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Press release from the American Red Cross:

Diverse Blood Donors Provide Hope for Sickle Cell Patients
Sickle cell is a lifelong disease. For many, blood transfusions offer hope.

(September 1, 2010) – “Blood donors can play an important role in the treatment of sickle cell disease,” said Sharyn Whitman, CEO for the Indiana-Ohio Blood Services Region of the American Red Cross. “For some patients, blood transfusions can ease pain and prevent complications, including strokes.”

Sickle cell disease is the most common genetic blood disease in the United States. Estimates are that more than 70,000 people live with the condition in the U.S., and that 1,000 babies are born with the disease annually. A single patient with sickle cell can receive up to 100 pints of blood each year.

The disease affects red blood cells by causing soft, round blood cells to become hard, sticky and “sickle” shaped. While normal red cells move smoothly through small blood tubes in the body, sickle shaped cells clog flow and break apart, causing pain, damage to blood vessels or vital organs, low blood count or anemia.

“People are often surprised when they learn that sickle cell disease affects people of almost all races,” said Whitman. “While the disease is more prevalent among people of African-descent, we also see the disease among people from India, Central and South America, the Middle East, the Caribbean and Mediterranean nations like Greece, France and Turkey.”

Since the best blood match for a patient requiring ongoing transfusions comes from donors of the same genetic background, the Red Cross encourages people of all ethnicities to donate blood, and help increase the number of diverse donors.

“You have a unique ability to help someone in need, just by giving blood,” said Whitman. “And with September being National Sickle Cell Disease Awareness Month, there’s an even more compelling reason to make and keep your appointment to help save a life.”

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