As part of our core mandate of educating the public about Sickle Cell Disease to empower people make informed decisions about the condition, Sickle Life engaged with Form 1 to Upper Six students of Alpha Beta Christian College, Dansoman Accra yesterday 13th February 2018, at the school premises.
A team led by Sickle Life Founder; Dr. Sefakor Enam Bankas, interacted with about a hundred students aged between 11 to 18 years as well as teachers and other staff of the school. Also in attendance were Dr. Asare and Dr. Ghunney from the Department of Haematology, KorleBu Teaching Hospital, a close collaborator of Sickle Life.
This highly interactive and informative session begun with an informal QnA which was very impressive as the students displayed a deep knowledge of biology and genetics. We proceeded to discuss the components of blood and why Sickle Cell Disease is known as a haemoglobinopathy- haemoglobin disorder.
We described the differences between normal Red Blood Cells and Sickle Cells and explained how these differences result in both acute and chronic clinical manifestations. We also reiterated the effects of Sickle Cell Disease include emotional, social and psychological effects that need to be addressed.
We further described the pattern of inheritance. Again, the student had the opportunity to display their brilliance by determining the probability of each genotype given certain parental genotype combinations. Of course, they had to work it out on the whiteboard provided for all of us to see. This was a lot of fun, as we all engaged in this simple but important task of understanding why knowing about Sickle Cell Disease is important, getting tested essential and making informed decisions life-saving.
We might also mention here that there was chocolate and Sickle Life souvenirs for all who answered questions correctly, because well, it is the season of love.
We proceeded to discuss some common myths about Sickle Cell Disease and explain why they were untrue. We encouraged the students to educate others if they ever encountered such myths.
On management, we encouraged early testing, routine reviews and identification and avoidance of precipitants (temperature extremes, dehydration, stress etc.) We also explained the procedure of curing Sickle Cell Disease through Bone Marrow Transplant.
We further encouraged the students to learn first aid for colleagues who have Sickle Cell Disease.
They were advised to encourage the person to stay hydrated and keep warm and to always help them get them help immediately which was the goal, by notifying a teacher, school nurse or parent.
We encouraged the teachers present to provide emotional support to students living with Sickle Cell Disease, allow them to use the washroom frequently so that they are encouraged to stay hydrated, regulate the classroom temperature, encourage them to take frequent breaks during playtime and also be on the lookout for silent strokes which may manifest as unexplained changes in their performance in school.
To summarise we reiterated why everything discussed was important by reminding the students about the alarming Sickle Cell Disease statistics in Ghana and why people like them are key players in changing the statistics. We encouraged each student to get tested and make an informed decision.
Question time was interesting as questions ranged from whether Dr. Bankas had undergone a bone marrow transplant and how she is able to live a successful life, to whether Sickle Cell affects speech and size, details about acute chest syndrome, whether persons living with Sickle Cell Disease die before 18 years, etc. All of which were duly answered by Dr. Bankas and Dr. Asare.
The students were again reminded of why this discussion was relevant by Dr. Naomi Agyapong. They were encouraged to utilise the information obtained, get tested and make informed choices.
Sickle Life wishes to express sincere gratitude to the proprietress, Mrs Florence Agyapong and Dr. Naomi Agyapong for inviting us to Alpha Beta School. The teachers for joining us; the students for being very well behaved and fully engaged in the discussion; Dr. Yvonne Dei, Head of Department of Haematology KorleBu Teaching Hospital for collaborating with us and providing extra handbills and booklets; Dr. Asare and Dr. Ghunney for guidance and support for the talk and team Sickle Life for logistical support.
We look forward to furthering collaborations with Alpha Beta Christian College and other interested organisations to empower the public make informed decisions about Sickle Cell Disease.
As you celebrate Valentine’s Day today remember to make an informed life choice.