Sickle cell and leg ulcers (II)

Last week, I started Arrey-Echi’s story on living with sickle cell and leg ulcers. Let us continue reading from her.

And yet, leg ulceration in sickle cell gets little attention in the field of research, at least, to the best of my knowledge. Information out there is scanty and most often, the question often asked is if I (we) have diabetes.

What we need to know

  • Leg ulceration in sickle cell is a daunting complication of sickle cell anaemia which may take time to heal for most people and also has the risk of recurring.
  • Our condition is usually not always because we have diabetes. This doesn’t mean the two cannot be possible, but it is often not the case. I believe if people understand this and focus more on seeking solutions to sickle cell leg ulceration, it might help shine more light on this challenging battle and just maybe, better medicine and care could be arrived at to help with healing and prevent a recurrence.
  • It most definitely isn’t because you have been bewitched. The tendency of many of us in Africa to attribute difficulty in wound healing to witchcraft is phenomenal. Anaemia means we already have less blood and oxygen levels are low. Two fundamentals are necessary for wound healing.
  • The cost of treating leg ulcers in sickle cells is enormous. The risk of going bankrupt is high. It is even more so for those with little or no support system. If governments could provide subsidiaries, it would help a lot to alleviate the financial toll on the warriors and their families.
  • The pain and discomfort are unbearable. Most warriors end up losing their jobs because of the difficulties navigating between hospitals and work while coping with excessive pain, and dealing with unsympathetic bosses or colleagues. So, this is a shout-out to compassionate and empathetic bosses and colleagues. I am blessed to have both.
  • Eating healthy could help fortify and provide your body with essential nutrients but it may or may not still accelerate the healing but eating well and healthy anyway.
  • Keeping the legs elevated helps to prevent swelling and pain in the legs. Difficult as it may seem, especially if you are a social butterfly, reducing movements while keeping the legs up is a big help to healing. Many doctors recommend exclusive bed rest. This is important but also tricky if the warrior may need to work to foot the medical bills. Compression bandages/socks can and do help with blood circulation. Make use of them if you can.
  • Sometimes, we may feel that a particular hospital is not doing the job well and one would rather self-medicate. Sometimes, it could be true. Other times, it is just because of our compromised immune system and with no guided treatment plan. It is usually trial and error for most of us. So, if you find a hospital that seems to get it, patiently stick with them, and get involved in your treatment and as challenging and costly as it may seem, avoid the risk of taking care of your ulcers at home. Let the medical professionals do the work unless your options and access are limited.
  • Do the necessary tests you are asked to do. It helps to determine the best possible treatment plan for you.
  • Leg ulcers in sickle cell need the care and urgency it deserves by virtue of it being a serious complication in an already complicated and weak immune system. It is not just a small wound. The truth is that a tiny scratch can become a lifelong battle, so it is important to take it seriously.
  • Do not be ashamed of your scars if you are a warrior going through this phrase. Speak out. Your voice may very well be the catalyst needed to change things and attitudes around sickle cell leg ulceration. Your voice may very well be that encouraging voice another warrior needs to keep going. Be proud of your scars, difficult as they may be. They are all signs of the stripes and wears of a battle you have and continue to fight valiantly like the warrior you are.

.Keep your faith and joy. Yes, it is extremely difficult but crying and wallowing will not make the legs whole so, cry if you must but rise, and keep fighting.

Get yourself a large bag of patience. You will need it for a total and effective treatment. I have had a rough time, dealt with unfathomable pain, take more painkillers than I care to count, cried, and spent millions of CFA. I have equally experienced swellings, scans, and culture swaps, the on-and-off discouraging healing pattern which makes one rejoice today and cry tomorrow. But I am grateful to my family for walking this walk with me. For friends and tribe for their cheers, prayers, moral and financial support, going above and beyond for me. For the Drs, especially Dr. Noela Nsah, Dr. Budzi Michael, wound care nurses such as Mrs. Meekness, Mrs. Deloise, and all the wound care nurses at the Baptist hospital, Yaounde, who held my hands and walked this walk with me, giving in their all to the best of their ability and available resources to ensure my legs get whole again. In fact, my appreciation to everyone who has held my hand during these difficult 12+ months. Time and space will fail me if I have to write down the names of all who held my hands in one way or another these 12+ months but I hope you can all find yourselves in this and feel the depth of my appreciation and gratitude. May God bless you all.

My God has been merciful as always and the good thing is, in all these, the wounds stayed superficial, never touching the bones. It would have been worse. This is one battle I pray warriors who have never been through should never be. It is a fight that would drain and test your faith in many ways. Treat any pain or cut that doesn’t dry up after a few days with a sense of urgency. It is better to check to be on the safe side than face the risk of having to deal with a daunting hospital marathon.


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