Sickle cell disease is the most common genetic blood disease in the United States, affecting as many as 100,000 people. The disease especially affects people with ancestors from Africa, Central and South America, and the Caribbean. During the month of September, the American Red Cross reminds individuals of the importance of having a diverse blood supply to help meet the needs of all hospital patients, including those with sickle cell.
Sickle cell disease is an inherited disease that causes red blood cells to form an abnormal crescent shape. One of the most common treatments for sickle cell disease is regular blood transfusions, which have been proven effective to treat some severe complications from sickle cell disease including stroke and damage to major organs that can lead to severe infections. Blood transfusions increase the number of normal red blood cells in the body, helping to deliver oxygen throughout the body and unblock blood vessels.
FIGHTING THE DISEASE Many patients who live with sickle cell disease face a lifetime of blood transfusions—patients like Nilda Navedo, who regularly count on the generosity of volunteer donors to help her fight the disease. Just this past July 4th weekend, Nilda received nine units of blood.
“I am thankful to those who donate, because being a recipient has allowed me to continue to smile through the struggle,” said Nilda.
FAMILY INSPIRATION Nilda’s family is instrumental in keeping her outlook positive as they give back through blood donation at the Red Cross. Nilda’s sister, Elizabeth Collareta, donates blood as often as she can in honor of her sister.
“Helping my sister or anyone in need is always touching,” said Elizabeth. “If I had all the money in the world I would feed the hungry or buy clothing for the poor, but since I’m not rich, donating a pint of blood to help save lives makes me feel like a millionaire.”
Nilda’s nephew Anthony was recently matched to be the donor of a 12-year-old sickle cell patient.
“I am truly a very proud sister as well as aunt, because just knowing that my family is donating makes me know that they are providing relief and longevity to a patient requiring blood,” said Nilda.
Transfusions from blood donors of the same ethnic background are often most beneficial because they have less chance of causing complications for the recipient. For this reason, it is extremely important to increase the number of available blood donors from all ethnic groups.
For more information or to schedule an appointment to donate blood or platelets, call 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767) or visit redcrossblood.org. Additionally, the Red Cross Blood Donor App 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.