Last year, Alhaja Asiata Adupe Onikoyi Laguda was celebrated as one of the oldest sickle cell survivors in the world, thankfully she retains that title by making it to this year as she turns 91.
The average lifespan for people living with sickle cell as at 1973 was 14 years, but in modern times, the life expectancy of sickle cell patients can be up to 50 years and over.
To celebrate her 91st birthday, her granddaughter, Moyo Asekun – CEO Pérola Moda, released a life bubbling photo of Alhaja Onikoyi Laguda proving that one can defy medical odds and that sickle cell disease can be conquered!
Born in 1925, into the Onikoyi Chieftaincy family of Lagos as the second of four children, Alhaja Asiata Adupe Onikoyi Laguda, met a world where the average life expectancy of children born with sickle cell disorder was just five years.
Then, there was no immunization, no new-born screening, no hydroxyurea, no inkling that with just water, it could go a long way in dealing with sickle cell disease.
Due to the level of illiteracy at the time of her birth, she was never diagnosed to have had sickle cell; she just had all the symptoms, including terrific pain, which hindered her from going to school till she was 12 years old.
She struggled through primary school, and enrolled at Queens College Lagos, where she met her husband Bolaji Alakija, a doctor, who later had nine other wives alongside Onikoyi.
He treated her for sickle cell, but never really told her much about her condition, as it was the culture in their day. Together they both had 5 children, of which she all gave birth to naturally despite her condition.
A devout Muslim, Onikoyi, has performed the holy pilgrimage to Mecca 13 times and gone for lesser hajj, better known as Umrah, six times. She had observed the annual 30-day Ramadan fast until she was over 88, after she succumbed to pressures from her children to give it up.
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For one who has lived through almost ten decades of sickle cell crisis, Ahaja Onikoyi’s life is proof that there is hope for longer life expectancy for people living with sickle cell anemia.