My sister has sickle cell.
My mother had endued three pregnancies and buried two baby girls before she was born.
The third time, my mother’s baby girl did not die… we named her Boluwatife, meaning, this is the way God wants it.
Bolu, that’s my sister’s name; does not share the same father with me. My own father died when I was quite young and my mother remarried…hence Bolu…
My mother’s marriage to Bolu’s father was difficult from the beginning as I was told; it didn’t help that my mother kept giving birth to children who never lived beyond two years. Her new husband soon became convinced mother was ‘bad market’ as the hospital bills consumed a substantial part of their family’s budget. It soon became obvious that this new husband wasn’t going to spend his years nursing sick children through the night and losing them, suddenly. So I was told that even before Bolu turned two, mother was without a husband but stuck with two daughters; myself and Bolu.
My mother didn’t give up on Bolu, who was always in and out of hospitals and who was prevented from playing outside like normal kids because she could easily run into serious crisis simply from getting wet in the rain and so did not attend school like the rest of us.
I knew Bolu was different; not just because of the many nights I would wake up to see my mother praying beside her bed but the fact that little things triggered her crisis. She would be in pain for several days and would go completely limp after small sporting exercises…we learned to monitor her and help her channel her energies to less stressful exercises; like reading and writing…
Little by little, ‘one day at a time’, like my mother always said, we began to count the years with bated breaths.
Bolu did not die, though she had serious crises, which left her many times on the brink of death…she lived. It was as if she was rewarding my mother for her labour of love over the years.
Over the many nights mother spent at her bed side at the hospital, over the mounting hospital bills every time she as much as sneezed and we had to rush her again to the hospital, despite neighbours who waited to hear mother wailing over the death of her child…Bolu lived.
Why am I telling our story?
Today my sister Bolu is not just a graduate; she is doing good business and has told me she has met someone she wants to get married to and have children.
That is why I am telling her story. I don’t know too many people like her who have got married and had children…You say you do?… Well, then maybe my sister would be among them, the ones who lived to have their own families as well. I only know too many sad ones, too many.
I worry about her condition; I worry ahead to when issues in marriage come up, because they will. Will her husband be able to cope? Will he abandon her just like her father did if he finds himself more in the hospital than their home? How many men can sleep in the hospital with their wives? For how long?
I worry ahead when she is about to have children…will she have it easy? Will labour be long or will she opt for CS…hummn knowing she would be needing blood and all that. And blood for sickelcell patients are rare…
I worry, are we taking things for granted? Because she has lived this long, can we start acting normal?
I really don’t know why I am apprehensive. I want the best for my sister, she deserves it but I just worry.
That is my story, I worry about our future, I worry for my mother, I worry for myself, I worry for my Bolu.
(Series written and edited by Peju Akande and based on true stories)