A Warrior Celebrates Her Golden Jubilee…Sickle Cell is just a part of me!
My name is Odeka Ese Ikpe; favoured Hbss warrior. I remember growing up as the youngest in a polygamous home, the 23rd child of my father. I was told we were 24 children, and my father had many wives but my mother was the youngest. My parents separated when I was seven years old. My late younger sister and I had sickle cell disorder.
I was in and out of hospitals and absent from school a lot; yet still topped my class grades. A classmate called me an ogbanje; she said I would not attend classes but came to school during exams and still topped the class.
I was called derogatory names and I decided to speak to my father. I told him I didn’t want to go to school again and gave him reasons. He told me everything I needed to know about my health challenge. All the dos and don’ts of sickle cell I had to observe religiously. My father said to me, “Eseoghene, tomorrow isn’t promised to you because of sickle cell.” I was totally prepared for death each day. I wish he was still alive to hear me say, “Tomorrow is not promised to everyone but to those who know the owner of tomorrow.”
My younger sister who observed all the rules, never skipped our routine drugs, got sick and died at age 14 after dad’s death at 72. I had to move to mum’s who had already remarried. Thank God, I heard her own side of the story before she passed on at 45. I said to myself that it meant death can happen to both the young and old and not only people with sickle cell.
I moved in with my mother’s eldest son and subsequently gained an admission into the Federal College of Education, Abeokuta, Ogun State. I met my husband during this time. He was a friend to my eldest brother. Marriage never crossed my heart. Marry? How can one man marry one wife? I believed marriage was an institution of deceit. I met Jesus Christ and my whole life changed. On campus, my husband kept coming, telling me what God told him but I didn’t believe him.
He was persistent and I told him to go for genotype test but he said if I could show him where it’s written in the Bible to do genotype before marriage, he would do it. He said God gave him an assignment to care for me and that we would have two children. Thank God he was a practising Christian and not one who wanted to get under my skirt.
After months of genotype test argument, he finally did it. I insisted he should see my doctor, he did and his result was AA genotype. God said he should care for me, and he’s never failed. In crisis, he’s amazing and in pregnancy, even more so. God blessed us with two children. Victor is 22 and Samuel 17. This is my 23rd year in marriage and no regrets.
Pregnancy was quite easy; yes my first pregnancy was hitch-free. The only problem I had was high appetite. I ate every hour and felt faint because I was hungry. During pregnancy, I attended one of our government hospitals, where fibroids was diagnosed instead of a pregnancy. All appointments had to be carried out in a specific laboratory and every time we went for the scan, they were either never there or there was no electricity.
My husband got tired and took me to a good private hospital because I was getting weak and complaining of tummy pains. When we got there, I was monitored, and within a few minutes, I saw the inside of my womb and my husband was singing. We were told it was a baby boy not fibroids. In fact, my husband Mr Ekpuk Ikpe’s love for me increased by 200 per cent. On December 29th of that year, Victor was born through a caesarian section. He was a beautiful baby and I would have lost him if not for God.
I had two miscarriages after Victor. Raising Victor was kind of challenging, as he was big and carrying him was tough. Five years later, Samuel came forth. My genotype may be SS but my reproductive organs are not.
As a wife, it has been God all the way and I tried my best. Getting married was not in my thought but, like the Bible says, “All things are possible if one believes.” There was nobody to teach me how to be a wife as a sickle cell warrior. Sex was a major issue in my marriage and still is. I don’t know if it is something with sickle warriors.
I was careful not to tell my story until my kids understood my health challenge. When I started my social media outreach and was a guest on TV shows, I totally forgot I had children growing up. Victor’s roommate two years ago called him the son of a dying sickle cell woman. My son is quite calm like his dad but, he lost it totally that time and that was how my outreach began. Victor has completed university education. Samuel just gained admission into the University of Lagos.
Samuel is super intelligent and always found favour. Once he sets his mind on a distinction academically, he succeeds. Samuel is more like me; creative and industrious. Victor is more like his dad, calm and calculated. As a mother, I could say I have done my best.
I have been invited on TV shows, talking about sickle cell and motherhood; comparing crisis and labour pains. People need to see a sickle cell warrior married with children and I went with my first son. I then ventured into mentoring caregivers and younger sickle cell warriors. I talk about sickle cell in churches, counsel people about knowing their genotypes before giving birth. Today, I have a platform on WhatsApp ‘Eseoghene Sickle Strong Foundation,’ where I reach out to persons living with different health challenges. My husband and my sons are highly supportive. Lately, my husband and sons have been invited to talk about how we made it thus far with sickle cell.
My mother was not a warrior but he died at 45. I’m turning 50 in a few weeks. I draw strength from God and my sons. They understand what sickle cell disorder means. They show me immense love like their father. You are a product of your thoughts and with God, you can dare to be different!