Midland,Pa., joins the American Red Cross in a search for rare blood donors

February 10, 2012

Midland, Pa  –  The January 18 American Red Cross blood drive at the Midland Gymnasium , Midland, Pa., netted more than 73 blood donations. Through specialized screening performed on donor samples, six of the 73 donors were identified as potential rare donors and invited to join the American Rare Donor Program.

Midland community blood drives in partnership with the Red Cross are a cooperative effort by co-sponsors Jikkiko Barrett, PA Cyber Administrative Assistant and Midland School Nurse Charlene Freund.

What is a rare blood donor?

While most people’s blood types fall into one of the eight major groups (O positive, O negative, A positive, A negative, B positive, B negative, AB positive, AB negative), some patients have rare blood types and require blood from donors with matching rare blood types.

The American Rare Donor Program (ARDP) was established in 1998 as a collaboration of American Red Cross and AABB Immunohematology Reference Laboratories. ARDP tracks and organizes rare donor information in an effort to better meet the needs of patients with rare blood types. Currently more than 80 organizations participate in ARDP and over 45,000 active rare donors are in the database.

According to Michele Hayes, Director, Immunohematology Reference Laboratory, American Red Cross, Greater Alleghenies blood services region, when a rare blood type is requested for a patient, the database can be searched to locate donors negative for a high-prevalence antigen or negative for multiple common antigens to ensure the patient receives compatible blood. “Thanks to the American Red Cross and other participating blood centers, more than 94% of the patients get the blood they need,” Hayes noted.

Hayes further explained that 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,” she stated, “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,” she said.

Hayes added that ARDP members are encouraged to donate blood as often as they are able to do so and to notify the Red Cross if they have a sibling as close relatives may also be potential rare donors.

Barrett commented about the additional significance of her groups’ blood drive, “This blood drive was special to me as we were targeting African Americans.  In just a few minutes you were able to be tested for a rare blood type.  I would like to thank the Midland Community, PA Cyber and its joint venture entities for their donation, which made for a successful drive.  We look forward to bigger numbers at our next drive with the American Red Cross in April.”


Some Rare Blood Types by Ethnic Group

African-American U-, Fy(a-b-)

Native American, Alaskan Native RzRz

Pacific Island, Asian Jk (a-b-)

Hispanic Di(b-)

East European/Russian Jews Dr(a-)

Caucasian Kp(b-), Vel-

For your convenience, you may now schedule blood donation appointments online.  You may also call 1-800-RED CROSS.  Follow us at: www.twitter.com/redcrossGAR