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 disease. Sickle cell is the most common genetic blood disease in the U.S., affecting as many as 100,000 people. It is an inherited disease that causes red blood cells to form an abnormal crescent shape.
Regular blood transfusions are one of the most common treatments for sickle cell disease, 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.
MEET 11-YEAR-OLD MAKENZIE Sickle cell disease affects the lives of children and adults, including 11-year-old Makenzie Nance, of Cleveland, Ohio. Makenzie is an honor roll student and loves to help other people. She also enjoys singing and dancing, but the side effects of sickle cell can make her feel sick and slow her down from doing the things she loves. Blood donation isn’t something Makenzie’s family knew much about – until they understood the importance of blood helping Makenzie and others like her.
“We really weren’t educated on the need for blood until Makenzie became sick, but now we take it personally,” said Makenzie’s mom Demeatrice Nance. “I am so thankful to those who donate. Whether it’s my daughter people are helping or someone else – if you are able to give blood – you should.”
FAMILY INSPIRATION Taking it personally is exactly what the Nance family did. They now host three blood drives per year at Mount Gillion Baptist Church, where Makenzie’s dad Nathan Nance is a pastor. Each drive usually collects more than 50 pints of blood from family and congregation members. Even Makenzie’s 17-year-old sister Moriah is now a blood donor.
“The blood drives aren’t just for sickle cell patients; they’re for the community at large,” said Demeatrice Nance. “It means lot to us that we can help others.”
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.
HOW TO DONATE 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. A blood donor card or driver’s license or two other forms of identification are required at check-in.
For more information or to schedule an appointment to donate blood, 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.