Sickle cell disease patients who rely on blood transfusions need more Black blood donors

It’s Sickle Cell Awareness Month, and advocates want African Americans to know that people suffering with the disease need their help specifically.

“Donors who are Black are almost three times more likely to match blood for a patient with sickle cell disease compared to anyone that is not Black or of African descent,” said Dr. Yvette Miller, the executive medical officer of the American Red Cross Blood Services.

Miller said people with complicated cases of sickle cell disease can wait days for compatible units of blood.

“That’s why it’s incredibly important to always have our shelves full of blood donated by individuals with sickle cell disease, so that patients when they present to the hospital or to the emergency room, or they are in pain, or they’re having complications of sickle cell disease, we can quickly identify those units that are compatible with them,” she said.



Some people with sickle cell disease need transfusions every month.

“It’s called an exchange transfusion, where we literally remove about 75% of the patient’s blood, and we infuse them with normal red blood cells,” Miller explained. “The need is constant. Please take the opportunity to make that appointment and donate blood.”

You can make an appointment to donate blood in the Metro D.C. area with Inova Blood Donor Services or on the American Red Cross website. You also can also download the Red Cross blood donor app or call 1-800-Red-Cross.

Kristi King

Kristi King is a veteran reporter who has been working in the WTOP newsroom since 1990. She covers everything from breaking news to consumer concerns and the latest medical developments.

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