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

Blood donations: Who benefits?

By Samantha Pudelski, American Red Cross volunteer

We’ve all seen the American Red Cross logo at one time or another in our lives. Many of us have seen it promoting a local blood donation drive being held that day as we drove down the road. We all know that blood is needed for us to live–but we may not always think of how many different individuals rely on blood donations, until we or someone we know needs it. In fact, in Northern Ohio the Red Cross provides blood for patients in more than 70 local hospitals in Cleveland, Akron, Youngstown and Toledo.

Platelet donors Al Whitney of Avon Lake and Vinton Smith of Gettysburg, PA

Who are some of the people who rely on blood donations? Below are just a few:

Cancer Patients

Cancer patients may need blood transfusions to implement platelets back into the body after treatments such as chemo or radiation therapy. Certain cancers can also affect a patient’s ability to produce their own platelets.

Trauma Patients

When a patient comes into an emergency department with a trauma injury and there’s no time to check the patient’s blood type, emergency providers use type O negative red blood cells and type AB plasma. O negative blood cells and AB plasma can be transfused into any patient, regardless of blood type. However, less than 7 percent of the population has type O negative blood, and only about 4 percent have type AB Blood. A constant flow of blood donors who have these blood types are critical to keep up with hospital demand, and to help emergency providers save lives.

Glinda Dames-Fincher, of Mayfield Heights has lived with sickle cell disease for more than 60 years and receives regular red cell exchanges as part of her treatment.

Sickle Cell Patients

Sickle cell disease affects about 100,000 people in the United States, and causes red blood cells to harden and form a C-shape. When these cells harden, they can get caught in blood vessels and cause serious complications like respiratory conditions, organ failure, stroke or severe pain. While there is no cure for the disease, there is a critical treatment—blood transfusions. 

Burn Patients

Burn patients may experience blood loss through surgery or anemia. These individuals may need blood transfusion to replace the blood or red blood cells lost. 

Patients Who Have Major Surgeries

Patients who have a major surgical procedure may need a blood transfusion to replace any blood loss that occurred during their surgery.

Patients with Chronic Diseases

Patient with certain chronic diseases or disorders may require blood transfusions. Some may need blood transfusions throughout their lives. 

The next time you see one of those signs, one of our advertisements or think about the Red Cross, take the next step. Schedule an appointment to donate blood. Your donation helps people in your community – and you never know if that person could be standing right beside you. To take that next step now, visit www.redcrossblood.org/give.html/find-drive to find an upcoming blood drive or donation site near you.

Edited by Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross volunteer

Red Cross initiative aims to increase blood availability for patients with sickle cell disease

Blood transfusions from donors who are Black may provide best outcomes for patients

When patients living with sickle cell disease face a sickle cell crisis, blood transfusions can make a lifesaving difference. That’s why the American Red Cross has launched an initiative to grow the number of blood donors who are Black to help patients with sickle cell disease, an enduring and often invisible health disparity in the U.S.

Bridget C_Miller Harper_Photo

Over 100,000 people in the U.S. have sickle cell disease, the most common inherited blood disorder, and the majority of patients are of African descent. Despite the discovery of the disease more than a century ago, there have been fewer health resources available to help those currently suffering from sickle cell crisis in comparison to similar diseases. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, people with sickle cell disease experience worse health outcomes than comparable diseases.

A closer blood match leads to better outcomes

Many patients with sickle cell disease will require regular blood transfusions to help manage their disease. Glinda Dames-Fincher, of Mayfield Heights, has lived with sickle cell disease for more than 60 years. She receives monthly red cell exchange transfusions as part of her treatment.

Unfortunately, these patients may develop an immune response against blood from donors that is not closely matched to their own. Many individuals who are Black have distinct markers on their red blood cells that make their donations ideal for helping patients with sickle cell disease. More than half of blood donors who are Black have blood that is free of C, E and K antigens – making them the best match for those with sickle cell disease.

Life-threatening complications

Sickle cell disease distorts soft, round blood cells and turns them hard and crescent-shaped, which can cause extreme pain. When hardened, the cells can get caught in blood vessels, potentially leading to stroke and organ failure.

“Transfusions provide healthy blood cells, unblocking blood vessels and delivering oxygen,” said Dr. James Westra, Red Cross regional medical director. “By increasing the amount of closely matched blood products, the Red Cross is able to help ensure the right blood product is available at the right time for patients facing a sickle cell crisis – minimizing complications for those with rare blood types fighting sickle cell disease.” makenzie-nance-002

Cleveland teenager Makenzie Nance was a preschooler when she received her first blood transfusion to help overcome complications from sickle cell disease. She visits local high schools to educate students about sickle cell disease and her family hosts blood drives to encourage more Black donors to give. You can read Makenzie’s story here.

The Red Cross asks members of the Black community to join in helping to address this health disparity and meet the needs of patients with sickle cell disease. Donors can take action today by scheduling a blood donation appointment at RedCrossBlood.org, by downloading the Blood Donor App or by calling 1-800-RED CROSS. To help tackle the need for blood in September – Sickle Cell Awareness Month − all donors who come to give with the Red Cross Sept. 13-30 will receive a limited-edition football-themed T-shirt, while supplies last. 

 

 

Building a blood supply as diverse as the community it serves

Just as people have different hair or eye color and come in all shapes and sizes, they also have different blood types. While most blood types fall into one of the four major groups: A, B, AB and O, some people have rare blood types. Because of their rare blood types, these patients need a more diverse blood supply.

Red blood cells carry markers called antigens that determine one’s blood type. There are more than 600 known antigens, some that are unique to specific racial or ethnic groups. For example, U-negative and Duffy-negative blood types are two types unique to the African American community. When treating patients who have these rare types, blood from donors of the same ethnic background is less likely to cause complications.

November 22, 2020. Portsmouth, Virginia. Grove Church Blood Drive 2020. Photos by Jared Beasley/American Red Cross

This is especially important for patients who have chronic blood disorders that require regular blood transfusions. Glinda Dames-Fincher, of Mayfield Heights, has lived with sickle cell disease for more than 60 years. Sickle cell disease is the most common genetic blood disease in the U.S. and it largely affects those of African and Latino descent. It causes red blood cells to be hard and crescent-shaped instead of soft and round. As a result, blood has difficulty flowing smoothly and carrying oxygen to the rest of the body. Blood transfusion is a known treatment for patients with sickle cell disease.

“As part of my treatment, I receive monthly red cell exchange transfusions. I receive two pints of red blood cells during each of these transfusions,” said Dames-Fincher. “I have received regular blood transfusions for the last 20 years to help manage my sickle cell disease. Without donated blood, sickle cell patients face sickle cell crisis, and other complications such as strokes, organ failure, chronic wounds, and shortened lifespan.”

The need for blood is constant and all eligible donors are encouraged to give and help meet the need. Whether blood is needed for a chronic condition, such as sickle cell disease, a surgical procedure or a large-scale emergency, it’s the blood already on the shelves that helps save lives.

To find a blood drive near you and make an appointment, visit RedCrossBlood.org, call 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767) or download the free Red Cross Blood Donor App. Visit Red Cross Blood & Diversity to learn more about the need for diverse blood donors.

Blood donations to treat sickle cell disease are needed

By Tim Poe, American Red Cross volunteer

September 25, 2020- September is Sickle Cell Awareness Month, and the need for blood donations to assist the 100,000 Americans with sickle cell disease is especially critical this year. While the disease does not have a cure, blood transfusions are one of the most effective treatments. The American Red Cross requests anyone who can help with a lifesaving blood donation to do so.

Sickle cell disease, which mostly affects those of African and Latino descent, causes red blood cells to be hard and crescent-shaped. Blood has difficulty flowing smoothly and carrying oxygen to the rest of the body, which may lead to severe pain, tissue and organ damage, acute anemia and even strokes.

As Christy Peters, External Communications Manager for Red Cross’ Northern Ohio Biomedical Services, reported in June, blood donations from African Americans are vital in treating sickle cell disease, as blood must be closely matched to reduce the risk of complications. During the COVID-19 pandemic, however, she noted, “the number of African Americans donating blood with the Red Cross has dropped by more than half.”

Julie Broze at MetroHealth Medical Center’s Hematology/Oncology Department also mentioned the importance of blood donors in treating sickle cell disease. While MetroHealth has not had its blood supply for sickle cell patients hindered, she said more people donating is vital, as the demographic can be difficult to match. African Americans who do not have the sickle cell trait or disease are especially encouraged to donate, as their blood has a greater chance to have needed antigens and be a better match.

For a personal perspective, I spoke with Demeatrice Nance, whose daughter Makenzie, now 16, has sickle cell disease. Both Demeatrice and Makenzie are effective advocates in educating people about sickle cell, the need for blood donations, perseverance and helping others.

Makenzie has given a number of talks, especially to fellow young people, on sickle cell and the need to donate blood. Demeatrice, a Certified Community Healthcare Worker for the Ohio Sickle Cell and Health Association, has performed vital roles in a number of efforts, including the largest African American blood drive in Ohio.

Their outlooks are inspiring. While they have faced sickle cell disease—and its personal and emotional challenges—for 16 years, they focus on being positive and doing what is needed. This remains true even during the current pandemic. Demeatrice said there is a greater need for blood, but many are currently afraid to give, so she and her daughter are continuing to educate and help.

An avid football fan, Makenzie adapts a coach’s saying that, when you get hit, keep your legs moving as you can still gain yardage. Makenzie says we can learn from that, whether donating blood, facing sickle cell, cancer, COVID-19 or other hardships. Even with the hits we are experiencing, we need to keep going, as we’ll help ourselves and others gain a bit more. So please, consider donating blood.

For another powerful perspective on sickle cell disease, please read Glinda Dames Fincher’s story here.

More information on joining the fight is available here.

Information on donating blood and Coronavirus is available here.

Edited by Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross volunteer

African American blood donors critically needed to support sickle cell patients

By Christy Peters, External Communications Manager, Northern Ohio Biomedical Services

June 19, 2020- In the U.S., about 100,000 people of various racial and ethnic backgrounds are living with sickle cell disease, most of whom are of African or Latino descent, such as Glinda Dames Fincher of Mayfield Heights. African American blood donors are vital for many patients with rare blood types, like those with sickle cell disease, who depend on blood that must be matched very closely – beyond the A, B, O and AB blood types – to reduce the risk of complications.

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Glinda Dames Fincher

Since mid-March, the number of African Americans donating blood with the Red Cross has dropped by more than half. This low donor turnout is largely due to blood drive cancellations at businesses, churches and schools and the disproportionate COVID-19 infection rates for African Americans compared to other groups.

Despite the decline in blood donations from African American donors, the need for blood products for patients with sickle cell disease has remained steady. Without a readily available blood supply, sickle cell patients can experience severe pain, tissue and organ damage, acute anemia and even strokes. Furthermore, sickle cell patients are at high risk of serious complications from coronavirus infection, and blood transfusion can be a lifesaving treatment for these patients.

Blood and Plasma Donation 2020

The American Red Cross encourages healthy individuals to make appointments to donate blood to ensure blood remains readily available for patients who still rely on transfusions during this uncertain time. Each Red Cross blood drive and donation center follows the highest standards of safety and infection control, and additional precautions – including social distancing and face coverings for donors and staff – have been implemented to ensure the health of all those in attendance.

Make an appointment

Blood and Plasma Donation 2020

Healthy individuals who are feeling well are asked to make an appointment to donate in the weeks and months ahead by downloading the free Red Cross Blood Donor App, visiting RedCrossBlood.org, calling 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767) or enabling the Blood Donor Skill on any Alexa Echo device. 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 sites in Northern Ohio include:

  • The Warzel Donation Center – 3747 Euclid Avenue, Cleveland, Ohio 44115
  • The Parma Donation Center – 5585 Pearl Road, Parma, Ohio 44129
  • The Summit Donation Center – 501 W. Market Street, Akron, Ohio, 44303
  • The Toledo Donation Center – 3510 Executive Parkway, Toledo, Ohio 43606