Local Red Cross Launches Sickle Cell Donor Program

September 15, 2010

"Blue Tag" Program Aims to Increase Availability of Blood for Sickle Cell Patients

In an effort to close a gap of approximately 200 blood donations a month, the Greater Chesapeake and Potomac Region (GC&P) of the American Red Cross is launching a Sickle Cell Donor Program starting this September.  Currently, the Region distributed nearly 900 units of specially matched blood for local patients with Sickle Cell Disease (SCD), but they collect only 700 of those units in the Region.  The remaining 200 units must come from other Red Cross blood regions in the US, or from other blood collectors.  This can put patients at risk of waiting for a blood transfusion.  For this reason, the GC&P Region wants to increase awareness and collections of blood for Sickle Cell Patients with this special program.

Sickle Cell Disease affects approximately 80,000 African Americans nationwide.  It can cause terrible pain, known as “crisis”, as well as organ and tissue damage, stroke, and anemia. There is no cure for the disease, and the primary treatment is frequent blood transfusion throughout the patient’s lifetime.  Because of the need for ongoing transfusion, the blood that is given to SCD patients must be matched very closely.  Blood, like many other genetic factors, is best matched among people of the same ethnic group.  In the case of SCD patients, the best match will most likely come from an African American Donor.  However, African Americans have been historically underrepresented in the blood donor population, making it more challenging for the Red Cross to find the unique donor matches needed to treat patients in our Region.

This Sickle Cell Donor Program aims to change that.  Now, when an African American donor presents at any American Red Cross donor center or blood drive in the Greater Chesapeake and Potomac Region, they will be asked to place a special Blue Tag on their donation to designate their blood for a patient with Sickle Cell Disease.  If the blood is a match, it will go to a SCD patient.  If it is not a match, it will be used for another patient in need. African American Donors are asked to give as frequently as possible, and to encourage friends and family to donate and ask for the Blue Tag. Blood drive sponsors are asked to share information about the Sickle Cell “Blue Tag” Donor Program with their donors and supporters, and to spread the word about this important initiative.

The GC&P Region hopes to increase the number of African Americans participating in the blood program, thereby increasing the availability of specially matched blood for Sickle Cell Disease patients. September is Sickle Cell Awareness Month; donors are asked to call 1-800-RED CROSS (800-733-2767) or click here to schedule a donation appointment.

Individuals who are 17 years of age (16 with parental permission in some states), meet weight and height requirements (110 pounds or more, depending on their height) and are in generally good health may be eligible to donate blood.  Please bring your Red Cross blood donor card or other form of positive ID when you come to donate.

Business and community groups that are willing to hold blood drives are asked to call 1-800-787-9282, x4925 for information. For volunteer information, please call 1-800-272-0094 x1.