Monthly Archives: October 2013

image

Just had a conversation, exchanged contacts and took pictures with one of the WORLD’S foremost scholars in all things sickle cell. Professor Felix Konotey-Ahulu.

I’ll post a profile on him soon. This man has done a lot to better the lives of persons living with sickle cell disease all over the world, through his research, scholarly articles and associated activities.

Happy day, doing my happy dance, a few back flips in the mix. I am ecstatic. Have a lovely day.

WHAT IS YOUR EXCUSE?

The Miss World 2013 finals were recently held in Indonesia. As you might be aware, Miss Ghana 2012, Carranzar Naa Okailey Shooter was the second runner up, and in effect, Miss World Africa 2013. Congratulations to Miss Shooter (OK, I thought I had the coolest surname, but this one definitely kills it.)

Image

Miss World Africa 2013. This picture is not mine (obviously). Dark skinned girls rock!
Photo credits: Carranzar Shooter, http://www.facebook.com/ Miss universe & missology

Miss Shooter is actually a medical student, a colleague of mine. Don’t ask me how she combined medical school with, arguably, the biggest beauty pageant in the world, I really have no idea. This post is about young people making great strides in their lives. Young people, coloring outside the lines, thinking outside the box, living outside the rules and making a difference, in their own small way.

Miss Word Africa 2013, is back to the mundane existence of a medical student. She has however done great and deserves commendation. (Side note, I think dark-skinned girls absolutely rock. I am unapologetically biased.)  Behind the scene battles, struggles of combining medical education with pageantry at the local level, not to mention, international, escapes everyone. It really does not matter now. She persevered through it all and has the crowns to show for it. I wish her the very best in her endeavors and hope she excels in the various projects she has taken on board.

Still in the realms of pageantry, Miss Earth Ghana 2012, is also a colleague of mine. Again, how she did it, beats me. What is important, she did. I have had it with people using medical education (education in general,their youth etc) as an excuse for mediocre living. If you set out to do something, you can! If you are only passionate about medicine, fine by me. Make a difference even while in school, educate someone about the stuff you spend 18 hours studying and stop using it as an excuse to while away time.

Another colleague, also recently started a beauty and grooming page on face book. She actually has good skin and has been said to dabble in the modeling industry, so I am quite optimistic she will do a great job. She gives very insightful tips about keeping your skin healthy. I recently saw some information on her page about breast self examination. I think we can all apply what we learn to impact lives, however insignificant they may seem.

In the area of clothing, T shirt design came up last year. The line is college style. I liked one shirt that said ‘I FIND THIS HUMERUS’ (get it?)  but I especially loved another one that said ‘CHICKS IN MEDICINE.’ It had little chicks (actual baby fowls/ chicken(s) ) with stethoscopes round their necks. Now, that I would totally rock.

Dekage clothing is another one I am very excited about, African print inspired clothes. Designed by a colleague of mine, they are the kind of shirts I will buy for a friend as a gift. He has a highly selective target market, like most things in life, it is not for everyone. No matter what you set out to do, you can’t please everyone. Some people will just not ‘get’ it. Don’t lose sleep over them, just keep at it.

Spirituality/Christianity, boasts the largest number of people making great strides. There are a good number of preachers in my class. One of them is actually published, two books and counting. They make time to lead various religious groups, preach etc. Why? Because that is what they are passionate about. We all make time for what is important to us. What are you passionate about?

Of course, Sickle Life. Blog, Facebook and twitter pages (and much more, in the future).  Education and information about sickle cell disease to help people make informed life choices. This is what I stand for. We are just a few people, all under 25 years, and still in school. We stand for different things, are passionate about them and find the time to make them happen.

Outside medical school, a friend of mine, currently engaged in his national service, started a group. Mindsets networks. He seeks to change the mindset of the youth in several areas. He does this through the various divisions of MsN such as health, education and family. In its first year of existence, it already has a very strong membership, about 700, on facebook alone. They really do give the best quotes, thought provoking stuff. They are making an impact on the youth by realigning our thought process.

This young lady, Elsie, a pharmacy student. I absolutely love her work. Her posts are always so insightful. She could pretty much start up, with anything and end up on one attribute of God or another. She starts up talking about hydralzine or azithromycine and next thing you know she is drawing correlations between the pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics of the drug and the grace of God or his favor. It really is mind-blowing. She has somehow managed to put some of my pharmacology lessons in perspective and at the same time, make me more grateful for who God is and his many blessings in my life. All this, through her writing. What talent are you refusing to explore? You could actually impact lives.

N’ayelle designs. African print fabric accessories. This, from a Bachelor of Science in Administration graduate. She started this business while in university. Anytime you see me rocking a clutch with a leather/African print mix, that’s a n’ayelle. African print shoes, broaches anything, it is always n’ayelle. Again, another passionate young person who started a business while in school from the little she had. She made it happen!

All I am saying is this; we all have reasons why we cannot. It is time to think up why you can and how you are going to make it happen. Do not let schooling limit your education. Do not let your program of study prevent you from achieving what you want to become. If you are truly passionate about something, you will make it happen, irrespective of the challenges you face, because you will use those as stepping stones to greater heights. So, WHAT IS YOUR EXCUSE?

I have a genetic condition that puts me at a disadvantage sometimes. Well, I turned that into an opportunity and I am trying to apply what I am being taught in medical school as well as from experiences living with this disease to help others to live as healthy as possible. I am also trying to change perceptions about this condition and ultimately, help you make an informed life choice.

BE THE CHANGE YOU WANT TO SEE IN THE WORLD.

Regards,

Sefakor-Enam.

Helllurrrrr! Guess who is back!!!!

Hellurrrrr. Told y’all I will go ham on you when I got better. Well, the time is now! As my favorite naija ( Nigerian)  Englishman, T-boy says, actually, he kind of sings it; Guess who is back back back, back again gain gain…This is part letter numbaaaa twenty!!!

 I have actually been well for a while.  School work has just had me very busy. I am very excited to be back, have been since I got better.So this excitement, it always follows crises and hospitalization. It got me thinking, would it have anything to do with being snatched out of the jaws of death? (Okay so death’s jaws were nowhere near me this time, I must say, but I am still super excited). Or maybe, the joy of being back on my own bed after spending time on a strange bed in a strange place?  Or is it the fact that for a while I was feeling absolutely crappy and suddenly I feel better? Maybe it is all the drugs I get while sick. Maybe there are some ‘happy pills’ in the mix. Whatever the reason, every time I recover from illness, I get super excited. It is another opportunity to LIVE EACH DAY TO THE FULLEST.

What happened? Well, it had been a splendid va-k-tion up to this point. Sleeping, eating, re-watching my favorite series, blogging, a little reading, did I already say sleeping? Then I developed, let us just call it a flu. I would offer a detailed description of the characteristics of the sputum I was producing, but I recognize we are not all in or around the medical field. I won’t want any of you to be utterly disgusted while reading this post, or worse still, just pass out.

It is enough to say, I obviously had an upper respiratory tract infection. Having had pneumonia in past, with a scare of a relapse and acute chest syndrome in the past year, I bundled myself up to the nearest health facility. Antibiotics were prescribed and having seen no improvement in my condition after a week ( I completed the course of the antibiotics, oh yes I did), I decided to come to my ‘go to’ hospital. I got another antibiotic and other medication prescribed. Thankfully after this week, my chest infection cleared. In effect, I had a chest infection for two weeks. That certainly took a toll on my body.

In the week following the chest infection, I began feeling sick. What in medical circles is called malaise. So there was the malaise and in addition different joints and parts of my limbs began to ache. That pretty much spelt doom. I had done five straight months without any major incident and out of nowhere I had early warning signs of an impending crisis. Oh, I wasn’t having it. Full on emergency (ninja) mode. Every person living with sickle cell disease is advised to stay well hydrated, with good reason.I drank water and some. I was not about to go to the ER, especially so, in a hospital whose personnel I did not know and whose sickle cell crisis management preparedness, I had no idea about.

I also went into warm mode. Socks , jackets, the works. I was keeping warm as best as I could. In addition, my hot water bottle was my constant companion. I placed it on aching parts and it kind of soothed the pain. I really can’t tell whether it was real or apparent, but from what I studied about the physiology of pain, it certainly has a role.  And when the pain was a little too much I took low dose pain killers as required. 50mg diclofenac sorted me out somewhat. It made the pain tolerable. After a few more days, I was in a fairly healthy state.

At this point,  I had just one more week at home before I had to leave for school. I decided it was time to get back in shape. My mom really was making no secret of the fact that she had been trying to fatten me up throughout my va-k-tion.  The only problem, as you may have guessed, I am under strict medical instructions to desist  from unsupervised strenuous physical activity. The whole point of working out is for strenuous-physical-activity so you can burn some fat, right? Anyway, since that was not an option for me I got to reading. Apparently, house chores are the next best thing.

I really was feeling good at that point so I decide I should clean the windows in my bedroom. Thing is, I just wanted some chores to do. Anything for a workout! I really am that desperate to get some exercise these days.  Anyway, my deltoids and trapezius must have appreciated the workout, because it felt good. Two days later, still on my quest to find chores, I decided to do laundry. I may have added a few clean clothes to the pile, but you need to think about the bigger picture, my biceps and triceps certainly needed the toning.

Then what do you know, next morning, I had pain in my right arm. 75mg diclofenac was not scratching its surface. I had to combine it with some other drugs which contained paracetamol, nothing. It was official, I was screwed. My sleepless nights begun. If I was close to a health facility whose sickle cell management policy I knew and was confident in, I would have opted for an admission. It really was that bad. I have also seen a person with sickle cell get paralyzed due to poor management of a crises and subsequently, die within a year of the incident, so no matter how sick I get I am very choosy about my health care provider. Thus I did home management for some 3days, within which period, I barely slept, was on maximum doses of different  combinations of analgesics, was experiencing malaise oh, in summary, I was feeling my crappiest best. Of course there was the essential, rehydration component to my home therapy. And I patiently waited to get better. Nothing!

Image

My unsung hero, Winnie took me to the clinic and went round to get my medication while I received treatment. My friends really are the best.

On the Sunday, I moved in to school and on Monday I was at the sickle cell clinic. Turns out the intermittent malaise I had been experiencing over the past three weeks, was actually because I was coming down with malaria, (I could have sworn there were no mosquitoes in my house, but ,I live in the tropics, who am I kidding?) . My Hb had dropped significantly and all that pain, of course was my body’s reaction to the stress it had been under for about a month. First, the two week chest infection and now malaria. Intramuscular Diclofenac and Phenergan (Promethazine) were administered as were Intravenous fluids. And of course anti-malarial therapy started. So I slept just a few hours at the sickle cell clinic because they close at 2pm (it does not run 24 hrs) But when I got back to my hostel room, I emptied my bladder and actually slept for 16 hours straight. Oh the phenergan got me good. I had not had a good night’s sleep in a quite a while. Oh,  I needed this.

I did not feel better immediately, the malaise cleared after a day or so, the pain however stayed with me for some three days and finally left. Thank God. I am always grateful whenever I have a crises. Maybe it is a mindset thing. I always think of how much worse it could have been. What if I had to be admitted for a week or two? What if it wasn’t malaria but rather pneumonia? What if it delayed by just one week? I might probably have started a new academic year sick and have to miss school. I am always grateful because it could always be worse. Sometimes the timing is just absolutely crappy, this time, like most it was on point, and for that I am grateful. Things really could have been worse.

So the cleaning and washing, a few may be wondering if that caused my sickness. Well, considering that lab results have proven that it is the plasmodium parasite, I don’t see how, I could have caused this. Maybe the’ work-out’ just pushed the infection over the limit. You know how if someone is coming down with some infection and happens to do something strenuous, it just tips them over the edge, maybe that is it. Even if it is, I am glad, because if this latent infection had not reared its head now,  with my rapidly dropping Hb, Lord know when I would have been fully symptomatic. Maybe the stress of my paediatrics rotation would have been what would tip me over the edge. And by the way, persons with sickle cell are perfectly capable of doing house chores. We are not disabled u know, just saying.

So  I am back to school work, feeling absolutely fabulous and I can breath a sigh of relief because knowing myself, haven fallen sick now, it will take quite a while for my body to act up again. I did five  whole months without incident before this. The clock has been reset. Let’s try out twelve months,  obviously renewable after the time elapses. Hope y’all are going to help me stay healthy. For those with sickle cell too, set a realistic health goal and do everything in your power to stay healthy.

OPERATION 12 MONTHS. LETS DO THIS!