Ghanaians have been advised to check their sickling status before falling in love to ensure they do not give birth to a sickle cell patient.
Madam Charlotte Owusu, Founder and President of the Sickle Cell Condition Advocates, told the Ghana News Agency that knowing one’s genes or status would help in making an informed decision on whom to make babies with.
Madam Owusu, whose child died from sickle cell anemia, said testing at an early age was the best as it became difficult to break up a love relationship some few weeks to marriage after finding out that one’s status might not be compatible with the partner.
She explained that it was not advisable for people who were carriers or AS to get married as there was a 25 per cent chance of giving birth to a child with sickle cell.
She reminded the youth that there were a lot of problems associated with having a sickle cell child and therefore encouraged them to test and avoid marrying a carrier.
Madam Owusu called for intensification of advocacy programmes for the youth especially those in the second cycle and tertiary schools as that was the age most of them fell in love.
She urged parents who already had sickling children to dedicate themselves to their care ensuring that they drank more water, ate nutritious food and visited the hospital whenever they were in crises instead of buying over-the-counter drugs.
She debunked the belief that such children die early, saying some sickle cell patients who took good care of themselves and strictly followed their doctors advice attained old age.
Dr James Odonkor, a Genetic Counsellor with the Sickle Cell Condition Advocates, said the sickness was a blood disease which was inherited from a person’s parents.
Dr Odonkor stated that there were three blood cells genes names AA, AS, and SS noting that a person with AA genes was free from the disease while an AS was a carrier who does not show signs of it, and an SS person had the sickling disease.
He further said when two AS persons make a baby, there was a 25 per cent chance of that child becoming SS and that 50 per cent of giving birth to AS carriers and another 25 per cent of AA children.
He added that an SS cell could not carry oxygen to the needed parts of the body as required leading to blockages in the flow of blood through the vessels.
When that happened, the cells begin to die leading to swells and severe pain in patients.
Dr Odonkor observed that Sickle Cell patients were susceptible to infections, stroke, jaundice, and having “coca cola like urine”.
He stressed the importance of knowing ones status before falling in love disclosing that about 16,000 new births in Ghana tested positive to sickle cell while 20 to 30 per cent of the country’s population were carriers.
Mr Joshua Offuh, a 27-years old Sickle Cell patient and his mother Madam Florence Dotse, narrated to the GNA the difficulties they had gone through due to his condition and pleaded with AS carriers not to marry just because of love as doing so would put the lives of their children in danger.
Sickle Cell Condition Advocates, a non-governmental organization, had educated the youth on the disease for the past 11 years and as part of the World Sickle Cell Awareness Day which falls on June 19, annually, organized a similar advocacy programme at Chemu Senior High.
The students were educated through movie shows on the disease and speeches as the advocacy programme was also used for sickling status testing, blood donation and eye test.