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Red Cross launches initiative to get more Black blood donors during Sickle Cell Awareness Month

Red Cross says blood donations drop during summer, offering new incentive
Posted at 6:34 AM, Sep 20, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-20 08:49:36-04

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — September is National Sickle Cell Awareness Month, a blood disorder that can cause severe pain in those who have it. While the American Red Cross is always looking for blood donors, they're putting out a special call this month.

"The American Red Cross is launching an initiative to grow the number of blood donors who are Black to help patients with sickle cell disease – the most common inherited blood disorder in the U.S.," said American Red Cross representatives in a press release.

Here are the stats, according to the Red Cross:

  • The sickle cell trait developed in people from countries where malaria is or was common
  • 100,000 people in the U.S. live with sickle cell anemia
  • 1 in 365 African American babies are born with sickle cell

Many of those living with sickle cell anemia call themselves sickle cell warriors, that's because it's such a painful disease that can affect any part of your body at any moment, but also one that can make them feel invisible, fighting this battle behind closed doors, with little awareness.

Her name is Juanita McClain was diagnosed with sickle cell as a baby, meaning she has some red blood cells that are round and soft and others are hard and crescent shaped. Those hard blood cells can get caught, making it hard for blood to flow through the body and sending sickle cell patients into a crisis—which can happen on any given day.

As a child—McClain says she basically lived in the hospital, going into crisis once or twice a week. Sickle cell patients are more prone to pneumonia and infections.

She recalls several times where she got sick and doctors feared she wouldn’t make it.

Now McClain is a Buffalo Public Schools teacher at Burgard High School. She says she only goes into crisis once or twice a year and that living with sickle cell as an adult, is much easier.

But one issue she sees here in WNY is the lack of access to adult care.

"Once you turn 18, it kind of gets more difficult because we don’t have a lot of doctors here that specialize in sickle cell specifically. I do know one doctor, she has thousands of sickle cell patients that she sees as adults, but that’s because she’s one of the only ones," said McClain.

One of the most effective therapies for sickle cell patients is a blood transfusion, the transfusion flushes the sickle cells out and can really make a difference.

“When someone has a sickle cell crisis, that blood transfusion is what’s gonna help them get through that and recover. It’s just life changing, for some folks, they’re just in pain, they don’t have energy and with that blood transfusion it’s night and day," Hanna Malak, Regional Donor Services Executive, American Red Cross.

The whole blood donation process takes about an hour, but only 5 to 10 minutes of it is actually getting your blood drawn, Malak says one donation can save up to three lives.

There are more than 20 opportunities to give blood in WNY before the month is over, across all eight counties.

Upcoming blood donation opportunities Sept. 20-30:
Allegany County

  • Fillmore
    • 9/30/2021: 2 p.m. - 6:30 p.m., Fillmore Volunteer Fire Department, Fillmore Volunteer Fire Department, 24 South Genesee Street

Cattaraugus County

  • Randolph
    • 9/24/2021: 1 p.m. - 6 p.m., Randolph Fire Hall, 70 Main Street

Chautauqua County

  • Dunkirk
    • 9/20/2021: 12 p.m. - 6 p.m., Blessed Mary Angela Roman Catholic Parish, 324 Townsend Street
  • Jamestown
    • 9/24/2021: 1 p.m. - 6 p.m., DoubleTree by Hilton Jamestown, 150 W 4th Street
  • Lakewood
    • 9/23/2021: 12:30 p.m. - 5:30 p.m., Chautauqua Mall, 318 E Fairmount Ave.
    • 9/30/2021: 12:30 p.m. - 5:30 p.m., Chautauqua Mall, 318 E Fairmount Ave.
  • Sherman
    • 9/22/2021: 2 p.m. - 8 p.m., Stanley Hose Company, 122 Park Street
  • Westfield
    • 9/20/2021: 11 a.m. - 4 p.m., Eason Hall, 23 Elm Street

Erie County

  • Akron
    • 9/30/2021: 1:30 p.m. - 7 p.m., American Legion L L Tillman Post 900, 9 Eckerson Ave
  • Amherst
    • 9/22/2021: 12 p.m. - 6 p.m., Boulevard Mall, 730 Alberta Drive
    • 9/24/2021: 10 a.m. - 4 p.m., Boulevard Mall, 730 Alberta Drive
    • 9/29/2021: 12 p.m. - 6 p.m., Boulevard Mall, 730 Alberta Drive
  • Buffalo
    • 9/21/2021: 9:30 a.m. - 3:30 p.m., University at Buffalo North Student Union, Student Union
    • 9/22/2021: 10 a.m. - 2:30 p.m., WNY Chapter, 786 Delaware Ave
  • Derby
    • 9/22/2021: 1 p.m. - 5:30 p.m., American Legion Newcomb Long Post 928, 7353 Erie Rd
  • Hamburg
    • 9/25/2021: 9 a.m. - 2:30 p.m., All Saints Lutheran Church, 6065 South Park Ave

Genesee County

  • Batavia
    • 9/21/2021: 2 p.m. - 7 p.m., First United Methodist Church, 8221 Lewiston Rd
  • Bergen
    • 9/25/2021: 9 a.m. - 2 p.m., Bergen Evangelical Presbyterian Church, 38 S Lake Ave
  • Corfu
    • 9/22/2021: 2:30 p.m. - 6:30 p.m., High Point Community Church, 1163 Main Road

Niagara County

  • Lewiston
    • 9/27/2021: 9:30 a.m. - 2:30 p.m., Lewiston Fire Co No 1, 145 N 6th St
  • Lockport
    • 9/28/2021: 1 p.m. - 6 p.m., The Dale Association Incorporated, 33 Ontario St.
  • Niagara Falls
    • 9/20/2021: 1 p.m. - 6 p.m., Cristoforo Colombo Society, 2223 Pine Ave
  • North Tonawanda
    • 9/29/2021: 12 p.m. - 5 p.m., Stephen Sikora Post American Legion, Stephen Sikora Post American Legion, 950 Payne Ave
  • Ransomville
    • 9/29/2021: 12:30 p.m. - 5 p.m., Ransomville Fire Co., 2525 Youngstown Lockport Rd
  • Youngstown
    • 9/28/2021: 11:30 a.m. - 5 p.m., Youngstown Fire Hall, 625 3rd St.

Orleans County

  • Kendall
    • 9/30/2021: 10:30 a.m. - 3:30 p.m., Kendall High School, 16887 Roosevelt Highway

Wyoming County

  • Arcade
    • 9/21/2021: 11:30 a.m. - 5:30 p.m., Hope Lutheran Church, 2 E. Main St.
  • North Java
    • 9/23/2021: 1 p.m. - 6 p.m., North Java Fire Hall, N Java Fire Hall 4274 Rt. 98

Just make an appointment online, by clicking here.

McClain is now a local advocate for sickle cell awareness, educating anyone who will listen, teaching children in her classroom and hosting events.

Queen City Sickle Cell Support Group will host a parade Sept. 25
Queen City Sickle Cell Support Group will host a parade Sept. 25

Mcclain will help put on a sickle cell car parade to raise awareness on September 25.