sickle cell

Red Cross Seeks Black Donors for Sickle Cell Blood Drives on Juneteenth Weekend

Sickle cell disease affects around 100,000 Americans and 1 in every 365 Black births

Blood donation in Kharkiv
Barcroft Media

The Red Cross of Massachusetts is calling for Black donors to take part in a series of blood drives this weekend aimed at raising awareness for sickle cell disease.

In honor of Juneteenth, the federal holiday commemorating the end of slavery, the organization is hosting a series of blood drives to help patients with the illness, which plagues around 100,000 Americans and affects 1 in 365 Black births.

While there is no cure, frequent blood transfusions aid sickle cell patients in handling the organ damage and pain that comes with the illness. In fact, a patient of sickle cell disease can require 100 units of transfused blood per year, according to the Red Cross.

"It feels like something is broken inside my body and the only thing that can fix it is blood," said Nari'k Page, a sickle cell patient who is regularly hospitalized due to her condition. "When I'm in the hospital and I don't have blood because my blood is sickling, I just feel miserable."

1 in 12 Black Americans have sickle cell trait, which can cause sickle cell disease. But many who suffer have had doctor visits where their pain was not taken seriously - or it was assumed they're just trying to get pain medicine. Phillip Okwo and Quannecia McCruse from the Sickle Cell Association of Houston explain more during National Sickle Cell Awareness Month.

Because the majority of patients are of African descent, the Red Cross is specifically calling for African Americans to participate, though donors of all blood types, races, and ethnicities are encouraged to donate, as well.

Organizations the Red Cross is partnering with include the NAACP and the YMCA of Greater Boston.

The Juneteenth weekend blood drives for sickle cell disease are scheduled as follows:

  • Friday, June 17 from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. at Shaw’s Center, 1 Feinburg Way, Brockton
  • Friday, June 17 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Boston Public Library main branch, Copley Square
  • Sunday, June 19 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Waymark SDA Church, 1048 Dorchester Ave. Dorchester
  • Monday, June 20 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Dorchester YMCA, 776 Washington St. Dorchester (members of the media may interview blood donors between 10 and 11 a.m.)

Those interested in donating blood can register through the American Red Cross Blood Donor App, their site, or by calling 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767). A driver's license, blood donor card, or two other forms of ID are required. Donors must be at least 17 years old, weigh 110 pounds and be in good health condition in order to be eligible.

Donors can use RapidPass to complete the pre-donation steps online before arriving to the drive on the day of their donation. Instructions are available here or through the Blood Donor App.

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