At 90, Asiata Onikoyi-Laguda is believed to be the oldest person with sickle cell disease in the world. She was born in November 1925, the same year as Margaret Thatcher, first female British prime minister and Malcolm X, the African American civil rights activist. At that time, the average life expectancy of children born with sickle cell disorder was just five years, but she has defied the odds to live up to 90.
Due to the high level of illiteracy at the time of her birth, she was never diagnosed with sickle cell. She endured years of pain, which kept her away from school till she was 12 years old. Her pain was so severe and frequent that she would beg God to let her die. After primary school, she enrolled at Queens College Lagos, where she met her husband Bolaji Alakija, who later became a doctor.
She did not know she had the sickle cell disease until after she had given birth to five of her six children. Her husband, Dr Alakija, gave her pills including folic acid to take every day, but kept the nature of her illness away from her for a long time
Dr Alakija had 10 wives and 27 children, when he died, she married Alhaji Laguda, but she never had a child with her second husband. She is the second of four children born from AbdulYekeen Ishola Onikoyi, a prince of the Onikoyi ruling house, and Aishat Alake Onikoyi from Kudeti, Ibadan. In spite of her illness, she has outlived her parents, husbands and siblings except one.
According to SCD Journal, in spite of the disease:
– She is under no dietary restrictions whatsoever: eats salt, eggs, meat, sugar, fried food, etc as she likes
– Her blood pressure hovering around 160/90
– She has performed the holy pilgrimage to Mecca 13 times and Umrah half a dozen times
– She observed the annual 30-day Ramadhan fast until she was over 88 and pressured to discontinue by her children
– She reads Bible, Quran everyday with glasses but moves around without glasses
– She takes public transport in super-c,haotic Lagos
– She gave birth to six children, all by normal delivery. When only son passed away in August 2014 aged 59, she accepted the will of Allah but prayed, “Please let the rest of the children you gave me outlive me.”