It has been a really rough few months, the pain, unbearable. A period between and in and out of different hospitals, doing scans and tests and hearing strange names like venous insufficiency. Watching my legs pain and swell like an elephant’s, painkillers not sure if they want to do the work they are meant to do or just lodge and relax in my system while I struggle to understand this level of pain. It has been a rough one indeed, this too after almost three years of a clean health period with just regular routine health checks.
It all started on a bright August morning of 2021. I was on my way to work when I stepped out of the taxi that dropped me off, and due to my hearing impairment, I only felt the force of something hitting me hard. I turned around to realise that it was the same taxi I just stepped out from whose driver came on reverse and hit me. I was like what just happened here? Didn’t you see me step out of your taxi just now? And he was like Sorry, I didn’t see you and I was like tsiup!!
I walked to work still and because I didn’t feel any pain, I thought all was well. I just needed to rest my legs and take a painkiller. That was a mistake and the beginning of a nightmarish journey of pain and hospital visits till now.
You see, I have had brushes with leg ulcers which I have blogged extensively about on my blog. I call them my hospital marathon moments. You can read about those past battles here.
I said that was a mistake because while I could still go to work, I now wished I had the foresight to go to the hospital immediately after that happened. Due to my experience with leg ulcers, I am weary of any scratch on my body, especially on my legs. There was no visible scratch where the taxi man hit me and that, I believed, was why I breathed a sigh of relief and felt there was no danger. Little did I know I breathed a little too fast and the incident caused some internal bleeding. Over the next few days, I would continue to take painkillers and go to work. Eventually, I went to the hospital and was put on antibiotics. That didn’t seem to help because a few days later, I was back at the hospital with pain and the area had become reddish and slightly swollen.
It was decided the area be forced opened and that was when we realised the insistent pain was due to an internal wound. I was worried, scared even of another hospital marathon. I tried to be calm, praying since it was a surface wound still, it wouldn’t be a problem healing, Wosai! It was as if that prayer went unanswered. I mean that tiny wound hold grass! And to make matters worse, the leg ulcer scar I had earlier, started paining for no good reason. Till date, we still could not understand why it started to pain. I don’t wear closed or tight fitting shoes and I didn’t hit the leg anywhere and yet, it started paining and the next thing we know, scar tissue opened up, another wound there and more tears! Poor blood flow causing a recurrence perhaps. It was difficult to tell. The conclusion was that something probably touched it when the taxi man hit me. We still don’t know but we were all trying to find answers how a scar that has stayed pain free for years would suddenly start hurting at the same time when the accident occurred without me hitting it anywhere..
Well, there was no need to cry over spilt milk. I now have my two legs to deal with, double pain to deal with and by God, it has been a really rough painful period. I have taken painkillers more than I have ever done in my entire life even while experiencing sickle cell crises. At least with sickle cell crisis, you know this pain killer could help and you get some respite or you could do this and that and get some respite. But with leg ulcer pain, you will only have to bear the pain, change the painkiller, double your pillows under the legs to keep them elevated and do whatever, cry…the pain is not shaking… it is like it got a kind of super glue and just glued to your body permanently.. I mean the pain is a whole different level.
Having my two legs tied up for a year plus now has been one of the most daunting challenges I have faced with leg ulceration.
Leg Ulceration in sickle cell is one of the most trying and daunting complications that comes with living with sickle cell. An already compromised immune system and lack of adequate blood and oxygen, two primary components in wound healing, makes it a slow, painful and difficult healing process for many. Some may heal while some heal and come back, a recurrent issue that leaves one morally, financially, physically, emotionally, psychologically and everything ly combined. It robs one of their lives as quality of life is reduced and in the absence of a strong supportive network, depression can easily set in.
And yet, leg ulceration in sickle cell gets very little attention in the field of research, at least, to the best of my knowledge. Information out there is scanty and most often, the question often asked is if I (we) have diabetes.
What We Need To Know:
- Leg Ulceration in sickle cell is a daunting complication of sickle cell anemia which may take time to heal for most people and also has the risk of recurring.
- Our condition is usually not always because we have diabetes. This doesn’t mean the two cannot be possible but it is often not the case. I believe if people understand this and focus more on seeking solutions to sickle cell leg ulceration, it might help shine more light on this challenging battle and just maybe, better medicine and care could be arrived at to help with healing and prevent recurrence.
- It most definitely isn’t because you have been bewitched. The tendency of many of us in Africa is to attribute a difficult to heal wound to witchcraft. Anemia means we already have less blood and oxygen levels are low. Two fundamentals necessary for wound healing.
- The cost of treating leg ulcers in sickle cells is enormous. The risk of going bankrupt is high. It is even more so for those with little or no support system. If governments could provide subsidiaries, it would help a lot to alleviate the financial toll on the warriors and their families.
- The pain and discomfort is unbearable. Most warriors end up losing their jobs because of the difficulties navigating between hospitals and work while coping with excessive pain, dealing with unsympathetic bosses or colleagues. So, this is a shout out to compassionate and empathetic bosses and colleagues. I am blessed to have both.
- Eating healthy could help fortify and provide your body with essential nutrients but it may or may not still accelerate the healing but eat well and healthy anyway.
- Keeping the legs elevated helps to prevent swellings and pain on the legs. Difficult as it may seem, especially if you are a social butterfly, reducing movements while keeping the legs up is a big help to healing. Many Doctors recommend exclusive bed rest. This is very important but also tricky if the warrior may need to work to foot the medical bills. Compression bandages/socks can and do help with blood circulation. So make use of them if you can.
- Sometimes, we may feel that a particular hospital is not doing the job well and would rather self medicate. Sometimes, it could be true. Other times, it is just because of our compromised immune system and with no guided treatment plan, it is usually trial and error for most of us. So, if you find a hospital that seems to get it, patiently stick with them and get involved in your treatment and as challenging and costly as it may seem, avoid the risk of taking care of your ulcers at home. Let the medical professionals do the work, unless your options and access are limited.
- Do all the necessary tests you are asked to do. It helps to determine the best possible treatment plan for you.
- Leg Ulcers in sickle cell need the care and urgency it deserves by virtue of it being a serious complication in an already complicated and weak immune system. It is not just a small wound. The truth is, that tiny scratch can become a life long battle, so it is important to take it seriously.
- Do not be ashamed of your scars if you are a warrior going through this phrase. Speak out. Your voice may very well be the catalyst needed to change things and attitudes around sickle cell leg ulceration. Your voice may very well be that encouraging voice another warrior needs to keep going. Be proud of your scars, difficult as it may be. They are all signs of the stripes and wears of a battle you have and continue to fight valiantly like the warrior you are.
- Keep your faith. Your joy. Yes, it is extremely difficult but crying and wallowing will not make the legs whole so, cry if you must but rise, and keep fighting.
- Get yourself a large bag of patience. You will need it for a total and effective treatment.
I have had a rough time, dealt with unfathomable pain, taken more painkillers than I care to count, cried and spent millions of CFA. I have equally experienced swellings, scans and culture swaps , the on and off discouraging healing pattern which makes you rejoice today and cry tomorrow. But, I am grateful to my family for walking this walk with me. For friends and tribe for their cheers, prayers, moral and financial support, going above and beyond for me. For the Drs, especially Dr Noela Nsah, Dr Budzi Michael, wound care nurses like Mrs Meekness, Mrs Deloise and all the wound care nurses at the Etougebe Baptist hospital, Yaounde who held my hands and walked this walk with me, giving in their all to the best of their ability and available resources to ensure my legs get whole again. In fact, for everyone who has held my hand during these very difficult 12+ months. Time and space will fail me if I have to write down all the names of all who held my hands in one way or another these 12+ months but I hope you can all find yourselves in this and feel the depth of my appreciation and gratitude. May God bless you all.
My God has been merciful as always and the good thing is, in all these, the wounds stayed superficial, never touching the bones. It would have been worse. This is one battle I pray warriors who have never been through should never be. It is a fight that would drain and test your faith in so many ways. Treat any pain or cut that doesn’t dry up after a few days with a sense of urgency. It is better to check to be on the safe side than face the risk of having to deal with a daunting hospital marathon.
*Disclaimer: Any medication shown here are those prescribed to me. Ask a Dr before you get any medicine.
Thank you for stopping by. I appreciate your presence and comments.