Blood and Diversity
People come in all different shapes, sizes and blood types. The vast majority of blood types fall into one of the major ABO groups. However, for a small percentage of the population, finding someone else with the same blood type can be as difficult as looking for a needle in a haystack.
Rare Blood Types
Red blood cells carry markers called antigens on their surface that determine one’s blood type. There are more than 600 known antigens besides A and B. Certain blood types are unique to specific racial and ethnic groups. Therefore it is essential that the donor diversity match the patient diversity. For example, U-negative and Duffy-negative blood types are unique to the African American community. So Sickle cell patients with these blood types must rely on donors with matching blood types in the African American community.
When blood is phenotypically matched (i.e., close blood type match), patients are at a lower risk of developing complications from transfusion therapy. For this reason, it is extremely important to increase the number of available blood donors from all ethnic groups.
Some Rare Blood Types by Ethnic Group
|Ethnic Group||Rare Blood Type|
|Native American, Alaskan Native||RzRz|
|Pacific Island, Asian||Jk (a-b-)|
|East European/Russian Jews||Dr(a-)|
Importance of Type O
|Different ethnic and racial groups also have different frequency of the main blood types in their populations. For example, approximately 45 percent of Caucasians are Type O, but 51 percent of African Americans and 57 percent of Hispanics are Type O. Type O is routinely in short supply and in high demand by hospitals – both because it is the most common blood type and because Type O-negative blood, in particular, is the universal type needed for emergency transfusions. Minority and diverse populations, therefore, play a critical role in meeting the constant need for blood.|
The Story of Rosalyn Grady, a Rare Donor
Prior to October 2002, Rosalyn Grady was a typical, healthy woman. Suddenly, she was hospitalized for uncontrollable chills. Further evaluation revealed Rosalyn’s body had a life-threatening anemia. The treatment was multiple blood transfusions.
“I received several units of blood. I was thankful that it was there when I needed it,” recalls Rosalyn.
Rosalyn was touched deeply by receiving the gift of life from a stranger willing to donate blood and she dreamed of one day blessing someone else’s life with her own gift of blood. For three years she fought her low iron levels. “I was deferred from giving blood 10 times or more.” However, in October 2005 Rosalyn’s iron level was high enough to donate and she has been a regular donor since.
Upon donating, Rosalyn was identified as a rare donor and told only 1 in 1,000 or more people in the world have blood lacking the same antigens as hers. Her blood also contained seven special rare antigens. Every time she donates her blood is labeled and possibly frozen for years in anticipation of the rare recipient who will need her blood.
Not only is Rosalyn a blood recipient and blood donor, but she is an active recruiter for new donors, especially within her church community. “I encourage people to give all they can, for as many people as they can, as often as they can. We are blessed to be a blessing to someone else.”