Why American Red Cross needs a diverse supply of blood donations

Local News

SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – Every year, summer usually signals a blood shortage at the American Red Cross.

With schools and universities on summer break, volunteers need to get creative to determine how best to collect blood: a perishable commodity that needs constant replenishment.

This year’s anticipated summer shortage comes after the coronavirus pandemic, which signaled its own slowdown for the same reasons. With most places of business on lockdown, volunteers have spent the last year looking for safe ways to host blood drives.

Maria Center, the executive director of the non-profit’s Southeast Georgia chapter, hopes an upcoming forum will engage the right players who can encourage more people to donate blood, especially people of color.

“Blood is essential for life” and especially important for patients with sickle cell disease who require regular blood transfusions, explained Center.

It’s the most common inherited blood disorder in the country.

Of more than 100 thousand patients, 10 percent live in Georgia. Most are of African American descent.

“People who have sickle cell disease require blood from someone of the same race and ethnicity to prevent complications,” explained Center. “If you have multiple blood transfusions from a mismatched donor, it involves many adverse effects and you develop antibodies so it makes future transfusions more difficult.”

Center says the disease, by nature, is serious.

“If you have sickle-shaped red blood cells, then it gets stuck in the veins. It’s extremely painful and it deprives the body and organs of blood,” she said.

It’s why Center hopes a virtual forum on June 10, ahead of World Sickle Cell Day, will encourage more people to donate blood.

African Americans make up just four percent of blood donations but 13 percent of the population.

“We are inviting elected leaders because they have a unique platform and the ability to reach many people with the message of the need to have a diverse blood supply to support people with sickle cell,” Center said.

Among other elected officials, Savannah Mayor Van Johnson and Chatham County Comission Chairman Chester Ellis have agreed to appear.

Members of the public can register here.

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