African American blood donations drop by more than half in Sedgwick County, needed to treat sickle cell patients

KSN Digital Extra

WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – Red blood donations have decreased across the county since the coronavirus pandemic began to shut things down in late March. Aside from being able to treat those in an emergency room or elective surgery setting, this blood is also needed to regularly treat those in need of blood transfusions, like those living with sickle cell disease.

Sickle cell anemia is when cells in the blood are deprived of oxygen which could result in liver, kidney, and spleen failure among other health issues. Blood transfusions help patients with living sickle cell disease. Early signs and symptoms of sickle cell disease include swelling of the hands and feet. Symptoms of anemia include fatigue, or extreme tiredness, and possibly jaundice or when the eyes and skin become yellow in hue.

The American Red Cross said they have an urgent need for blood donations to prevent a blood shortage, as hospitals begin normal surgical procedures and patient treatments. The organization also said that in the last weeks the hospital demand has increased 30% from its previous decline in early April.

“We understand that happened because of the cancellation of drives at churches and businesses, at high schools,” said Jan Hale, Communications Manager, American Red Cross. “We also know that there was a disproportionate infection rate of COVID-19 among African Americans in relation to other groups. But the reality is we need help maintaining a diverse blood supply.”

Sickle cell disease, or SCD, is a group of blood disorders that affects approximately 100,000 Americans and 1 in 13 African-Americans, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Some children show symptoms as early as 5-months and the most common genetic blood disorder, sickle cell anemia, is typically the most severe form of the disease.

Aware of the need for blood, a Wichita City councilman decided to pitch in by getting the word out and rolling up his own sleeve.

“Recently, I went in and gave blood at the American Red Cross,” Wichita City Councilman Brandon Johnson told KSN. “We’re trying to get more people to donate blood, more black folks to donate blood so that we have the ability to do those transfusions. Sickle cell is a deadly disease, but it’s also widespread. So the more blood that we can give the more healthy transfusions can be given back.”

Jan Hale of the Red Cross said you can schedule an appointment to donate blood by using the free Red Cross App ( iOS|Android ) or searching for Blood Drives by zip code at redcrossblood.org. You can also schedule your appointment by phone at 1-800-RED-CROSS (1-800-733-2767) or 1-316-219-4000.

Sickle Cell Disease in the United States

According to the CDC, the exact number of people living with sickle cell disease in the U.S. is unknown, but is estimated that:

  • SCD affects approximately 100,000 Americans.
  • SCD occurs among about 1 out of every 365 Black or African-American births.
  • SCD occurs among about 1 out of every 16,300 Hispanic-American births.
  • About 1 in 13 Black or African-American babies is born with sickle cell trait (SCT).
  • People with SCD have less access to comprehensive team care than people with genetic disorders such as hemophilia and cystic fibrosis.
  • Sickle cell-related death among Black or African-American children younger than 4 years of age fell by 42% from 1999 through 2002. This drop coincided with the introduction in 2000 of a vaccine that protects against invasive pneumococcal disease.
  • Relative to the rate for the period 1983 through 1986, the SCD mortality rate for the period 1999 through 2002 decreased by: 68% at age 0 through 3 years; 39% at age 4 through 9 years; and 24% at age 10 through 14 years.
  • SCD is a major public health concern. From 1989 through 1993, an average of 75,000 hospitalizations due to SCD occurred in the United States, costing approximately $475 million.

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