Mom makes plea for diverse blood donors

Appeal comes during Sickle Cell Awareness Month

By Theresa Carter, guest blogger and proud supporter of the American Red Cross of Greater Akron and the Mahoning Valley

In the U.S., it is estimated that over 100,000 people – the majority of whom are of African descent – have sickle cell disease and may require blood transfusions throughout their lifetime to help manage their disease.

Theresa Carter, speaking at the Acts of Courage Awards in March, 2022

The American Red Cross has launched a national initiative to grow the number of blood donors who are Black to help patients with sickle cell disease and improve health outcomes.

Sickle cell disease is an enduring – and often invisible – health disparity in the U.S. Despite the discovery of the disease more than a century ago, there has been fewer health resources available to help those currently suffering from sickle cell disease in comparison to similar diseases.

The Red Cross currently provides sickle cell trait screening on all donations from self- identified African American donors. This additional screening helps the Red Cross identify compatible blood types more quickly to help patients with sickle cell and provides our African American donors an additional health insight during a time when health information has never been more important.

This cause is near and dear to my heart because both my daughters have sickle beta thalassemia disease, a minor form of sickle cell. You see, I have a sickle trait and their father has the thalassemia trait. We had no clue until our children were born that we had these traits and that our girls would have this disease. Therefore, screening is so very important…. just to know; to understand the cause and then educate ourselves so that we can be our best advocates if and when the time arises for medical care.

Garvin and Theresa Carter with daughters Erin and Cesily

Please take action today and schedule a blood donation appointment by visiting RedCrossBlood.org, using the Blood Donor App or calling 1-800-RED CROSS.

Editor’s note: Regular blood transfusions are critical to managing extreme pain and life threatening complications faced by many. Unfortunately, they may develop an immune response against blood from donors that is not closely matched to their own. However, because most individuals who are Black have unique structures on their red blood cells that are not often found in other donor populations, 1 in 3 African American blood donors is a match for people with sickle cell disease.

Sickle cell disease distorts soft, round blood cells and turns them hard and crescent-shaped, which can cause severe pain. “When cells harden, they can get caught in blood vessels, potentially leading to stroke and organ failure,” says Dr. James Westra, Regional Medical Director. “Transfusions provide healthy blood cells, unblocking blood vessels and delivering oxygen, minimizing crises patients with sickle cell may face.”

Seasonal changes can trigger pain crises for those battling sickle cell – possibly increasing the need for lifesaving blood transfusions. As summer ends, book a time to give blood by using the Red Cross Blood Donor App, visiting RedCrossBlood.org or by calling 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767). As a thankyou, all who come to give through Sept. 18 will get an exclusive Red Cross T-shirt, while supplies last.

Posted by Ryan Lang, American Red Cross board member and volunteer

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