Strangers saved my life

I have lived with sickle cell Thalassemia for 38 years today.

I am Sandhya.

My parents were told that I had Sickle cell Thalassemia when I was three years old. Sickle cell Thalassemia is another brand of Sickle cell disease.  I had been sick and became jaundiced. At the University Teaching Hospital in Lusaka, Zambia; my parents were told by doctor Vernu, that their daughter had a hereditary disease that had no cure but could be managed.

My parents were told what to expect and how to take care of me. And so I have lived with the realisation that I was different or as my parents always tell me, special.

For thirty four years, I lived with the pains and falling sick, going into crisis ever so often but fortunately without any blood transfusion. Until of course, I was told that I had avascular Necrosis of the hip bones and so needed hip replacement.

The hip pain started when I was sixteen years old.  It had affected my health so much that I was bed ridden countless times.

In Zambia, it would cost me millions of Kwacha. This was in 2011. I mean this was the year the doctor insisted that I had to get an operation done. Or I wouldn’t be able to walk anymore. I was scared. As a teacher standing is my life. So I was scared. Very scared.

Lucky for me, my dad’s family in India made arrangements and on 2nd January, 2012 I was admitted to St. Johns Hospital in Bangalore, India.

I had been told that I needed a total of ten pints of blood for my operation. I would be having Bilateral Hip Replacement.  So for the first operation five pints of blood were needed. I am Blood group A positive, so five pints of A positive blood. My whole family came on board. My cousins donated, any of my uncles who were able, donated.

I felt so grateful because the doctor, Dr. Raj Kumar Amravathi had said they wouldn’t operate if there wasn’t enough blood for me because I would lose blood during the operation.

The first operation was performed on 10th January, 2012. I was transfused for the first  time in my life, before, during and after the operation. The second operation, I was told I would need another five pints, by then, my cousins had gone back to their homes.  So my aunt Hilda lobbied her colleagues who very willingly donated blood for me.

I was operated on the right leg on 17th January, 2012.

I am alive today because strangers willingly donated blood for me that I needed so urgently. Without which my operation would never have taken place, my life would still be filled with pain.

I am grateful to people who donate blood, some of us wouldn’t be alive today without them.


Key Entry Rules

  1. You must be someone with Sickle Cell Disease or have some strong connection with SCD through kinship, friendship or caring responsibility.
  2. Your story – which must be true and should include some aspect of the importance of blood in the narrative – must be between 200–2,000 words.
  3. We expect most entries to come from Africa, but where you live is less important than the story you have to share.
  4. Stories must be submitted by the contest deadline of 30 September 2016.
  5. Photographs and other media can be included and are very much encouraged.
  6. First, second and third place winners will be awarded a monetary prize of $500/$350/$250 respectively. There will also be two special $125 prizes for standout young contestant (under 16) and standout health care professional, if not represented among the overall winners.

Story Criteria

Contest Rules

Past Winners