HUNTSVILLE, Ala — When patients living with sickle cell disease face a sickle cell crisis, blood transfusions can make a lifesaving difference.
The American Red Cross is launching an initiative to grow the number of blood donors who are Black to help patients with sickle cell disease, the most common inherited blood disorder in the U.S.
"Blood donations from individuals who are the same race, or similar ethnicity, they had a really unique ability and I don't think everybody knows that. We don't see enough black blood donors and we want to increase that number so that we can equitably service our communities," Annette Rowland, communications director with the American Red Cross Alabama and Mississippi Region.
According to the American Red Cross, the majority of those living with sickle cell disease are of African descent and many Black people have distinct markers on their red blood cells that make their blood donations ideal for helping patients with sickle cell disease manage debilitating and sometimes life-threatening effects like severe pain, organ failure and stroke.
"We have many clients who need blood transfusions on a monthly basis. And so that's why the need for blood donations is so important," said North Alabama Sickle Cell Foundation Executive Director Pamela Thompson said. "Individuals with sickle cell disease that are getting a lot of blood transfusion tend to have a unique kind of blood."
Donating this blood is easy, it's actually just the same as giving regular blood. But since this initiative has been put in place, when you give blood you will be screened for sickle cell trait.
"The only way that you can provide that blood is having that sickle cell, you know that sickle cell trait in your blood," said Rowland.
"So it's not the disease is just the trait," said Thompson.
If you have this trait, your blood could save the lives of those with sickle cell disease.
"Something as simple as rolling up your sleeves to help literally save lives. I mean, is there a greater impact," said Rowland.