countless times our family doctor would visit,the countless things that were forbidden for us to use around her so as not to trigger anything that could affect her. She was always in pain.  She was a sickle cell anaemia carrier!! My dad then decided that we all get a genotype blood test done to know how many more of us have the blood type. We also learnt that my sister Nafisat was not the 1st loss of my parents. My mom had another Nafisat a long time ago, but she passed away at an early age of 4. And that our Eldest sister; kafayat too was also a carrier. Making it a total of 3 out of the 5 girls from my parents to have sickle cell disease.

The struggle continued for my parents with my eldest sister as she constantly battled sickness. From one hospital to another and each time it got so bad, she might have to be returned home to my parents. She eventually moved, settled down and started a family. Alhamdulillah (all thanks to Allah) she was blessed with 2 healthy boys in her lifetime, and she lived till she was 42 years old. She passed away after a brief illness right at the time we thought she had defeated the ailment.

Sickle cell disease is the most common of the hereditary blood disorders. It occurs almost exclusively among black Americans and black Africans. It is an inherited disorder of the haemoglobin in the blood (the haemoglobin carries oxygen around the body) from parents. It requires the inheritance of two sickle cell genes in order to have the disease. A person who receives a gene for sickle cell disease from one parent and a normal gene from the other has a condition called “sickle cell trait.” Sickle cell trait produces no symptoms or problems for most people.

The most common and severe type of the Sickle cell disease is the sickle cell anaemia, popularly referred to as SS.  Other common types are the Hemoglobin SC (usually mild) and

Haemoglobin Sβ thalassemia. The rare types are: Hemoglobin SD, Hemoglobin SE and Hemoglobin SO

Sickle cell anaemia can make life more difficult, particularly for a child, who will need to deal with some factors such as delayed sexual maturity and stunted growth. They will need to avoid things that can cause a crisis, such as certain medication that restricts blood vessels, fever, drug alcohol use and strenuous exercises.

One thing we learnt from these losses is that they were all a test from Allah! As Allah said in the Quran, chapter 2 verse 155: and most certainly we try you by means of danger,hunger,and loss of worldly goods,of lives and of (labour) fruits. But give glad tidings unto those who are patient in adversity.

My family’s experience also helped guide us in choosing the right partners by checking our genotype before getting married. None of us will ever want to go through what our parents went through.

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