It is three years after Mr Emmanuel Imevbore Ohiomokhare, a former staff of AIT and host of a business magazine show lost his son, Jephthah, who died of sickle cell. In this interview with EDITH CHUKU, he recalled how he once prayed for God to take the life of the boy because of the pains he experienced as a sickle cell patient.
Your Son Died Of Sickle Cell. Please, tell us your story?
We met about 21 years ago; we liked each other. This likeness grew to love and then it was obvious I was going to marry this girl. I needed to do something important first before I propose. Yes, the feelings were strong but my mother (who was a nurse) had always warned me that I am AS genotype, so I must marry someone who is AA so I do not have sickle cell children. I was aware of the consequences if Senami Agosu was also AS. I asked her in one of our dates, I think it was somewhere in Ebute Meta, I said ‘do you know your genotype?’ She said ‘yes, I am AA’. I was overjoyed. My prayers were answered. She said she had done a test as far back as secondary school and it had shown she was AA. You see, it was not popular those days for the church to insist on genotype test. But we got married.
When And How Did You Discover That Your Son Had Sickle Cell?
When she was pregnant for my first child, the hospital did their tests and said she was AS. I didn’t believe that. I asked that it should be re-done and it was still AS. I was very upset. I asked my wife how come, but the look on her face showed me she was as shocked. It was obvious. The first test she did was badly done and gave her a fake result. I had no choice, we had to accept our fate and pray we do not have sickle cell children. Jephthah was born. He was our angel but six months after his birth we found out he was sickle cell.
Jephthah was six months old when we noticed his feet were swollen and he was crying so terribly. We took him to Lagos State Teaching Hospital, Ikeja. A nurse examined the legs, his eyes and asked my wife and I for our genotypes. We told her we were AS. She sighed. Then we saw a doctor who did all the examinations and then asked us same thing about our genotype, then asked for a genotype test to be done. And the results came out that our son was SS. This was what we didn’t want.
How Did It Feel When The Doctor Broke The News To You That He Was SS?
We were devastated. My Mum came to Lagos and we told her. She cried for a whole week. But we were determined to continue to have faith in God. But this was the beginning of the crisis for Jephthah. He had many more crisis situations. Our world almost came crashing; he went through pains from six months till he went home to be with the Lord on February 4, 2017. Jephthah was a warrior, he fought the pains, he did not see himself as a special child, he was always strong even till the day he left us. He told God many times to remove this pains. Just the day before he left us, he told us he could no longer take the pain. He was strong, he was my warrior. He smiles to me in heaven.
Were you ever hopeful that he might survive it?
I wanted that more than anything else, that my Jeph survives it. We had always heard that if sickle cell sufferers live beyond five years, then they would survive. So before he was five, during one of the crisis, I asked God to take him so the pain would not be too much on him and us. It was not good seeing your child go through so much pains and yet you couldn’t do anything. Well Jeph lived beyond five years and beyond 10 years, so I didn’t think we would lose him. In fact, we were preparing to celebrate his 16th as I looked forward to it. When he went in during the crisis that he never came back, I never imagined that anything would happen because he had had worse crisis. But alas, before we knew it, he was gone. So I didn’t know we would lose him that early
Your Wife Had Confirmed To You Before Marriage That She Was AA, How Did You Feel When You Realized She Was Actually AS?
I did not believe it at first, which was why I asked for a second test to be done. After the confirmation, I was very upset, I didn’t know what to do. But I was a young married man and I was expecting a baby. It was one of the most trying periods of my life. After much thought, I decided after this baby, I wouldn’t have another. But God’s will always wins against our wills.
If You Had Known She Was AS Before Marriage, What Would You Have Done?
Most likely we would not have gotten married. It would have been painful but the marriage would never have happened. In fact, we wouldn’t have gone deep in the relationship because we were still friends when I asked her about her genotype.
Would You Blame Your Wife’s Genotype Result Error On The Doctor Or Who?
The error is the error of Nigeria, our health systems. Our case is even better than many cases I have heard. A lady said two labs made the same mistake with her husband, giving him two false reports on his genotype, that he was AA whereas he was AS. Now she has two SS children. Hmmm….our health system is so faulty and unreliable. It is changing lives and killing lives.
Most Singles Marry For Love And Leave Genotype To God, Is There Any Risk In That?
That is what we are all about. I mean the Jephthah Ohiomokhare Sickle Cell Foundation, we don’t want singles to be blinded by love or what they call faith, that all will be well. Wisdom is profitable to direct so the good book says. Wisdom is to check your genotype and marry the right genotype
So Singles, you don’t have to be like us. Check and double check your genotype and marry the right genotype. Ask the question “What is your type?” from your boyfriend and girlfriend. Don’t be blinded by a ‘so called love’ and bring a child to pain.