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The importance of blood donations in the Black community

Virus Outbreak Florida
Posted at 9:30 AM, Oct 24, 2022
and last updated 2022-10-24 12:30:01-04

A partnership between the American Red Cross and historically Black fraternities and sororities is having a huge impact.

Sickle cell disease is a generic blood condition that predominately affects Black people. It often requires multiple blood transfusions from closely matched blood donors to avoid pain and complications like stroke, which took the life of 7-year-old Anne Kathryn.

Her father, Clifton Taulbert, says life is difficult without her in their world.

“Just love your child as if there’s nothing else in the world you were called to do," he said.

Alana Fisher knew the importance of having diverse blood donations. She organized blood drives in high school and ended up winning thousands of dollars in college scholarships from the American Red Cross.

“It helps save people’s lives, and it only feels like a pinch, so it doesn’t hurt to give," she said.

According to the American Red Cross, 1 in 3 Black blood donors is a match for sickle cell patients. The American Red Cross alongside the Divine Nines (National Pan-Hellenic Council) has been asking Black communities around the U.S. to donate blood in support of these patients. In 20221 they launched the Joined by Blood campaign as part of their national initiative to increase donations from black donors. During the initiative's first year, the number of first-time African American blood donors who gave with the American Red Cross increased by 60%.

Not only does increasing blood donations from black donors help those with sick cell disease, but it also strengthens the overall blood supply.

About half of Black people have blood type O, the universal blood type relied on in times of crisis.

Dr. Yvette Miller, executive medical officer for the American Red Cross Donor and Client Support Center says the first and most important step is knowing your sickle cell trait status.

Donors to American Red Cross are screened for sickle cell traits and they are also given important health information like blood pressure readings.

“About 50% of the U.S. population has hypertension and it’s more common in diverse communities,” Miller said. “Donating blood is a community service and some of the best use of your time as a volunteer.”

Click here to learn more about the need for Black donors and the American Red Cross.