Plea for blood donors who are Black to give during Black History Month

Donors essential for helping patients with sickle cell disease

By Sabrina Spikes, American Red Cross Blood Donor Recruitment Manager

Sickle Cell disease is the most common genetic blood disease in the U.S., affecting about 100,000 people—primarily affecting Black and African American individuals. Though there is no widely available cure, the Red Cross supports one of the most critical sickle treatments of all—blood transfusions. For many patients, a close blood type match is essential and is found in donors of the same race or similar ethnicity.

Blood donor Bridget C. Miller Harper at the 2021 Cleveland Browns blood drive

Blood transfusions from individuals of the same race or similar ethnicity and blood type are the most effective way to help patients experiencing a sickle cell crisis. Since the majority of people with sickle cell are of African descent, blood donations from Black individuals are essential in helping those suffering from this disease.

When provided blood from a donor of similar race or ethnicity, patients have fewer chances of complications. In the donor recruitment department here at Red Cross, we encourage individuals in the Black community to host blood drives and give blood. By collaborating with our community partners, we also provide and encourage blood donation education to increase the likelihood of a successful blood donation.

Blood donor Keith Lofton of Olmsted Falls donated in Rocky River in 2022

While working with community organizations, I have talked to many persons with sickle cell disease. They report experiencing anemia (a shortage of red blood cells), fatigue and severe pain crises. Often the only treatment available to alleviate this pain is blood transfusion. Some individuals with sickle cell disease can require up to 100 pints of blood per year. This makes minority blood donation critical.

Donating blood can make a difference in the lives of patients battling sickle cell disease, but also cancer, and other chronic illnesses. When we increase the number of blood donors who are Black, we diversify the blood supply – a critical step to improving health and wellness in the community. Together, we can raise awareness of the impact and need by hosting a blood drive or visiting to sign up to donate at a blood drive in your community.

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