We are so honoured to shine the spotlight on & interview incredible Warrior Mr John Akhirebhu. At age 51 he has Overcome many challenges that he faced including loosing his Kidney, through his faith in God & support from his Father. His goal is to help support young people struggling with sickle cell anaemia and other
My name is John Akhirebhu, born and raised in Benin City, Edo State Nigeria. I was raised with six other siblings by my father and later step mother joined forces.
I, attended primary, secondary and tertiary education; though my intention was to have BA in Public Administration but due to recurrent crises, I was only able to completed Diploma certificate.
My first episode of sickle cell crises, was at age 13, after playing football with my friends in a local football field. The pain, I felt was like no other; I told my father about my ordeal when he returned from work. My father sat me down, he told me gently and in a reassuring way that I was born with a hereditary condition called Sickle Cell Anaemia and that it was the cause of my pain; Sadly, it became a recurrent experience.
My father, was indeed my hero during the 80s and 90s, as I constantly struggle with sickle pain. Every fortnight, snowballed into months and years with excruciating pains.
This really took its toll, but I had a father who sometimes became frustrated as the ordeal lingered all through my secondary as well as in my university days in Nigeria.
Managing my sickle cell condition, was immensely influenced by my father; who I would wake up four times all through the night till the break of dawn massaging my crises with a piece of towel and a really hot water and afterwards, rubbing the affected areas with the hottest of all balm. So, in my early days as a sufferer, I learnt from my father that your first approach in tackling sickle cell crises and relieving yourself from the excruciating pains of sickle cell crises; is the use of hot water and hot balm. This approach helps alleviate the pain by easing the blockage in our blood vessel. However, because the pains are so severe, I tend to opt for quick fix; mounting pressure on my father to take me to the doctor for a stronger pain killer. These pain killers usually comes in IV form, which doctor will warn then is only suitable for people with cardiac or more life threatening incidence; but the hot water and balm and family support really impacted on managing my pains.
In addition to the above, my father ensured that we all go to Sunday service with him; we were born and raised Catholic you see, so for everyone in my family, church and daily devotion was a must. This for me became another source of succour and hope for a better future during my crises. Then there is community support, which is never lacking in Nigeria and West Africa as a whole.
Confidence, sickle cell have a way of striping you off any confidence and self esteem you may have; education was what also suffered considerably in my life so making new friends like my childhood friends do was a huge challenge. On top of that, I just could not leave or travel far from my father because no one could help me manage my crises the way my father would. Over time, as you grow older, you begin to take on some of the challenges; though sometime you get burnt but you master what I use to see my father do for me to help with the pain. The confidence and self esteem, comes along, not as quick as you would want but they happen over time.
Sickle Cell Anaemia, is not adequately talked about here and so people especially non sufferers, have little or no knowledge at all about the condition in the West; these are due to some reasons, but I give two in my opinion:
Among the African communities and the general society, this makes even sufferers a bit shy or evasive about their condition, when it comes to sharing with non sufferers; so this stifle knowledge or exposure.
Because it's predominantly people from African descent and few other areas in Asia minor, it dose not attract the kind of headlines Cancer, Dementia etc gets.
So, at the end of the day, people know more and evolve the tendency to support these latter conditions than the former.
For the young people out there with sickle cell conditions, I know it can be very difficult to understand get ones head around. But if you could just hold on and remain hopeful and resilient, the giver of life, our sovereign God knows what you're going through as He is in it with you; see 2 Corinthians 3 - 4 and Proverbs 13:12. I encourage you today because I had very challenging experience with the condition; mine took my kidney from me and so I had to be placed on a waiting list for kidney transplant. Though everyone who knew me then said " John, you are going to wait for a long time to get transplant", but the waiting became just 2 years and 10 months; God through His son Jesus Christ knew what I was going through and intervened when I Called. So, don't give up and don't stop hopping; you'll be restored and then do all you have always wanted to do with your life.
My future goals are simply to retrain and be better equipped and empowered, so I can help support young people struggling with sickle cell anaemia and any other medical conditions.