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January 13, 2021

Red Cross in urgent need of blood donations for sickle cell patients

MLK Day of Service blood drive will be open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Adult Health American Red Cross
Donate Blood Philly Ahmad Ardity/Pixabay

Sickle cell patients can require multiple blood transfusions each year to treat complications from the disorder, according to the American Red Cross.

The American Red Cross urgently needs blood donations from African Americans to ensure a stable blood supply for people with sickle cell disease. 

To bolster the blood supply, the nonprofit is hosting a blood drive Monday as part of the Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service. It will be held at 700 Spring Garden St. in Philadelphia from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Sickle cell disease, an inherited red blood cell disorder, affects about 100,000 Americans. It most often is found in people of African or Latino descent.

People with sickle cell disease have an abnormal type of hemoglobin which causes red blood cells to become stiff and sickle-shaped. These cells block the flow of blood, preventing the spread of oxygen and causing sudden attacks of pain.

"A single sickle cell patient can require multiple blood transfusions per year throughout their lifetime to treat complications from sickle cell disease," said Dave Skutnik, regional communications director for the American Red Cross Southeastern Pennsylvania.

Because these blood transfusions need to be matched very closely to reduce the risk of complications, donations from African Americans are vital. Without a readily available blood supply, sickle cell patients can experience severe pain, tissue and organ damage, acute anemia and strokes.

The number of African Americans donating blood with the Red Cross has dropped by more than half since the COVID-19 pandemic began last March. This is largely due to blood drive cancellations at businesses, churches and schools, Skutnik said. 

He also emphasized that there is a constant need for all blood types, noting the Red Cross is committed to maintaining a diverse blood supply to ensure the right blood product is available at the right time.

"Every blood donor and platelet donor has an important role in meeting that need," he said.

Donors are asked to schedule an appointment prior to arriving at the upcoming blood drive and are required to wear a face covering while there. To make an appointment, visit and enter the keyword "Girard MLK Day."

Each Red Cross blood drive and donation center follows the highest standards of safety and infection control. To ensure the health of staff and donors, precautions include:

•Checking temperatures of staff and donors before entering a drive to make sure they are healthy
•Providing hand sanitizer for use before entering the drives, as well as throughout the donation process
•Following social distancing guidelines at the entry, donation and refreshment areas
•Ensuring face coverings are worn by staff and donors 
•Routinely disinfecting surfaces, equipment and donor-touched areas
•Wearing gloves, and changing them often
•Using sterile collection sets and an aseptic scrub for every donation

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