As for second dates, it was hard to top a show at Kew Gardens: amazing floral display, beautiful grounds, some ice cream in great company – it was a dream.
Before it was over, I was already planning appointments three and four; but nothing could slow me down like the lyrics that followed a few days later from my love (then) and wife (now). “Do you know if you have sickle cell signs?”
Did we branch out into a deep philosophical conversation?
Was this an instructive moment or was it a shocking revelation?
I replied “no why?” caught between confusion and curiosity as to what this would mean for date three.
Lauren explained that she is a sickle cell carrier and wanted to make sure the person she was dating long term didn’t also have the recessive sickle cell gene.
As a black man, I knew sickle cells all too well.
The genetic disease, which predominantly affects people in Africa and the Caribbean – sickening their blood cells, causing episodes of excruciating pain known as “crisis” – is an issue that is difficult to avoid in our communities.
But I had never met anyone who wore the sickle cell trait; meaning that if they had children with someone else with the trait, that child would have a 25 percent chance of having a full-blown sickle cell.
The gap in my knowledge of 9th grade science was only overshadowed by the fact that our third date would probably be at an NHS clinic where I would have my blood drawn if I had any hopes of progress. I’ve been asked about the basics of my dating life: flowers, trips, nice dinners — that sort of thing — but my genotype for a genetic disease was a first. We had a drink, then an educational chat about cup squares, and an update on when I last saw my red book.
Unwilling to end things, after fireworks went off in Kew Gardens — and I agreed we didn’t want the devastating pain of sickle cell disease for future children — I called my GP and told him I need a blood test.
The receptionist asked if I was ill or if a doctor had requested my blood work, but I simply explained that I really liked this girl and I needed to find out if I had sickle cell disease to decide if we could move on.
God bless the NHS: They wouldn’t stand in the way of love – I was booked for a test in less than two weeks.
In the end the results came back – I wasn’t a carrier. We got married a few years later and had our first child earlier this year.
For all I knew about sickle cell, I hadn’t thought of bringing it up as a dating topic in a million years—it just didn’t really occur to me.
It wasn’t until I spoke to London rapper and sickle cell activist A Star, who has the condition, that I understood the difficulty of coping with the condition.
He is now happily married with children, but before he got to that point he insisted on discussing sickle cell early in relationships and had ended things in the past when the other person was a carrier.
He told me he wouldn’t wish the pain of sickle cell disease on his worst enemy – pain that got him hospitalized as a child.
As part of Sickle Cell Awareness Month, which ends today, I hope others are more aware than I am of the impact sickle cells have on relationships and families.
It’s not the hottest dating chat, but talking early, discussing options, and getting medical advice can save a world of pain later and prepare couples for what could be.
Major strides have been made with this year’s NHS launch of crizanlizumab – a new ‘life-saving’ drug that may reduce chronic pain and emergency visits for sickle cell sufferers – but more needs to be done to make it more readily available as treatment options and raise awareness of the condition .
In addition, blood donation is extremely important, especially for black donors whose blood types are more a match for needy patients of similar backgrounds.
https://www.independent.ie/news/my-wife-is-a-sickle-cell-carrier-she-was-ready-to-end-things-after-the-second-date-if-i-was-too-42045551.html My wife is a sickle cell carrier – she was willing to end things after the second date if I was too