Chidinma Olusola Ogboso is a lady living with the sickle cell anaemia, and the condition has turned her into a “sickle cell warrior” of sort.
Despite the resultant crisis from her condition, the 27-year-old Nigerian from the rock city, Abeokuta, the Ogun state capital who has survived the physical, social and emotional peaks and troughs of her condition has courageously bagged a Bachelor’s degree in Mass Communication from Babcock University five years ago.
As you read this, Chidinma is a successful entrepreneur who co-founded and jointly runs CEEJAYS Exclusive Fabrics, a multi million Naira international fabric trading company, situated opposite First Bank, Idumota market in Lagos.
At a rendezvous she had with The Daily Times during the week, the vibrant and cheerful woman enjoins every sickle cell patient to find a means of sharing advice of the disease.
Attributing the secret of her success to absolute faith in God, Chidinma told our correspondent she did not entertain the belief that she would die quickly.
“The reason I did not nurse such 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.”
How did she manage crisis moments in and out of her business? She reminded our correspondent that she is an entrepreneur.
“I am an entrepreneur and I know my limits, so I can afford myself the luxury of a break anytime the crisis comes.
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.”
Growing up “I experienced it differently at different stages of my life,” she began:
“As a child, everything was pretty normal as I did not really take it to heart. Besides, I was always conscious of my limits from the beginning. If ever I was playing and I sensed the symptoms, I would immediately stop, but as I grew older and took cognizance of the stakes involved, it dawned on me I had to focus on how to take care of myself.
“Over time, I became aware of the physical, social and emotional aspects of sickle cell. The bleak scenes of excruciating pain, urgent hospital runs, regular tests and medication became part of my life”.
Inspite of her optimism, however, Chidinma acknowledged that her humanity sometimes comes to play occasionally.
“Emotionally, I worried about growing up and living long, getting married and having children naturally because I was told that these would be difficult if not impossible. Also, I was very 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 jest of me because of my condition. I faced issues while looking for admission 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,” she said soberly.
In retrospect, Chidinma recalled how she surfed through the challenges of her growing up years.
“Initially, I became hardened. When you are bullied, you learn to put up a defensive mechanism to alert provokers.
This may make one aggressive and unapproachable and people would conclude you are a snub, but I had to. Sickle cell makes you tough and my condition made me a strong and happy woman ready to fight for myself and face any challenge.”
Discipline with medication was another area she became apt. “My medication was one aspect I became more alert. I took my drugs regularly, ate well and covered myself whenever I sense cold. I also do lots of research on the disease and that has help make me more knowledgeable; my mind broadens every day.
“All the time I make sure I dress well, wear good clothes, put on good make up and put up a perfectly healthy posture always.
“Above all these, 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 may never happen. It would only get better so, I hold my head high up as I live in self-acceptance and self-esteem, knowing that the best is yet to come.”
To fellow sickle cell “warriors, Chidinma sends these words of hope:
“I know that living with sickle cell can make you lose confidence in yourself because of your size, the color of your eyes and sorts. But you can camouflage 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.
“Of key importance is, do not be silent and don’t build a fortress 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. I used to think I was alone, but now that I know there are others struggling with their condition and who can understand me.
“I have learnt to break my silence about the disease and I am proud to call myself a survivor. I urge every sickle cell patient to join a group or find 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 condition, you may not know alternative solutions to the crisis. We all need encouragement and support so let us face our issues together.
“Lastly, expand your horizon, 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.”
Directing her advice to the government of the day, Chidinma reiterated that she has been blessed.
“I make bold to say I’ve been blessed to do all my consultations in private hospitals, but I am aware that some patients cannot afford it. I urge government to provide adequate healthcare and instant medication to sickle cell patients in government hospitals. Few government hospitals have appropriate equipment; without it the patient may die if not attended to instantly; so government should that in place.”
Bright hope for tomorrow
“I wish to get married, raise children, expand my business and provide support for sickle cell patients by sharing advice and, hopefully, I would create my own foundation on the long run.”
Where there is a will, divine providence will make a way.