American Red Cross encourages more people to donate to help those fighting COVID-19 and blood diseases

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COVID-19 has affected everyone, but it’s taking a big toll on those with pre-existing conditions and diseases, especially diseases that force patients to get multiple blood transfusions while they fight it.

Sickle cell disease is the most common genetic blood disease in the country; about 100,000 people of color have the disease, most of whom are African American or Latino.

Finding donations for sickle cell patients is a chronic challenge for blood suppliers that has only gotten worse due to the pandemic. Sickle cell patients depend on blood that must be matched almost exactly in an effort to reduce the risk of complication during transfusion.

Since mid-March, the number of African American donors and people of color has dropped by more than half, according to the American Red Cross. Red Cross provides blood for a large number of sickle cell patients, but medical director Marla Troughton says patients with the disease tend to need many transfusions, and it’s already difficult to find a match of similar origin to the person in need, even before the pandemic hit.

Troughton says since March, the American Red Cross recently started voicing their need for donations from people of color.

And with that plea, Troughton says donations are starting to slowly increase.

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