American Red Cross Recognizes September as National Sickle Cell Awareness Month

September 24, 2009
Sickle Cell Disease affects the lives of more than 70,000 people across the nation, most of African decent. Infact one in every 12 African Americans carries the trait for Sickle Cell Disease.
The Sickle Cell Program at the American Red Cross is designed to provide better blood transfusion support for children with Sickle Cell Disease by engaging blood donors from the Black community in blood donation and encouraging donors to become a life-saving hero to a patient with Sickle Cell Disease.
“The best blood for patients suffering from Sickle Cell Disease usually comes from a blood donor from the Black community who can provide blood that is a better match for patients who suffer from the disease,” said Brigid O'Neill-LaGier, Chief Executive Officer of the American Red Cross Penn-Jersey Blood Services Region. “Since patients with Sickle Cell Disease often need many blood transfusions, it is best for them to receive blood that very closely matches their own. Donors with the same ethnic background usually make the best match.”
“Sickle Cell Disease is an inherited blood disorder that causes anemia, tissue and organ damage, strokes and terrible pain due to a distortion in the shape of the red blood cells which causes them to block small blood vessels. This is what causes the complications of the disease and why blood transfusions can help and are so important.”
“Blood donors can guarantee their donation goes to help a patient with Sickle Cell Disease by asking for the Blue Tag, said O'Neill-LaGier. “The Blue Tag notifies our testing lab that a blood donation is designated for the Sickle Cell program and the blood will be specifically matched for a patient with Sickle Cell Disease.”
“This program, over the last 12 years, has made a significant difference in the lives of children with Sickle Cell Disease. We are providing transfusion support to many patients through our program but we need to do more. We need more members of the Black community to become blood donors and designate their blood to the Sickle Cell Program.”
On September 22, 2009 the American Red Cross hosted a recognition event to thank those in the community that support the American Red Cross Sickle Cell Program.
“It’s events like this that allow us to thank donors and sponsors for participating in our Sickle Cell Program.” said Ericka DeBruce, Director of Diversity of the American Red Cross Penn-Jersey Blood Services Region.
O'Neill-LaGier says, “September is the perfect time to make an appointment to give blood in support of the people in our community who suffer from Sickle Cell Disease.”