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Experts: ‘Desperate need’ for diverse local blood donors

Shelby Campbell, of Montgomery County, Maryland, just turned 3 years old. She has a genetic disorder called beta thalassemia that requires she get a transfusion every 21 days. (Courtesy American Red Cross)

WASHINGTON — You’ve likely heard that nearly everyone can donate blood, but blood from some donors can be better than others depending on who needs it.

Every ethnicity has different proteins and antigens on the surface of their red blood cells, and patients are best off receiving blood from donors who resemble them as closely as possible, according to experts from Inova Blood Donor Services.

Both Inova and the American Red Cross told WTOP they need donations from a more diverse donor pool.

“We are actively recruiting minority blood donors,” said American Red Cross spokeswoman Regina E. Boothe Bratton. 

For those who have a specialized illness, a close donor patient match is especially important. That’s the case with sickle cell anemia that mainly impacts the African-American community.

Shelby Campbell, of Montgomery County, Maryland, just turned 3 years old and is especially reliant on that diverse blood pool. She has a rare genetic blood disorder called beta thalassemia that requires she get a transfusion every 21 days.

“She was adopted from China. So, there are environmental factors, the types of foods people eat, the type of weather you are exposed to,” Boothe Bratton said. “We are in desperate need to have a diverse blood donor pool, and Shelby’s just one example of the reason why.”

So, to help patients like Shelby, Inova and the Red Cross are appealing to minority donors to come out and roll up their sleeves. Donors can find places to donate blood on the websites of Inova Blood Donor Services and the American Red Cross.


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