Fifty years ago, neighbors and good friends Joyce Yona and Walter Nyblade played with pet rabbits at Kititmu, about three miles from Singida [Tanganyika] Lutheran Church. (Tanganyika was renamed Tanzania in 1964.)
Joyce's father, Lutheran pastor Manase Yona, served as president of the Lutheran Church of Central Tanganyika. Walter's parents, Orville and June Nyblade, were missionaries in Tanzania from 1955 to 1992. Today the Nyblades are retired and living in Gettysburg, Pa.
This photo captures one of many happy moments, yet challenges lay ahead for both children. Walter, the oldest of six children, had surgery for a brain tumor about three years after this photo was taken. Today he lives near his parents in Pennsylvania. He is an active church member and enjoys finding ways to help people who are learning how to live with various disabilities.
Joyce had sickle cell anemia (a recessive genetic disorder in which red blood cells are shaped like crescents instead of discs) and died in her 20s. In those days, Sir John Dacie, author of The Haemolytic Anaemias (Grune & Stratton, 1960), wrote that "relatively few patients reach adult life, even when the standard of medical care is high."
More about sickle cell disease:
There is still no cure for this disease, but scientists have some hope in new stem cell research (Read "Correcting Sickle Cell Disease With Stem Cells" in Science Daily). Today's doctors often use such cost-effective treatments as good nutrition, antibiotics, rest and folic acid supplements.
While in the U.S., life expectancy has improved significantly, the Sickle Cell Foundation of Tanzania reports that many children on the African continent still die from lack of treatment (the majority of the world's 300,000 children born each year with this disease live in Africa). According to the foundation, 5 percent of infant mortality in Tanzania may be attributed to sickle cell disease.
Here's a fact that may interest supporters of the ELCA Malaria Campaign: Although people born with sickle cell disease (both parents were carriers) lack anti-malarial protection, carriers of the genetic trait are partially protected against malaria. According to the World Health Organization, "this may explain why [the sickle cell trait] has been maintained at such high prevalence levels in tropical Africa." (Read "Sickle cell disease prevention and control" at the World Health Organization website.)
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