Written By: The Fabulous Abigail Dadzie
Co-Founder of The Jessy Dadzie Foundation
When I was growing up, I always wanted to be an Air Hostess because I was skinny(well people made me believe only skinny girls do that) but after my sister came into the picture (when I was 8) I thought long and hard and finally decided I would be a doctor. I would take good care of her myself. Nobody could beat that. I had wanted a sibling for so long…..I was overjoyed.
Mama said she wished we were more than 2 but couldn’t risk it. The doctors had warned her. She wasn’t strong enough. She had sickle cell disease. I can’t quite recollect the specific number of times she ended up in the hospital but all the times that she did…..I was terrified. She would try to hide her tears from me but most of the time I saw through the half smiles she gave me whenever I visited her.
If there was anything I learnt from my mother it was to never let any circumstance discourage me. Mama was brave and strong. We had plans. She would tell me about how she would look on my wedding day (when I didn’t even have a boyfriend) and of course the kind of boyfriend I should have.
In August 2008, she died at age 42. She suffered crisis and this time around, never looked back. Mama was gone! All will be well (as long as we had each other), I told myself. I still had daddy and my Jessy.
My sister was my biggest motivation (she still is). Everything I ever wanted to become was to be able to fill in my mother’s shoes and give her everything she wanted and needed. She would send me random ‘’I love you’’ text messages with different numbers that will get me thinking some guys were crushing on me (lol). However, there was the same old issue. Jessy was SS too. Every time she suffered crisis, I couldn’t sleep. She would cry and sometimes get me to join her. My sister never even fully understood what was wrong with her. She asked questions, too many of them sometimes. Why am I always sick? Why do they call me a sickler? My friends say I will die at 18; is it true? Ama why don’t you fall sick too? Who allowed me to get this sickness? Am I the only one who goes through all this pain? She wanted to understand. But I would always tell her; you will be fine soon.
She always got better. Well except for that one time. 11th June, 2014. When my dad called me at 4; 45am that Wednesday, I knew there was trouble. ‘’Ama, Jessy is dead’’. He said it so softly I barely heard him. Jessy is what??? I screamed, I shouted, I wept. No, not my Jessy!!! Not my sister, not again!!! She too was gone and this time around it wasn’t ok. No it wasn’t. I couldn’t understand God. Why take Jessy too? I thought mama was enough?? How could He? She was only 16!!!
Over the past year, I have had so many struggles dealing with her death. There have been days that I woke up feeling hopeful and positive and there have been really bad days that I just want to stay in bed, cry my eyes out and wallow in self-pity. Thankfully, I have been blessed with amazing friends who have been of great support to me. (God bless you guys).
Did you know that children living with sickle cell disease have a high risk of getting strokes which could result in loss of speech, learning disabilities, paralysis or other impairments? Did you also know that if you are a carrier of the disease (AS) and you marry another carrier there is 25% chance per each pregnancy of having a child with the disease?
I have learnt the hard truth! Sickle cell disease hurts! Crisis is painful for those who go through it and even more painful for their loved ones who watch on helplessly. Out of passion for the ignorant, my friends and I have started The Jessy Dadzie Foundation, to create more awareness about the disease and the importance of knowing your status (we offer free screening sometimes).
Let me end here, but in the meantime, can we all endeavor to check and know our status? Can we make wise choices based on what we are? Can we all understand that love doesn’t heal pain during crisis? Can we avoid throwing caution to the wind and doing what would hurt our future children?
Can we really?
This one is for Jessy.
I love you.