With remarkable style and dexterity, Chidinma Olusola Ogbosso; a sickle Cell warrior bounces as though she had the world at her feat. Hardly would any one guess the health challenges she faces almost on a daily basis.And YES, she has not only survived the physical, social and emotional peaks and troughs of her condition but thrived as an entrepreneur.She is today one of the top 10 Positive African Women(#10PAW) we celebrate on women’s day.
Let’s hear her story.
I am 27 year old and I graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Mass Communication from Babcock University in 2013. I co-runs CEEJAYS exclusive fabrics, an international fabric trading company, situated opposite First bank, Idumota market in Lagos, Nigeria.
2-How was it like, growing up with the Sickle Cell disease?
I experienced it differently at different stages of my life. As a child, everything was pretty normal as I did not really take it at heart. Besides, I was always conscious of my limits. If ever I was playing with friends and I felt pain, I would naturally stop playing.
But as I grew older and took cognizant of the stakes involved, it dawned on me that I had to learn to take care of myself. I became aware of physical, social and emotional aspects of sickle cell. The bleak scenes of excruciating pain, urgent hospital runs, regular test taking and medication have been part of my physical life for as long as I can remember. Emotionally, I sometimes worried about growing up and living long and getting married and having children because I was told that these would be difficult if not impossible.I was self-conscious about the colour of my eyes and I was shy to make eye-contact with people for a long period of my life.Socially I faced humiliation from peers who made fun of me because of my disease.I faced issues with getting admitted into schools.I was told not to sit for certain exams and sometimes I was denied promotion into the next class.In what seemed like an endless, tedious journey,I learnt to adapt to circumstances.
3-So what survival mechanisms did you put up to scale through the challenges you faced?
Initially, I became hardened. When you are bullied, you learn to put up a defensive mechanism to alert provokers. This may make you aggressive and unapproachable and people would think you are a snub. But I had to. Sickle cell makes you tough and my condition has made me a strong and happy woman ready to fight for myself and face any challenge. Then, I became more alert. I took my medicines regularly, ate well and covered myself whenever I was feeling cold. I equally do a lot of research on the disease and I become more knowledgeable as my mind broadens every day. I make sure I dress well, wear good clothes, put on good make up and behaved like a perfectly healthy person.
Most strikingly, I learnt to be happy. I harnessed a positive outlook about life. Like my mum says, I have already experienced sickle cell and the worst can never happen. It would only get better. And so I hold my head up high as I live in self-acceptance and self-esteem, knowing that the best is yet to come.
4-You are a beautiful, vibrant and cheerful woman. You co-manage a multi million naira company you contributed significantly in building up, you are a Bachelor’s degree holder. How did you manage to achieve all these and more, while living with sickle cell?
Well, I did not live with the belief that I would die quickly. And the reason I did not nurse such a fear is because I am blessed to be part of a family which constitutes a strong support system. My mum in particular was very supportive. She would tell me sickle cell is no big deal. She would tell me I look better than the average healthy person because I am always happy and no one would know I have the disease unless I tell them. I am an entrepreneur and I know my limits. So I can afford myself the luxury of a break when I feel sick.So I always bore in mind that I have to savor every blessed moment and did not concentrate on how far I was going to go.
5-Any message for fellow Sickle Cell warriors?
I know that living with sickle cell can make you loose confidence in yourself because of your size, the color of your eyes and sorts. But you can camoflash all these by dressing well and looking good. This would make you feel good and confident of yourself. Also, try to always be happy and cheerful despite the pain you feel often.
Most importantly, do not keep silent about the sickle cell or build fortresses around you because of your condition. Since I joined a group of patients known as Sickle Cell Awareness Foundation (SCAF), I have become more enlightened about the ill. I used to think I was alone but now that I know that there are a group of strugglers who can understand me. I have learnt to break the silence about the disease and I am proud to call myself a survivor. I urge every sickle cell patient to join a group or any means of sharing experiences about the disease. Remember, no man is an island and if you stay alone because you are ashamed about your conditions, you may not know alternative solutions to your problems. We all need encouragement and support so let us face our issues together.
Expand your horizons, tell your success story and inform your boss and peers about your condition so they can know what to expect from you. It is important to note that the experience of living with sickle cell is about giving and receiving advice so do not go through it alone.
6- Any message for Government?
I have been blessed to do all my consultations in private hospitals but I am aware that some patients cannot afford it. I wish to urge government to provide adequate healthcare and instant medication to sickle cell patients in government hospitals. Few government hospitals have appropriate equipment and the patient may die if not attended to instantly. So government should look out for that.
7-Any plans for the future?
I wish to get married, raise children, expand my business and provide support for sickle cell patients through advocacy.