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There is an urgent need for minority blood donors in Indiana

Sep 6, 2023

By: Nico Pennisi

INDIANAPOLIS — Tanisha Hackett has been living with Sickle Cell Disease her whole life.

“In my lifetime, I’ve had several crisis, sickle cell crises,” Hackett, a patient at Indiana Hemophilia & Thrombosis Center said.

When in crisis, Hackett experiences severe pain in her limbs or her neck.

Sometimes these spells can last for five to seven days and she says they’re debilitating.

“Whenever we have a sickle cell crisis or severe pain, often times we need a blood transfusion,” she said.

Sickle Cell disease disproportionately affects minority groups.

According to the National Library of Medicine, about 1 in 500 African American children and 1 in 36,000 Hispanic American children.

“It’s not enough just to have a letter type. When you’re a minority, you have antigens in your blood. We need those antigens to match up with our blood better, so when we need a blood donation, the body tends to accept from a minority versus a non-minority,” IHTC CASCADE Program Coordinator Carlene Heeter said.

Folks of similar ethnic background have similar antigens in their blood.

If you receive a donation from someone who has different antigens than you, your body may see it as an invader it needs to fight off.

Blood that closely matches that of a patient is less likely to be rejected and less likely to cause complications after a transfusion.

But there’s a problem.

In Indiana, only about half of one percent of donated blood comes from Black Americans.

Heeter says people of color may be skeptical because of misconceptions surrounding blood donation.

“There’s a lot of myths. People are afraid. They don’t know what they are doing with my blood or it could be because historically what minorities have went through,” Heeter said.

Heeter encourages folks from minority groups living in the Indianapolis area to consider donating.

You could help treat patients like Hackett.

“It’s not just for people my age, it’s for babies to elderly people. That you would just come out. We really need your help,” Hackett said.

IHTC is hosting a Minority Blood Drive this September, which is also Sickle Cell Awareness Month.

Here are the details:

  • Saturday, September 9 from 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.
  • Versiti Bloodmobile, Martin Luther King Center, 40 W. 40th Street, Indianapolis, IN 46208
  • To register, email: [email protected] or visit here.

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