Dr Amma Benneh-Akwasi Kuma (right), Director, Ghana Institute of Clinical Genetics, addressing some patients at the World Sickle Cell Day celebration event in Accra. Picture: ESTHER ADJORKOR ADJEI
Dr Amma Benneh-Akwasi Kuma (right), Director, Ghana Institute of Clinical Genetics, addressing some patients at the World Sickle Cell Day celebration event in Accra. Picture: ESTHER ADJORKOR ADJEI

Sickle cell not death sentence — Clinical Genetics

Sickle cell is not a death sentence, the Ghana Institute of Clinical Genetics at the Korle Bu Teaching Hospital in Accra has said.

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While emphasising there was hope for people living with the disease, the institute called on prospective couples and individuals who want to make babies to check their genetics to avoid burdening their children and themselves with the disease which is purely genetic.

 At the commemoration of World Sickle Cell Day in Accra today, the Director of the institute and Consultant Haematologist, Dr Amma Benneh-Akwasi Kuma, said there were now disease modifying drugs and technologies that were helping to improve the lives of people living with the condition.

She said many researchers around the world were also working towards coming out with innovative remedies for the disease, “so today, we want both the people living with the disease and caregivers to know that there is hope”.

Event

A resolution adopted by the UN General Assembly on December 22, 2008, recognised sickle cell disease as a public health problem and "one of the world's most important genetic diseases".

It, therefore, urged member states to promote sickle cell disease awareness nationally and internationally on June 19, each year. The theme for this year's celebration was: "Hope through progress: Advancing sickle cell care globally," while that of the national commemoration was “Donate a pint: Save the life of a sickle cell patient.”

The climax of the event was the arrival of an 11-year-old sickle cell warrior, Ekua Bofowah Asumang, who rode a bicycle from Tamale to Accra to raise awareness of the disease. She was accompanied to the venue by her father, an ambulance, the police and officers of the Fire Service, among others.

Blood transfusion

Dr Kuma further said that “if you are a sickle cell warrior, your blood cells do not last as long as it should. Instead of it lasting 120 days, it last for only 10 days. This makes blood transfusion a life-saving thing for patients”.

“So we are encouraging everybody to donate a pint and save a sickle cell warrior,” she added. Dr Kuma also said that the facility, which is 50 years, was the oldest sickle cell facility in the country.

“So far, 28,000 people who have been registered seek care at the facility. On a yearly basis, we have between 10,000 to 14,000 patients visiting our facility,” she said.

Advice

Another Consultant Haematologist at the institute, Dr William Ghunney, said sickle cell was characterised by crises and complications. As a result, he said sickle cell warriors “have to stay hydrated to ensure free flow of blood. They should exercise, drink at least eight sachets of water a day and avoid extreme heat and cold. 

“When you notice you have fever, visit the hospital immediately and do not self-medicate; ensure personal hygiene to prevent infections and avoid mosquito bites. “You must also eat healthily and take your medications well,” Dr Ghunney added. 

Writer’s email: [email protected]

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