Monday, March 28

For life.

Have you ever suddenly got out of a seat after sitting for a prolonged time - and felt the world around you spin, as you try to regain your balance? Well, I have. It's been almost a year since I went for my blood test and discovered that I carried the Alpha Thalassemia trait.

Alpha thalassemia: A blood disorder, thalassemia is not one disease but rather a group of disorders that have a single feature in common: they all have a genetic defect in the production of haemoglobin, the protein that enables red blood cells to carry oxygen. The alpha thalassemias are caused by a decrease in production of alpha globin chains due to a deletion or mutation of one or more of the four alpha globin genes located on chromosome 16.

Basically it's just a condition in which the blood lacks haemoglobin. Lucky for me I didn't have the disease. Only the trait. Thus I'm only a carrier.

I felt that something was wrong with me about two years back when I was in secondary school. In preparation for the National Annual Fitness Award, or NAFA test, we often had to run rounds around the perimeter of the school compound. It was these 2.4 kilometre runs that I felt awkwardly exhausted, lacking stamina to run a certain distance without stopping. My heart raced like a bullet train even hours after I had completed the run. I had apparently undergone "asphyxiation", quite similar to suffocation, according to my doctor, because there was too much carbon dioxide in my lungs (thus a shortage of oxygen and the rapid breathing to expel the carbon dioxide).

Another instance where I was late for school, I had to stand/line up at the canteen as part of the late-coming punishment. Fatigued as I was because I had rushed from home a few hundred metres away with a heavy bag, I suddenly felt the world around me "white out" as I struggled to regain my conscious vision (apparently a lack of oxygen to the brain).

I had a 50-50 chance to get alpha thalassemia when I was still a foetus, as the image below shows.

Thalassemia is a genetic disease. This means that a person can only get Thalassemia disease or trait by inheriting the genes for Thalassemia from their parents. Genes determine what we look like, such as hair colour, and are also responsible for many diseases. Inheritance of Thalassemia happens purely by chance – there is nothing that parents do, or do not do, that will cause their child to inherit Thalassemia. Thalassemia is never 'caught' by another person in the way that a cold or flu is transmitted. People with Thalassemia disease and trait are born with it.

And thus my doctor orders me to take a 5 mg tablet of folic acid (Vitamin B9) every morning after breakfast - LONG-TERM. It's a supplement to counteract any derogatory effects the trait may cause to my body - not medicine. I don't want to be labelled SICK FOR LIFE. I'm also advised to limit my intake of foods high in iron content, as my blood already has a lot of iron in it.

When I enroll for National Service in a few years' time - I have to show the officers my blood test results - just in case they put me on some demanding Commando course or something.

My prospective wife and I will also have to go for check-ups first to see whether we're "compatible" - in a sense that because if both of us carry the Alpha Thalassemia trait, there's a chance that our baby will have Down Syndrome. Depressing as it sounds, we have to take the necessary measures/precautions.

A 5 mg tablet every day? That is so troublesome - now don't complain 'cos there're many other people out there who take LOADS MORE pills than you every day. More than ONCE a day.

Very well then. Cheers to folic acid! For life.


Blogger baz said...

thanks! now it explains why i couldnt keep up with my squad mates at hta (c4/06)....

12:33 am, July 29, 2010  

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