‘Little did she know it was her heavenly rest’

SHE had been diagnosed with sickle cell disease from an early age, but when 35-year-old Felicia “Sheena” Dickenson was admitted to the St Ann’s Bay Hospital, relatives never expected that the two weeks she spent at the institution would be her last, having battled the disease fro so many years.

Dickenson, an administrative worker at Marcus Garvey High School in St Ann, died last Thursday night.

Sonya-Marie Dickenson, her younger sister, told the Jamaica Observer that the hospital called the family on Thursday night to come in. She said the family, unfortunately, suspected that it would’ve been unfavourable news.

“It is really hard time for us. It shocked both sides of the family and friends. I saw my dad break down for the first time. I never saw him cry before. My mom said she was bracing for anything because these are really some uncertain times. Everybody was plunged into mourning, as we thought she’d come back around as she always do after a sickle cell episode. But she didn’t,” Sonya-Marie said.

The Priory, St Ann resident recalled the last conversation her sister had with their mother the same night she passed.

“She said she was tired while on the phone with my mom the Thursday night. My mom told her to get some rest and she’ll feel better. Little did she know it was her heavenly rest. As we got the call later on in the night to come in to the hospital, there and then we knew that was it.”

Sickle cell disease is an inherited red blood cell disorder, in which there aren’t enough healthy red blood cells to carry oxygen throughout your body. According to the Ministry of Health and Wellness (MOHW), the disease is a common genetic disorder in Jamaica, and one in every 150 persons has the disease.

Further, one in every 10 persons has the trait. This means that persons can have the trait and do not have any symptoms.

Sonya-Marie said her sister was diagnosed as an infant, after having three “episodes” in one day.

“She was diagnosed when she was one-year-old going on to two years old. My mom said it was after she fell ill three times in one day that she was diagnosed [with sickle cell disease]. She took her to the doctor, and she went home, and she had to take her to the hospital again. Then again in the night, she had to take her back to the hospital.

“My dad said he remembered her crying a lot when she was a baby. My mom said she didn’t know much about sickle cell back then, as we know now through technology. However, it was never a big hamper in her life until adolescence, as she didn’t have any major flare-up, just some minor ones that didn’t need hospitalisation.”

Sonya-Marie, who gave birth to her first child last August, remembers her sister as loving and caring. A nod to her big sister, she gave her daughter the same name.

“When I got her a niece, she was ecstatic and I ended up naming her after her, which made her even happier. Now she’s gone and never got the chance to comb her hair,” she related, noting that her sister had no children of her own because of complications with sickle cell. “She had no children, as the sickle cell always causes a problem.”

“We had our ups and downs which most siblings do. She was my big sister so I’ll always troll her. Most times she would say I shouldn’t stick on her. But I did it regardless because she was my sister. She was my only sibling growing up, but we had four cousins and we all grew like brothers and sisters. I later gained an adopted sister through my father’s marriage, which I’m happy I did.”

Added Sonya-Marie: “When I was smaller, I usually have this doll that I’m afraid of. Sometimes my cousin use to run after me with it and I would cry. I remember her (sister) getting mad at them and cussing them to stop because I was afraid of it. Another [memory] is when we went to England in summer 2001 for our uncle’s wedding along with my dad. It was such a happy time for us, travelling on a plane and seeing a new country for the first time.”


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