Onikoyi-Laguda: 90 Years With Sickle Cell
Alhaja Asiata Aduke Onikoyi-Laguda is about the oldest person with sickle cell anaemia in the world. She was born in Lagos, Western Nigeria 1st November 1925, the second of four children.
Alhaja Onikoyi-Laguda is a lonely woman. Virtually all her playmates and peers are gone. And, save for one, all her siblings are gone too. She never knew her elder brother, who passed away a year before she was born. With hindsight, she says her brother probably was felled by sickle cell anaemia.
Alhaja Onikoyi-Laguda’s only surviving sister is without SCD and, at 80 years, ten years younger. Senescence had long overtaken her. When her elder sister visits, she regards her with complete indifference as one would a total stranger. Onikoyi-Laguda’s baby sister has Alzheimer’s Disease and lives in a state of suspended animation.
Nowadays Onikoyi-Laguda visits her sister less and less, because she comes away feeling very sad. While they grew up, Onikoyi-Laguda was always the one, during moments of excruciating SCD pain crises, to beg God to take her life.
Past her 40th or 45th birthday, SCD turned a favourable mien on its victim. Although married to a much older man, a medical doctor, who gave her pills to take every day, Onikoyi-Laguda did not know she had sickle cell anaemia until after she had given birth to all her six children – all normal delivery, a near-miracle for a woman with SCD.
‘I met my late husband, Dr. Bolaji Alakija, while in secondary school at Queens College, Lagos,’ recalls Onikoyi-Laguda.
Dr. Alakija was her doctor and became her husband at an age when society did not frown much on caregiver-patient relationships. In all, the Casanova had 10 wives and 27 children.
Six children and then the mother knew the name of the illness that had vexed her all her life. After Dr. Alakija passed away, Onikoyi remarried. Her second husband, Alhaji Mohammed Alade Akeeb Laguda, died in 2002 at the age of 76. He would have been 89 this year, months younger than his wife. Miscarriage after miscarriage ensured she never bore him a child.