September is Sickle Cell Awareness Month and Childhood Cancer Awareness Month; Red Cross blood and platelet donations needed for patients
WASHINGTON D.C. – September 3, 2019 — This school year students battling sickle cell disease and childhood cancers prepare to face challenges in the classroom unknown to their healthy peers. Many will fall behind in coursework after missing weeks of school, require tutoring and special education services. But there is a way people can help ease the struggle of these serious diseases.
September is both Sickle Cell Awareness and Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. Students living with both diseases rely heavily on lifesaving blood and platelet donations from generous and diverse donors, to help keep them in the classroom. 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.
“Sickle cell disease and childhood cancer profoundly impact the lives of young people— ensuring there is a diverse and sufficient blood supply is critical to their survival and ability to get back to school,” said Dr. Yvette Marie Miller, executive medical director at the Red Cross. “The Red Cross encourages diverse blood donors to roll up a sleeve this September and throughout the year to help the many diverse patients in need of blood each day.”
Blood type, like eye color, is an inherited trait passed genetically from parents. The vast majority of blood types fall into one of the major ABO groups, but for some patients with rare blood types, blood must be matched closely, beyond the primary A, B, O and AB blood types, to reduce the risk of developing complications from transfusion therapy. A patient in need is more likely to find a compatible blood match from a donor of the same race or ethnicity.
Students with sickle cell disease admit it impacts performance
A recent study conducted by researchers from Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center and University of Cincinnati College of Medicine indicates that 60% of participants reported that sickle cell disease interfered with their school performance and over 75% of participants diagnosed with the most severe sickle cell form reported receiving special education services due to absences.
Regular blood transfusions are one of the most common treatments for sickle cell disease, which have been proven to help patients by unblocking blood vessels, alleviating pain from a sickle cell crisis. Many patients require transfusions multiple times per year throughout their lifetime.
Braden Green suffered from Acute Chest Syndrome, the leading cause of death in sickle cell patients and needed blood transfusions to survive. During his recovery he missed six weeks of school and depended on instructors to help him get caught up.
His mom, Brenda Green, recalls watching the donated blood enter her son’s body. “I realized at that moment how important a blood donation is.” She vowed to become an advocate for blood donations and has since hosted several blood drives for patients in need.
“If it hadn’t been for that blood transfusion, I am not sure where we would be today.”
Childhood cancer patients miss twice as much school
This year it is estimated that more than 11,000 new cases of cancer will be diagnosed in children from birth to 14 years old in the United States. According to The Journal of Pediatrics, childhood cancer survivors miss twice as much school as healthy classmates. The most common types of childhood cancers are leukemias, brain, and other central nervous system tumors and lymphomas.
Olivia Stoy battled T lymphoblastic lymphoma since 2016 and recently went into remission. Her cancer treatments were tough, and she received more than 80 transfusions of red blood and platelets to strengthen her body and to help her return to her studies.
Olivia could feel when she needed a transfusion and how much they helped restore her strength and energy. “I had [doctors] appointments so frequently, and almost every time I got blood, I got platelets too. By the time I was walking out of the hospital I already felt a little bit better. Throughout the day I started feeling better and having more energy.”
Blood donation information
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.