Mary Adeturinmo was diagnosed with sickle cell disease before she was born. It was no great surprise to her family because both her mum and her sisters have the condition, and her dad carries the trait.
Mary recalls her earliest memory of living with the condition: “When I was about five years old, I remember my mum tirelessly rubbing my joints to alleviate the chronic pain I was in, but on this occasion she had to call an ambulance because the pain was so bad. When the ambulance arrived, the medical technicians took over.”
Mary remembers how she used to feel nauseous and would often throw up during P.E. lessons. She explains that even though the physical effects of living with sickle cell have always been difficult, as she got older, she began to struggle more with the psychological effects. She says:
“No matter what I do in life, I set myself standards that I like to try and achieve, but living with sickle cell meant that I couldn’t meet those standards, which I found hard."
Mary studied architecture at the University of Kent in Canterbury and although she got through her first year fairly easily, she found her health really affected her studies in her second year. She explains:
“In my second year of university, I was in and out of hospital every term to manage my sickle cell condition. In fact, it got so bad, my tutor advised that I should probably consider deferring my course.
“To be honest, when I was at my lowest ebb, I was even too tired to just chill out with my uni mates.”
Mary experienced her first sickle cell crisis when she was 19, and since then she has had a crisis almost every month. Mary explains: “A sickle cell crisis and the chronic pain experienced with sickle cell can play out a weird war with each other. So, the most effective treatment for me was to have regular blood exchanges.”
As someone who relies on regular donations, Mary says: “I also want to raise awareness amongst the black community of how the best treatment for me is blood ideally from someone with a similar ethnic heritage. I have seen the adverse effect of blood that isn’t the ideal match and I think that if people were aware of these issues, they would be more inclined to try and help.
Despite the challenge of living with her condition, Mary still managed to complete her degree. She says that coming from a family of sickle cell sufferers, the emotional support she receives is amazing because her family know exactly what she is going through. However, it can be very difficult in practical terms if they are all ill at the same time.
“I think giving blood is a completely selfless act because you are doing something that in most cases, will benefit a complete stranger. I am so thankful to anybody who has ever donated blood that I have been treated with.”
“You never know when you or a member of your family might need blood, so it’s really important that if you are able to give blood, you should."