Thirteen-year-old Angel is suffering from a severe pain crisis. Her mom carries her into the hospital because she cannot walk. Twins Joshua and Jordan, high school freshmen, experience similar pain episodes and are hospitalized about five times a year. All three have sickle cell disease. Angel, Joshua and Jordan depend on blood transfusions to help them battle this devastating illness. Yet donated blood might not always be available for them.
About 90,000 to 100,000 people in the United States suffer from sickle cell disease, mostly African-Americans. These patients – most of whom are children – need to undergo regular blood transfusions. Often, they develop antibodies to the blood they receive, leading to potentially life-threatening transfusion reactions. But if they can receive blood that’s more closely matched to their own, that risk is minimized. And the best matches are found among other African-Americans.
In addition, African-Americans face other serious health challenges that may require blood transfusions, including kidney disease, high blood pressure and higher birth rates of premature babies.
To meet the needs of patients, Blood Centers of the Pacific must collect more than 150,000 pints of blood each year. Yet, of those eligible to donate blood, less than 4 percent do. And of those who give, just 3 percent are African-Americans.
The numbers just don’t add up.
We need more African-Americans to close the gap. We need more African-American blood donors to save lives in the community. We need you.
Donating blood is safe, simple and it saves lives. Donated blood is precious. And there’s no substitute for it. The entire process takes about one hour and 15 minutes; the actual donation of a pint of whole blood unit takes eight to 10 minutes. However, the time varies slightly with each person depending on several factors including the donor’s health history and attendance at the blood drive. At your blood donation, you’ll also be given a “mini-physical,” where we take your temperature, your blood pressure and test your iron. That way, we ensure giving is safe for you. After your donation, your blood is tested, typed and sent to a patient in need.
You can donate blood at one of our centers or at one of the hundreds of blood drives we run throughout the community. These drives are held at schools, places of worship, businesses and civic organizations and are coordinated by our Diversity Program Specialist.
Every hero deserves recognition and our blood donors are no exception! When you become a blood donor with BCP, you’ll be automatically enrolled in our special “Find the Hero in Me” program. Commit to donating blood at least three times a year and you’ll get to select special gifts like movie tickets and ice cream. Reach various donation milestones and you’ll earn even more thank-you gifts! And at each donation, you’ll also receive a free cholesterol test so you can ensure your good health.
Anyone who is in good health, is at least 17-years-old (16, with parental consent), weights at least 110 pounds, and is not at risk for hepatitis or HIV is eligible to donate blood.
To be tested as a match to donate for patients like Angel, Joshua and Jordan, or to join the African-American Blood Donor program at BCP, call 1-800-707-8483.
An inherited disorder of the red blood cells, sickle cell disease is the most common genetic disorder in African-Americans. People with sickle cell have red blood cells that contain an abnormal type of hemoglobin. Instead of their normal round shape, red blood cells are crescent-shaped and have difficulty passing through the body’s small blood vessels. This eventually damages vessels and tissues, which can be extremely painful.
One in 500 African-Americans suffer from sickle cell anemia, while one in 12 African-Americans carry the sickle cell trait. Patients with the disease may need 15 to 25 blood transfusions each year. And there’s no substitute for this lifesaving gift.