The 71-year-old sickle cell warrior has never been transfused – plans to live 100 years or more
AN INTERVIEW WITH SICKLE CELL WARRIOR EBUN OLUMIDE AKINNINBOSUN EKUNWE, MBBS, MD. MPH
- At 71, has never received blood transfusion
- Worst crisis happened when outside Nigeria
- Local foods such as garri (cassava) can help ease out SCD
- Feels stronger in old age than when younger
- Plans to live to 120 years
- Says seeking to criminalize SCT unions is ‘sheer madness’
How did you cope with medical school living with SCD? Inadvertently, by eating local. Dr. Orji has postulated that rather than being a congenital disease, Sickle Cell disease, because it is so eminently controllable by the right nutrition, should be classified as a nutritional disease.
The truth lies somewhere in the middle of genetics and nutrition and as I described in my book, it is known as epigenetics. A scenario in which our actions can superimpose themselves on our genes and ‘bend’ them, especially in our children and grandchildren. This is the reason my grandchildren do not have sickle cell trait.
I can say that our love of garri has been our epigenetic factor. Growing up, I loved garri, not because I knew its benefits in sickle cell disease but just by chance or perhaps because God was looking out for me by giving me the love of local foods, especially garri.
Did you take into consideration the genotype of your partner before marriage?
We had the tests, we knew a person with sickle cell disease should not marry even a carrier of the gene. But our knowledge was purely academic as our emotions got the better of us. My husband was a carrier of the sickle cell gene; that is, he was AS.