When Curtis first started donating blood, he admits it was for the free T-shirts. Then, he received a phone call tell him he was saving lives. That changed everything. Donating blood is now a family affair. His sons, C.J. and Curshawn — who just turned 16 — now join him. Nevaeh, Curtis' youngest, isn't old enough to donate yet, but he assures she will when the time comes.
There are different descriptions of the pain. Some say it is like a constant shock with a Taser. Others say it’s like being stabbed repeatedly with the sharpest knife in the kitchen. Tonya Prince’s daughter compares it to a blood pressure cuff that’s too tight all over her body. Sickle cell, a genetic blood disorder, is a debilitating disease.
In 2018, Gulf Coast Regional Blood Center partnered with the Sickle Cell Association of Houston to host a blood drive in recognition of Sickle Cell Disease Awareness Month.
Blood transfusion is one treatment used to combat complications from sickle cell disease, a form of anemia most likely to affect people of African descent. Prince and her now 27-year-old daughter, Quannecia McCruse, founded the Sickle Cell Association of Houston years ago to educate and provide resources to the community.
“The pain just strikes unwarranted,” Prince said. “You can have the best diet, you can work out, you can drink all of the water in the world, it’s just a matter of your body just turning on itself and deciding when it wants to work for you or against you.”
Prince said there have been times when her daughter couldn’t walk because of the severity of the pain in her limbs. The pain crises can last anywhere from 10-30 minutes to 10-15 days, she said. The only cure for sickle cell disease is a bone marrow or stem cell transplant, and it’s for that reason Prince also has partnered with Be The Match Program, a national registry for bone marrow donors, in a new campaign called the “Power is in You.”
Prince urges members of the African-American community to register to donate in any way they can. African-American people make up just 4 percent of the bone marrow registry, while white people make up 49 percent of it. As a result, African-Americans have a 23 percent chance of finding a match and the white population has a 77 percent chance. Prince said she’s starting with churches and community leaders to educate others.
“It’s just a matter of you being open and willing enough to give just a little bit of you,” Prince said. “Everyone wants to leave a legacy, and how cool would it be to know that part of your legacy was that you gave somebody else a second lease on life?”
The Blood Center is the primary supplier of blood components to more than 170 hospitals and health care facilities in a 26-county Texas Gulf Coast region. For more information or to help save lives, visit giveblood.org.