By Ayoola Olajide, reporting from Accra, Ghana
It may sound stigmatising, but direct experience with SCD validates the avoidance of ‘S’ in others!
Patricia Odwui, 58, has a simple solution to the problem of reducing or wiping out a disease she lives with and dreads like hell.
‘Don’t marry S if you have S,’ she says.
In other words, if you have sickle cell anaemia or sickle cell trait, all you need do is look for a partner whose genotype is AA. If everyone does that, Odwui believes, society would reap the benefit short term and long term.
Odwui is happy her son, who also lives with sickle cell, will never have to face the cultural, sexist fiats, which pressed her into marriage with a carrier of the sickle cell trait. It’s not that her spouse is not loving or supportive – indeed he is – but she would always remember the couple of AA suitors who crossed her path, any of whom she could have married. Although Odwui did not then – and does not now – exhibit any of the sign-posts of sickle cell, the men did mind the fact – and turned away. She was not to know that her neighbours were whispering to each prospective suitor, ‘look, your girlfriend falls ill too often, don’t get involved with her!’
None of my sons,’ Odwui vows, ‘would marry any woman with the S gene.
As the years rolled by – Ghanaian culture stipulates that a woman shouldn’t wait too long to get married and bear children – Odwui threw in her lot with the AS man who did not mind her genotype. Though he had verified his genotype at her prompting, he did not know its portents for children, which she did. In the event, Odwui gave birth to two boys, one with HbAS, the other with SS.
‘None of my sons,’ Odwui vows, ‘would marry any woman with the S gene.’ In her time she had seen too many dreams ruined by sickle cell, the reason for her ballyhoo against unions likely to land her grandchildren with sickle cell anaemia.