Blood donations are always necessary, but September is National Sickle Cell Awareness Month, and Red Cross has issued a specific plea to the African American community to step up and donate.
Sickle cell is the most common inherited blood disorder and affects over 100,000 Americans, and Local 4 explains why blood is especially critical to help this community.
Sickle Cell Disease can affect other ethnic groups but is most common in people of African descent. People who inherit sickle cell have abnormal hemoglobin, the protein in red cells that carries oxygen. This abnormal hemoglobin links together, changing the shape of the red blood cells into a curved sickle that can block blood flow throughout the body.
“One of the things that I saw for the first time in my career with the pandemic that I hope not to see again is the degree of how blood shortages impacted patients with Sickle Cell Disease,” said Dr. David Mair of American Red Cross. “And to not have enough blood to be able to adequately treat a patient in need is something that for this condition I’ve never had to face before.”
Deandra Smith works for Red Cross, but she also has Sickle Cell Disease.
“I was diagnosed at two years old, and since then, I’ve had a roller coaster ride of hospital stays in and out,” said Smith. “I’ve been hospitalized over 75 times.”
“People with Sickle Cell Disease may require as many as 100 units of blood every year to maintain their quality of life,” Mair said.
Blood from African American donors is especially valuable.
“There are certain blood characteristics that are inherited that make them more likely to be found in certain donor groups,” Mair said. “These matched blood products provide a more compatible unit for transfusion to patients in need with Sickle Cell Disease.”
The Red Cross can be reached at 1-800-Red-Cross. You can also reach them through their website and even their mobile app. Donating blood only takes an hour of your time and can save as many as three lives through the red cells, platelets, and plasma that are given.