The American Red Cross says we are in the midst of a severe blood donation shortage.
Amid the COVID-19 outbreak, the numbers for donations have never returned to normal. That’s a major concern of some minority communities who are harder hit by some ailments that require a specific kind of blood during treatment.
Lametra Scott is a mother trying to keep up with her 8-year-old son, Rickey.
It was a perfect day at the park, as Scott rode the seesaw and chased after her son. She says on hot days, she’s careful to take time away from the sun and seek shade.
“I have sickle cell and it’s called SS type,” said Rickey.
“Sickle cell disease is a genetic blood disorder,” explained Scott. “It causes excruciating pain, can lead to organ damage. It involves taking regular medications, staying hydrated. If you fall short on any one of those areas, it can land you in the hospital. I have to make sure he knows to takes breaks. Outside, it’s hot. Getting dehydrated can trigger a sickle cell crisis.”
“It feels like I just want to scream, but I don’t,” said Rickey.
Rickey is a tough kid, but his mother remembers how scary it sounded when she first heard his diagnosis.
“My first reaction was, ‘Oh my God. What can I do to save my son?’” recalled Scott.
In doing research and getting answers, Scott said people weren’t talking about sickle cell disease enough.
It’s a disease that is impacting minority communities. According to the CDC, sickle cell disease happens in 1 out of 365 Black births, and 1 in 13 Black babies are born with the sickle cell trait that can be passed to their children.
Scott has a new concern for people with sickle cell disease: a severe national blood shortage.
“People with sickle cell disease depend on blood transfusions regularly,” she said. “When they go for the transfusion, the blood may not be on the shelf.”
The American Red Cross said part of the issue is medical centers have a higher demand for blood because elective surgeries and transplants were delayed during the pandemic and are happening again now. During the early weeks of the outbreak last year, more than 1,500 Red Cross blood drives were canceled.
But Scott is taking action. She is a Doctor of Pharmacy, and she’s using her background to run the Breaking the SSickle Cell Cycle Foundation. The foundation educates health care providers and families about sickle cell, and now, it’s reaching out to cities returning to normal life and asking for people to give.
“We really, really need the people in the minority populations to get out and donate blood,” said Scott.
In those painful moments, Rickey said his mom knows what to do.
“I take my medicine,” he said. “I take a break. I get a drink of water, and I sit down for a minute.”
Then, it’s playtime again. An 8-year-old with so much energy will tell you that no matter what it is, his mom always knows what do.
“She wants kids and a whole bunch of people to survive,” he said.
To visit the Breaking the SSickle Cell Cycle Foundation site, visit their website here.