When some black people say “It’s because I’m black” in situations where they are experiencing disadvantage because of their race, sometimes it is the truth, but it’s due to our own irresponsibility.
Throughout my entire life I had never experienced any health problems. My mother and father are both alive and healthy with the biggest health scare being a kidney stone which my dad passed within a few days. My sister’s only health issues (two broken arms) have been the result of her own clumsiness and rough play. But I have always been a normal, healthy person up until a few months ago when I saw my quality of health progressively decrease.
I had progressed from having tonsillitis to being diagnosed with Inflammatory Mitosis within a month.
Neither of these conditions are life threatening, but going from living independently in America for a year to having my family doing basic things for me was a painful and drastic change for me. I first noticed my inability to lift my arms over my head or out by my side. Soon after I needed help for simple things such as changing my clothes, tying my shoes, and even sitting up in bed and putting my hair in a hairband. I could feel my body deteriorating to the point where I could not walk up a flight of stairs without taking a break, and even struggled to turn onto my front when lying in bed at night.
I would regard the last few months as some of the hardest I have had to overcome as I found my day-to-day life becoming increasingly limited in its activities (missing out on friend’s birthdays, nights out, driving lessons etc), taking numerous sick days from work, and having to have multiple MRI scans, xrays, EMRs, EMGs, lung function tests, and overcoming my fear of needles through too many blood tests to count. Although I am likely to make a relatively good recovery within the next few years, the experience has completely altered my perspective on a lot of things. My condition is not life threatening or dependent on the donations of others, so I can only imagine the horror of being in a position of discovering an illness with a more serious treatment plan.
Blood and organ donations amongst ethnic minorities within Britain is scarce with incredibly worrying statistics. If you are black or Asian in Britain, you have a 20.5% chance of finding a match from a stranger in comparison to white person who has a 60% chance. Less than 1.5% of all blood and organ donors are from an ethnic minority background. Now you may think that you will find someone in your family if the worst was to occur, however, only a third of people find a match within their families. I found this unnerving, considering that ethnic minorities are more likely to need a transplant than the rest of Britain.
As I am a sickle cell carrier, I had always assumed that hospitals were unable to take any blood from me, which I have recently discovered is untrue as the platelets can be used. But if I am honest with myself, the real reasons why I had never considered a donation was due to an extreme fear of needles, and a lack of care. I had never experienced any serious illness within myself or my immediate family members, so it was not a concern.
But the honest reality is that there is no fairness in illness. Eating your 5 fruit and veg a day, not smoking, and doing some exercise will only lower the likelihood of you contracting PARTICULAR illnesses. The rest is quite random,which is why those statistics scare me. So as I said at the beginning that sometimes the disadvantage you experience is because you’re black, this is one of those situations. So to all my black and Asian readers, please consider donating, because on a real, the odds are against us.
Consequently, in this edition of The Move we are running the BME Blood campaign (#TMDonate) encouraging you all to find your local hospital and donate blood, and visit : https://www.organdonation.nhs.uk/faq/organ-donor-register/ to sign up for an organ donor card.
By Priscilla McGregor-Kerr
Twitter & Insta: @Cillahope_