As the American Red Cross celebrates Black History Month throughout February, all eligible donors are encouraged to give blood or platelets to ensure a diverse blood supply.
DIVERSE DONORS HELP PATIENTS During Black History Month, the Red Cross reminds everyone about the importance of having blood donors who are as diverse as the patients who need their help. All patients are matched by blood type and Rh factor prior to transfusion. For some patients, additional red cell markers in donated blood also have to be matched. These markers are determined by ethnicity and are best found in a diverse donor base. Patients are less likely to have complications from blood donated by someone with a similar ethnicity.
Approximately 100,000 people in the United States, many of them African-American, are affected by sickle cell disease. One of the most common treatments for this disease is regular blood transfusions. Many sickle cell 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.
REMEMBERING DR. CHARLES DREW Also during Black History Month, the Red Cross honors the legacy of Dr. Charles Drew, the first medical director of the American Red Cross. Dr. Drew was an African-American surgeon and modern blood banking pioneer. In 1941, Dr. Drew became the medical director of the first Red Cross blood bank. Dr. Drew is credited with helping to save lives during World War II because of his research about the storage and shipment of blood plasma.
WINTER WEATHER AFFECTS BLOOD AND PLATELET DONATIONS Since February 1, approximately 430 Red Cross blood drives in 23 states were canceled because of inclement weather, resulting in more than 13,700 uncollected blood and platelet donations. Eligible blood and platelet donors who live in areas where it is safe to travel are encouraged to make an appointment to give now, and those in areas affected by severe weather are asked to make and keep appointments when it is safe to do so.
Though winter weather and seasonal illness may affect donations, hospital patients still need transfusions of blood and platelets. Donors with blood types O negative, A negative, B negative and platelet donors are especially encouraged to make an appointment to give. Each appointment kept, and each donation given, offers hope to a patient in need.
Blood can be safely donated every 56 days. Platelets can be given every seven days – up to 24 times a year. Individuals who are 17 years of age (16 with parental consent in most states), 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.
For more information or to schedule an appointment to donate, call 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767) or visit redcrossblood.org. Donors can also use the Red Cross Blood Donor App, which is free and available for download now. It can be found in app stores by searching for American Red Cross, visiting redcross.org/apps or redcrossblood.org/bloodapp, or by texting BLOODAPP to 90999 for a direct link to download. Message and data rates for texting may apply.