DAYTON, Ohio (WDTN) – The Red Cross and Community Blood Center are using Black History Month not only as an opportunity to share knowledge about Black contributions to society, but also to highlight the importance and need for Black contributions to healthcare.
“Black History Month gives us an opportunity to call attention to the fact that we need blood donations from the rare blood types,” said regional communications director for the central and southern region of the Ohio Red Cross, Marita Salkowski. “And specifically, there are certain red blood cells that carry markers called antigens that determine a person’s blood type, and those certain blood types are specific to certain racial and ethnic groups.”
She said those blood types from people of color are critical to have on hand and benefit people within, and outside of the Black community.
“There is a constant need for all blood types, but it’s often that the higher types of O and B type bloods are more prevalent and ethnic groups such as African Americans and the Latino populations.”
In addition to typical uses for stored blood, like injuries or low hemoglobin, Salkowski and public relations manager at the Community Blood Center in Dayton, Mark Pompilio, said some of these donations can specifically improve the livelihood of Black Americans who suffer from sickle cell disease.
“I definitely have met sickle cell patients,” said Pompilio. “I know the pain they go through. Sickle cell [is] a strange disease and it so dominantly affects African American people. [People with sickle cell] are born with red cells that are sickle-shaped and have difficulty passing through their circulatory system. And it’s painful.”
Salkowski added, “The Red Cross needs donations from people that carry those sickle cell antigens within their body in order to provide those treatments for the people that are having sickle cell episodes.”
And those treatments, Pompilio explained, may not have been made possible if not for the work of African American doctor, Charles Drew during the early WWII era.
“Dr. Drew — he was first of all, one of the first African Americans to graduate from Columbia University Med School,” Pompilio said. “He was a pioneer in researching blood banks and how to preserve blood and vital information for battlefield care. That was really the beginning of blood banking. That’s why he’s called the father of blood banking.”
Both Salkowski and Pompilio added it’s critical for Black Americans to donate blood not just during Black History Month, but throughout the year. To find out how you can donate, click the links below.
To donate to the American Red Cross, click here.
To donate to the Community Blood Center, click here.
To learn more about diversity in blood types, click here.