African Americans urged to donate blood to help sickle cell patients

LAUREL, MS (WDAM) - The most common genetic disease in the African American community is sickle cell disease.

"It is vital that we donate blood, we have to donate blood," said United Blood Services Diversity Recruitment Representative Joseph Gray. 

Sickle cell is a blood disorder that turns normal red blood cells into a sickle shape, making blood flow difficult. According to United Blood Services, 100,000 is the number of Americans who have the disease.

"Ninety-nine percent of those with sickle cell are African American people," said Gray. "We're the only ones that can really donate for a sickle cell patient. Other races can, but it's going to be hard to find an exact match outside of the African American community." 

Sickle cell patients often depend on regular blood transfusions. Patients with the disease may need 15 to 25 blood transfusions each year, some need more. 

"If we as African American people don't donate blood, then the chances for them to live a healthy, quality life are severely diminished."

Gray educates and tries to encourage African Americans everyday to become more involved in the donation process. He himself has lost a niece and nephew due to sickle cell.

"I witnessed exactly what this disease does you know, to not only the patients but to the family members," said Gray.

Gray says it's important to find out if you have the sickle cell trait. According to UBS, 1 in 12 African Americans have a sickle cell trait.

"If you have a sickle cell trait and your partner has a sickle cell trait there's a twenty-five percent chance that you may have a child with sickle cell," said Gray.

Gray encourages everyone to donate blood and give others a fair chance to survive this disease.

"Please come out and donate blood, it's going to save or prolong someone's life we've got to have it," said Gray.

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