A Zambian teenager living in South Africa donated 10 baby bassinets to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at UTH.
Mwenda Phiri a grade 11 pupil and founder of the Mwenda Phiri Initiative said he was humbled to see the bassinets in use when nursing staff sent him photos of the bassinets.
“We received these heart warming pictures of some of the baby bassinets that the Mwenda Phiri Initiative donated to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit of the University Teaching Hospital in Lusaka, Zambia . It’s very humbling to see them in use.
My mum told me that when I was born I spent 8 days in this Neonatal unit (also known as D-Block) due to some minor complications. She shared that the doctors and nurses work very hard and often with limited equipment, trying to save babies in the unit, most of whom are in very delicate state . And so I’m very grateful that we were able to donate the 10 baby bassinets to help ease their work and support the mothers and babies.”
A Sickle cell crisis in 2017 led Mwenda Phiri establish the Mwenda Phiri Initiative
Zambian-born, Mwenda Phiri, was diagnosed with sickle cell aneamia at 9 months of age by his late great grandfather, Professor Chifumbe Chintu – a former haematologist and oncologist at the University Teaching Hospital in Lusaka. Were it not for him, Mwenda’s Sickle Cell Anaemia may have remained undiagnosed and killed him.
I have sickle cell anaemia also known as Sickle cell disease. Sickle cell disease is not contagious,” he says.
Before the 2017 crisis, Mwenda last had a major crisis when he was three years old, but since then, his family has been very proactive with his care by ensuring that they work to prevent conditions that trigger any crisis like managing extreme weather, dehydration and infection proactively.
However the Acute Chest syndrome he suffered in 2017 after an appendectomy almost took his life and changed his whole outlook on life.
“I was fortunate to have access to specialist doctors, equipment, medicine and facilities that saved me,” Mwenda says. Getting the excellent treatment and care for sickle cell survivors especially children is a far-fetched dream for many not only in Zambia, but Africa as a whole.
Because of this, Mwenda started the Mwenda Phiri Initiative (MPI) in service of child health to raise awareness and funds for paediatric haematology and ICU in Africa.
MPI raises funds for hospitals and support groups in Zambia as well as bursaries for further studies in haematology for Zambian medical doctors.
“Because of my condition as a sickle cell survivor, I learnt that I am actually among the privileged few whose parents can afford great health care,” he says.
After being discharged from the hospital following the crisis, Mwenda took up the challenge and researched to find out how many children in Zambia and Africa have or do not have the luxury of finding doctors, equipment and sundries required to treat children with sickle cell disease.
About Sickle cell anemia
Sickle cell anemia is an inherited form of anemia — a condition in which there aren’t enough healthy red blood cells to carry adequate oxygen throughout your body.
Normally, your red blood cells are flexible and round, moving easily through your blood vessels. In sickle cell anemia, the red blood cells become rigid and sticky and are shaped like sickles or crescent moons. These irregularly shaped cells can get stuck in small blood vessels, which can slow or block blood flow and oxygen to parts of the body.
The difference between sickle cell anemia and sickle cell trait
A person can have a mixture of normal and faulty hemoglobin in their red blood cells without having sickle cell disease. This condition is called “sickle cell trait.” People with sickle cell trait have enough normal hemoglobin in their red blood cells to prevent the cells from sickling. Sickle cell trait is protective against malaria.
It’s important to remember that people with sickle cell trait do not have sickle cell disease. They also usually do not develop sickle cell disease, except in unusual circumstances. However, people with sickle cell trait can genetically pass the trait to their children. If two people with sickle cell trait have children together, there is a 1 in 4 chance that their children will have sickle cell anemia.
Chances that a child will be born with sickle cell anemia or sickle cell trait
If you and your partner both have sickle cell trait, your child has a 25% chance of being born with sickle cell anemia. If only one of you has sickle cell trait, your child cannot be born with sickle cell anemia, but there is a 50% chance that your child will be born with sickle cell trait.If one parent has sickle cell disease and one parent has sickle cell trait, there is a 50% chance that their children will be born with sickle cell disease.
Symptoms and complications of sickle cell anemia
- Periods of pain that can last a few hours to a few days.
- Blood clots.
- Swelling in hands and feet.
- Joint pain that resembles arthritis.
- Life-threatening infections.
- Anemia (decrease in red blood cells)
As recently as 1973, the average lifespan for people with sickle cell anemia was only 14 years. Today in places with good health care, life expectancy for these patients is 50 years and beyond .