In rural areas, most affected individuals come from lower socio-economic strata and are less literate. Sickle cell is the disease of red blood cells, in this disease; iron deposition takes place in the joints which causes pain. A patient may also experience breathlessness.
Even today, many people living in tribal areas are unaware of the disease and they are diagnosed only during health screening camps.
Dr Shrikhande is the former dean of Indira Gandhi Government Medical College and Hospital (IGGMC), Nagpur . She has helped shine a light upon the condition in Nagpur and rural areas in the district. Dr Shrikhande and her NGO have greatly contributed to raise awareness on this blood disorder.
While speaking about the moment that triggered her to take up this initiative, Dr Shrikhande said, “When I was working at the Indira Gandhi Hospital, through the people working in the laboratory, I found out that there are many cases of people affected with sickle cell disease. In order to raise awareness about it, I started to work for this cause in the year 1998. I sent a proposal to the government in relation with this.”
She added, “I also provided funds for sickle cell patients in three government-run medical colleges in the state. We also trained paramedical staff, health official, ASHA workers to screen and identify patients with sickle cell. To promote more awareness about this disease, in 2003, I began to organise a sickle cell week. From 2003, this week is observed every year now. It is marked from February 28 to March 06, each year.”
During this week they organise road show, street plays, workshops, poster making, etc. to spread awareness at times they are even invited to speak on TV programmes.
In the year 2005, she started the NGO called the Sickle Cell Association of Nagpur for raising awareness about the disease. Dr Shrikhande has ceaselessly worked to inform society about sickle cell disease.
Through this NGO, many initiatives have been taken to detect sickle cell. Pregnant women and newborn babies are screened for the disease. They also inform them about government schemes which that they can avail of.
Dr Shrikhande stated that it is important for sickle cell patients to come forward themselves to help in spreading awareness about the disease.
In the screening held for newborns in the month of October, Dr Shrikhande’s NGO found seven children who were diagnosed with the sickle cell disease. Now, they will do the follow-ups and mark each clinical event and also find out what kind of infections they can be susceptible to.
And through this testing, Dr Shrikhande wants to find out whether sickle cell is mild or severe in India.
They also counsel sickle cell affected patients with the help of this NGO. They have visited 63 colleges across Maharashtra. And found 20 to 25 kids who had sickle cell disease.
Dr Shrikhande stated that people have to hide their disease due to society and societal pressure. I have found this especially among girls, as parents feel that it could be a hindrance for marriage proposals. I felt that their family try to hide it, but it is nothing to be afraid or ashamed about.
Dr Shrikhande stated that, “Even though horoscopes might not match, it is important to match blood reports of the man and woman. It is important to do sickle cell screening.”