Sickle Cell Donor Program History

The Penn-Jersey Blood Services Region’s Sickle Cell Donor Program was developed in 1997 in collaboration with the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) to meet the chronic transfusion needs of patients with Sickle Cell Disease.  The treating physicians at CHOP in conjunction with the publicized research of Elliott Vichinsky recognized that the transfusion needs of chronically transfused Sickle Cell patients were going to rapidly increase and that better matching of extended blood types was needed.

A “blue tag: is placed on blood donation from self-identified African Americans and Black-identified blood donors.  This “blue tag” identifies the unit as one designated for the Sickle Cell Donor Program which prompts additional testing in order to match a Sickle Cell patient.  Example of these additional tests includes testing “blue tag” donors for the presence of hemoglobin S.  Hemoglobin S is one of the types of hemoglobin responsible for the sickling effect of red blood cells in Sickle Cell Disease patients. 

Hemoglobin is the complex molecule of your red blood cells that helps carry oxygen from your lungs to the rest of your body.  It is also what gives blood its characteristic deep red color.  Most people have only the most common type of hemoglobin, called hemoglobin A, in their red blood cells.  Testing positive for hemoglobin S simply means that your red blood cells contain a different type of hemoglobin called sickle cell hemoglobin or hemoglobin S for short.