'Body as a Machine’: How Adolescents with Sickle Cell Disease Construct Their Fatigue Experiences

Agyeiwaa Poku, Ann-Louise Caress, Susan Kirk

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Research exploring illness experiences of young people with sickle cell disease (SCD) has, to date, ignored fatigue, despite the distinctive anemic nature of SCD. To examine adolescents with SCD fatigue experiences, we conducted narrative and picture-elicitation interviews with 24 adolescents in Ghana. A grounded theory, ‘body as a machine’ was constructed from the narratives. Fatigue represented the most restrictive and disruptive aspect of growing up with SCD. Its meaning and significance laid in what it symbolized. Fatigue represented a socially undesirable feature that was stigmatizing, due to the expectations of high physicality in adolescence. Fatigue was therefore a major threat to ‘normalcy’. The social significance of the physical body and its capacities shaped the adolescents’ fatigue experiences. Managing fatigue to construct/maintain socially acceptable identities dominated the adolescents’ lives. Consequently, there is a need for a recognition of the significance of fatigue to adequately support young people growing up with SCD.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1431-1444
JournalQualitative Health Research
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 14 May 2020


  • adolescent
  • body
  • children
  • constructivist grounded theory
  • experiences
  • fatigue
  • Ghana
  • qualitative research
  • self-management
  • sickle cell disease
  • young people
  • youth


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