September is Sickle Cell Awareness Month
African American donors have significantly decreased during the coronavirus pandemic
The American Red Cross has an urgent need for healthy and eligible members of Black communities across the country to support sickle cell patients through blood donation this September.
Amid this coronavirus pandemic, the Red Cross has seen a significant decrease in African American blood donors. Last spring, more Black blood donors gave at Red Cross blood drives held at educational institutions than at any other blood drive location type. As drives across the country canceled this spring due to coronavirus concerns, the number of Black blood donors giving at these schools decreased from over 15,000 in 2019 to about 2,700 this year. Drives at educational institutions make up the largest percentage of fall blood drive cancellations, so the need for more Black blood donors for sickle cell patients is expected to remain critical.
Eligible Black blood donors are urged to give during September. Schedule an appointment to donate by using the free Red Cross Blood Donor App, visiting RedCrossBlood.org, calling 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767), or by enabling the Blood Donor Skill on any Alexa Echo device.
SICKLE CELL AWARENESS MONTH Sickle cell disease is the most common blood disorder in the U.S. and impacts about 100,000 people, most of which are of African or Latino descent. To help manage this disease, sickle cell patients often require frequent blood transfusions. These transfusions help to increase the number of normal red blood cells in the body, helping to deliver oxygen throughout the body, unblocking blood vessels and relieving extreme pain caused when their cells form hard crescent-shaped cells.
“Sickle cell patients endure unimaginable pain when their red blood cells stiffen and cannot flow smoothly to carry oxygen throughout the body,” said Dr. Yvette Miller, medical director, Red Cross. “Sickle cell patients can require multiple blood transfusions to alleviate this throughout their lifetime to help treat their disease, and Black and diverse blood donors are essential in helping sickle patients recover from crisis and prevent more serious complications like acute anemia, tissue and organ damage and strokes.”
Blood transfused to patients with rare blood types, like those with sickle cell disease, must be matched very closely to reduce the risk of complications, and these patients are more likely to find a compatible blood match from a blood donor of the same race or similar ethnicity.
WHY BLACK BLOOD DONORS MATTER This May and August, as the coronavirus surged across the country, 22-year-old Nari’k Page spent a week alone in the hospital, suffering and doing his best to recover. Individuals with sickle cell disease are at risk for severe complications from COVID-19, which limits Page’s professional and personal life. He is unable to work as an essential bank employee and most days remains in his apartment isolated from his network of friends and family.
Page knows he can rely on blood transfusions to feel better even during times when so much has changed. “Everything is so different now, but when I’m in extreme pain I know I will always need blood. When I’m in need, your blood comes to me and I really appreciate it,” he said. Watch his story.
BLOOD DONATION SAFETY Each Red Cross blood drive and donation center follows the highest standards of safety and infection control. To ensure the health of staff and donors, precautions include:
- Temperature checks for both staff and donors prior to entering a blood drive or donation center;
- Face masks required for everyone;
- Available hand sanitizer throughout the donation process; and
- Social distancing wherever possible.
The Red Cross also asks that all donors schedule an appointment prior to arrival to help ensure we can manage the flow of donors at drives. Learn more about COVID-19 blood donation safety protocols.
BLOOD DONOR INFORMATION In most states, individuals who are 17 years of age (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. For tips on what to do before, during and after your blood donation visit: https://www.redcrossblood.org/donate-blood/blood-donation-process/before-during-after.html.
To save up to 15 minutes at the blood drive, donors are encouraged to complete a RapidPass. With RapidPass, donors complete the pre-donation reading and health history questionnaire online on the day of donation from a mobile device or computer. To complete a RapidPass, follow the instructions at RedCrossBlood.org/RapidPass or use the Red Cross Blood Donor App.