American Red Cross brings awareness to sickle cell anemia in South Mississippi
PASCAGOULA, Miss. (WLOX) - The American Red Cross is educating people in South Mississippi about sickle cell anemia. On Wednesday, the organization hosted a blood drive in Pascagoula for people to help meet patients’ transfusion needs.
According to Red Cross, sickle cell anemia is the most common genetic blood disease in America, impacting the lives of more than 100,000 people.
“I don’t think people realize how much that is, and how many people that is and how it affects our area in particular,” said Denise Smith, American Red Cross Mississippi and Alabama senior level account manager.
The illness is highest among minorities, with African Americans being the largest group and Latinos trailing right behind.
“That also shows how much blood we need donated by our African American or Black communities because that is the only units that can be used for those patients,” Smith said.
Shatina Nwosu of the Red Cross points to the genetic history of African Americans as to why it’s so common.
“Going back into malaria-rich countries like Nigeria and West Africa, and that’s where the most population is in the world actually. It’s Nigeria that has the most cases of sickle cell disease,” Nwosu said.
Smith and Nwuso also facilitated a presentation to help people better understand the disease and how it’s tested for in the region.
“In Mississippi alone, and in Alabama patients, or babies that are born are also tested for the gene,” Nwuso said. “Every newborn baby is, regardless of race.”
Smith wants to help rid people of their fears of drawing blood and emphasize the “why” behind the donation.
“We are trying to get out in the community, do lunch and learns whether it’s at churches or community events to make sure people understand that number one that blood donations are not scary,” Smith said.
“Blood donation is not risky. It is being stuck with a needle, but when you consider the amount of pain that sickle cell patients are in every single day, it makes our little pain going through that donation much smaller.”
The American Red Cross is currently recruiting volunteers to become blood donor ambassadors to assist with future drives. To learn more about volunteer opportunities, visit redcross.org/volunteertoday.
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