Anne Welsh – My Thorny Road to Super-Achievement
When two-year old Anne Welsh first manifested hand and foot swelling – the classical signs of SCD known to doctors as dactylitis – her parents feared she had somehow injured herself. It was in the 1980s and ignorance was still a huge challenge in many homes in Nigeria.
Fortunately, the family moved to the UK and received proper diagnosis for the child’s proneness to be ill.
‘My mother found it hard to cope as I was sick a lot as a child,’ Anne recalled to a group of African compatriots on Pearl Sickle Cell Foundation whatsapp group.
Growing up, Anne’s self-esteem suffered. Her irregularity in class – due to illness – ensured her younger sister caught up with her. Even as she got older and began her working life, frequent illness and absence from office remained the tapestry of her existence.
‘I would be hard at work hale and hearty today, and tomorrow call my boss I was flat out!’
her relationships were a mess.
‘My fiends didn’t want to be around someone who was there today and gone tomorrow!’
Anne’s self-esteem dropped to an all-time low when her friend – who also lived with SCD – passed away.
‘I thought I must be next.’
She spent the next week in a state of hopelessness – so all that people used to say about a shortened lifespan was true!
I am a Failure!
Reality kicked in when one day she missed a very important business trip.
‘I cried my eyes out in hospital.’
Anne felt no consolation when a doctor told her maybe God didn’t want her to go on the journey. She got angry at the doctor.
‘Maybe God hates me – why was He always thwarting my desires and ambitions?’
Later on, the doctor’s words came to haunt her – what if God really didn’t want her to go on the trip? What if things went wrong on the way to or fro?
From that moment of epiphany, Anne stopped blaming the Almighty for her sickle cell blues.
‘I embraced the condition as a friend – no longer as an enemy.’
As though for first time, Anne realized that everyone on this planet had a battle to face and sickle cell was merely one among those battles.
‘Once I realized that, I kept going.’
Anne has never looked back since then. She has entered the board rooms and executive offices of many private and governmental institutions worldwide with her head held high. She is respected as a sickle cell icon in England. She was one chair of the Sickle Cell Society in England and Vice-President Olusegun Obasanjo Foundation.
Determined to avoid having a child go through a preventable health challenge, Anne was circumspect in her dating and relationships.
Dating was hard when the opposite sex knew little or next to nothing about SCD.
‘You have to be careful you don’t get hurt, people will want to use you but not commit to you.’
Finally, her knight in shining armor emerged, genotype and all.
Now a proud mom with kids, Anne lives a punishing schedule of travel, meetings and consultations across continents. She was actually in a hotel room when the conversation with members of the Pearl SCF group took place.