February is Black History Month. African-Americans have played a critical role in the history of the American Red Cross, and in just a few short minutes, a blood donor can help change the course of history for a patient in need.
“About 70 percent of African-Americans have type O or type B blood. These are often the first blood types to reach critically low levels during a shortage,” said Delisa English, chief executive officer of Carolinas Blood Services Region. “African-American blood donors play a critical role in meeting the constant need for blood.”
Approximately 100,000 people in the United States, most of them African-American, are affected by sickle cell disease. One of the most common treatments for this disease is regular blood transfusions. Many of these patients have rare blood types unique to African-Americans, meaning these patients rely on donors with matching blood types from the same ethnic or genetic background.
The contributions African-Americans have made to blood banking over the years go beyond donating blood. African-Americans have helped shape blood services programs within the Red Cross. In the 1940s, Dr. Charles Drew laid the foundation for modern blood banking through his pioneering work in blood collection and plasma processing and served as the first medical director of the first Red Cross blood bank. And, the world-renowned Holland Research Laboratory in Rockville, Md., bears the name of educator and U.S. Ambassador Jerome Holland who streamlined the growth of Red Cross laboratories in the early 1980s.
“The Red Cross encourages donors to help make history and celebrate the contributions of Dr. Charles Drew, Jerome Holland and African-American blood donors across the nation by giving the ‘Gift of Life’ this February,” added English.
To find a convenient blood donation opportunity near you, or to schedule an appointment to donate, call 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767) or visit redcrossblood.org.
How to Donate Blood
Simply call 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767) or visit redcrossblood.org to make an appointment or for more information. All blood types are needed to ensure a reliable supply for patients. Blood can be safely donated every 56 days. Platelets can be given every seven days, up to 24 times a year. Most healthy people who are 17 years of age (16 with parental consent) and weigh at least 110 pounds are eligible to donate blood to the Red Cross. Donors who are 18 years and younger must also meet specific height and weight requirements. A Red Cross blood donor card or driver’s license, or two other forms of identification, are required at check-in.
About the American Red Cross:
The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides emotional support to victims of disasters; supplies about 40 percent of the nation's blood; teaches skills that save lives; provides international humanitarian aid; and supports military members and their families. The Red Cross is a not-for-profit organization that depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its mission. For more information, please visit redcross.org or join our blog at http://blog.redcross.org.