Health

Sickle cell blood drive planned Saturday in Cedar Rapids

Event is first of its kind to raise awareness of disease

The Mississippi Valley Regional Blood Center mobile blood drive in Hiawatha on Friday, June 8, 2018, set up outside the El Kahir Shrine on the afternoon of a regular Friday dinner. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)
The Mississippi Valley Regional Blood Center mobile blood drive in Hiawatha on Friday, June 8, 2018, set up outside the El Kahir Shrine on the afternoon of a regular Friday dinner. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)

CEDAR RAPIDS — The Mississippi Valley Regional Blood Center will host its first sickle cell awareness blood drive in Cedar Rapids on Saturday.

The blood center will be accepting blood donations at Acts of the Holy Spirit Church, 1019 1st Ave SW, from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. in an effort to raise awareness and promote donations related to sickle cell anemia.

Sickle cell disease, as it’s also known, is a hereditary blood disorder that affects hemoglobin — the protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen through the body — and causes the red cells to become stiff and form the shape of a sickle.

Amanda Hess, the blood center’s director of donor and public relations, said those with sickle cell often experience pain and anemia and are more susceptible to infections and stroke.

Hess said sickle cell patients, especially those at greater risk of stroke, have to receive routine blood transfusions.

“They receive hundreds of blood transfusions in their lifetime, sometimes every month,” she said.

For Carl Rush, a church member who helped organize the event, the condition hits close to home. Two of his cousins were born with the disease.

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“I remember hearing them cry,” Rush said. “It was painful for (the family).”

So Rush, with his wife, Shyneeta Rush, a phlebotomist with the blood center, organized the drive to raise awareness of the disease.

“What’s really an important message is that individuals, especially those of African American descent, have a higher likelihood they will be a match for a sickle cell patient,” Hess said.

Sickle cell patients must rely on a blood supply that is absent three specific antigens — C, E and Kell.

Hess said the blood center has about 100,000 active blood donors in four states, but only 485 donors from the past two years meet the criteria needed for a sickle cell donation.

“We really need to reach out to those groups where we can engage communities to understand this is a hereditary disease affecting your community, and you are the only ones who can help,” Hess said.

For information on the drive and how to donate, visit the Mississippi Valley Regional Blood Center’s website at bloodcenter.org.

l Comments: (319) 368-8536; michaela.ramm@thegazette.com

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