By Dan Dowling, Regional Communications Manager
“It's part of the process of giving back and giving service to your community. I believe that they go hand in hand and that's what the NAACP does. We can encourage all people from all walks of life to give blood, just in the in the spirit of saving lives.”
Mia Schultz and the NAACP of Rutland, Vermont teamed up with the American Red Cross this past September to sponsor a blood drive to promote Sickle Cell Awareness Month. Schultz, who is president of the Rutland NAACP chapter, has known people throughout her life who have been impacted by sickle cell disease. She wanted more people to how important blood donation is in help treat the deadly disease.
“It felt like a natural match to be able to partner with American Red Cross during the month of September. September is Sickle Cell Awareness Month and we know that it affects mostly African Americans. Most African Americans have a relationship with that disease, whether they know somebody, or they've been around places and spaces where people have sickle cell.” said Schultz.
In the United States, an estimated 100,000 people of various racial and ethnic backgrounds have sickle cell disease, with the majority being of African descent. Blood from people of the same race or similar ethnicity is important in ensuring the best transfusion results, with the least potential reaction.
Blood transfusion helps patients fight sickle cell disease by increasing the number of normal red blood cells in the body, helping to deliver oxygen throughout the body and lessen pain for the children and adults who live with sickle cell disease. Some sickle cell disease patients may require transfusions monthly. Because some patients are more likely to find a compatible blood match from a donor of the same race or ethnic group, it’s important for individuals of all races and ethnicities to give.
“For me, it's important that we have this month where we create this awareness and create a mechanism for helping those who do live with sickle cell disease. Maybe this will inspire other black people to not only give blood but become more aware, get tested for sickle cell and make sure that they are covered.” said Schultz.
It is not necessary to know one’s blood type before giving, and Black and Latino donors may be able to help ensure a stable supply of two of the most in demand blood types — types O and B blood. Black and Latino populations have a higher frequency of type O blood than other ethnicities.
The blood drive was a reminder to Schultz how quick and easy the blood donation process is, and how it can be part of a regular routine of service to her community. “When we got right down to giving the blood it was easy. I can do this regularly, and it won’t impact my schedule and I get to serve my community. I feel like a better person for it.”
Each day, the Red Cross needs to collect about 12,500 blood donations to meet the needs of patients at about 2,500 hospitals and transfusion centers across the country.
To make an appointment, use the Red Cross Blood Donor App, visit RedCrossBlood.org or call 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767).