(MEDIC Regional Blood Center) MEDIC is working with local community groups and leaders to bring awareness to sickle cell disease and the ongoing need for blood products as the primary treatment for patients.
More than 100,000 Americans have sickle cell disease. Patients with sickle cell often need blood transfusions, and these transfusions are a lifeline for them. When it comes to donating blood, minority donors are under-represented and are less likely to become regular donors. Statistics show that African American individuals make up 13% of the population, but only 3% donate blood.
Sickle Cell Disease causes the red blood cells to be hard and crescent-shaped (like a sickle) instead of soft and round. This creates difficulty for blood to flow smoothly and carry adequate oxygen to the rest of the body. This can result in severe pain, stroke, and organ damage. Blood transfusions help relieve pain during a crisis and prevent other complications by increasing the number of healthy red blood cells in the body. In turn, this helps deliver oxygen throughout the body and unlock blood vessels.
Donated blood is the primary treatment. Because 1 in 3 African Americans is a match for a sickle cell patient, diversifying the donor base is especially important for our region.
“This is a great opportunity for MEDIC to serve our community through awareness and education initiatives while working with the Knox Area Urban League and other community leaders and groups,” said director of communications and public relations, Kristy Altman. “At any time, we are providing products for 2 to 5 patients. Each patient may need 4-5 units of blood at an interval of every 3 to 4 weeks. We are hoping to expand our minority donor base to increase the available products on our shelves. We hope that this awareness campaign shines a light on an ongoing need in our community and we look forward to continuing the conversation in the coming years.”
MEDIC staff and board members are available to present to community groups about sickle cell disease, the product needs, and one family’s perspective. For more information on MEDIC Regional Blood Center, please visit our website at www.medicblood.org or contact Director of Communications Kristy Altman at Kaltman@medicblood.org or by phone at 865-805-2008.