Have you ever felt that? Were you ever a part of the most compelling forces in the universe? A force so unshakable, that it can lead you down the aisle of the most sacred institution ever known to man; Marriage. We all know the line, “Don’t go into marriage without knowing your partner’s and your genotype”, and so did the Love driven couple. In fact, they had attained certain key levels of education such that it was plain impossible not to know about the necessity of genotype compatibility. The love birds had their genotypes checked before walking down the aisle. Everything necessary for a blissful marriage was also in check. Love, Money, Christ, You name it!
The marriage became more glorious when they had their first child a year later. A bouncing bundle of Joy with an AA genotype, there was definitely no cause for alarm. They had another child a few years later and this child revealed all the hidden truths lying beneath. Their second child had a SS genotype. How in the world did a genotype compatible couple bring forth a “Suckler” Offspring? Was there a new medical condition that causes sicklers to be born without hereditary factors? Or was this a case of infidelity? Or rather, switched babies. My parent were the couple. They had never been so confused in their entire lives. Series of tests were conducted and the hidden truth was revealed: My parents were NEVER genotype compatible. It was obvious that the medical center where they had their first premarital medical tests made a mistake and handed to them false results.
As devastating as this news was, my parents still had two more children after my “Sickler” brother. My other siblings we’re fortunate to be born with ‘Okay’ genotypes. I started visiting the hospital regularly at the age of nine. Irrespective of my brother’s condition, my siblings and I were always by his side, so much that we were called, “The princesses with a prince”. We never let him stay lonely for too long because we believe that the first treatment for sicklers is “LOVE”. We also understood the importance of vigilance and why all hands had to be on deck. I remember the certain ages when his sickle cell crisis became really unbearable for him.
It’s been many years now and my brother is already close to his thirties. There are slight yet observable changes in his attitude, movement and voice. He has received transfused blood twice and once, artificial oxygen. One fateful night on a school exam week, the crisis started and he developed severe pains in the groin region which prevented him from walking. The drug needed at that point could only be purchased from the United Kingdom. He almost kicked the bucket that night. I had never been so scared. His life have been a constant rollercoaster of regular intake of drugs and supplements like folic acid, vitamin B and Fruits.
For as long as I can remember, although we all had Seperate lives, we learned to live by always putting him into consideration. We were cautious about doing anything that would get him depressed. His hospital bills were also an expense we couldn’t leave out. The Covid 19 pandemic even played a part in hiking his initial fees of two hundred thousand naira as he had to be moved to a private hospital. It got me wondering how people with similar conditions but little financial resources cope. Sickle cell really has a way of making you think about life even without having the condition.
Irrespective of it all, I thank God for bringing my brother into our lives and I’ve never regretted having him as family.
I learnt two major lessons from my experience as a doting sibling
(1) Never commit to a relationship without cross checking your genotype compatibility even at the cost of going to different hospitals for verification
(2) Never change how you feel about a sickle cell patient especially as a family or friends, because the first treatment is always LOVE.
Editor: Ikharo Favour
Bayero University Kano, Nigeria