He was born on June 28, 2001, weighing 2.8 kg, and by the time he was six months old, he was diagnosed with the sickle cell anemia. From then, the struggle for survival began. And though for 15 years and eight months, he was permanently going in and out of the hospital, he was determined to fight the illness to a standstill.
However, on February 4, 2017, he finally succumbed to the cold hands of death after sadly telling his mother he could no longer bear the pain.
That is the story of Jephthah Aireankhue Setonji Ivan Ohiomokhare, one of the many Nigerian children, who have had to contend with the pains associated with sickle-cell anemia.
Jeph, as fondly called by her mother, was different from other sickle cell sufferers. Unlike the usual lean physical frame, weak bones and sometimes protruding stomach, Jephthah was stronger than usual. He could engage his mates in arms wrestling, walk on his arms, lift weight and would not tolerate being exempted from endurance trek and such arduous physical tasks by the school.
He also talked freely about his condition and was never ashamed of it.
And it was only his frequent absence from classes due to constant crises that gave him away as a sickle cell sufferer, as his physical features indicated otherwise.
He was said to have told his parents once that he was glad he was the one with the condition in the family, as he wasn’t sure if his siblings would have been able to withstand the excruciating pain. But along the line, he gave up the fight, as he bluntly told his mother few hours before breathing: “Mama, I can no longer deal with the pain.”
At a valedictory service in his honor in Abuja recently, those who had had cause to interact with him painted glowing memories of their encounter. He meant different things to different people.
While to some, he was a hero, to others, he was a mentor.
Some people said he was an adviser and a role model to others. All these attributes came from his classmates and those older than him, and whom he had had contact with within three years.
Students of The Nigerian Army Officers’ Wives Association (NAOWA) College Abuja, where Jephthah was a student, narrated how he impacted their lives in the few years they were together.
Gold Hambolu, Chidera Okorie and Tamara-Kuru Agama are some Of Jephthah’s close associates and classmates, who spoke glowingly about him. To them, there can never be another of his type.
The parents of their hero, Emmanuel and Senami Ohiomokhare, both staff of the Africa Independent Television (AIT), announced a foundation in memory of their son at the valedictory service.
The Jephthah Ohiomokhare Foundation will provide support for children suffering from the sickle cell anemia disease. It will also channel research into discovering whether, indeed, herbs can be of help in the treatment of the disease.
The foundation will also engage in an annual essay writing competition among teenagers with the focus on sickle cell anemia.
The official launch of the foundation will be done on Jeph’s birthday.
His father said the foundation is basically to begin a research and follow up on those who are into herbal medicine and see whether there can be a possible cure for sickle cell, adding that Nigeria needs a cure for sickle cell.
The foundation will also explore the ability to write, as Jephthah loved writing. So, this will birth a start-up of a writing competition for teens aged 13 and 17. The idea, he said, is to encourage youth to freely discuss the topic in their day-to-day interactions.
The formal launch of the foundation is slated for June 28, when Jephthah would have been 16.
He said: “The core of the foundation will be to reach out to parents, who are struggling with children living with sickle cell anemia. We intend to investigate perceived cure with the help of partners, while also drawing government’s attention to such claims.
“Because we have come to understand that Nigerians do not like to read, particularly lengthy text, we hope to make available legible, simple and easy to digest write-ups that will encourage young people to begin to make sickle cell anemia a point of conversation at a first or even second meeting.
“By this, I mean after the initial hellos and exchange of phone numbers, people should become so aware that they are comfortable by their third or fourth meeting to ask: “What’s your genotype?” Cures may be available, but isn’t it said that prevention is better than cure? No child should have to live with the pains of sickle cell anemia, talk less of dying from it.”
This article was first published here. To continue reading the full article about Jeph and the Jephthah Ohiomokhare foundation, click here.
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