African-American Donors Needed in Georgia, Metro Atlanta Specifically

Did you know patients with Sickle Cell Disease (SCD) who need blood transfusions can require transfusions as frequently as every 3 weeks throughout their lifetimes? That’s why LifeSouth Community Blood Centers is, this month and beyond, highlighting the need for additional blood donors year-round. Most people affected by SCD are African-American or of African descent. Approximately 1 in 13 African-Americans are born with the sickle cell trait, which typically does not cause symptoms, but can result in offspring having SCD, making it additionally important to get tested for the trait before conceiving. SCD is an inherited blood disorder that results in abnormal blood flow from irregularly shaped red blood cells that carry oxygen. It results most often in pain, but can also cause complications ranging from organ dysfunction to stroke. It affects approximately 100,000 Americans. The blood used for transfusion in patients with SCD require special matching that is typically unique to African/African-American donors and can be difficult to find in urgent situations.

“Patients with SCD have the unique and unfortunate ability to make antibodies to the proteins on the surface of foreign blood, much like the immune system develops antibodies or fighter proteins to foreign viruses. The more antibodies a patient develop over time, the more difficulty it becomes to transfuse them over time. “SCD patients essentially need a ‘perfectly matched’ donor unit which can be impossible to find,” said Transfusion Medicine Assistant Medical Director and Pediatric Hematologist-Oncologist Margo Rollins, MD, Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta (CHOA). “This can result in significant morbidity, lengthy hospital stays, and even death if a patient is non-transfuseable. We prefer to have fresh products for our patients (collected within 21 days of administration) and depending on the method of transfusion, a patient can use up to 10 units for a single simple transfusion or exchange transfusion. Given the current restrictions on how often a donor can donate, chronically transfused patients need multiple donor who also have the same unique proteins on the blood cells as the patient. This is why matched donors are so critical and needed constantly.”

For this reason, there is never an “off season” for giving blood for patients with SCD Donors are needed year-round, particularly from African, Afro-Caribbean, African-American and Hispanic donors, all ethnic populations significantly affected by SCD and more likely for donors to match recipients.

“We appreciate each of our donors who give the selfless gift of life every day, but this month in particular, LifeSouth would like to give special thanks and recognition to all of our donors who continually come in when called upon to provide blood needed for sickle cell patients, and we invite new donors to join them,” said Nancy Eckert, President/CEO, LifeSouth. “I have seen first-hand the excruciating pain on the faces of patients, and anyone who is a match or would consider donating blood and having it tested to see if they are a match would truly be heroes to those who suffer from this painful disease.”

To watch and learn about Kayla Ann’s Sickle Cell story, visit http://bit.ly/2weEKus.

LifeSouth, based in Gainesville, Florida, has three community blood donation centers in Georgia, two of them near metro Atlanta, and 7 bloodmobiles. They collect and send an average of 100 units a blood a week that benefit patient with SCD in Georgia hospitals. That’s enough to help 100 patients, but Georgia however, particularly Metro Atlanta, has more than 2500-3000 known patients with SCD to treat. LifeSouth is also the primary blood supplier for Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta which services 1500-1800 pediatric patients with SCD annually, the most served by any hospital in the country.

Blood donors must be at least 17, or 16 with parental permission, weigh a minimum of 110 pounds and be in good health. A photo ID is required. LifeSouth donors receive a complementary cholesterol screening with each donation. For additional information on blood donation, contact LifeSouth at 888-795-2707 or on the web at lifesouth.org.

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