On the eve of his 30th birthday, the clock struck midnight – and in tandem – Marqus Valentine was struck with paralyzing fear. Doctors had told him that his severe type of sickle cell disease would prevent him from living past age 30. He thought death was looming. Now, six years later, Marqus continues to fight sickle cell and is a champion for the cause, as co-founder of the nonprofit, Sick Cells alongside his younger sister Ashley.
Living with sickle cell disease and advocating for others with the disease can pose challenges, but blood donations help provide the strength he needs to continue to make a difference. “Everything gets harder when the blood is not in my system,” says Valentine. “You feel really good after a transfusion and like you can take on the world, like you’re superman.”
September is Sickle Cell Awareness month. Patients in need rely on blood to keep them strong and healthy. Schedule an appointment to give blood with the American Red Cross by visiting RedCrossBlood.org, using the Red Cross Blood Donor App, calling 1-800-RED-CROSS or activating the Blood Scheduling Skill for Amazon Alexa.
For those with sickle cell disease their blood cells, which carry oxygen and other proteins throughout the body, do not always flow smoothly. Their blood cells can become hard and crescent, instead of soft and round, which causes a crisis in the body. A sickle cell crisis may lead to severe pain, tissue and organ damage, acute anemia and even strokes.
Blood Donation is a Lifesaver for Sickle Cell Patients
Coping with a crisis can be debilitating. Only through the generosity of lifesaving blood donations are patients able to recover. Valentine has relied on blood donations since he was eight months old, after experiencing his first crisis. Over the course of his 36 years, he has received well over 500 units of blood through transfusion.
Personal Experience Prompted Advocacy
A life with sickle cell disease is the “norm” for Valentine and his sister Ashley. However, there are still many people that have never heard of the disease. Together the Valentine siblings have been working to amplify stories of patients battling sickle cell, encourage blood donation and advocate for change.
For Valentine, his motivations became even more personal as he lost close friends to sickle cell disease, and being able to talk about this story has helped to engage people about the realities of the disease. “I just got tired of seeing my friends dying from something, that if they would have only paid attention sooner and (to) factors that play into their health,” says Valentine.
Generosity of Blood Donors Lends Hope
The most frequent treatment of sickle cell disease is through blood transfusion. Schedule an appointment today to help a sickle cell patient in need.
All blood types are needed to ensure a reliable supply for patients. A blood donor card or driver’s license or two other forms of identification are required at check-in. Individuals who are 17 years of age in most states (16 with parental consent where allowed by state law), 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.
Blood and platelet donors can save time at their next donation by using RapidPass® to complete their pre-donation reading and health history questionnaire online, on the day of their donation, before arriving at the blood drive. To get started, follow the instructions at RedCrossBlood.org/RapidPass or use the Red Cross Blood Donor App.