Pictured at the Sickle Cell Day event at Crumlin Children's Hospital are Nobuhle Ncube, Esther, Akande, Deputy Mayor of Fingal Ted Leddy, Esther Onolememen, Caroline Funmilayo Amimashaun, Rosemary Okafor and Lily Momodu
By Chinedu Onyejelem
A lecturer at the Royal College of Surgeons (RCSI) has praised the contributions of the Sickle Cell Society Ireland (SCSI) in highlighting a condition that disproportionately affects people of African origin.
Sickle cell disease (SCD) is a genetic condition that deforms red blood cells into a rigid curved shape, like a sickle, and causes them to stick together, often blocking passage through blood vessels.
This can result in a painful ‘sickling crisis’, and at worst can lead to infections and even organ damage.
The disease is now being detected in a growing number of people in Ireland of African, Caribbean, Asian, Middle Eastern and Mediterranean descent.
Speaking at the annual Sickle Cell Day event in collaboration with Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital, Crumlin in Dublin recently, Dr Jane Uygur of the hospital’s department of general practice said the SCSI has set a record for awareness of SCD in the State.
Over the past two years, more than 600 medical students in the RCSI have gained useful knowledge through the college’s partnership with the SCSI, she added.
In a brief remark, Dr Bola Diya Ebhalemeh, who has experience treating sickle cell in Crumlin, said the hospital continues to do the best it can for those affected by the disorder.
Urging members of the public to support greater awareness of the disease, Dr Diya Ebhalemeh encouraged those of greatest risk of passing on the condition to get tested for their blood genotype.
Speaking separately at the event, Rosemary Okafor and Esther Onolememen, two members of the SCSI whose children are living with the condition, said apart from the pain of sickling crisis is the distress of spending so much time in hospital away from home, family and friends.
Onolememen, who is chief executive of the society and president of the Pan-European Sickle Cell Alliance (Pesca), said one of her daughters recently spent several weeks in hospital, where she also sat her Junior Cert.
“Awareness is especially important because of education and support,” she told Metro Éireann later. “When families and the general public become more aware then the likelihood of greater support networks [for sickle cell sufferers] may be achieved.”
Onolememen also appealed for people to get involved as volunteers for the SCSI among other ways to support the cause.
Deputy Mayor of Fingal Ted Leddy, who represented Minister for Health Leo Varadkar at the event, promised to bring the issues raised to the minister’s attention.