Sickle Cell Disease (SCD) ... Remembering Alice and Sylvia

by: Dr. Roopi - Published Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Sir Sidney Poitier directed and starred in a movie ‘A Warm December’ several years ago to bring to the public’s attention and educate black people especially about Sickle Cell Disease, a condition found predominately in black folks. Since the Poitier family has roots in Cat Island, Turks and Caicos, and Haiti I thought it was only fitting as a medical journalist to “UNLEASH” that on you, our foundation of readers, be reminded.



To personalize sickle cell disease, Alice Ferguson was my next door neighbor in Nassau, through the Alley (Moss Alley) opposite St. Agnes Anglican Church (Cathedral). Others in the August Neighborhood were Nurse Mason, who initially inspired me to take up this ‘Healer Profession.’ Glass from Bimini, Anthony Gibson (one of the progeny of my music teacher Timothy Gibson who wrote our National Anthem) and my very first puppy love the Dazzling Amorous Anita Black.

Alice had roots in the Turks and Caicos, and more significantly left her home at the tender age of just 11, to educate me and make me the doctor I am today.

Well “Ms Alice” as we fondly called her always had a uhealing ulcer on her leg, that despite all the wisdom of Nurse Mason, and the knowledge of Dr. C.R. Walker MD, just down the street, refused to heal – neither by traditional scientific methods, or ancient Bahamian bush and alternative medicines. Later I would find, after her sudden and tragic early demise - Alice had sickle cell disease.



Sickle Cell Disease is common in black people and is estimated that 11 percent of the population in The Bahamas, Turks and Caicos are affected. 

When I went to practice and study for two years in East Africa, I was made the consultant and medical officer in charge of Sickle Cell Clinics and there we saw a great preponderance of Sickle Cell C Disease over Sickle Cell S.




Sister Sylvia Davis was an original member of the Sickle Cell Committee of The Bahamas  formed by Dr. Roopi at the then Antoni Clinic in 1973. For that original work in sickle cell disease, Dr. Roopi was given the Kiwani’s Man of the Year Award and Jacob Cooper, Gwen Hamilton Claude, Eddie Claude and Sister Sylvia Davis of the Rand Memorial Hospital pioneered the early work. Dr. Percival McNeil, a Paediatrician from Nassau was then brought on board and subsequently Dr. Patrick Roberts in the 1980s. 

Sister Sylvia Davis yeoman’s work in maintaining the committee when Dr. Roopi went to work in Tanzania for a number of years in East Africa. Virtually all school children at that time were tested due to the generous donation of Summa Corporation (Howard Hues) and Mrs. Dorothy Rand of Sperry Rand Corporation. Sister Davis, unfortunately, developed Alzheimer’s and passed away very quietly in Grand Bahama. 



Other than Pneumococal Pneumonia and abnormal crises and arthritis, sickle cell leg  ulcers are the main medical problem of the sickle cell patient. These leg ulcers are present from childhood and until recently were considered unhealing in most cases. However, the following modes of treatment have given the medical profession great advances in wound care. 



The Hyperbaric Oxygen Chamber has recently made it possible for us to successfully treat the leg ulcers of sickle cell disease. However, it is expensive, time consuming, and requires great patience on the part of the sickle cell person especially if they are claustrophobic. 

Ozone. I learned about the use of ozone after some studies in Europe; and it has been a miraculous mode of treatment in the healing of chronic leg wounds in the sickle cell disease. 



Lipotransfer has most recently been developed as a stem cell and it has almost miraculously assisted us in the medical profession in shortening the time it takes to heal the chronic leg ulcer wounds especially in sickle cell disease. An older method called pinch grafting has been modified recently and again assists the physician in healing chronic leg ulcers.



During the sickle cell month of September, we are proud to say that one of the graduates of the University of the West Indies (my alma mater) was recently given international acclaim for her original work in the treatment of patients with sickle cell disease. Therefore the role of the Sickle Cell Committee and the Sickle Cell Association newly revived in Nassau are in a wonderful position of being able to bring to the forefront new and improved treatments for the sickle cell patient. 


Published Tuesday, September 20, 2016

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