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Diverse blood donations needed as state supply hits six-year low

Published: Oct. 14, 2021 at 8:01 PM EDT
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - Critical blood donations are at a six-year low, not just across the nation, but right here in Virginia according to the Virginia Red Cross. The organization says it is also in dire need of diverse donations, especially from African Americans.

“That impacts our entire blood supply, including the blood supply of patients who have conditions like sickle cell,” said Jonathan McNamara.

McNamara, with the VA Red Cross, says the reason for this is that people who suffer from conditions like sickle cell anemia - which greatly affects the African American community - will often respond better when they receive donations from other African Americans.

“Patients with sickle cell who receive blood donations from donors who don’t have that specific marker in their blood can actually cause challenging situations for their condition - it can actually make it worse,” McNamara said. “That’s why one of our priorities at the Red Cross is to make sure we’re maintaining a diverse blood supply that reflects the communities that we serve.”

The low blood supply is the result of a combination of the pandemic, added demand due to areas hit by natural disasters across the country, and people who are receiving elective surgeries that they’ve had to put off for a year.

People like Dave Redford can attest to the need for more blood donors because he says he almost didn’t make it to his 50th birthday a year ago without several donations.

“I went in for emergency gallbladder surgery and something happened, they had complications with the surgery,” Redford said. “The doctors went back in and they found that they had accidentally punctured my liver, which caused me to bleed internally, and by that time, I had lost about nine units of blood and the human body only holds 10.”

That procedure happened just a day before Redford’s birthday. He was in a coma for three weeks, but miraculously pulled through - thanks to his donations.

“Luckily, they had enough there in supply to start immediately the transfusion process,” said Redford.

“We need to step up to the plate and do our part to roll up our sleeves, making sure that the Red Cross has the blood that we need on our shelves, whether it’s to treat patients with sickle cell, trauma patients, and other patients who come into the emergency room and hospitals across the community that needs blood,” said McNamara.

Recognizing the particular need for Black donors, A.J. Nwoko with NBC12 also rolled up his sleeves and gave blood for the first time in his life this week to help with the shortage. He says he was never hesitant or afraid of donating, only that he had never made the time to donate unit now.

Nwoko hopes that donating blood on camera will help bring out other African American donors.

“We can’t do this without your sacrifice and donation to the Red Cross,” McNamara said.

If you would like to donate blood to the Red Cross, you can schedule an appointment by clicking HERE.

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