Book: The story of my triumph over sickle cell pains
Author: Shehu Olaitan Mohammed
Reviewer: Taiwo Adeniyi
Malam Shehu Olaitan Mohammed did the difficult task of telling a sad story in a pleasing and comforting manner. As difficult as the task looks, he made it endearing and soothing to his readers. You cannot but imagine the burden he bore during his childhood as a ‘sickler’
Having to live to see the death of his brothers and the agony of his parents in their untiring fruitless pursuit for a cure, Malam Mohammed was faced with the difficult task of putting battle with death, disappointment and despair in a 279-page book.
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Though the book battles myths and misleading information on sickle cell, the tone shows the book is only the tip of the iceberg of what Malam Mohammed had to experience in his battle with sickle cell. His battle with the deadly disease made him quite the best author of the book as he provided interesting and revealing firsthand information about the sickness.
Malam Mohammed documented his trials, travails and triumphs over what has led to the death of millions of Nigerians. The high number of people still dying from sickle cell is alarming, and more troublesome is the number of children living with the sickness. Should this book be turned into a movie, it would make a good watch. One that will be an emotional rollercoaster due to shocking revelations and succinct explanations on the plights of people living with sickle cell in Nigeria.
Malam Mohammed let it all out in this book, including his lowest moments during his unending fights with the ailment. This book resonates with most people as some Nigerians have someone or know people battling with sickle cell. It is, however, a herculean task understanding how they feel during one of their crises. Relatives and friends are usually hapless seeing them whine in pains while tears uncontrollably fall from their eyes. What is more troubling is knowing that the end of a crisis does not stop another from happening, it only gives time to prepare (if one can) for the next health crisis.
During my days at Methodist High School Arigbajo, Ogun State, as a boarder, one of my school children’ had sickle cell. The mother had entrusted him into my care as her other eyes in the hostel. No matter how hard I tried to understand his pains, and how careful he also tried to explain his feelings, I was unable to adequately fathom why someone had to go through such excruciating pains. One fateful afternoon, the pain resurfaced, he was taken to a government hospital and never returned to the hostel. He lost the battle while in Junior Secondary School. It was a sad day in the hostel. I still remember his face and his meticulous handling of his property in the boys’ hostel. He was a devoted Muslim and easy-going. I ensured the senior students stay clear of him in the hostel but then I could not stop the sickness from taking him as it took Malam Mohammed’s brothers. Then a teenager, I discovered I am AS and when I got of age, genotype was my first screening while trying to choose a partner.
So, when I got the news of the book presentation, I was ecstatic and I got a copy, tucked it in my drawers in the office while awaiting the right moment to pounce on it. A call from Malam Mohammed however fast-tracked the reading as he also sent me a copy.
The 24-chapter book is detailed and comprehensive, focusing on his childhood in Kaduna and journey through life. He took readers on a trip with a young Mohammed who was vibrant and active until the coming of the sickness while he was in primary school. The journey revealed several things about his struggle with the sickness and his determination to succeed.
The 24-chapter book is quite revealing as he touched almost every aspect of his life including his proud and not-so-proud moments. His resolve to taking responsibility stood out about his lifestyle. One cannot but commend his photographic representations of events that happened decades ago. His recollection of his primary, secondary schools’ days were outstanding. But more commendable was his ability to remember names and events during his days as an undergraduate. Such vivid recollection adds faces and facts to the book, differentiating it from a fiction.
Malam Mohammed helps readers to put some faces to the names with some photographs contained in the book though there are some punctuation errors with the captions.
His use of Yoruba language in some parts of the book gave perspective of his family background to the book while love, sacrifice, devotion of God, disappointment, commitment and dedication are pronounced in his life. The foreword by the co-founder and former managing director of Daily Trust newspaper, Isiaq Ajibola and preface by a Professor and Consultant Haematologist, Haematology and Immunology Department, Faculty of Basic Medical Sciences, Obafemi Awolowo Univeristy Ilfe-Ife, Osun State, Muheez A. Durosinmi, laid a good foundation for Malam Mohammed’s revelations to thrive.
Also, the testimonies of his relatives, friends, colleagues and care givers at the end left readers with several things to ponder.
There are however pockets of punctuation errors as seen on pages 41, 43, 47, 48, and 117. Though it could be the printer’s devil but some errors affected the free flow of the book.
Beyond that, Malam Mohammed with his book has helped Nigerians in so many ways. While those without the ailment could understand, through his eyes, the pains, plights of people living with sickle cell, people with the sickness can learn from his doggedness that it is not a death sentence.
If he could rise to the top of his career and did better than millions of people without the sickness, then ‘sicklers’ should be encouraged by his triumphs and learn from his trials, especially in managing the sickness.