Jack and the Magic Broad Beans ~ Glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase deficiency

Once upon a time, there was a poor widow who had only one son, James, and a single chicken named sooty. All they had to live on was the eggs sooty laid each morning which they carried to the market and sold. One morning, sooty did not lay any eggs and James and his mother did not know what to do!

‘What shall we do, how will be able to feed ourselves’, claimed James’ mother.

‘Cheer up mum, now that I am 10, I will surely be able to find work somewhere’

‘I have tried to find you work James, but no one will hire you, you are not old or strong enough and you all too often have fevers and are low in energy. We must sell sooty and use the money to start a bakery business, or something!’

‘Fine, mother’, James responded, ‘it is market day today, I will take sooty with me and do my best to sell her’. James took off to the markets with sooty under his arm. Not long into his journey, James was approached by a strange looking man dressed in robes.

‘Good morning James, where are you off to?’ Asked the man.

‘I am going to the market to sell my chicken, sooty’.

‘You look like a descent chap to sell chickens, tell me James, would you sell me your chicken in exchange for these 5 broad beans?’

‘A chicken for beans??’ James was not so sure about this.

‘James, you do not know what these beans are capable of, these are magic beans, if you plant them they will grow sky high over night!’

‘Okay then’, Jack handed sooty over to the man in exchange for the beans and returned home to his mother.

‘You’re home already James! I see you haven’t got sooty; how much did you get for her??’

‘You will never guess mum! I got 5 magic beans!’

‘Beans! We need money!’, James’ mother threw the beans out of the window and sent James to his room straight away without any supper.

James woke up the next morning, noticing this his room was darker than usual. He jumped out of bed to discover that the beans had sprung into a beanstalk which went as high as the sky!

James climbed and climbed up the bean stalk but he was becoming increasing more tired, soon he could no longer climb any higher. He found a big leaf to rest upon when he was approached by a friendly giant who was climbing down the bean stalk.

‘Good morning little man, are you feeling alright?’ the giant asked.

‘I feel very tired, and weak’.

‘You do look a little yellow, and pale actually’, the giant responded, ‘I think there may be something going on in your blood. Blood is a special fluid that runs through the rivers in your body, these are blood vessels. There are three kinds of cells in your blood red cells, white cells and platelets. Red cells are made inside your bones, every time you take a big breath in, these red cells carry the oxygen to every part of your body through the rivers.’

‘It appears to me that you have a blood disease called Glucose-6-Phosphate Dehydrogenase deficiency, let’s just say G6PD! This is a very common problem in the blood any affects millions of people all over the world! You are born with this disease so you cannot catch it or pass it on to anyone.

G6PD deficiency happens because there is a problem inside your red blood cell which makes them more at risk of being damaged when they are stressed. When the red blood cells become stressed, they can break. When they break, they spill their contents which can make you appear yellow, and they are not able to carry oxygen very well, so you feel more tired and weak.

Don’t worry though James, most people with G6PD deficiency have completed normal lives as long as they avoid certain foods and drugs which stress the red blood cells. I will write you a list of these things you need to avoid so you can tell your mother. But importantly, one of the things that stresses your blood cells is broad beans! And you are on a broad bean stalk!! I will carry you down the stalk right away to your mother. You will also need to let me take the bean stalk, in exchange I will give you wheat seeds to grow crops.

James was so grateful that the giant had discovered what had been making him so tired. Within a few months, after avoiding the list of things the giant had given James and his mother, James was feeling much stronger and healthier. James was now fit and able to help his mother in the wheat fields so they could set up a bakery.

Anna Waldie

For more information about G6PD:


The association offers assistance to persons affected by the G6PD enzyme deficiency and their families, including helping with the protection of patients’ social rights; informing and educating affected persons and the medical community on all aspects of the deficiency; helping organize petitions calling for government actions; and more.


Extensive online information and community support network for those with G6PD and their families.

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