Debunking Myths 1: The 21 Years Mystery

{jcomments on}I just met a friend recently and after the usual pleasantries he said he hasn’t seen me for a while. I said that is true. I have been down lately.

‘What happened to you?’

‘I have been sick’

‘You had malaria?’

‘No pain crises’

‘What is that?’ There is this lost look on his face.

‘My joints pain me from time to time’

‘Oh you have arthritis?’

‘No I have Sickle cell Anaemia’

‘Oh I am sorry.’

‘Thank you’

‘Have you reached 21 yet?’

I smiled because I saw that coming. This is a typical conversation that has played itself over and over with those few I happened to tell them about my condition. What I found funny was this obsession with the age 21 and sickle cell patients. While people anticipate 21 to take gigantic strides with their lives, almost everyone with a little knowledge of sickle cell erroneously believes that if you are a sickle cell patient what determines whether you live or die after childhood is to be able to reach and survive your 21st birthday. Some even hold the view that the miraculous healing happens at 21.

And so I smiled and told my friend I was not yet 21. With all good intentions his rejoinder was ‘do not worry when you reach 21 all will be fine’.  I told him ‘thank you but there is no such thing as everything becoming fine at the age of 21’.

He was genuinely surprised. It was left for me to explain to him that this 21 year expectation is just a myth. This was some few years ago.

 How it came to be a widely held belief still remains a mystery. I have read as many published sources on Sickle cell as I could lay my eyes on. I am yet to come across any link to survival with this age vis-a –vis a Sickle cell patient.  What could have been possible trigger factors to this age considered the ultimate miracle age?

  • Crises become less frequent
  • Patients are more aware of their condition and are better placed to take care of themselves through education and good care.
  • Hospital trips are less frequent as well.
  • They could dare do some things they couldn’t do in the first 20years.

Knowledge has always been the best defence in managing sickle cell and if by the age of 21 a warrior is well informed about their condition, the chances of frequent crises are less. This is a general concession leading to this conclusion of 21 being the famous miracle year for warriors.

This myth has played out well for some but mostly negatively for others because many parents and warriors themselves become lax after this age; which has proved to be fatal in most cases as a sudden onset of crises caught unawares could well mean death.

It is important to keep in mind that, good care and nutrition contribute greatly to the overall wellbeing of a warrior and if this is maintained the chances of improved health and longevity are great. There is yet no known drug or cure for sickle cell except the still to be tested and yet to be affordable bone marrow transplantation and as such 21 has never been a miracle age that automatically cures one from sickle cell.

Hopefully this will shed some lights and clarify some matters about this mystery age of 21. As far as I know, there is no scientifically backed research on this and to prove the point, I am well above the age of 21 now and still get crises now and then. It is therefore imperative to educate, keep a positive outlook and take care of self rather than dwell on something that is just a myth.

ARREY E. AGBOR-NDAKAW

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Author: ARREY - ECHI

I am a Sickle Strong Warrior and Advocate. Welcome to my space.

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