Blood Donors Needed for those with Sickle Cell Disease
One in 3 African American blood donors is a match for people with sickle cell disease
FROM THE AMERICAN RED CROSS
During Sickle Cell Awareness Month in September, the American Red Cross emphasizes the importance of a diverse blood supply to help meet the needs of those with sickle cell disease – the most common inherited blood disorder in the U.S.
Sickle cell disease impacts more than 100,000 people across the country, most of whom are of African descent. Regular blood transfusions are critical to managing extreme pain and life-threatening complications faced by many. Unfortunately, they may develop an immune response against blood from donors that is not closely matched to their own. However, because most individuals who are Black have unique structures on their red blood cells that are not often found in other donor populations, 1 in 3 African American blood donors is a match for people with sickle cell disease.
Seasonal changes can trigger pain crises for those battling sickle cell – possibly increasing the need for lifesaving blood transfusions. As summer ends, book a time to give blood by using the Red Cross Blood Donor App, visiting RedCrossBlood.org or by calling 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767). As a thank-you, all who come to give through Sept. 18 will get an exclusive Red Cross T-shirt, while supplies last.
Sickle cell disease distorts red blood cells and makes them rigid and crescent-shaped. “Sickled red cells can obstruct blood vessels which can cause severe pain, and potentially lead to stroke and organ failure,” says Dr. John Weiss, Medical Director, American Red Cross of Wisconsin. “Blood transfusions contain healthy red cells to provide the needed oxygen to tissues and organs, and to help minimize crises sickle cell patients may face.”
It’s a pain that Shanice Williams knows all too well. Shanice suffers from sickle cell disease, and the Milwaukee woman has received numerous blood transfusions to deal with the disease. Due to her own pain and the loss of others around her from sickle cell disease, Shanice has become an advocate for blood donations, including at an upcoming drive she’s hosting. “Blood products are an every day need for sickle cell patients, even those not receiving regular transfusions.”
Joined by Blood
To help ensure patients have the blood products they need, the American Red Cross is working with partners in the Black community to grow the number of blood donors who are Black through the sickle cell initiative, which launched in 2021. In the first year of the initiative, the number of first-time African American blood donors who gave with the Red Cross increased by 60%. In September and October, the Red Cross launches Joined by Blood, a fall component of the initiative where the Red Cross is teaming up with community organizations, like the National Pan-Hellenic Council and others, to host blood drives and inspire donors who are Black to give blood to support patients with sickle cell disease. To learn more, visit RedCrossBlood.org/OurBlood.
Upcoming blood donation opportunities Sept. 7-Oct. 7:
9/21/2022: 12 p.m. – 5 p.m., Laona High School, 5216 Forest Street
9/26/2022: 10:30 a.m. – 4 p.m., Saints Mary and Hyacinth Catholic Church, 819 3rd Avenue
9/13/2022: 11:30 a.m. – 5:30 p.m., Grace Lutheran Church, 108 W Somo Ave
10/7/2022: 8 a.m. – 2 p.m., Bethany Baptist Church, 6601 Alderson Street
9/8/2022: 1 p.m. – 6 p.m., Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, 930 Edgewood Rd
9/22/2022: 12 p.m. – 5 p.m., Saint Andrew Lutheran Church, 3200 N Mountain Rd
9/23/2022: 10 a.m. – 3 p.m., Woodson YMCA, 707 Third St
10/5/2022: 11 a.m. – 5 p.m., Cabaret Cove, 1540 Pueblo Drive
9/28/2022: 12 p.m. – 5 p.m., Three Lakes Community, 6930 W School St
10/4/2022: 12:30 p.m. – 5 p.m., St Peters Church, 5001 County Road G
Testing for sickle cell trait
At a time when health information has never been more important, the Red Cross is screening all blood, platelet and plasma donations from self-identified African American donors for the sickle cell trait. This additional screening will provide Black donors with an additional health insight and help the Red Cross identify compatible blood types more quickly to help patients with sickle cell disease. Donors can expect to receive sickle cell trait screening results, if applicable, within one to two weeks through the Red Cross Blood Donor App and the online donor portal at RedCrossBlood.org.
How to donate blood
Simply download the American Red Cross Blood Donor App, visit RedCrossBlood.org, call 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767) or enable the Blood Donor Skill on any Alexa Echo device to make an appointment or for more information. All blood types are needed to ensure a reliable supply for patients. A blood donor card or driver’s license or two other forms of identification are required at check-in. Individuals who are 17 years of age in most states (16 with parental consent where allowed by state law), weigh at least 110 pounds and are in generally good health may be eligible to donate blood. High school students and other donors 18 years of age and younger also have to meet certain height and weight requirements.
Blood and platelet donors can save time at their next donation by using RapidPass® to complete their pre-donation reading and health history questionnaire online, on the day of their donation, before arriving at the blood drive. To get started, follow the instructions at RedCrossBlood.org/RapidPass or use the Blood Donor App.