Wednesday, April 4, 2018


If I had never read that Tionne Watkins ( T-Boz from the group TLC ),the late Prodigy from the hip hop duo Mob Deep or Laranz Tate were three of many celebrities who had sickle cell anaemia, I would probably have never been able to tell just by looking at them that they had this disease. Most teens with sickle cell have some degree of anaemia and may look pale and some may develop jaundice, leg ulcers, bone or joint damage, gall stones among other possible problems.

For decades, the image of a child with sickle cell disease was one that was in fact skinny and looking almost malnourished; that was because in SCD, the red blood cells only last 1 - 2 weeks, leaving children with the disease very anemic and with very low hemoglobin levels. The body would  then respond to this by ramping up the activity of the bone marrow to keep up with the losses. It would seem that more attention is given to children who have SCD because there appears to have been a recent shift in having lots of sickle cell patients living long enough to get to older adulthood. Therefore the focus is predominantly on the pediatric population.

When my brother was younger, he definitely looked skinnier and did have jaundice (even up till adulthood) and people could often tell that he had sickle cell. My sister was also fairly skinny as a child but as she grew, she certainly put on some more weight and shed that 'sickly look' she had as a child. I guess it is not uncommon to have the skinny, malnourished look when much younger but depending on the severity of the disease in each patient, as they grow into adulthood, many of them start to have healthier looking physical features. As I said before that there are no 2 sicklers that are exactly the same and particularly with my own siblings; where my sister suffered from gall stones, stomach crisis, leg ulcer, tremors and even a mini stroke, my brother had joint pains, jaundice, priaprism and often looked paler even as an adult. Outsiders who were not friends or family were ordinarily unable to tell that they both suffered from sickle cell disease.

Not all sickle cell patients look like they have the disease and some specialists even claim to have witnessed obesity in some children who were born with sickle cell anaemia. So being able to tell by some distinctive features may not always be the case but because of the many health complications they experience, it would not be far fetched to assume that they psychologically would believe that others are able to tell their condition. Even if we are able to, it would be nice to approach the subject (if at all) with a level of sensitivity and empathy that does not leave the sickler feeling conscious or embarrassed by their appearance.

As always, I appreciate your stopping by and taking the time learn a thing or two.

Love Always

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