When patients living with sickle cell disease face a sickle cell crisis, blood transfusions can make a lifesaving difference. That’s why the American Red Cross has launched an initiative to grow the number of blood donors who are Black to help patients with sickle cell disease, an enduring and often invisible health disparity in the U.S.

“Blood transfusion is mainstay of treatment for folks with sickle cell disease especially for complications such as stroke, recurrent acute chest syndrome or pulmonary hypertension,” said Dr. Reginia Crawford from the Durham VA and Duke University Sickle Cell program. “Ideally, red blood cell exchange is optimal because you can give several units without increasing volume and best in emergent situations such as acute stroke, acute chest, multiorgan failure.  Simple transfusions are best with low hematocrits.  Red blood cell exchange is sometimes used for men with sickle cell disease and persistent/recurrent priapism. In short, transfusions are key in sickle cell disease.”

A closer blood match leads to better outcomes

Many patients with sickle cell disease will require regular blood transfusions to help manage their disease. Unfortunately, these patients may develop an immune response against blood from donors that is not closely matched to their own. Many individuals who are Black have distinct markers on their red blood cells. This makes their donations ideal for helping patients with sickle cell disease. More than half of blood donors who are Black have blood that is free of C, E and K antigens. This makes them the best match for those with sickle cell disease.

The Red Cross asks members of the Black community to join in helping to address this health disparity and meet the needs of patients with sickle cell disease. Donors can take action today by scheduling a blood donation appointment at RedCrossBlood.org, by downloading the Blood Donor App or by calling 1-800-RED CROSS. 

September is Sickle Cell Awareness Month. To help tackle the need for blood, all donors who come to give with the Red Cross Sept. 13-30 will receive a limited-edition football-themed T-shirt, while supplies last.

Life-threatening complications

Sickle cell disease distorts soft, round blood cells and turns them hard and crescent-shaped, which can cause extreme pain. When hardened, the cells can get caught in blood vessels, potentially leading to stroke and organ failure.

“Transfusions provide healthy blood cells, unblocking blood vessels and delivering oxygen,” said Lisa Macaluso, Regional Donor Services Executive for the Red Cross of the National Capital & Greater Chesapeake Region. “By increasing the amount of closely matched blood products, the Red Cross is able to help ensure the right blood product is available at the right time for patients facing a sickle cell crisis – minimizing complications for those with rare blood types fighting sickle cell disease

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78 Comments

  1. Finian October 6, 2021 at 6:55 pm - Reply

    It is disappointing to see the VA following the highly objectionable practice of capitalizing “black” while leaving “White” in lowercase. Hint: there is NO justification, other than black privilege and black fragility, to minimize one group over another.

    I hope the VA will re-think its editorial rules.

    [Editor: We follow AP Style.]

  2. Thom Richer September 28, 2021 at 11:33 am - Reply

    Shut up and DONATE! Even you BLUEbloods are needed.

  3. Paul September 24, 2021 at 9:06 pm - Reply

    In order for the VA to stay relevant they need to become woke. Posts like this push racist thoughts.

    I was nice when we were all veterans.

  4. Bob September 24, 2021 at 9:01 pm - Reply

    Has anyone heard back from Stephanie Monique Todd re their September 22, 2021 at 9:45 am rant? Just because we can express our outrage, do we really have to, especially without reading? Fortunately those who do earn their just deserts. However I am willing to forgive if they’ve learned their lesson and they do public penance for those hasty words.

  5. Juan E Jimenez September 23, 2021 at 3:22 pm - Reply

    The Red Cross is not looking for “African-American” donors. It is always looking for *any* donors, but right now they have a particular need for BLACK donors for clear, amply documented and widely accepted scientific reasons. They could care less about their ethnicity, nationality or which continent they came from, they just need blood with the right markers, which are most common in BLACK people. And remember, the US is *not* America, it is only one small part of America. That’s why the name of the country is the United States OF America. Anyone born in North, Central or South America is an American, regardless of what any US citizen thinks about that.

    • Elisa September 29, 2021 at 3:32 pm - Reply

      If you want to be or are a Citizen of the United States, then act like it, I realize that you might be offended by the call for “African-American” , or BLACK donors, but the fact is that it is a numbers issue. BLACKS are only 12% of the population in the UNITED STATES of America. And Sickle Cell is life-threatening. I am a military Veteran and MULATTO (White father, BLACK mother) and my Step-mother (Madrastra) is MEXICAN. ALL BLOOD IS ALWAYS NEEDED. But there are fewer BLACK numbers and Donors, and it’s Sickle Cell Awareness month as well as HISPANIC Heritage month. By the way, mi Hermanita is half-Mexican and a Nurse. I’m sure she isn’t so offended by this announcement. If you don’t like the attention that MAYATES got on this announcement, then perhaps you don’t need to BE in the United States where ALL people deserve recognition.

  6. Virginia M Andre September 23, 2021 at 2:29 pm - Reply

    For those of us who were OVERSEAS especially in Europe they will NOT allow you to donate because of Mad Cow Disease.

    [Editor: This is no longer true: https://blogs.va.gov/VAntage/83743/fda-lifts-ban-european-blood-donations/ ]

  7. Joey September 23, 2021 at 10:05 am - Reply

    Sooooo the Red Cross still needs blood donations! Don’t forget ☺️

  8. George H Wilson September 23, 2021 at 9:28 am - Reply

    I served in Europe from 1987 to 1990, can I donate blood?

    • Connie Tanner September 27, 2021 at 7:35 pm - Reply

      Yes, you can. The European restrictions were changed a few months ago. I checked because our family, too, was there from 1986-1990.

  9. Bill Leasure September 23, 2021 at 9:26 am - Reply

    I am 71 and have had a double dose of the Pfizer cov-19 vaccine. Am I able to give blood?

  10. Theresa September 23, 2021 at 8:42 am - Reply

    As a diabetic, can I still give blood?

    • Nikki September 23, 2021 at 12:19 pm - Reply

      I’m wondering the same thing. White, but universal donor.

    • Russ Kirkpatrick September 23, 2021 at 1:28 pm - Reply

      Yes! I’m type 2 diabetic and have been giving blood (O-) every 8 weeks since 2001.

  11. robert edwin myers September 23, 2021 at 8:20 am - Reply

    Can us servicemember’s whom served in Germany in 1987-1989 donate blood or not?

  12. Suzanne September 23, 2021 at 4:32 am - Reply

    Is this all VA hospitals having blood donation drive?? Looking to help just have to know where in KC area

    • Russ Kirkpatrick September 23, 2021 at 1:31 pm - Reply

      Suzanne, this is the VA encouraging ALL people to donate to their local Red Cross whenever they can. Go to redcross.org to see where donations are being accepted and sign up. Blood donation teams set up in churches and business parking lots to make it as easy as possible for you to donate.

  13. Norman Morris September 23, 2021 at 3:58 am - Reply

    I’m willing to give blood O+Thank you

  14. Vanessa Simmons September 22, 2021 at 11:41 pm - Reply

    What a shame those of us who were stationed in Europe in the 80’s can’t give blood because of mad cow disease. That has wiped out a large swath of veterans.

    • Leslie Sawka September 23, 2021 at 7:56 am - Reply

      FDA lifts ban based on European service blood donations
      FDA lifts ban based on European service blood donations
      #VetResources, Health, Top Stories
      FDA lifts ban based on European service blood donations
      Veterans! If you were ineligible to donate blood because of your military service in Europe, you may be eligible now. The FDA lifted that ban and blood is urgently needed now because of the pandemic.

    • Tracey Penland September 23, 2021 at 8:36 am - Reply

      The FDA lifted the ban in 2020. Veterans can now give blood if they were stationed there in the 80’s. Go forth and give life!

    • Jim September 23, 2021 at 8:49 pm - Reply

      Covid vaccinated cannot give convalescent plasma due to clotting and spike proteins generated from the injections. Why isn’t the VA telling people?

  15. Karen L Curtis September 22, 2021 at 11:39 pm - Reply

    Darius, Way to normalize. Offended is uninformed.

  16. CJ Reed September 22, 2021 at 11:29 pm - Reply

    I am “White” but have sickle cell because my White ancestors lived in Africa. I require regular blood transfusions. Thanks for EVERYONE who is volunteering to save the lives of people like me, White or Black or whatever. God bless you.

  17. Charles Espenshade September 22, 2021 at 11:06 pm - Reply

    Actually Darius I read it and sorts felt the same way. I seen where supposedly there are differences in the blood. I sorta understand that. Unless someone is tested how can you say that point though?
    I’m a 60 yr old white male. No I’m NOT vaxed. I have B- blood. Are you saying that my blood wouldn’t work because I’m white without testing?

  18. Jerry September 22, 2021 at 11:03 pm - Reply

    Your blood type doesn’t care about feelings. It’s a genetic thing and they need certain donors for what they are trying to do. It’s science…

  19. Johnny Salazar September 22, 2021 at 10:49 pm - Reply

    Ty Darius…

  20. Talmadge Scott Jr September 22, 2021 at 10:35 pm - Reply

    Lord, thank you for clearing that up for us..Although as you stated, we did read the entire article and we are donors
    .

  21. Ryan Kennard September 22, 2021 at 10:16 pm - Reply

    People get offended very easily

  22. Brian S Moser September 22, 2021 at 10:14 pm - Reply

    Hello “everyone”, unless U are green w/pink polka dots, then U aren’t included!! Hope that didn’t “Offend anyone” if so, to bad. Thank U Mr. Thompson for trying to explain the simplicity of this, to those that are still stuck & or just looking for “The Negative”?

    I’ve been a Blood, Plasma & Platelet “Donor” which = or this means volunteer, for the understandingly challenged? For most of my life, from 18 to present, & I never asked where my product was going!! Who is getting what or said: I only want to “HELP” my people. I have always thought of others first, even strangers many times. So if Ms. Todd or anyone else that can’t seem to figure this out & is not going to help, just get the H- e- double Hockey sticks out of the way, their are people trying to “Help PEOPLE”!!!!!!

  23. NORMAN CORY MONSON September 22, 2021 at 10:07 pm - Reply

    Would love to give blood ,but don’t make it complicated and provide a local address .Don’t need a t shirt ,just a stress free visit a clean donation site where you aren’t treated like they are doing you a favor.

  24. Rudy Koch September 22, 2021 at 9:56 pm - Reply

    Thank you VA for being here for the veterans regardless of color or race!

  25. Del Templeton September 22, 2021 at 9:55 pm - Reply

    I was told I couldn’t donate blood because I was stationed in Germany in the 70’s and 80’s. Something about eating meat that possibly had mad cow disease. That was 40 years ago. Am I still prohibited from donating blood.

    • Leslie Sawka September 23, 2021 at 7:56 am - Reply

      FDA lifts ban based on European service blood donations
      FDA lifts ban based on European service blood donations
      #VetResources, Health, Top Stories
      FDA lifts ban based on European service blood donations
      Veterans! If you were ineligible to donate blood because of your military service in Europe, you may be eligible now. The FDA lifted that ban and blood is urgently needed now because of the pandemic.

  26. Alejandro September 22, 2021 at 9:54 pm - Reply

    I just printed this article out to pass out at a community veteran event. The language is a little jarring in the headlines but hopefully the message will get out for vets helping vets. That’s what its all about.

  27. James Owens September 22, 2021 at 9:53 pm - Reply

    I got to agree with Darius… I don’t find the usage of Black in the title to be racially insensitive at all. That’s actually what got my attention and led me to read the rest of the story. I think most people know that the sickle cell disease primarily affects the Black community. So as someone with the trait: Not offended at all… Glad this blog and the Red Cross are raising awareness in this way.

  28. Angelica September 22, 2021 at 9:42 pm - Reply

    I felt the same way Stephanie Monique Todd. How about saying African-American blood donors are needed.

  29. Mitchell Phan September 22, 2021 at 9:13 pm - Reply

    It’s always the race card with some of these people! If you’re Black, please consider donating your blood to help others.

  30. John S September 22, 2021 at 9:06 pm - Reply

    Stop being f’n offended at everything! My Gawd!!! STOP IT!!!!!

    • Marcia September 23, 2021 at 9:59 am - Reply

      Amen!

  31. Dan September 22, 2021 at 8:53 pm - Reply

    I am white and have A Neg blood type. Is it or I of any interest to your blood bank needs?

    • Caleb Trawick September 23, 2021 at 8:19 am - Reply

      Why is it so hard to make an appointment for people with Type O+ blood????

  32. Juan E Jimenez September 22, 2021 at 8:22 pm - Reply

    Stephanie, your post is way out of line. Black people with sickle cell disease don’t need generic donors, they need Black donors for very specific medical reasons. The information on why this is so is widely available. Educate yourself and take your little offense elsewhere.

  33. Urs September 22, 2021 at 7:58 pm - Reply

    I agree, one should not be offended by mentioning someone’s race. I don’t see what the problem is. It wasn’t insensitive in any way.

  34. John C. Brauner September 22, 2021 at 7:40 pm - Reply

    Good jib Darius. If I need blood I don’t care what color you are. I’m white thank you very much.

  35. David B Williamson September 22, 2021 at 7:27 pm - Reply

    Is there an age limit to donate blood?

  36. Robert DeLuca September 22, 2021 at 7:20 pm - Reply

    I have been trying to give blood but all appointments are full all the time. I have O+ makes it very hard to donate

  37. Ken Himes September 22, 2021 at 7:11 pm - Reply

    As a Black man, I’m not offended by this at all. We need to stop with everything hurting our feelings. Nothing wrong with the headline.

  38. Gene Treants September 22, 2021 at 6:58 pm - Reply

    Black blood donors needed to help patients with sickle cell disease. Yes, I actually read the story and YES, I also am offended by the title of the story. This actually implies that only blacks get and can help with Sickle Cell Disease. I am of Mediterranean descent and know better, but many people do not read past the title of articles today. The normal attention span of readers is less than 10 seconds to hook a reader into actually buying into an article, thanks to the internet. So, Titles do matter.

  39. Art September 22, 2021 at 6:57 pm - Reply

    Sweet response ; )

  40. D. Blankenship September 22, 2021 at 6:34 pm - Reply

    Darius Thompson, AGREED!! It was accurate, well spelled out and well-intentioned, but in this “CARING” progressive climate we’re living in, anything that even mentions culture, race, or other hot buttons is fair game.

  41. Dennis Cronin September 22, 2021 at 6:06 pm - Reply

    I agree Me Todd in today’s culture it should be express differently. They made a poor effort in wording if they needed blood Donor’s from the Asian community would they say yellow people?? No!

  42. Michael Mumford September 22, 2021 at 6:01 pm - Reply

    To the point. Trying to get Black people to help other Black people.

    Why did African Americans as a group donate less blood proportionate to their percentage in the total population?
    Reasons for underrepresentation

    Lower rates of donation in African Americans versus whites may be secondary to decreased donor eligibility, increased donor deferral, different motivators and barriers to donor recruitment, requirement of different marketing strategies and less trust in the health care system (Table 1).

  43. Leonard Brian Frank September 22, 2021 at 5:51 pm - Reply

    get over yourself stephanie

  44. Ron Wilson September 22, 2021 at 5:03 pm - Reply

    Where do I go to donate blood?

  45. Stephanie Monique Todd September 22, 2021 at 9:45 am - Reply

    I am a little offended by the way the story is titled. It is very culturally insensitive in today’s current climate. Please explain the usage of words for that title. Black blood donors. Sickle cell research needs blood donors would have been more inclusive.
    Sickle cell anemia affects several cultures and to get a good response it should be reflected in the article title.

    • Darius Thompson September 22, 2021 at 11:11 am - Reply

      Did you ACTUALLY read the story?

      “The Red Cross asks members of the Black community to join in helping to address this health disparity and meet the needs of patients with sickle cell disease. ”

      Translation: they have enough donors from other backgrounds. They need Black blood donors. Not culturally insensitive. Factual. To the point. Trying to get Black people to help other Black people. Also, the article doesn’t say other cultures ARE NOT affected.

      Try READING before making some comment about how you’re offended!!!

      • Onnalee Riley September 22, 2021 at 7:09 pm - Reply

        People find offense with everything these days. Good on you for clarifying that this is not culturally insensitive, but rather a real need and call for Black donors.

      • Anthony Richardson September 22, 2021 at 7:17 pm - Reply

        Thank you for the reply…people will find anything to make their lives seem relevant even make something innocent like this out of something major

      • Kerry R Cochell September 22, 2021 at 7:35 pm - Reply

        Sadly generations have now been trained to see society and their world thru race. It was never like that until the racists took control of our education system and with the help of the propaganda outlets that spew racism constantly, it’s now what we’re dealing with today.

      • Joe Gladney September 22, 2021 at 7:56 pm - Reply

        Of course she didn’t read it. She doesn’t have to. It has Black in the title so it’s inherently racist.

      • Kelly Donlevy September 22, 2021 at 8:44 pm - Reply

        Yes, I agree and thought the article was clear and informative.

      • Patrick September 22, 2021 at 9:30 pm - Reply

        Exactly right

      • Quentin Stephens September 22, 2021 at 10:33 pm - Reply

        Well said. You are spot on. People should look before they leap or in this case…read the entire article before “unjustly “ criticizing it. Thanks for setting the record straight.

      • Renee September 22, 2021 at 10:45 pm - Reply

        Well said ! #inconvenienttruth UNFORTUNATELY

      • Dave Wilcox September 22, 2021 at 11:23 pm - Reply

        Maybe if the ARC had said people with African American heritage? But that leads to another question if people with African heritage have other people’s genes combined with their own set; does that affect their blood cells ability to help with sickle cell?

        Hopefully we can all agree on one thing: if any body needs blood they are most probably in a world of hurt and that the ARC has enough in reserve to save them.

      • Alton September 22, 2021 at 11:45 pm - Reply

        Did YOU actually understand the story yourself Darius?

        “Many individuals who are Black have distinct markers on their red blood cells.”

        Translation: There are regional and racial genetic differences between people in their blood. Not culturally insensitive. Agreed. However, sickle cell anemia is usually a disease inherited from ancestors from a malarial region and not necessarily a race. In America is it overwhelming Black people who have it though.

        I agree with you that one should not be offended by the article though. If one wants to help and donate blood or not it is up to them.

    • Martin Gorski September 22, 2021 at 7:01 pm - Reply

      We need to stop all the incentivety ,we are all one blood . People need people to help so let’s help regardless of color ,race, religion .

    • Henry McLeod September 22, 2021 at 7:01 pm - Reply

      I see what you mean. In the world of today….sadly I have to ask…..is Anything Not insensitive? Kudos for expressing yourself.

    • Evan September 22, 2021 at 7:30 pm - Reply

      Maybe because only black prople can get sickle cell!! Maybe you need a shot of feelings. Black Blood Matters

      • Lynn September 23, 2021 at 9:32 am - Reply

        Not true, a white person above has sickle cell too from connections with Africa. Does anyone read all of the comments before responding? Cuz I did!

    • Patrick September 22, 2021 at 9:33 pm - Reply

      Are you illiterate or something else? It’s easy, they need donations from specifically BLACK people because BLACK people have specific markers they require. They already have donations from other races but SPECIFICALLY NEED ONES FROM BLACK FOLKS. Understand? Nothing here is offensive. So don’t play that card.

    • Mitch Nay September 22, 2021 at 9:43 pm - Reply

      Here we go people are getting offended over the smallest things, get a life and just give blood

      • Joey September 23, 2021 at 10:02 am - Reply

        Everyone’s waking me up w laughs by
        turning the blood donation need, into a huge race/venting sesh! Lol

    • Gerry Blemmish September 22, 2021 at 10:29 pm - Reply

      Nice virtue-signaling. Rest east knowing that by expressing your self-righteous feelings, you made a real difference in the United Sta…err….. the WORLD.

    • Art Petersen September 22, 2021 at 10:48 pm - Reply

      Seems to me you are part of the problem when you describe the issue as “insensitive in today’s current climate”. Today’s current climate exists because *everyone* decides they’re offended by the slightest things. I don’t see anything wrong with the title; perhaps you’re part of the problem in “today’s current climate”.

    • Rich September 22, 2021 at 11:49 pm - Reply

      All the buzz words “in today’s current climate”. You being “a little offended” by a factual request is your issue. No one is being excluded, therefore everyone is included.

    • Tamika September 23, 2021 at 7:42 am - Reply

      Imagine trying to be so “woke” and getting so offended without knowing the actual reasoning behind the request. I am a member of the Black community and this story caught my attention. I actually READ it to find out how I can help with this health disparity. It’s not that they don’t want to help other ethnicities. It’s that this particular population is lacking resources so they are seeking assistance.

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