Choosing BLOOD over Love-The relationship between Loving and Sickle Cell Disease

BLOOD is important, it’s the life force of every human, but we don’t all have the same type of Blood and our blood is commonly categorised as groups and genotypes. In fairy tales, the handsome Prince wakes up his damsel with “The Kiss” and they live happily ever after…. However, in real life, it is a lot different and even if you do manage to fall in love so simply, there’s real stuff like Blood groups and Genotypes to reduce your emotional choices of/with your life partner to something more cut-and-dry, more clinical and it may signal the end of your dreamy love plans.
 This article will be in two parts. Part 1 is about Genotypes and marriage. Part 2 is about Blood groups and childbirth. 
Without delving too deep into the science of genotypes, I’m going to talk about sickle cell and marriage. It’s commonly called the SS genotype, but few know what that means in terms of the reality to a SCD person, colloquially termed a ‘sickler’. This genotype is not
called sickle cell because its carriers are often sick, but because of the shape of their red blood cells. These red blood cells are sickle shaped (like the farming tool) instead of the regular doughnut shape of cells. This irregular shape of blood cells has serious implications in terms of how much oxygen the blood cells can carry, and how easily these cells can pass through tiny blood vessels without sticking or getting stuck.
SS genotype is more common in West Africa and other malaria endemic areas. In Nigeria about 20 to 30 percent of us are living with sickle cell disease. Science believes it to have been a genetic mutation to combat malaria by forming stronger more resistant blood type persons: a person with AS genotype. Although this mutation was slightly successful in this regard, when AS people began to reproduce with other AS, the following genotypes were possible with each birth:
1. AA (25%chance)
2. AS (50% chance) and of course
3. SS (25% chance).
Pic. courtesy: Temitayo Awosika Help Foundation
‘Abiku’ or ‘ogbanje’ children-These are myths about wicked spirit children born to a particular woman who tend to die shortly after birth only to ‘return’ in the next birth so as to ‘torture’ their mother. In actual fact, science tries to explain, these ‘spirit’ children were the victims, as this was most likely a case of having SS Children at each delivery and the eventual surviving child would have been AS or AA.
Reasons why you should choose BLOOD over love?
People living with Sickle cell are often plagued with anaemia, suffer from episodes of severe pain in bones, chest etc. (known as Crisis) and are prone to severe infections or life threatening reactions to otherwise simple infections. Unlike the ‘parent’ genotype AS, the SS genotype has no malaria combating advantages. SCD (Sickle Cell Disease) persons are usually in varying degrees of pain in some form or the other on a daily basis. The resulting pain is often due to blood flow being interrupted by stuck blood cells and if this occurs in the heart,
lungs, brain may become fatal or lead to organ damage. As for anaemia (insufficient or decreased blood cells), this is due to the sickle blood cells having a shorter life span than regular cells, resulting in, weakness, fatigue, heart palpitations, bone deformities and even stroke like symptoms. In times past, most SS carriers did not survive childhood. Thankfully, science and improved healthcare have greatly increased survival rates.
Is it wise to choose LOVE over blood?
In our parents’ generation, little was known about genetic testing before marriage and their choices were made in ignorance, however, we now see a new generation, who are relatively well informed and yet, still take the plunge. A lot of people carrying the sickle cell trait AS or its cousin AC seem to believe that having an SS child will never happen to them (It’s not my portion IJN!). Unfortunately, while positive confessions are all well and good, you simply cannot predict what genotype each pregnancy/child will bear.
Is it wise to knowingly enter your married life with a 25 percent chance of birthing a child that may be often sick, will definitely be in pain most of the time or may even die? With recent medical advancements, chorionic sampling (taking tissue from the growing foetus) can enable you detect the baby’s genotype in the early stages of pregnancy. If through testing, you find out that the baby is SS; will you be squeamish about terminating such a pregnancy? If your answer is yes, then ask yourself – ‘Why should you choose LOVE over blood? Think about your child; while you are busy playing the genetic lottery, know that someone gets to live through your winnings.
On the other hand, if you have no reservations against opting for an abortion, what happens if your next pregnancy is also SS?
Is serial abortion the way forward?  
An important point to note is that your daughter or son born SS in this generation is less likely to understand, appreciate or believe your reasons for the costly emotional choice you made with your partner that led to their been birthed into a life of sickness.
It’s time to decide; Choose BLOOD over love! Let’s work towards having a SS free generation.  
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Are you or do you know anyone living with sickle cell? then share your experience below.