The COVID-19 pandemic has not been easy on anyone, and it has affected a lot of people in so many ways especially those living with chronic illnesses. COVID-19 pandemic is still upon us and People living with sickle cell have a high risk of infections. Sickle cell warriors are more susceptible to infections than others due to having a weak immune system. This is my experience with Covid-19 while living with Sickle Cell Disease. My experience with Covid-19 was very different in that I was told I had contracted the virus after I had recovered from what I thought was a pneumonia infection.

I am Deborah Chama. A 28 year old sickle cell warrior from Zambia. I was diagnosed with Sickle cell disease SS at 6 months. I am the only with sickle cell disease in my family with one of the my siblings having the trait. I am a Primary School Teacher graduate, a sickle cell advocate and currently working with Sickle cell warriors and caregivers around the world in breaking sickle warriors.

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It was 2020 around late August just when the world and the medical system was coming to terms with covid being declared a pandemic. I wake up to a painful leg crisis which required admission, even though going to the hospital was not safe I just had to go because the pain was excruciating. While in hospital, I suffered respiratory distress and needed oxygen. It was then that I contracted covid but was not diagnosed with it until a week later when I was rushed back to the hospital because I was experiencing difficulties in breathing.
Before being admitted, a COVID-19 test was done on me as it was now a mandatory for everyone visiting the hospital to be tested. They still would not know the results as the tests took 2 weeks to come back. Because of my symptoms which seemed like of pneumonia symptoms, the doctors treated me for pneumonia and was discharged. When I think about my experience now, I remember telling my parents that it was Covid-19, and that my lungs felt different, they felt like I had bricks or piles of cement in them but they kept assuring me that it was pneumonia and not covid.
After a month I went back for my review and it was then I was told I had COVID-19. The disappointing thing is that the hospital didn’t not follow up and contact me or my parents about the results. I had to struggle and heal at home with the help of my sister and brother without the help of the hospital. Looking back at my experience with COVID-19, Some of the damage of it could have being avoided if I got the right treatment and oxygen therapy but what was done was done and even though it affected my heart and lungs and I am still experiencing the effects of it even today I can only thank God for protecting me through it all.

Sickle cell Disease often causes damage to the spleen due to the repeated occurrence of vaso-occlusive in the tissue of the spleen. Because of this people living with Sickle cell disease are more prone to infections caused by viruses and bacteria. Infections are often fatal in people living with sickle cell disease. Now more than ever, it’s important for sickle cell warriors and caregivers to take extra precautions during the COVID-19 pandemic it’s important to try as much as possible to avoid contracting COVID-19 especially as new strains like the Delta variant and Omicron variant emerge.
The following actions help my family to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in our home, as well as other infections.
▪️Wearing a face mask in public indoor spaces.
▪️Maintain at least six feet of distance between yourself and others.
▪️Avoid large gatherings.
▪️Get vaccinated and boosted as soon as you are eligible.
▪️Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
▪️Minimize touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
▪️Stay home when you are sick and only go to the hospital when you can’t manage your crisis at home.
▪️Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
▪️Clean frequently touched objects and surfaces regularly.
▪️Wash your hands often with soap and water. ▪️Sanitize regularly.

A good balanced diet is essential to help carter for the required demand for body to get its needed nutrients to develop properly. While no foods or dietary supplements can prevent or cure COVID-19 infection, a healthy balanced diet rich in vitamins, minerals and proteins can help strengthen the immune system and help find infections. Good nutrition can also reduce the likelihood of developing other health problems.

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Note these tips worked for me, remember to see your Haematologist to get information on how you can manage covid19 as a sickle cell warrior.