It’s certainly not as if the SCW hasn’t been in dire need of blood several times on her SCD journey. It’s just that she would ‘rather answer the call than take blood’
If a genie could appear to Eberechukwu Mercy Idiaye, 37, and asked to fulfil one wish – just one wish – it will be the eradication of one particular SCD complication: LEG ULCERATION.
Ebere’s leg ulcers started as a joke – a small itchy bit of skin. Then it blossomed into a wide gaping unhealing wound, which, by the age of 10 onward, alienated her from society. So young, she went to buy provisions at the local petty trader’s and that one told her in confidence what the entire neighborhood thought of her soaking wet ankles.
‘Everyone thinks you have – cancer,’ the shopkeeper said, with an impish glint around her eyes.
In tears, the little girl ran home – forgetting the errand that took her there – and reported the shopkeeper to her mom.
‘Mom went and had it out with the woman,’ recalls Ebere.
The family did not even know it was a complication of the child’s chronic illness and therefore took no precautions. Ebere went wading in a pool with friends while on vacation in a remote village in Delta State.
‘Two days later, my legs were swollen beyond recognition, and oozing evil-smelling pus.’
The vacation was aborted and the family returned post haste to Ibadan. At Saint Lucia Hospital, Oke Bola, doctors drained the pus and began the long painful process of daily dressing. The ulcer did not budge. For many years, the family’s financial resources would be stretched beyond it limits in the attempt to get rid of just one complication of SCD.
From the private hospital to UCH and then to the private clinic of one of the specialists managing her, the wound would appear to heal for a few weeks and break down completely months and years.
‘I feel for sickle cell warriors who have had to travel the leg ulcers road,’ says Ebere. ‘It’s a horrible journey you wouldn’t wish on your enemy.’
Leg ulcers are easily infected. Whenever infections set in, crises and hospitalization tend to follow.
Once at Saint Lucia, Ebere lay on bed, unconscious. No one knew if she would take the next breath. Her heart was failing for severe shortage of blood. Her parents were dead set against blood transfusion. Let her die if she has to!
If the patient herself were conscious, she would have repudiated blood transfusion with the same grim opposition. Anyway, for such eventualities as these, the inscription, NO BLOOD, had long been inscripted, at her command, on her hospital folder.
‘I felt myself fading fast,’ she remembers, ‘and my consciousness ebbing from this world.’
All of a sudden – like being forcibly pushed by an unknown hand – Ebere opened her eyes and found her anxious parents and doctors gawping by her bedside.
‘That push – that mysterious push – signalled my return to health – and life.’
Till this moment, Ebere still wonders how she recovered from that crises episode. Was it the erythropoietin, which suddenly began working its miracle after the doctors had given up hope?
Ebere has been on the brink several times, but sticks to the Jehovah Witness’ doctrine of refusing blood, no matter what.
‘I’d rather choose death than breach our doctrine,’ she says.
Since no one can add or subtract a microsecond from their allotted time on this plain of understanding, perhaps Ebere – and the Witnesses in tow – are justified in their strict adherence to what many theologians say is an incorrect interpretation of the Bible.