What is Sickle Cell Disease?
Approximately 100,000 Americans have sickle cell disease. People who inherit a sickle cell gene from one parent and a normal gene from the other are known to have a sickle cell trait. Having sickle cell trait does not mean having sickle cell disease. Individuals with sickle cell trait typically live a normal life, but they may pass on the trait to their children. If the child receives a trait gene from each parent, he/she can be born with sickle cell disease. The disease impacts the African American and Hispanic populations the most, but can be seen internationally in many different geographic areas.
Sickle cell disease causes red blood cells to become rigid with pointed ends instead of the normal round shape. The cells die early, causing a shortage of red blood cells in these individuals; they can also get stuck in small blood vessels, slowing the flow of blood and causing pain, tissue and organ damage or even strokes.
Quick facts about sickle cell disease
- Currently, the only FDA approved curative therapy for sickle cell disease is bone marrow or stem cell transplant. However, there are many treatments to improve quality of life and many of those involve blood transfusions.
- Blood transfusions are a lifeline for sickle cell patients.
- 1 in 3 African American blood donors are a match for patients with sickle cell disease
Why African Americans are important in donating blood?
Blood from an African American donor to an African American recipient is more likely to match. That’s why it’s so important that we have a diverse set of donors who match with a diverse set of patients in area hospitals. Think of it this way: your blood type depends on your parents’ blood types, so you’re more likely to be a match with relatives and people who have a similar ancestry to you. It is crucial for patients who receive multiple transfusions in their lifetime to receive blood that closely matches their own.
HEAR FROM PEOPLE IN YOUR COMMUNITY WHO HAVE SICKLE CELL DISEASE
Blood transfusions are required for Charmaine to manage her sickle cell disease. She's an honor roll student and enjoys cheerleading and volunteering. "Without people coming out and donating blood, she wouldn't be here." -Charmaine's Mom, Keonne.
How can you help?
Be a Sickle Cell Lifesaver!
Gulf Coast Regional Blood Center is asking you to help support patients in our region by becoming a Sickle Cell Lifesaver.
· Give blood. Blood transfusion is an important treatment for those with sickle cell disease.
· Organize a blood drive. Take the lead and recruit others to donate at your company, house of worship, fraternity/sorority, professional organization or social group.
· Share your story. If you have a personal story, including knowing a loved one or friend affected by a blood disorder or sickle cell disease, use that as your testimony to give and encourage others to become blood donors. Tip: Be creative! Consider using poetry, songs and artwork (and don’t forget to share it with us).
You can make a difference by speaking up and helping others understand how important it is that they donate blood.