Red Cross laboratories and dedicated scientists play a vital role matching lifesaving blood for patients with sickle cell disease

Written by Judith Weeks with Photography by Bill Thawley

A person with Sickle Cell Disease can receive as many as 100 units of blood in one year. These blood transfusions are necessary to treat complications from this condition. But the transfusion itself can cause complications. Blood from a pool of donors is matched best as possible; however, a person with Sickle Cell Disease may develop an immune response making it more difficult to find donors. Most persons with Sickle Cell Disease are African American and the most compatible blood generally comes from African Americans.

American Red Cross Laboratories in Philadelphia play a critical role typing blood donated by African Americans.

The National Molecular Laboratory (NML) is the only American Red Cross Laboratory providing genotyping of donors. A person’s genomic DNA contains information that is a more comprehensive predictor of a close blood match than the usual serology typing. African American donors who are genotyped are given the opportunity for membership in the American Rare Blood Donor Program, a national initiative to ensure blood is available for those who need it.

Dr. Margaret Keller, pictured below, Executive Director, National Laboratories, explained there is a shortage of African American donors. Last year the American Red Cross began the Sickle Cell Initiative to increase the number of active African American donors.

Test tubes of donor’s blood are delivered to the NML for genotyping. Giancarlo Rendon, pictured below, examines a sample of DNA purified from whole blood.

Below, Melissa Verstegen places tiny drops of donor’s DNA on a glass slide.

Dr. Martin Chou, pictured below, Director of the NML, explains the MALDI TOF analyzer used for identification of DNA in each donor’s sample

Below, Julia Nezhinsky places the slide with DNA into the MALDI TOF analyzer.

Below, Daria Buono analyzes DNA data from the MALDI TOF analyzer identifying genes carried by a donor.

The National Reference Laboratory for Specialized Testing (NRLST) has expertise for specialized serology. Serology is used for typing ABO and Rh blood groups. This laboratory takes serology a step further with a panel of antibodies for typing blood units from African American donors selecting the best donor for patients with Sickle Cell Disease.

Below, Dexter Facey, Manager, places cartridges into an automated system for typing African American blood donors.

The Immunohematology Reference Laboratory (IRL) is one of forty-five American Red Cross IRLs nationwide. This laboratory has the resources for red blood cell serology typing of rare blood types. It selects blood units from African American donors that best match a patient with Sickle Cell Disease.

Below, Marie Dolce types blood units from African American donors.

Below, Paul Mansfield, IRL Director, and Leslie Pride review blood typing results before releasing blood units sent to hospitals where patients are transfused.

Paul explains “the American Red Cross Sickle Cell Initiative has brought the entire organization together focusing on serving patients with Sickle Cell Disease.”

The work of these laboratory scientists is critical! Lives are saved by advanced genotyping and serologic typing performed at the American Red Cross, allowing the best possible blood products for persons with Sickle Cell Disease.

To learn more about sickle cell disease, check out the following links:

September is National Suicide Awareness & Prevention Month

By Samantha Munro

Bringing our attention to the subject of suicide prevention is never easy, but necessary! Suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death among people aged 10–14 and the 3rd leading cause of death among people aged 15-24 in the U.S. It is also the 12th leading cause of death overall in the U.S.

One may ask, why would the American Red Cross be interested in this topic? It aligns with our mission to prevent and alleviate human suffering in the face of emergencies. As a humanitarian organization, we respond to an average of more than 60,000 disasters every year.

Experiencing a natural disaster or other emergencies can be intensely stressful. This stress is not only experienced by those who have lost, but also by those who are there to help, as 95% of our disaster relief workers are volunteers. Often, these volunteers may also be going through the same thing while being there as a support for others during their moment of crisis.

The impact can still be felt even when the immediate danger has passed. People may feel grief or anger over the damage or loss, fear or hopelessness when thinking about rebuilding their lives and not knowing where or how to begin.

The Red Cross offers Disaster Mental Health support provided by licensed professionals who volunteer their time and talent when disaster strikes. It is crucial for people to know that there is help available to them after experiencing a disaster. Knowing that you are not alone, that there are people who are available to assist you with getting your life back on track one day at a time, can help prevent further tragedies, such as the ending of a life.

If you or someone you know is struggling with a mental health issue, help is available.

National Preparedness Month: Be informed

By Eric Li

Emergencies are always worrying. We try our best to be prepared for them at all times, but sometimes these happen without notice and without warning. Therefore, everyone should be prepared to handle volatile situations at all times, and be able to watch for weather alerts and know what they mean.

First step to being prepared is to determine where you will get your information. Be it a radio, television, an app (preferably NOAA or the Red Cross apps), determine where you can get information quickly and reliably, especially during disasters where the power is gone.

Now that you’ve gotten hold of where you’ll get your information from, now it’s time to understand what it means. Different weather alerts have different meanings.

Most weather emergencies are split into 3 types of alerts: warnings, advisories, and watches.

According to the National Weather Service: “A watch is used when the risk of a hazardous weather or hydrologic event has increased significantly, but its occurrence, location or timing is still uncertain. It is intended to provide enough lead time so those who need to set their plans in motion can do so. A watch means that hazardous weather is possible. People should have a plan of action in case a storm threatens and they should listen for later information and possible warnings especially when planning travel or outdoor activities.” 

Advisories are a step above warnings: “An advisory is issued when a hazardous weather or hydrologic event is occurring, imminent or likely. Advisories are for less serious conditions than warnings, that cause significant inconvenience and if caution is not exercised, could lead to situations that may threaten life or property.”

Warnings are the most serious: “A warning is issued when a hazardous weather or hydrologic event is occurring, imminent or likely. A warning means weather conditions pose a threat to life or property. People in the path of the storm need to take protective action.”

To prepare, look at certain disasters that are more likely in your area. Then prepare a plan on how you would deal with them. Redcross.org is a good resource to get you started.

Preparation in advance doesn’t just apply to weather watches; a good plan can help you deal with emergencies that might occur more quickly. In addition to staying informed, making a plan and building a disaster kit are key.

Some key supplies to include in your disaster kit:

  • Non-perishable food and extra water, in most disasters going outside is dangerous, so you need extra food and water to be able to survive without running out.
  • A radio, preferably NOAA, to receive external alerts or orders that will help you avoid the disaster. Make sure you have enough batteries too.
  • A first-aid kit, for any health emergencies during the disaster, and you should also make sure everyone knows CPR and knows how to operate an automated external defibrillator (AED).

Allison Yannaccone recognized for using Red Cross training to help save a life

By Alana Mauger

Allison Yannaccone receives an American Red Cross Lifesaving Award for Professional Responders from Guy Triano, CEO, Red Cross Southeastern Pennsylvania Region, on Sept. 20, 2022 in Philadelphia.
Photo by Dave Skutnik/American Red Cross.  

Every year, the American Red Cross trains thousands of people in skills like first aid and CPR to help them respond to emergencies. Yet, even for professional responders, using those skills in a crisis requires quick thinking and decisive action.

On Tuesday, the Red Cross recognized Allison Yannaccone, of Perkasie, with a Lifesaving Award for using her training to help save a patron’s life during a medical emergency.

While working as an aquatics supervisor on June 4, 2022 at a Montgomery County, Pennsylvania fitness facility, Allison was alerted that there was an emergency in the seating area of the outdoor pool deck. She responded to discover a patron on her side with blue hands, lips and face.

After calling 9-1-1- and starting emergency care, Allison discovered the patron had no pulse and had vomit in her mouth. She performed CPR until police arrived on the scene, at which time Allison continued chest compressions while a police officer performed bag-valve-mouth ventilation. EMTs took over the patron’s care when they arrived. Thanks to her action and skill, the patron survived.

“Allison exemplifies the mission of the Red Cross to prevent and alleviate human suffering in the face of emergencies,” said Red Cross Southeastern Pennsylvania CEO Guy Triano. “We commend her for her willingness to help others in distress.”

Allison is Red Cross-trained and has taken our Lifeguarding with CPR/AED for Professional Rescuers and First Aid courses. For her efforts, Allison was nominated and received a Lifesaving Award for Professional Responders.

Lifesaving Awards program

The Lifesaving Award for Professional Responders is awarded to Red Cross-trained first responders and healthcare professionals acting while on duty. It is one of four awards given as part of the Red Cross Lifesaving Awards program. To nominate and recognize a person or group who has taken action to save or sustain a life, visit LifesavingAwards.org.

Turn over a new leaf; give blood or platelets this fall

By Biomedical Field Communications

On the first day of fall, the American Red Cross is asking the public to start the season off with a lifesaving blood or platelet donation. While the leaves turn, the need for blood never changes. Those who give this fall play an important role in keeping the blood supply high enough to help patients counting on blood products for care– especially ahead of the busy holiday season. Book a time to give blood or platelets by using the Red Cross Blood Donor App, visiting RedCrossBlood.org or by calling 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767).

As a thank-you, the Red Cross is offering these exciting opportunities for donors:

  • All who come to give through Sept. 30 will be automatically entered for a chance to win a VIP NASCAR racing experience, including two tickets to a 2023 Sport Clips Haircuts-sponsored race of the winner’s choice, round-trip airfare for two, up to a three-night hotel stay, and entry to a Sport Clips racetrack hospitality tent, if available, plus a $750 gift card, thanks to Sport Clips.
  • Those who come to give in September will also receive a coupon for a free haircut by email, also thanks to Sport Clips. Details are available at rcblood.org/racetogive.
  • All who come to give Oct. 1-31, 2022, will receive a $5 e-Gift Card by email to a merchant of choice.

How to donate blood

Simply download the American Red Cross Blood Donor App, visit RedCrossBlood.org, call 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767) or enable the Blood Donor Skill on any Alexa Echo device to make an appointment or for more information. All blood types are needed to ensure a reliable supply for patients. A blood donor card or driver’s license or two other forms of identification are required at check-in. Individuals who are 17 years of age in most states (16 with parental consent where allowed by state law), weigh at least 110 pounds and are in generally good health may be eligible to donate blood. High school students and other donors 18 years of age and younger also have to meet certain height and weight requirements.

Blood and platelet donors can save time at their next donation by using RapidPass® to complete their pre-donation reading and health history questionnaire online, on the day of their donation, before arriving at the blood drive. To get started, follow the instructions at RedCrossBlood.org/RapidPass or use the Blood Donor App.

Red Cross honors Pennsylvania State Police Sgt. Jeffrey Taroski for his lifesaving efforts

By Alana Mauger

Sgt. Jeffrey Taroski (center) with his wife Caitlin and Red Cross Southeastern PA Regional CEO Guy Triano. Photo by Dave Skutnik/American Red Cross.

On Tuesday, the American Red Cross presented Pennsylvania State Police Sgt. Jeffrey Taroski, of Philadelphia, with a Lifesaving Award for Professional Responders to recognize his heroic actions last year.

While on duty at a Philadelphia casino on June 8, 2021, Sgt. Taroski was alerted that an individual needed assistance after sustaining a severe arm laceration while working on a mechanical device in the wardrobe room. When he arrived, Sgt. Taroski observed the individual laying on the floor in a pool of blood, and he determined that 9-1-1 emergency services were needed.

Based on his training, experience and quick thinking, Sgt. Taroski recognized that the bright red blood pumping from the individual’s arm was arterial blood. Observing that the pool of blood was getting larger, he acted quickly to preserve the individual’s arm and life. He used a belt as a tourniquet, tightly wrapping it above the wound until an actual tourniquet could be applied. Next, he used towels to apply pressure to the wound, preventing further blood loss. Finally, he called 9-1-1 back to upgrade the seriousness of the initial call

In a letter of nomination, one of his colleagues writes that Sgt. Taroski “demonstrated strong leadership and remained calm throughout the stressful situation,” delegating necessary duties to other Troopers to maintain scene and crowd control, safety and effective communication with emergency services and involved personnel.

Lifesaving Awards program

The Lifesaving Award for Professional Responders is awarded to Red Cross-trained first responders and healthcare professionals acting while on duty. It is one of four awards given as part of the Red Cross Lifesaving Awards program. To nominate and recognize a person or group who has taken action to save or sustain a life, visit LifesavingAwards.org.

Red Cross and partners operate Philadelphia shelter following partial building collapse

By Jenny Farley

American Red Cross shelter sign at Samuel Fels High School. Photo by Jenny Finley/American Red Cross
Brenda Caple. Photo by Jenny Farley/American Red Cross.

Brenda Caple knew exactly what she was planning to cook for dinner. A steak she and her husband could enjoy together. But she lacked an onion and green pepper so she went out. She made it back safely to her apartment at Lindley Towers and was thinking about that steak when she said, “I heard a loud BOOM!”

When she looked out the window, destruction shocked her. She thought, “Lord, I just left from there. I had just walked past coming from the store.”

After living at her apartment complex for ten months, Caple was forced to evacuate, along with her sister and niece, who lived on different floors. Pieces of the Lindley Towers facade, an apartment building with 105 units, had crashed to the ground below.

John D. Smith. Photo by Jenny Farley/America Red Cross

Navy veteran John D. Smith, who has lived at Lindley Towers since 2015, left his seventh floor apartment that morning at 7:30 am. At 82 years old, he spent the day at the Senior Center when someone said, “I heard a building fell down on your block.” Smith said, “It never dawned on me it was my building.”

When he got home that night he said the fire department had kicked down his door during the evacuation and he had only minutes to collect his stuff while authorities waited in the hall.

“I couldn’t think of what to take.”

When something caused part of Lindley Towers to fall, Gail Thomas didn’t hear a thing. For nearly ten years she has enjoyed the quiet in her fourth floor apartment. She had no intention of leaving. “Then I heard people banging on doors.”

Gail Thomas. Photo by Jenny Farley/America Red Cross.

That morning Thomas was getting ready to do her online classes but they would have to wait. “I’m frustrated, aggravated, upset and angry.” Thomas suffers from excruciating daily migraine pain. She said being forced out of her home is the worst thing that has ever happened to her.

“It’s devastating.”

They lived on different floors. They all had other plans. But what happened at Lindley Towers on September 14th thrust all three people, and dozens like them, into the same river of uncertainty. Unable to go home, no time to grab much and in need of immediate refuge.

Red Cross volunteers Neena Nash, Shelter Supervisor Hal Cohen and Mass Care Feeding Lead Janice Thomas with Red Cross Regional CEO Guy Triano. Photo by Alana Mauger/American Red Cross

That’s when the Red Cross stepped in, partnering with the Office of Emergency Management, to open a shelter in the gym at Samuel Fels High School in Philadelphia.

Volunteer Betty Thomas. Photo by Jenny Farley/American Red Cross.

Volunteers like Rick Tashman and Betty Thomas worked together there to make sure tower residents got what they needed. Food, blankets, a cot and emotional support.

Thomas has been training for the Red Cross Disaster Action Team (DAT). She said she enjoys volunteering and “Being part of society. Helping people.” And it’s not her first stint with the Red Cross. She used to deliver plasma long distances to hospitals and cancer centers.

Her two young daughters, Kayla and Eve, want to volunteer too as soon as they are old enough. They already help by making sandwiches to feed people who are homeless.

Shelter Supervisor Rick Tashman. Photo by Jenny Farley/American Red Cross.

For 25 years, Tashman dreamed of volunteering for the Red Cross, but he had a lot of time commitments. Now, he serves as a shelter supervisor in the very school he attended as a child.

An amateur ham radio operator, Tashman calls himself an “electronics nut” who has a personal philosophy to “look for the opportunity to do something magical” and said he feels blessed to be able to “make a little bit of difference.”

For Caple, it’s not little. She said the Red Cross has given her a good experience at the shelter and treated her well.

“Very nice. Generous people. Everyone is respectful.”

She said she’s okay for now. And she’s praying for a good outcome.

“At least I have a roof over my head.”

Volunteers Daramola Gbolahan and Rahel Pachter serve lunch at the shelter on Sunday, Sept. 18.
Photo by Alana Mauger / American Red Cross

Smith is also grateful.

“They helped an awful lot because I would have been homeless. If it hadn’t been for the Red Cross, I would have been on the street.”

Gail Thomas also appreciated the treatment she received at the shelter. “Got socks, food.” Volunteers even turned the music down to help her head.

Every eight minutes, The Red Cross responds to a disaster and is ready to leap into action 24/7. Shelters must be able to open within hours. If you would like to donate, visit redcross.org.

National Preparedness Month: What to know before you go

By Nancy Degnan

Taking a road trip is exciting, whether it is for relaxation or to learn something new. As you set the stage for your trip, an itinerary can serve as a guide to help you get started and keep moving.

Along with your schedule, you may want to be mindful of potential roadblocks, so your vacation is both safe and memorable. It is important to prepare for the expected and unexpected. With peace of mind, you can plan to enjoy the journey as much as the destination.

The American Red Cross offers helpful information for everyday use as well as for travelers. These resources can create awareness for the needs of family, friends, and pets that may be on the move with you. There are a variety of Red Cross Mobile Apps that will place expert advice at your fingertips whether you are seeking information on first aid, weather, the nearest hospital or help for your pet.

As you prepare to go, create a checklist of items to pack:

  • Protein snacks and water
  • Personal medications
  • Flashlight
  • Extra batteries

To learn more about essential items, visit our website page, American Red Cross Survival Kit Supplies, for more details on how to prepare for an emergency.    

Before you begin your drive, think about road and personal safety:

  • Download the Red Cross Mobile App for quick use if you need assistance
  • Ensure your vehicle is inspected and equipped for the trip
  • Be well rested and alert
  • Designate a primary contact who knows your plan, route, and destination

For additional roadway safety tips, visit our website page, American Red Cross On the Highway.

Whether you are travelling alone or with others, plan for a safe and healthy road trip with available resources from the American Red Cross that aim to serve in times of need: 

  • Red Cross Mobile Apps
    • Red Cross Mobile Apps and Voice-Enabled Skills/Actions can be downloaded for free at the Apple, Amazon, and Google stores
    • Available Apps cover First Aid, Pet First Aid, weather and more

For more information about the American Red Cross, visit redcross.org.

Take a Red Cross class this National Online Learning Day

By Robert Ambrose

Boasting of over 2 dozen online courses, the Red Cross is a go-to nexus to learn just about anything to help you deal with a host of emergencies and safety topics. Below are some examples. Visit redcross.org/takeaclass for a full list.

First Aid

So, you find yourself at the scene of an accident. You see an individual bleeding but you are not worried because you took the Red Cross First Aid for Severe Bleeding Online. In moments, you stop the bleeding (because you learned from us what to do). When paramedics arrive, they continue your work. One says without you, the patient never would have survived the accident. High-five! You saved someone’s life. 

Water Safety

Where would the Red Cross be without water safety? There are five online courses to learn how to prevent water problems, keep kids safe in the water, and how to save a drowning victim. Also, completing the Water Safety Ambassador training will give teachers and adult and youth leaders strategic data to warn youngsters where to avoid high-risk drowning areas. Separately, a 3.5-hour Lifeguard Management course gives scenario-activities, video lessons, a final exam and a certificate. Non-lifeguards are welcome to that course.

Coping skills

Got COVID stress? Coping skills are found in the course called, Psychological First Aid: Supporting Yourself and Others During COVID-19. No further explanation seems necessary, but it’s the first course listed on the Red Cross class list online if you want to check it out.

Opioid Intervention

As the U.S. and Philadelphia navigate the opioid epidemic, you can do more than read about it. A Red Cross online course can teach you how to save an individual on the edge of life and death. Overdose happens, but Good Samaritan tools are found at the Red Cross First Aid for Opioid Overdoses course. For example, if naloxone sounds like something to keep your potato chips fresh for six months, you will learn how to use this life-saving medication to prevent an overdosing heroin addict from racing to the great hereafter. Also, tools like the nasal atomizer, Narcan and EVZIO will be analyzed and demonstrated to help you save an overdosing opioid consumer.

Babysitting Skills

Baby-sitters are hard to find. But maybe you could prepare your baby-sitter with the Red Cross Babysitting Basics. Set expectations and learn together – online.

CPR

CPR’s life-saving methods vary depending on the patient’s heart. The Red Cross offers online courses for saving a baby, a child or an adult. Hearts are different, you know. If your job needs an OSHA certification, Red Cross has a required supplemental teacher-led course. Take the supplemental course within 3 months from the online course. CPR courses even teach how to handle the AED (i.e., automated external defibrillator). 

Pet First Aid

Not to leave our pets out, a Red Cross online course will teach how to give your dog or cat first aid care. How to respond to breathing and cardiac emergencies, wounds, bleeding and seizures will be taught. A pound of prevention is also discussed.

To learn more about these online classes, or all of our Red Cross classes and programs, visit redcross.org/takeaclass.

Tahirah Austin-Muhammad shares her sickle cell journey, advocates for healthcare equality

By Alana Mauger

Tahirah Austin-Muhammad. Submitted photo

When Tahirah Austin-Muhammad was born in the late 1980s, testing for sickle cell disease in newborns was not a standard practice at many hospitals. So when her symptoms appeared at age 4 – tiredness, aches and pains, stomach aches – Tahriah’s parents treated it the only way they knew how – Tylenol, homemade rubs and lots of love.

But when she started kindergarten, it became clear that something else was going on.

“I loved to play, but it tired me out quickly. I couldn’t keep up with my peers physically,” she recalled. “Everything came to a head when I passed out at school. I stood up, walked to the door and blacked out.”

Tahirah describes the situation as “being blurry” when she woke up, but she remembers feeling tired and being in so much pain that she couldn’t sit up. Her dad arrived at the school and drove her straight to Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP).

She was first diagnosed with leukemia, but then Dr. Kim Smith, a physician who specialized in sickle cell disease, took a second look at her lab work.

“Sickle cell disease is often misdiagnosed. That’s why it’s important to have doctors who look like us,” Tahirah shared.

That was her first sickle cell crisis at age 6, but it would be far from her last. Tahirah spent most of fourth grade hospitalized at CHOP.  Later her spleen, gallbladder and appendix were removed in the first of many major surgeries.

Despite it all, she credits her parents and CHOP family for instilling in her the belief that there’s nothing she couldn’t do.

“I ran track in eighth grade. I just had to take more breaks and hydrate a lot more,” she said.

Pediatric vs adult care

Tahirah earned a bachelor’s degree in Biology from Neumann University and has traveled the world. She has thrived in spite of her condition. But like all people living with sickle cell disease, her transition from pediatric to adult care was wrought with obstacles.

“My first experience in an adult [emergency department], I sat there for over 10 hours. I cried. I called my social worker at CHOP and begged to come back,” she recalled. “She provided me with real-time advocacy – what to say to get the help I needed. It’s so stressful when you’re in a pain crisis.”

In the U.S., sickle cell disease predominately affects people who are Black/African American or Latinx. Tahirah explains that it’s often seen as a childhood disease.

“The goal pediatrics had was for us to survive to adulthood, but the adult side wasn’t ready for us,” she said. “There is racial bias and extreme inequities in health care. I realized there was a need for support for adults with sickle cell once I got into adult care. Too many of us were dying for preventable things.”

Sickle cell advocacy

In 2017, Tahirah co-founded the Philadelphia-based Crescent Foundation, whose mission is to support sickle cell survivors, families and communities with evidence-based research and advocacy. Among its initiatives, the foundation helps sickle cell patients ages 18-24 transition into adult care. It also provides case management to help patients and their families coordinate their medical and social service needs. Importantly, the foundation also educates the next generation of health care professionals about sickle cell disease.

Tahirah admits that as her status, and the status of her fellow Crescent Foundation co-founders, changed in the city of Philadelphia, so did their access to quality health care.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Tahirah was hospitalized for the first time in 6 years. She describes being put into triage within 5 minutes of arriving in the ER before being admitted for a lung infection. At the same time, in the same hospital where she was receiving compassionate treatment, a young woman was repeatedly calling the Crescent Foundation pleading for help because she had already been in the waiting room for 8 hours.

“I felt helpless; the only difference was they recognized me. My care has changed, and it shouldn’t have,” she said. “Good, compassionate care should be given to everyone at all times.”

The Crescent Foundation held a Red Cross Sickle Cell Awareness Month blood drive in 2021. Pictured (from left): La Valle Warren, Red Cross sickle cell account manager; Tahirah Austin-Muhammad, Crescent Foundation COO and co-founder; Jawanda Hargrove and Shaun Griggs, sickle cell patient advocates; and Ediomi Utuk-Lowery, Crescent Foundation chief marketing and communications officer and co-founder. Photo by Alana Mauger/American Red Cross

Blood donations help

Like many sickle cell survivors, blood transfusions play an important role in Tahirah’s treatment – but it has to be the right match. Repeated blood transfusions over someone’s lifetime can cause a patient to develop a life-threatening immune response against blood from donors that is not closely matched to their own – something Tahirah has experienced more than once.

In Philadelphia, blood from donors who self-identify as Black or African-American is marked with a blue tie tag, designating it as a potential match for a sickle cell patient. Extra tests are performed to ensure recipients receive the right blood.

“I wouldn’t be sitting here today without someone with a good heart,” said Tahirah. “Thank you to whoever is donating blood, but we need so much more.”

 Visit our website to learn more about how blood donations help people living with sickle cell disease and the importance of maintaining a diverse blood supply for patients.