We all may have heard about Sickle Cell Disease (SCD) and may have even encountered a friend, relative or colleague who has the disease. SCD affects 25 million people worldwide but 85% of the global estimates live in sub-Saharan Africa. In Ghana alone, 18,000 children are born each year with sickle cell disease.
Although SCD has a long history in Ghana and other parts of sub-Saharan Africa, there are still a lot of misconceptions and misinformation about the condition. Dr. Mary Ansong, Founder and CEO of the International Sickle Cell Centre (ISCC) stated this as one of the main reasons why the ISCC partnered with AirtelTigo Touching lives to raise sickle cell awareness and break the stigmatization attached to the condition.
In Episode 1 of the award-winning series, AirtelTigo Touching Lives, we throw light on the basics of sickle cell disease.
- What is Sickle Cell Disease (SCD)?
Dr. Ansong educates us about what SCD really is. She states that sickle cell disease is an inherited blood disorder that one is born with. Sickle cell disease changes the normal doughnut shape of the red blood cells into the shape of a banana. This makes them hard and sticky and causes them to block small blood vessels, thus preventing the supply of oxygen to vital body tissues. This consequently results in pain episodes, often referred to as crises, and causes other complications like severe anaemia, recurrent infections, stroke, and multiple organ damage.
- Sickle Cell Disease (SCD) Experiences
Regina Atatsi, a Sickle Cell Warrior, recounted what her life has been; experiencing the pain of childbirth and SCD at the same time. Her mother has been her greatest support from childhood up until this point. She also recalled a teacher who once told her in Junior High School that she will be dead by the age of 21 years. That depressed her and made her cherish her 30th birthday, celebrating that milestone with a photoshoot.
- Sickle Cell Disease (SCD) Myths
Some people believe that SCD is due to witchcraft. Others believe it’s an infectious disease. Dr. Yvonne Dei-Ankomah, a Senior Consultant of ISCC and Consultant Haematologist at the Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital, dispelled some of the myths that surround sickle cell disease in society. She also stressed on how many people living with the condition are now surviving into adulthood due to improved healthcare.
- Thriving with SCD
Regina disclosed that she drinks a lot of water to stay hydrated and wears protective clothing to keep warm when the weather is cold. She works at her own pace and rests when she is tired. She takes in hydroxyurea, a medication that has helped reduce the frequency of pain episodes.
Beatrice Gyamerah, an 82-year-old Sickle Cell Warrior also informs the public she has SCD and emphasized the point that “sickle cell disease is not a death sentence”.
CEO of AirtelTigo, Leo Skarlatos, showed delight in AirtelTigo’s drive to increase awareness of SCD, and positively impact the lives of persons living with SCD.
AirtelTigo Touching Lives is a corporate social initiative of AirtelTigo. The Sickle Cell Edition is done in partnership with the International Sickle Cell Centre (ISCC) and will feature medical experts from the ISCC, persons living with SCD, relatives, caregivers and SCD advocates giving education to prevent social stigmatization.
Episodes can be found on AirtelTigo’s YouTube channel, on Facebook on AirtelTigo’s official Facebook page and on ISCC social media handles (Facebook and Instagram) @isccghana.