Professional rugby player and Sickle cell disease campaigner
I was raised in East London, to parents who pretty much lived in fear. Fear of a disease that could take their children’s lives at any time.
Sickle cell disease (SCD) is one of the most common genetic causes of illness and death in the world. A disease that would have your parents try to wrap you in cotton wool for the fear you might have a ‘crisis’ and ultimately, die.
Sport was not an option and probably seen as a death wish.
The turning point in my life was having a role model who believed in me. My PE teacher, Andy Hurst, saw a talent in me and encouraged me to try out for his old rugby league club, The London Skolars.
I became a sportsman, played for the Skolars and then the Broncos, but I kept this as far away from my mother as possible as she had lost one child already.
What is sickle cell disease (SCD)?
Sickle cell disease means you can’t take in enough oxygen. It means struggling with fitness levels, fatigue, pain and crisis.
Today, I am the only sufferer to have played rugby in the world, so I decided to be an ‘Andy Hurst’ to sickle cell sufferers, to show that anything is possible, using what I knew best – sports, and rugby!
Being tagged a ‘role model’ is not something I ever expected to feature in my life journey. I was just content with ‘surviving’ and later asking myself ‘why’ I survive every day.
Raising awareness for SCD
I have worked hard to raise awareness of the disease, to eradicate the stigma associated with SCD and be that person any young or old sickle cell sufferer can look up to.
My name is Ade Adebisi, I am a British-Nigerian rugby league player who played rugby for the British Amateur Rugby League Association (BARLA), for the London Skolars, the London Broncos, Hull FC, Doncaster Lakers, Featherstone Rovers and Whitehaven.
I am the only Rugby player to ever play professionally with a genetic blood disorder called sickle cell. This condition contributed to the shortening of my sports career.
I have dedicated the last few years of my life to this cause, constantly seeking to partner with and engage global companies – who share the mission and vision to raise awareness of sickle cell – to support diagnosis and ultimately facilitate more research and treatment options for patients.
Early diagnosis is the key
I am a new dad and, as a parent, I know that the earlier we detect sickle cell the earlier we can find a solution for it.
Sickle cell is an ethnic minority disease that impacts black people and Asians. There are approximately 300,000 global births with SCD annually, 200,000 of which are in Africa.
SCD has a 50% – 90% global mortality rate. Nine per cent of all deaths that occur in children under five, in sub-Saharan Africa, is attributable to SCD.
The awareness I am raising through my foundation and being an ambassador of SickleScan (a BioMedomics product) is gaining momentum and attracting attention.
You know you are doing the right thing when people contact you thanking you for showing them that they can be ‘human’ and live a full life too.