State rep urges to increase blood donations

SPRINGFIELD, Ill.—Responding to a shortage of blood donations in the African-American community, State Rep. Chuck Jefferson (D-Rockford) and members of the Illinois House Black Legislative Caucus called a press conference Feb. 8 at the Statehouse in Springfield to urge residents to donate more frequently and in greater numbers.

Lawmakers, physicians and the Illinois Coalition of Community Blood Centers said the need for minority donors greatly exceeds the supply of blood, which has had a negative impact on patients across the state.

“We know that patient care is often delayed because there is a shortage of African-American blood donors,” Jefferson said. “We’re asking our friends and neighbors to answer the call for help in our communities. Lives are at stake.”

According to the Rock River Valley Blood Center (RRVBC) in Rockford, about 70 percent of African-Americans cannot find a blood match within their own families.

Rare blood types needed by African-American residents who suffer from genetic blood conditions such as sickle-cell anemia are more likely to be donated by other African-Americans. According to the American Stroke Association, sickle-cell anemia is the most common blood disease among African-Americans, affecting one in 625 persons. Patients suffering from this disease require blood transfusions to replace the sickle-shaped cells with healthy red cells.

RRVBC says 30 percent of sickle cell patients develop antibodies that destroy blood cells, sometimes making it impossible to find compatible blood outside of the African-American community. The Center reports rare blood traits are more prevalent among African-Americans, with more than one-third of requests for rare blood types coming from African-American patients.

Any person who is in good health, weighs at least 110 pounds and is at least 17 years old (or 16 with parental consent) may donate blood. Local residents may donate blood by calling the RRVBC for an appointment at (815) 965-8751. The Center is at 419 N. Sixth St. in Rockford and is open Monday through Thursday from 6:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. and Fridays from 6:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.

For more information about how to donate blood, or if you have questions about blood donation, contact the RRVBC, or Jefferson’s constituent service office at (815) 987-7433.

from the issue March 14-20, 2007, issue

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