Published by Kirby Winn on Monday, June 19, 2023 in News Releases
On Juneteenth (June 19), ImpactLife is emphasizing the importance of diversity within communities served by the blood center and among its donor base. The Juneteenth Federal holiday celebrating the emancipation of enslaved people in the United States is also recognized by the American Sickle Cell Disease Association as a day to raise awareness of the genetically inherited disease and its disproportionate impact on people of African descent.
Patients with Sickle Cell Disease frequently receive transfusions of red blood cells to help treat symptoms of a sickle cell crisis. Tiffani Jackson, a patient living with sickle cell disease, describes the pain of a sickle cell crisis and the relief a blood transfusion can bring:
But finding appropriately matched units for sickle cell disease patients is a challenge for blood providers. With more frequent blood transfusions, patients with sickle cell disease can develop antibodies that are directed against red blood cell antigens, a process called alloimmunization. Denise Parbs, a supervisor in the ImpactLife reference lab, describes the importance of finding appropriately matched units to help avoid patient reactions:
The antigen-negative blood types needed for patients with sickle cell disease are more generally found in donors of African descent. To help increase the diversity of the blood center’s donor base, ImpactLife has created a donor program called Red4Life. Under Red4Life, the blood center identifies and recruits donors who may be an appropriate antigen match for patients with Sickle Cell Disease. These donors are then invited to join the Red4Life program and receive special donor rewards and additional points to use in the ImpactLife Donor Loyalty Store. (Learn more at www.bloodcenter.org/red4life.)
About Sickle Cell Disease
Sickle Cell Disease is an inherited blood disorder that affects red blood cells. It is the most common hereditary disorder and currently affects more than 100,000 Americans, predominantly people of African descent. The red blood cells in patients with sickle cell disease can become “sickled” in shape, which can cause the cells to become stuck in small blood vessels. Patients can experience pain and anemia and are at increased risk for strokes and other types of organ damage. When patients experience a sickle cell crisis, red cell transfusion is a major form of therapy to relieve symptoms.
By celebrating World Sickle Cell Awareness Day, advocates for patients living with Sickle Cell Disease seek to increase public knowledge and understanding of the disease and shines a light on challenges experienced by patients and their families and caregivers.
About Juneteenth (June 19)
Long celebrated in the African American community, Juneteenth was officially recognized as a Federal holiday in 2021. The holiday commemorates the day when enslaved people in Galveston, Texas, were notified of the Emancipation Proclamation in 1865. While the proclamation freeing enslaved people was signed by President Abraham Lincoln in 1862, Confederate troops and slaveholders in states that had seceded from the Union did not observe the proclamation until Union soldiers arrived to liberate the enslaved people, the last of whom received the news in Galveston on June 19, 1865.
ImpactLife is a not-for-profit community organization providing blood services to more than 120 hospitals and emergency services providers in Illinois, Iowa, Missouri, and Wisconsin, as well as resource sharing partners across the country. Services extend from southcentral Wisconsin to St. Louis, Missouri and from Danville, Illinois to Chariton, Iowa. (See a map of the ImpactLife service region.) ImpactLife operates 22 Donor Centers and holds approximately 5000 mobile blood drives annually to provide blood components needed for patient transfusions at hospitals throughout our region.
For more information, see www.bloodcenter.org and find us @impactlifeblood on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, TikTok, Twitter, Snapchat, and YouTube.
What is Sickle Cell Disease? (National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute)
Blood Donation and Sickle Cell Disease (ImpactLife)
History of Juneteenth (History.com)
World Sickle Cell Awareness Day 2023 (World Sickle Cell Disease Association of America)