Health care professionals said they are desperate for diverse donors with unique blood types. Langston University and the American Red Cross are holding Sickle Cell Awareness blood drives Monday across Oklahoma through a sponsorship with ONEOK.
The American Red Cross said Black blood donors have a unique ability to help sickle cell patients who require multiple blood transfusions each year throughout their lifetime.
"We can't do it alone," said Jan Hale with the American Red Cross.
Hale said blood transfusions from Black donors can be lifesaving for sickle cell patients, many of whom are of African or Latino descent.
Research shows this disease is the most common blood disorder in the country, impacting about 100,000 people said the Red Cross.
"Our blood supply needs to mimic what our community looks like. We really need their help to make sure that O+ and O- is on hospital shelves,” Hale said.
The Red Cross said the Black community often participates in school and business blood drives, but several were canceled because of the pandemic. Experts said disproportionately high COVID-19 infection rates, hospitalization and fatalities within Black communities have deterred many donors from giving.
"It's been a hard year for all of us. Let's just be real. I've been with the Red Cross for 20 plus years. I've never gone through anything like this, but what we've also seen is people coming together and wanting to make a difference, like Langston," Hale said.
Dr. Dytisha Davis with Langston University Tulsa said they are thrilled to partner with the Red Cross today for the school's first ever tri-campus blood drive at their Langston, Oklahoma City, and Tulsa campuses.
"We're excited with our theme as you can see here 'help your neighbor,'” said Dr. Davis. “We are at the forefront because we are a historically Black college and university and we're there with that effort."
The Red Cross said patients are more likely to find a compatible blood match from a blood donor of the same race or similar ethnicity. Sickle cell patients often require multiple blood transfusions each year throughout their lifetime.
Hale said being vaccinated does not deter you from being able to give blood and said they are asking for anyone with an arm who is willing to donate come out. The Red Cross asks that you make an appointment if you can because that helps with social distancing.
For more information on blood drives held by the American Red Cross you can call 1-800-RED-CROSS or click here.
The American Red Cross also has a Blood Donor app where you can find your COVID-19 antibody test results and sickle cell trait testing results.
Hale said as things get back to normal, she hopes people do not forget that every two seconds somebody in this country needs blood.
For more information on Langston University, click here.