Diverse blood donors needed to help patients fight back

During Sickle Cell Awareness Month, the American Red Cross is calling on African American and Latino blood donors to help ensure a diverse blood supply that meets the transfusion needs of patients battling sickle cell disease. Right now, African American blood donors are critically needed to help patients battling sickle cell disease amid this coronavirus outbreak.

“Since mid-March the number of African Americans donating blood with the Red Cross has dropped by more than half,” said Dr. Yvette Miller, medical executive, Red Cross Blood Services. To help fill the gaps, the Red Cross, in partnership with community outreach and faith-based organizations, invites the community to donate at blood drives in honor of sickle cell patients throughout the month of September.

Sickle cell disease affects approximately 100,000 Americans and is highly prevalent in South Carolina. The blood disorder causes red blood cells to be crescent-shaped instead of soft and round. This makes it difficult for blood to flow smoothly and carry oxygen to the rest of the body. Blood transfusion helps sickle cell disease patients by increasing the number of normal red blood cells in the body, helping to deliver oxygen and unblock blood vessels. Regular blood transfusions are often a critical treatment for sickle cell patients.

“Sickle cell disease profoundly impacts the quality of life of those living with this inherited blood disorder,” said Dr. Miller. “Many sickle cell disease patients depend on a compatible blood match from a donor of the same race or ethnicity. Your blood donation could give a patient strength to keep fighting.”

Each Red Cross blood drive and donation center follows the highest standards of safety and infection control, and additional precautions – including temperature checks, social distancing and face coverings for donors and staff – have been implemented to ensure the health of all those in attendance. Donors are asked to schedule an appointment prior to arriving at the drive and are required to wear a face covering or mask while at the drive, in alignment with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention public guidance.

Blood donation opportunities in honor of sickle cell patients:

• Wednesday, September 2nd, 1 p.m. – 6 p.m., Bible Way Church, 2440 Atlas Rd, Columbia, SC 29209

• Saturday, September 19th, 10 a.m. - 3 p.m., A.C. Flora High School Gym (Hosted by B Strong Group), 1 Falcon Drive, Columbia, SC 29204

As a thank-you for helping ensure a stable blood supply, those who come to give Aug. 1-Sept. 3 will receive a $5 Amazon.com Gift Card via email, courtesy of Amazon. Presenting donors will also take home a customized Red Cross T-shirt, while supplies last.

How to donate blood

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 Blood Donor App.

About the American Red Cross

The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides emotional support to victims of disasters; supplies about 40 percent of the nation’s blood; teaches skills that save lives; provides international humanitarian aid; and supports military members and their families. The Red Cross is a not-for-profit organization that depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its mission. For more information, please visit redcross.org or cruzrojaamericana.org, or visit us on Twitter at @RedCross.

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