In honor of Black History Month this February, the American Red Cross encourages eligible donors to give blood to honor the legacy of blood-banking pioneer Dr. Charles Drew and help patients in need, including those living with sickle cell disease.
Blood transfusion is a known treatment for patients with sickle cell disease, but this treatment would not be possible without the contributions of Drew, an African American surgeon who became the medical director of the first Red Cross blood bank in 1941. Drew’s research about the storage and shipment of blood plasma proved that blood could be stored for transfusions. Many of the processes he developed are still in use today.
Sickle cell disease affects about 100,000 people in the U.S., most of whom are of African or Latino descent. It is a lifelong inherited blood disorder that can cause anemia, tissue and organ damage, strokes, and terrible pain.
Blood transfusion helps patients with sickle cell disease by increasing the number of normal red blood cells in the body, helping to deliver oxygen throughout the body. Because a patient in need requires closely matched red blood cells from a donor of the same race or a similar ethnicity, diverse donors play a big part in sickle cell disease treatment.
“We have Dr. Charles Drew to thank for making transfusion therapy a reality for countless people each year, but without generous blood donors, patients would not be able to receive these treatments,” said Jan Hale, communications manager, North Texas Region. “The Red Cross is committed to maintaining a blood supply that is just as diverse as the patients we serve, and every blood donor has an important role in meeting that need.”
How to Donate Blood
Simply download the American Red Cross Blood Donor App, visit RedCrossBlood.org, call 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767) or enable the Blood Donor Skill on any Alexa Echo device to make an appointment or for more information.
All blood types are needed to ensure a reliable supply for patients. A blood donor card or driver’s license or two other forms of identification are required at check-in. Individuals who are 17 years of age in most states (16 with parental consent where allowed by state law), weigh at least 110 pounds and are in generally good health may be eligible to donate blood. High school students and other donors 18 years of age and younger also have to meet certain height and weight requirements.
Blood donors can save time at their next donation by using RapidPass to complete their pre-donation reading and health history questionnaire online, on the day of their donation, from a computer or mobile device. To complete a RapidPass, follow the instructions at RedCrossBlood.org/RapidPass or use the Blood Donor App.