When I was four, I was diagnosed with sickle cell anemia. It was in Nigeria, way back in the 80’s, and my mom was told by the doctors that I wouldn’t live past childhood. I’m the firstborn child, long awaited for five years and deeply celebrated by my family for coming into this world. There is no way in hell, my mom thought, that the child that God had given her after so many years of prayer and disappointment would end up an abiku, which in Yoruba means a ‘child born to die’. She was like Oh Hell No—that is not happening Doctor!
My parents did everything to make sure that I had the best health care possible. We moved to the US that same year and I remember seeing the pediatrician regularly every few months. I hated taking the Penicillin pills—Yuck, yuck, yuck! I still have flashbacks anytime I have to take antibiotics by mouth till today.
Fast forward past the years of living in my own bubble, prevented from taking part in rigorous activities, sports or even swimming. It was real awful not being able to wade at the beach while my siblings had their fun and frolic because everyone knew that come nightfall my ass was gonna fall sick.
Somehow my family managed to maintain a normalcy despite the crippling crises that assailed us every 4-5 months. When I turned 10, we moved back to Nigeria, and then it became…somewhat weird.