How a Ghanaian spurred the founding of JB4
By Ayoola Olajide and Fatimah Garba Mohammed
Sickle cell pain does not go away all at once after a severe acute episode. A peak is reached from which the patient has to descend, as it were, in slow, uncertain steps.
In that penumbra between some pain and virtually no pain, lay a 17-year-old on a hospital bed in England, the second child of two loving pastors and the only one with sickle cell anaemia in the family.
Despite being found with sickle cell early in life, despite every precaution and despite living in medically-advanced UK, the blows of SCD landed at will, dragging the young Afolabi willy-nilly to hospital from time to time.
Miss Afolabi was no longer feeling the irksome after-pains of a major pain episode, which had been her lot since each time the powerful narcotic she was taking wore off. Now she ignored the pump with which she self-administered the narcotic each time she felt the pains coming on.
The Ghanaian ward-hand doing the floors had set her upon a train of thoughts about SCD and she was impatient for her parents to visit.
The mere thought of the confrontation she was going to have with the duo who brought her into the world kept the pains below the level of consciousness.
Her hand had been hovering over the pump in readiness to administer the narcotic afresh when the Ghanaian interfered.
Noticing the distress she was in, the Ghanaian had moved closer and muttered, ‘hi, young lady, sorry – but what’s the problem?’ When the special child of the Redeemed Church pastors explained she had sickle cell anaemia, the ward hand exploded.
‘When will we Africans ever learn!’ he fumed. ‘What does it cost to know one’s genotype and avoid piling up trouble for innocent children?! See, the ones who gave you this condition will never know first-hand the painful result of their decision to marry!’
The pastors never kept from their daughter the fact that SCD was a ‘genetic’ blood disorder. But it was the Ghanaian who opened her eyes to the role of her parents – as opposed to her race – in her having sickle cell and its train of discomfort.
Modupe Afolabi arrived first. The patient sat bolt upright and fired a question at her mother.
‘Mom, did you know your genotype before you leapt into marriage?’
Mrs. Afolabi winced at the word leapt but she answered the query solemnly as one would in a court of law: ‘I was absolutely unaware of my genotype at the time of my marriage to your father.’
When the other pastor, her father, came, Miss Afolabi leapt at him with the same question, delivered in the same aggressive tones of a prosecutor.
Perplexed, he answered, ‘No, I never knew my genotype nor your mothers’ prior to our marriage.’
Whether or not one knew one’s genotype and its implications before marriage, such a grilling as the Afolabis received at the hands of their daughter was bound to make parents uneasy. Really, the question ought to be asked of a child why it attracted to itself the double dose of an aberrant gene while his siblings were more circumspect and ‘wiser’! Since the universal laws are mute and self-effacing, the answer to the query would perhaps never be unraveled until the end of time.
JB4 is born
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As a red light to the millions who are yet to get married, the Afolabis, both UK-based ministers of the Redeemed Christian Church of God, established the JustBeforeCourtship (or JB4) Movement. Just before courtship or romance gets too serious, JB4 says, know your genotype and its significance for coming generations.
‘The aim of JB4 is not to clog the wheels of a relationship,’ Mo Afolabi says, ‘all we ask is for intending couples to not only be spiritual, but also to be sensitive and sensible.’
If the Pastors Afolabis had their way, every carrier of the sickle cell trait – an estimated 1 in 5 Africans belongs to this category – would make a conscious effort to keep away from union with another carrier.
‘The most effective way to mow down sickle cell,’ Pastor Modupe Afolabi says, ‘is avoidance.’
for more on JB4, Please visit www.jb4courtship.org