By Usman Shuaibu
As Nigeria joins other countries to mark the World Sickle Cell Day (WSCD) and the World Blood Donor Day (WBDD), the Consulant Haematopathologist and Head of Haematology and Blood Transfusion at the Federal Medical Centre (FMC), Abuja, Dr Obar – Egube Francisca has advised Nigerians to embrace premarital counseling, as well as urged voluntary donation of blood for the interest of patients in dire need of blood in hospitals.
The WSCD and WBDD are marked every June 19 and 14 respectively.
The consultant spoke to journalists in her office on the importance of the two events in Nigeria and the globe in general.
On the WSCD, she said: “I think it is something very important. Sickle Cell Day (SCD) is marked globally. Africa has high rate of Sickle Cell Disease (SCD) burden, especially in Nigeria. For us practicing as Haematopathologists, it is important to create awareness, because there is a lot of stigmatization surrounding its trend.”
She stressed the need to minimise the increasing rate of SCD offspring in Nigeria through premarital counseling. The issue of hastening into love, according to her been resulting into AS, marrying AS and SC marrying SS. She said such has been resulting in complications. So premarital counseling, she went on, is the way to go. She said as a professional, she has witnessed the love just fizzled out because of taking one’s child to hospital regularly, coupled with huge financial burden.
On the possibility of its cure, she said: “Haemopoietic Stem Cell Transplantation (HSCT) was currently the only treatment for sickle cell disease. Before the bone marrow cells are harvested from a suitably Human Leukocyte Antigen (HLA) -matched donor, the recipient receives medications for ablating their bone marrow cells. This is done to suppress the recipient’s immune response to prevent the risk of transplant rejection of the donor’s haemopoietic stem cells.
So bone marrow ablation is done before HSCT. The marrow ablation prepares the patient for HSCT, because it reduces the risk of transplant rejection in the recipient.”
Noting with dismay that funding deprived the FMC, Abuja from being a Stem Cell Transplantation Centre (SCTC), the Consultant informed that they had doctors that had gone for training abroad to get the skills to perform all the procedures. Still wondering why government hospital couldn’t do HSCT, she also informed that a private hospital in Edo had been doing it perfectly.
On the recently marked WBDD, she hailed World Health Organisation (WHO), due to its importance to healthcare delivery.
Affirming her support to the event, she said that WHO suggested that all blood donors should be voluntary blood donors. Dr Obar – Egube informed that three types of donors that existed were Voluntary Blood Donors (VBD), Family Replacement Blood Donors (FRBD) and those that do it as business. WHO, according to her recommended that everybody above the age of 18 and below the age of 60 should be a VBD, due to its need in the healthcare delivery, just as she spoke on the need for active blood donation drive to avoid shortage in blood banks.
Hailing National Blood Transfusion Service (NBTS) for awareness creation, she regretted that that Covid – 19 pandemic’s lockdown affected availability of blood in the country. When asked, she assured that the rules guiding blood transfusion were being strictly adhered to, informing that before blood is transfused in hospitals.