The American Red Cross is urging African Americans to give blood right now, as blood from that race is running short and is used more frequently to treat sickle cell anemia.
According to the Red Cross, sickle cell anemia affects an estimated 100,00 U.S. citizens, and the majority are black. 1 in every 365 African American is born with sickle cell anemia, making it the most inherited blood disorder.
What does that have to do with donating blood? Jennifer Killewald, with American Red Cross biomedical services, says blood transfusions are the main treatment.
“It is the primary source of treatment for (patients),” Killewald said. “Sickle cell disease creates organ and tissue damage, and the red cells that are transfused to them through healthy donors are able to help.”
However, that transfusion needs to use blood that matches the patient.
That’s why it’s important to get more African American donors; they’re 3 times more likely to be a match.
“Sickle cell is a disease that creates red blood cells that are hard and crescent shaped, and a regular blood cell would be soft and round,” said Killewald. “So, because the sickle cell disease itself creates that difficulty for the oxygen to pass through, people with sickle cell disease require many blood transfusions, and those blood transfusions are better matched by somebody of the same race.”
Recently, a Red Cross speaker went to Clintondale High School in Clinton Township, telling her sickle cell story, urging students to give blood.
Kirstyn Canady, a Clintondale junior, had never given blood before, but was encouraged to try.
“(Teens) really don’t do stuff like this,” she said. “So maybe I can just be a leader and show my friends like, it’s okay to give back.”
To find a blood drive near you, click here.