African Americans are needed at the American Red Cross. Right now. Why? You can help save lives in your community and beyond.
African Americans are under-represented as blood donors and in the National Marrow Donor Program. In blood and bone-marrow donation, ethnicity is critically important in matching blood types and marrow donors for patients with life-threatening diseases.
The fourth annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blood and Bone Marrow Drive is from 7:30 a.m. to 1 p.m Saturday, Jan. 20, at 3131 N. Vancouver Ave. Donor registration for bone marrow is free this day only (a $52 value).
The event is sponsored by the National Marrow Donor Program, American Red Cross, Safeway, African American Health Coalition, Urban League of Portland and The Skanner. To make a blood donation appointment, call 503-284-4040. Call the National Marrow Donor Program's Portland office at 503-528-5475. More information can be found at nwblood.redcross.org.
These illnesses are affecting people in our own community. In 1999, doctors diagnosed long-time Portland resident Garland Brown Sr. with non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma, a cancer of the lymphocytes, a type of white blood cell that protects the body from infection and disease. He is one of 30,000 people on the national registry hoping to find a donor with matching bone marrow.
African American blood donors offer the best chance of survival for African American patients with rare blood types. Of the 5 percent who are eligible to donate blood in the United States, only 1 percent of those are African American.
These low blood donation rates by African Americans have potentially created blood shortages for illnesses where multiple transfusions are needed, such as sickle-cell anemia, heart and kidney disease. With sickle-cell anemia, a blood disorder carried in the genes of one in 12 African Americans, the body makes abnormally shaped red blood cells. The cells are hard and sticky and don't move easily through blood vessels, causing pain, organ damage and a low red-cell count.
Of the 80,000 people with sickle-cell disease, 98 percent are African American, who can require frequent blood transfusions throughout their lives.
Increasing minority donations is vital because blood types O and B, the blood types of about 70 percent of African Americans — are the blood types most in demand. Those types are also the first to run out during a blood shortage. In addition, African Americans possess rare blood types such as U-Negative and Duffy Negative that can help patients who need blood transfusions.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. symbolizes equal access for all. This includes equal opportunity for the life-saving gift of blood and bone marrow.