By Mercy Hill
My name is Mrs. Chinwe Nnagbo, I am the president Chie’emma Empowerment Foundation.
About Chie’emma Foundation:
This Foundation takes care of children, especially the sickle cell children. We are aimed at breaking the vicious circle of poverty and social isolation, and to restore hope for a better future. We are creating a social change and inclusion, for the development of under privileged individuals, groups, and community in Nigeria. We are also geared towards protecting the rights of the child, help in offsetting medical bills and needs of the Needy, carrying out sensitization on sickle cell and child abuse. We are two years now, because we started in 2018.We started with my personal funds and then, people started investing in lives through us and we never failed to give feedbacks.
About my Family and Education
I am from Onitsha and married to a man from Awka, Anambra state. I am blessed with four kids (boys). I studied Economics education from the University of Nigeria Nsukka (UNN). I am a teacher and school matron, I am also a social worker. I have taught in schools and presently I own a school, called the garden of grace kiddies academy. I love humanitarian services.
Chinwe: My Story Growing Up
Chinwe happens to be the only child of her mum who died of sickle cell anemia, since she was age five. She narrated to Fides that her mum had her as twin, but her twin happened to be a sickle cell patient and her mum was pushed to get rid of her. According to her, she said her twin was killed.
She continued: My mum called me Chinwemma which means God has done me well. My life is a testimony because when I was in secondary school, I was kidnapped, up until now, I do not know how God arranged a means for my rescue. After the death of my mum, I lived with my Dad, who died immediately I gained admission into the university.
So, I saw myself through school, faced with the reality of life, because all relatives abandoned me. I fell into wrong hands, even sold my body because of money but after such mistakes I still could bring myself out of the wrong path.
I fell into deep depression and resorted to smoking and drinking until I was tagged Shakira-not because I was a good dancer like the famous Shakira but because I drank to stupor! But in between those adversities I saw myself trying to drift away from all the negativities life threw at me. I changed! That is why I use my story to talk to young people.
I was once married, I had kids, but I realized that my son was a sickler. When my ex-husband and I went to check at the hospital, we realized that my husband was given a wrong genotype result. I knew I was AS and my twin was SS, I didn’t want to suffer the way my mum did. My husband thought he was AA, and then it happened that he got a fake result. That was how our marriage ended.
But, after my first marriage, I got married again to a wonderful man who did not judge my past and then took me the way I am and backed me up in my vocation. Basically, I work with women and children.
I counsel a lot of women; empower a lot of youths and I save a lot of children living with sickle cell disease. I keep running programmes, especially for women in Anambra state.
A lot of women have lost who they really are, because of a wrong marriage, living under the shadow of self-pity, domestic violence, trauma, emotional blackmail.
From the beginning of the Foundation in 2018, I also went into sickle cell advocacy. I went to the hospital with my son one day and there I met a lot of children looking very malnourished, when I interacted with them, they said they needed to eat first before taking any routine drugs and there was no food anywhere.
These are kids from extremely poor homes, they cannot even afford a day meal not to talk of routine drugs. Their drugs are quite expensive – Astymin costs a lot not to talk of other drugs. Everything about sickle cell involves proper management but most of them cannot because of poverty.
We did a research and made an estimate of over fifty of those cases in Amaku Hospital, Awka (COOUTH), and we are still counting, and most of them look malnourished and pale. That also was what spurred me to begin this campaign, consulting well-meaning Nigerians to help. Some people have been helping us out, but we still encounter many humiliations out there, but we keep pushing.
A lot of people, I have even lost count. This month, we are moving out of Anambra State to Delta State and then to other parts of the country.
What is your advice to those suffering from sickle cell and to parents around the globe?
First, parents should ensure that their children know their genotype, not just that, they should teach them to say no! to genotype incompatibility. Because it is when there is a mismatched genotype that a sickle cell child is born. A lot of people give up these things because of money, infatuation, greed, ignorance, etc.
I must tell you, people that suffer most are women. When you visit the hospitals, you will encounter women who complain bitterly of their husbands leaving them because of the children’s ordeal. I pity them sometimes, but I also, do not blame the men, because it is expected.
So, I warn people during my campaigns that there is no love when you have a child with such crisis. The money used to take care of a child living with sickle cell would be used to take care of five healthy children. There are patients who have damaged bone marrows, it means they cannot produce their own blood or enough blood to sustain their bodies. Some are dependent solely on other people’s blood.
One of our patients who is above thirty now is dependent on people’s blood to survive and immediately she takes in blood from donors, she begins to have her menstrual flow, very heavy one, which makes her loose the same blood. Most of these kids are not properly treated in hospitals because they are their regular customers. I do not think you would want to bring any child to the world and see them suffer like this.
They are rejected and scorned in schools and many other places in the society. That is why I always advocate that the government should get them their special clinics where they will not have to drag for space. Schools maltreat these people and make them feel not wanted, they punish them and make them go through hard labour that leads them to crisis.
To our youths, why go into a marriage that will bring children that will suffer, a relationship that will not last. Young people, when you meet someone you love or you are beginning to develop feelings for, the first question to ask is the persons genotype, if you are not compatible, please run away. Parents also force their children out to marriages that they are not interested in without proper checkup.
Schools should make it mandatory that part of their resumption requirement should be genotype result. Those in the University should use the result given to them during check at the school clinic, go for medical test in a better medical outlet. Prayer houses should stop deceiving people, please help them know the truth and not lies.
Your words to those living with sickle cell disease?
Sickle cell is not a death sentence, we recently celebrated the 85th birthday of one Sickler. That is because she managed it properly. Do not ever feel you are going to die before a certain age. Just as people are advocating for you, you also need to help yourself, please eat properly, take a lot of water, try to be happy and then take your routine drugs. If you have a sign of crisis, run to the hospital, so you will not punish people around you by breaking down entirely.
For those experiencing ulcer of the leg, which is quite common among those living with sickle cell, make sure you go for your dressing to keep it neat.
Another thing is getting addicted to a pain killer they take. Whether they are feeling pains or not, they go for it. This has made a lot of them shun their check ups because they inject themselves with this drug. So, I plead with pharmacists to stop selling these drugs to them with proper prescription
You are celebrating your birthday today, what are your plans?
There is nothing that gives me much joy than feeding people, so I am using this medium to feed people. My friends and I are going out to feed people.