I was four when my parents discovered that my genotype is SS. As an adolescent growing up with Sickle Cell Disease, finding a man that would marry me was my greatest worry. I met my husband in 2007 after the completion of my first degree. I confirmed that his genotype is AA before I became committed. At the start, he did not know about my health status because though I was skinny, I looked relatively healthy. Then one day, he noticed the jaundice in my eyeballs and I told him the truth about my health, fearing he would call it quits, but he didn’t.
Marriage and Pregnancy
We got married in November 2010. By January 2011, I became pregnant with a set of twins. I registered at Hosanna Specialist Hospital, a private hospital in Ilaro, Ogun State, Nigeria. Everything was fine until I was about 27 weeks gone. I became very jaundiced; my eyeballs were a very deep shade of yellow, almost green.
No matter how much water I drank, my urine remained the colour of Coke.
Within few days, I became so weak I couldn’t go to the toilet again. My mum or husband or whoever had to go and dispose of my excreta. By the time they came back, the spare bedpan would be full. I was on a very high dose of Flagyl IV. My PCV kept on dropping. I was transfused again and again but my PCV was never up to 20%. I was in that private hospital for almost a week before I was moved to the General Hospital of the same town.
The stooling continued. I was transfused for a total of ten times within the space of three weeks.
Severe Bone Pain Crises, Miscarriages
I later developed bone pain. The pain was so excruciating. No injection seemed strong enough to take care of the pain until one of the doctors gave me Diclofenac. I found it very effective, and I was given more doses of Diclofenac. The plan was to keep me till around 35 weeks when the babies’ lungs would have developed enough, so that I could have a C-section, but at 32 weeks, scan revealed that one of the babies was no longer living. I was referred immediately to Federal Medical Center Abeokuta.
I got there in the evening on Friday, 12 August 2011. Several tests were carried out and the doctors concluded that a C-section was not good for me at the time as my blood might not clot. Labour was therefore induced on Saturday evening. It was a terrible experience. I had the babies around 6 am on Sunday morning. The dead baby, a girl, weighed 1.8kg while the living baby, a boy weighed 2.2kg. They took the living baby to the Neonatal Unit but news came to me the third day that he too had passed on.
I got pregnant again early 2012 and had a miscarriage which was accompanied by an episode of bone pain. I can never find the right words to describe that pain. It was the most painful crisis I had ever had. From Queens Hospital Ilaro, I was transferred to Federal Medical Centre at Abeokuta again.
More Blood Transfusion, More Miscarriages
I was on a high dose of codeine. My PCV kept on reading 18%. Doctors kept transfusing me with fresh AA blood. My husband was the first to donate for me. Then we bought more blood. The pain subsided after two weeks and I returned home.
Then I had more and more miscarriages up to the seventh time. Each time I had a miscarriage, it was accompanied by an episode of bone pain that kept me bedridden for weeks. Each time I thought of a miscarriage, I was more afraid of the attending bone pain than the loss of a baby. I kept on going from one gynecologist to the other. None of them could identify the cause of the miscarriages.
Each time I got pregnant, I was on total bed rest in the hospital. My husband is a very caring man. He helps with house chores, whether or not I am pregnant. Whenever I became pregnant, the doctors would place me on progesterone. I suggested a prophylactic cerclarge to my gynecologists but they did not think it was what I needed, since the miscarriages always occurred in the first trimester.
A Break From Pregnancy
I had the seventh miscarriage on14th February, 2014. Then I decided to take a break. I wanted to do something valuable with my life, so I returned to school in pursuit of a higher degree. I was on the verge of defending my Masters dissertation in July 2015 when I discovered that I was pregnant again. My gynecologist confined me to bed again. My Masters was halted. At 6th week I started spotting. My gynecologist placed me on progesterone. I took one pessary per day, through the anus, yet I continued to spot.
The following week, I developed bone pain crisis that lasted for two weeks. I was treated with pentazozin injections. The spotting continued. I went for scan almost on a daily basis to check (FWB) fetal well being and each time scan revealed that the babies were fine. Yes. It was another set of twins (two girls).
One night, when the pregnancy was 11 weeks old, I discovered that water started gushing out of my body. I called my doctor who came downstairs immediately. (He runs the hospital downstairs and lives upstairs). He and the nurses stood beside me and watched me cry. I think he called it rupture of the membrane. He said there was nothing he could do about it. He said such an occurrence is unusual in first trimester. The next day, I went for a scan which revealed that the amniotic fluid was adequate. My doctor was not satisfied. He wanted to know whether the babies were sharing the same sack or were in different sacks and to know from which of the sacks the water escaped. So, he sent me for another scan in another place. The result revealed that there were two sacks and liquid was adequate in both sacks.
Since we could not be too careful, at the 13th week I had a prophylactic cerclarge. Two weeks later, I was discharged. I kept on coming back to the hospital twice a week.
Given my medical history, my doctor envisaged an eventuality at the later stage of the pregnancy. He wanted to forestall it. So, he moved me to Federal Medical Center at Abeokuta at 29 weeks. Though I took ugwu (a Nigerian herbal blood-builder) and milk on a daily bases, my PCV was still low. And I was transfused about three times.
Sometimes, I became so anemic I couldn’t breathe. I was placed on oxygen. I was given a chart to record fetal kicks, I noticed a drastic reduction in fetal kicks between Saturday and Sunday 30th and 31st January 2016. On Monday 1st February, during the ward round I showed the chart to the team of doctors. Dr Adebayo, my consultant, was the leader of the team. They immediately brought a bed side scanner which revealed cardiac activity in only one baby (Twin 2).
They couldn’t discover cardiac activity in the other baby which meant that she was no longer living. I was sent for another scan which revealed that only Twin 2 was alive. They had to rescue that baby fast. The pregnancy was 32 weeks and four days at the time. My husband and parents were not around. They had gone in search of money. (We were almost street-begging, as we had spent over NI million).
The nurses were so helpful. They supplied everything I would need in the theater on the belief that my relatives would pay later. I called my husband and parents and explained the situation to them. Before they arrived from Ilaro, I was in and out of the theatre. The baby was taken to the Neonatal Unit and I was taken to the Intensive Care Unit.
At the ICU, I asked one of my doctor friends to go to the Neonatal Unit and take the picture of my baby. I was pleased with the result not knowing that he had magnified the picture, because in truth the baby was no bigger than a bottle of Coke; she weighed just 1.1 kg.
Coke Bottle Baby
When I went to the Unit the fourth day to see my baby, I couldn’t believe my eyes. I had never seen a baby that small in all my life. Though I expected that she would be small, my baby’s ‘weightlessness’ shocked me beyond words. She was in the incubator and was breathing on oxygen as her lungs were not mature. On the eight day, her dad and I went to her incubator side and christened her Princess Oluwayanmife Moset’Oba Oladejo.
A day or two later, there was an industrial action at the Federal Medical Centre and all the babies in the Neonatal Unit were discharged. Between the day she was born and the day FMC went on strike, my baby had had two EBTs (Exchange Blood Transfusion). They said her bilirubin level was high, so they took the blood out and gave her another blood. After the EBT, the bilirubin was still high, so they repeated the process.
On the day the industrial action started, they gave my baby to me around 3: 00 in the evening. I was still battling edema, which increased after I put to bed.
My baby was not strong enough to take home – she still needed intensive hospital care. By the time we arrived at the Sacred Heart Hospital, a Catholic hospital at Lantoro, Abeokuta, jaundice was noticeable in my baby’s eyeballs and skin. They did yet another EBT for her at Lantoro.
Home At Last
On the 11th March 2016, she was discharged at 1.6kg. My baby has since being growing well. She is seven months now. She is physically and mentally healthy. She eats and plays a lot. She only cries when she is hungry or when she wants to play with you and you are too busy to engage with her. I am the proudest mum on earth.
Without doctors and blood donors, neither I, nor my baby, would be alive today.