Learn why blood transfusions from donors who are Black may provide best outcomes
Seventeen-year-old Demarus Torrence loves comics and sci-fi movies, and like his favorite superheroes, he’s awfully brave himself. Demarus lives with sickle cell disease, the most common inherited blood disorder, which affects about 100,000 people in the U.S.
What is sickle cell disease?
- Sickle cell disease makes red blood cells hard and sickle-shaped instead of soft and round.
- Blood flow can be blocked and impact oxygen delivery.
- It can cause severe pain, strokes and organ damage.
- Sickle cell disease disproportionately impacts the Black community.
Like many others with sickle cell disease, Demarus endures monthly blood transfusions, and, at times, regular hospital stays to help with extreme pain and other complications. “Just imagine someone hitting your back with a hammer, constantly, and it just won’t stop,” says Demarus’ mother, Passion Terrell. “[Demarus] describes it, and you can picture it, but you really can’t.”
Blood transfusion is essential in managing the very real pain and long-term health of those with sickle cell disease. Transfusions provide healthy red blood cells to help deliver oxygen throughout the body and unblock blood vessels. For Demarus, blood transfusions make a world of difference to his health. “It’s amazing – once he gets that blood in him, it’s like a different person,” Passion said. “His breathing improves; his blood levels improve. It’s like his body wakes up.”
A patient with sickle cell disease can require up to 100 units of blood each year to treat complications from the disease. Many may need to receive blood transfusions throughout their lives. 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 that make their donations ideal for helping patients with sickle cell disease.
To help ensure closely matched blood products are available for patients with sickle cell disease, the American Red Cross has launched a national initiative to grow the number of blood donors who are Black.
Join with the Red Cross to help address this health disparity by making an appointment to give blood:
- Sign up at RedCrossBlood.org.
- Sign up with theRed Cross Blood Donor App.
- Call 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767).
- Or enable the Blood Donor Skill on any Alexa Echo device.