This is my account of a physiotherapy home appointment with James* that lasted only three weeks. I had received a phone call from a Mrs. Thames* late on a Thursday night. She mentioned I was referred by a mutual friend and would love for me to meet with James, who had a sickle cell crisis and had just been discharged from the hospital. He could not walk and was in pain.
Getting to meet James the next morning was the beginning of a life-changing experience, one that taught me and reinforced in me “that physical therapy touched lives in more ways than exercising “. James is a young adult, on an industrial attachment from Univesity, cheerful even in the midst of agonizing pain. This cheerfulness, is something I have come to associate with Sickle Cell Warriors (Let’s call them that shall we? plus I learned the suffix warriors at another open house on Scoliosis – see soon coming posts)
What is Sickle Cell anyway?
Red Blood Cells (RBC) are round or spherical in shapes, howver, sometimes, it is not so. Some are shaped in the form of a sckle or think of a crscent moon shape. The round shape of the RBC makes it easy for them to move along blood vessels, however, the sickle shaped cells can get clumped together, causing a block that prevents blood flow to other parts of the body including organs causing pain and sometimes, tissue death.
Hence, Sickle Cell Disease (SCD) is simply the condition where the RBC are not shaped as they ought. right there in the RBC are oxygen cerrying subatnces which are genetically transfered ( they are transfered from each parent to the individual) called heamoglobins. WHen someone has SCD, it means they inherited the sickle cell traits from both parents. when the heamoglobin is shaped abnormally, it is called a sickle cell. An individual may get two normal shaped heamoglobins from btoh parents “AA” , howver, When a person gets a normal heamoglobin “A” from one parent and an abnormal heamoglobin “S” from another, that person is said to have the sickle cell trait “AS”or a “carrier”. wehn a person inherits two abnormally shaped heamoglobin from both parents, that person is said to hvae SCD “SS”. Sometimes, a person may inhert the sickle shaped heamoglobin and anothr variant of the abnormal heamoglobin such as the “SC”.
Back to James, we worked through pain-reduction, strength building, good posture translating to everyday life – to get him walking in about two and a half weeks. He was surprised at my approach – which was “focus on the seemingly simple exercises prescribed because they are the framework for regaining mobility”. he suffered a setback when he decided to move to the next phase on his own. that day therapy consisted of sitting and listening to him. by the end of the session, he felt better.
We also had a great time talking about music, school and my favorite – that physics ruled the world as seen in our everyday lives.
Nigeria has a very high percentage of people living with Sickle Cell Traits and SCD. To know more about an NGO that works with people with SCD, click here for more information.
*not real names