To many people, sickle cell disease is synonymous to repeated blood transfusions; in the absence of which the chances of survival for sufferers especially during the onset of crises are next to nil.
This is a view held by almost everyone who have to care for a sickle cell patient. From doctors to lay men, it is a shared sentiment. In fact, I have heard more than my own fair share of ‘Mami we get for put ih blood’ coming from health care providers each time I visited my favourite rest house… hospitals.
This dependency on blood transfusions as the surest way to combat a crisis has made it difficult for many to come up with safer alternative ways of treating sickle cell patients without a blood bag constantly dangling from a hospital pole into their bodies; giving them the look of hungry vampires who thrive on blood to live.
I have had my own share of blood transfusions. There was rarely a time in my teen years, when I spent a night or two at the hospital without a transfusion. No matter how high my blood count was, many doctors insisted on transfusing me claiming that was the only way to stop the painful crises. And of course, my poor mother brought up to revere doctors taking their words as gospel, could now start shopping for one of the most expensive medicines in my treatment regiment… looking for a compatible blood donor.
Maybe those transfusions kept me alive. Maybe a higher power kept me alive, making sure the only virus I could inherit from my teen years adventures with blood transfusions was to become allergic to some substances.
But one thing constantly boggled my mind during all these years. Can a sickle cell patient live without blood transfusions?
Did I get an answer? I will say YES! We CAN live without blood transfusions. The last time I was transfused was when I just had my O’levels. That was more than two decades ago. A lot of things happened that made me look at things critically and decided, on my own to take charge of my health and stop the transfusions by all means possible.
One could say I embarked on a kind of mission. That mission has kept me transfusion free and healthier for more than 20 years. Interestingly, by some unwritten accord, many of the doctors who have treated me during these 20 plus years never requested a blood transfusion no matter how severe my crises appeared to be. They focus instead on hyper infusions of plain glucose; emphasizing the need to stay hydrated at all times. Therefore, the importance of drinking pure water daily cannot be over emphasised here. Again a higher hand directing matters? I believe so.
How have I succeeded to stay transfusion free all these years?
I took charge of my life as said earlier. Read all I could about living healthy with sickle cell. With the help of many friends and family, I discovered a lot of traditional herbs that speed blood production faster than anything. These herbs are cheap, readily available and they come virus free.
I watched a video which reassured me that many doctors are increasingly taking the challenge to treat people with complicated diseases without blood transfusions and having excellent results. It is a documentary series entitled Transfusion Alternatives. This can be found on the JW.ORG website.
Developing a healthy eating routine helped me maintain my no blood transfusion stance. Eating vegetables like this okongobong shown here is an added bonus. Not only is it very nutritious, it has medicinal properties even within its juice which are excellent blood builders.
Munching on fruits, be they seasonal or all year round is very essential.
Drink Folere. It is a local juice which can be made according to your taste. With or without sugar but it has the same effect. It serves as a blood tonic.
All photos from the kitchen of yours truly.
These are some of the things I have done over the years to keep my blood count up, not forgetting the routine check ups I have respected religiously. There are many more natural blood builders out there. We can atleast find one that could appeal to our taste buds. And I have come to believe that if I have lived without a blood transfusion for the better part of my adult life, then it is a fact that sickle cell patients may be medicine dependent but not transfusion dependent.
I cherish my life now and I take good care to stay healthy. I am not out on a suicide mission. Rather, I hope this may be a challenge to inspire any one reading this and especially, the medical community to think past the transfusion dependency attributed to warriors to develop safer, alternative ways to deal with their problem. And I encourage my fellow warriors to take charge, seek ways to build their blood up and live healthier lives without transfusions. There is no harm in trying. Remember, they come cheap and there are no side effects neither threat of viruses from contaminated blood.
Someday, I may face an emergency. However, if I have lived 20 plus years without transfusions, I am very sure I can survive that emergency without one too. The time spent looking for a compatible donor could well mean the difference between life and death. So, just send a dedicated and compassionate doctor to help me, give me okonobong and folere or any of these many herbal medicines around and my blood count would shoot up. This may be only one warrior’s story. Nevertheless, I have met a few more warriors who told me they have also gone long years without transfusions. I can therefore conclude that the transfusion dependence mentality attributed to warriors is a myth. With a little more care, we can also enjoy quality healthcare without the added fear of possible contaminations from frequent blood transfusions.
Take charge, tell your story and make a difference.
ARREY E. AGBOR-NDAKAW.
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