For some time now, my child has been in and out of hospital for some ‘minor’ surgical operations. The last time she was being wheeled into the theatre for yet another procedure, she held my hand, looked straight to my eye and said in a low tone: “Daddy, you look awful. Why are you looking so sad?”
Obviously the question sank deep into my heart. But it was a question that defied an answer because she was the reason for my sad mood. In order to douse the tension, I summoned up courage and pretended all was well. When we arrived at the theatre we met a team of surgeons already waiting for us.
After the usual protocols my daughter was put under anaesthetic. Before she drifted off, she turned to me and waved. At that point I could no longer hold back the hot tears from rolling down. One of the nurses nearby quickly ushered me out to the reception area. Even though I was sitting in the midst of many people there, I still felt very lonely and disconnected from the reality of my surroundings. Things only came back to normal after the operation was successful and my daughter was wheeled back to her ward.
I have tried so hard to put the frightening experience behind me. And if I may be honest with myself, the experience I had at the hospital was nowhere compared to the series of terrifying video clips and sad stories of sickle cell patients highlighted at a Sickle Cell Initiative programme organised in Dublin recently. This annual event is organised worldwide to mark Sickle Cell Awareness Day.
According to the Sickle Cell Society Ireland (SCSI), the organisers of the event, over 400 children in Ireland alone are sickle cell carriers. It was also made known by one of the parents affected that managing the sickle cell crisis could be very expensive, stressful and highly demanding, both for parents and hospital staff alike.
All at the event were further sensitised on the cause of sickle cell disease, prevalent among people of African or Caribbean descent. We were made to understand, by a medical expert at the event, that sickle cell is a hereditary condition passed on from mother or father to a child.
The programme was therefore organised, apart from to raise funds to support those with sickle cell disease, to create awareness for potentially affected couples planning a family to ensure that their blood genotypes are checked for them to avoid bestowing their children with this terrible condition.
Jide Alowo is a graduate of English language from southwest Nigeria now living in Dundalk