A girl like me needs blood every now and then, not just any kind of blood; I need donated blood! It’s not because I did anything to cause myself to need blood I just happened to be born with sickle cell disease. One of the only successful therapies for people living with sickle cell disease is blood transfusion or a blood exchange to help sicklers live a better quality of life, as well as a longer life!
Most normal red blood cells found in someone without SCD have red blood cells that last 120 days and work as a vehicle taking oxygen throughout the body; to the organs, tissue, bones, and brain. It also has the job of picking up carbon dioxide and other bad gases to remove them from the body. So think of blood as a vehicle with red blood cells sitting on the front and back seats being dropped off at different points throughout the body. While dropping off the blood the gases are being thrown into the trunk to take it away from the body and discard. Well those living with SCD have red blood cells that last in the body for only 14 days therefore, the body is not getting the oxygen needed that is found in blood. The vehicle in the body of someone living with SCD, the red blood cells, can be thought of as an old raggedy lemon of a car that will break down at any time. So the blood does not get to all of the parts of the body and where there is no oxygen, there is death. So, for a better quality of life and a longer life it is imperative that those living with SCD like me receive blood donated from people who are gracious enough to share their blood with people like me!
Yes, a Girl like me needs blood every now and then; your blood! When living with SCD, it is common to get blood transfusions and exchanges on a regular basis! However, the best blood for an African American is the blood donated by another African Americans. This holds true because genetically it is best to receive blood from someone whose genes align with one another. This helps to prevent rejection and adverse reaction from a blood transfusion or exchange. Unfortunately, only 37% of the population is eligible to donate blood, 10% actually donate and of that 10%, less than 1% are African Americans.
Blood is not only needed by those living with SCD but anybody! Statistics say 1 in 7 people who go to the hospital for help will need blood. Every 2-4 seconds someone in the U.S. needs blood. More than 41,000 people need blood every day. Without oxygen rich blood, the body does not get the oxygen that’s needed to survive. And that is with any living thing, oxygen is needed.
I am so grateful for the gracious people during my lifetime who have given a piece of themselves so I can live a longer life and have a better quality of life. You may only know and see me as a pretty face, made up with makeup, and I love jewelry, clothes & shoes; but my appearance is about the only thing I can control in this life! When I awake each morning I count it as another blessing to do something for somebody else, the way others have given to me. You see I was born with Sickle Cell Disease, not because I did anything, my parents had no clue in the 70's that they both had the trait that caused me to live with this awful disease. SCD feels like a war is going on inside my body and I can't stop it! So here I am, in pain most every day of my life, asking you who may be reading this to donate blood or donate funds....You can make a difference and you have the opportunity to save a life if only you would donate from the heart. Help me and organizations like First United Community Foundation, the Alabama NAACP Conference, and Summit Media get 50,000 African Americans donate blood by December 31, 2015. This campaign comes as a result of the 50 year anniversary of “Bloody Sunday”. So many bled, were beaten, and even died for the rights we often take for granted these days but I want to encourage you to give blood every 60 days if you can starting April 18, 2015 at the kick-off event for the campaign “Arts For Life Festival” in Avondale Park from 10am-6pm. For more information visit www.tinakay.net, Arts For Life page on Facebook, and Operation Push For Blood page on Facebook.
By Tina Kay, NAACP Health Coordinator for Alabama