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Blood donations needed for sickle cell patients

The American Red Cross is partnering with the American Sickle Cell Foundation of Georgia to help bring more awareness to sickle cell disease. 

On Thursday at 7 p.m., the two will co-host a virtual forum. 

“Sickle Cell Disease is the most common genetic disease in the U.S., affecting about 100,000 people,” said Holly Winner, Central Midwest Georgia Chapter executive director. 

“The disease occurs in roughly 1 in every 365 African American births. Georgia has the nation’s largest sickle cell disease population with more than 10,000 people.” 

Winner said they are facing critical blood shortage among African Americans. The American Red Cross has set a goal of tripling black donors by 2023. 

“Many sickle cell patients can have upwards of 10 transfusions each month in order for their bodies to work properly and for them to not be in pain,” Winner said. “It also replenishes their body with good blood, so that red blood cells can work for their body.” 

Winner noted that sickle cell is red blood cell proteins, and they are different in different races. 

“So, if you treat sickle cell with blood that is not from the same race, that can produce even more antibodies, that is creating more health problems that you have to battle,” Winner said. 

“To best treat sick cell disease, they need a perfect blood match from a person from the same race. That is really hard to do. Within our blood pool that we have in the country, only about 3.9% of the blood for the blood bank is made up of African American blood.” 

Winner said the forum will bring together and encourage African American students, communities and Historically Black Colleges and Universities to become lifelong blood donors. 

“We plan to honor Dr. Charles Drew, known as the ‘father of the blood bank,’ an African American Surgeon, Educator and Scientist who helped shape the blood services industry,” Winner said. 

To watch the forum, visit www.redcross.org/local/georgia.html and go to events. 

“If we can increase the number of people getting blood, then these 10,000 people would have a way better chance of finding their exact match, and therefore have better blood transfusions throughout the month and then live a better life,” Winner said. 

The American Red Cross will also host a Sickle Cell Fighter Blood Drive on April 9, 10 a.m.  through 3 p.m. at William J. Griggs Recreation Center. To schedule an appointment, visit RedCrossBlood.org.