Celebrating Sickle Cell Awareness Month

Sickle Cell Awareness Month

Written by Anita Ayibatari

August 28, 2020

September every year has been set aside as Sickle Cell Awareness Month in remembrance and awareness of those who suffer from Sickle Cell Disease (SCD). It is important to note that a lot of people have no idea about the disease but we forgive you. This is another chance for everyone to understand and get acquainted with the disease so we can all put hands together to fight against it and help those who are suffering from it.

The World Health Organization (WHO) set aside the month of September as one to create awareness to the world over those who are suffering from the disease. It is estimated that cell disease affects nearly 100 million people worldwide. According to the Mediterranean Journal of Hematology and Infectious Diseases, it is believed that in Nigeria, the sickle cell trait is found in about 25% of the population with about 150, 000 births nationwide. It is believed that Nigeria has the highest population of people with the disease.

What is Sickle Cell?

What is this Sickle Cell Disease (SCD) you may ask? it is a group of blood disorders inherited from one’s parents. The most common of which is the Sickle Cell Anemia (SCA) which results in an abnormality in the oxygen-carrying protein hemoglobin found in the red blood cells. The history of the Sickle Cell Disease started in 1975 when the National Association for Sickle Cell Disease created a series of the campaign to help people understand the condition better amid the growth of misinformation about the disease. So, in 1976, a national awareness month was created in September. We can clearly see that the campaign did not start today nor will it end until we know what is what and stop the stigma against it.

History of the Fight Against Sickle Cell

Over the years, different groups and organizations have been created to help fight against the disease and bring it to the limelight both in Nigeria and around the world. In Nigeria, some of the groups include;

African Research And Innovative Initiative For Sickle Cell Education (ARISE), Sickle Cell Foundation Nigeria, SCSN, SCAF, SSSF, SSCF amongst others. Based on the fact that there are different organizations, it goes to show that there will definitely be different themes. Some of these themes include: Sickle Cell Community Embracing Change Together, Shine the Light on Sickle Cell, Breaking the Circle of Pain and so many others.

The color set aside for the awareness of the disease is burgundy— though a lot of people use red as it is in close proximity with burgundy. It is important for everyone to stand and join in the fight against the disease whilst also shining light on it.

Why Sickle Cell Awareness Month?

There are a lots of reasons why Sickle Cell Awareness Month is celebrated. Some of the reasons include;

1. To raise awareness about the disease and support people by educating them.

2. To screen patients.

3. To get new parents to know about the immunizations and its care packages.

4. To inform people that Sickle Cell Anemia is a major health issue.

5. To remove myths and stigmas.

6. To ensure countries establish various programs and organizations for the disease.

7. To make accessible technical and support and services.

8. To create better prevention.

9. To motivate more research work and implementation of resources to minimize complications.

Living With Sickle Cell Disease

Despite what people think or say and aside from the pain and struggles of living with the disease, individuals with this disease can still live a fulfilling and amazing life. This is a list of some ways to help live a great life even with the disease.

1. Dealing With The Pain

Whenever you or a loved one is in pain, talk to your doctor, use pain medicine with caution, find out what works for you. All these are ways to help with the pain.

2. Drink lots of fluids

Ensure to drink lots of fluids as dehydration can be associated with the disease. Water is the greatest important remedy for sickle cell patients. Even medical practitioners advise patients to drink water constantly. Avoid alcohol and other harmful drinks, however.

3. Sleep

Getting enough sleep is essential. Lack of sleep—not only in sickle cell patients is disastrous. Make sure you get 7-8 hours of sleep every day.

4. Eat Right

Make sure the right nutrients of fruits like oranges, pineapples, etc; vegetables like carrot, onion, etc; whole grains and proteins like milk, egg, fish, etc are incorporated in your diet.

5. Exercise Regularly

Do this in moderation but ensure you exercise and consult your doctor as to what do and what not to do.

6. Take Your Medicine

It is important that you take your drugs in the right doses and regularly.

7. Avoid Alcohol

This can lead to dehydration, which is harmful to the body. Excess alcohol consumption is also bad for the body.

8. Do Not Smoke

Smoking can trigger a lung condition and lots of other medical conditions. It’s best if smoking is avoided totally.

9. Avoid Extreme Temperature

Too much cold and heat can trigger a crisis so it is best to keep it mild. Find some place warm if it’s cold and likewise somewhere cool when it’s hot.

10. Avoid Infections

Even the littlest of infections can be a serious crisis for those with SCD. Be sure to maintain good personal hygiene.

11. Stress and Hard Physical Labour

Stress is almost impossible to avoid but then, it should be kept at a minimum. Hard labor should be avoided at all costs although exercise can be moderated.

12. Provide a Support System

Especially for a loved one, it is important to always be on the alert and note symptoms so as to offer immediate care or aid if needed. For instance, in cases where they have breathing issues.

13. Reach out to Support Systems

It is important that you have groups that you belong to so you can talk about similar symptoms and what to note and see if it can work for other people. If one person takes a Panadol for example and it works, it can be prescribed for the other. Support systems are also good in times of crisis and down periods.

14. Inform People Around Them

If it is a child or a teen or someone who is still in school or has a roommate, it is important to give the person a heads up so as to avoid crisis and to let the person be aware and alert and ready to help whenever the need arises.

Supporting People With Sickle Cell

Sickle Cell Disease is not a curse nor a transferable disease. The individual in question is human too and needs as much love as possible. Don’t treat them as less of a human because of their health conditions or stigmatize them. It is wrong. They are still capable of living their lives to the fullest and being the best they can be. If you are an individual suffering from SCD, we stand with you and fully support you. You are important and we love you.

Read: I’d Rather Be HIV Positive Than Continue Living With Sickle Cell

You can also support the movement by making donations to the cause by giving to any program or organization concerning this condition in Nigeria. Also, remember to post the burgundy or red ribbon on your social media page to let them know they’re not alone. Also use the hashtags: #sicklecell, #sicklecellawareness, #sicklecellwarrior, #sicklecellmatters, #sicklecellstrong #mysicklestory to promote and create awareness for this cause.

Do not forget to wear the burgundy or red during Sickle Cell Awareness Month of September with any of the hashtags and tell other people about it. If possible, attend seminars and post articles of this condition. It is also important to note that the World Sickle Cell Day is celebrated on the 19th of June of every year. Each and every one of these days are important as they help create awareness for sickle cell disease.

With these, we’re one step closer to winning the war on sickle cell diseases and enlightening the world. Let’s stand together!

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