Black History Month underscores role of African Americans in building blood supply

INDIANAPOLIS — Blood donors can honor the enormous contributions African Americans have made to modern-day blood services by coming to give blood this February during Black History Month. 
From medical research to leadership, African Americans have played prominent roles in helping to ensure the safety and availability of blood through the American Red Cross. In the 1940s, medical researcher Dr. Charles Drew laid the groundwork for today’s modern blood donation program through his innovative work in blood banking. And in the early 1980s, educator and U.S. Ambassador Jerome Holland streamlined the growth of Red Cross laboratories, resulting in the world-renowned Holland Research Laboratory in Rockville, Md.
“Every day, the Red Cross benefits from the talents and knowledge of people from our African American communities,” said Sharyn Whitman, CEO for the Indiana-Ohio Region of the American Red Cross. “We owe a tremendous debt to these generous Americans.”
From organizing blood drives to donating blood, African Americans make unique contributions to America’s blood supply. More than 50 percent of people of African descent have type O blood. About 20 percent of African Americans also have type B blood, which is higher than other populations. Several rare blood types are also particular to the African American community. 
Post-transfusion complications can decrease when patients receive blood from donors of the same ethnic background. And that, Red Cross officials say, is important in cases when a patient needs blood every few weeks to help treat serious diseases like sickle cell. 
“We need to encourage people of all ethnicities to give blood and help meet patient needs,” said Whitman. “Sometimes, it’s that one donation from one person that can make a difference in someone’s life.”
Upcoming blood drives in the area include: Wednesday, Feb. 2, from 11:30 a.m. until 5:30 p.m. at St. Isidore Hall, located at 803 W. Bike St. in Bremen; Thursday, Feb. 3, from 11:30 a.m. until 5:30 p.m. at the Knights of Columbus in the Hall, located at 901 E. Jefferson St. in Plymouth; and Monday, Feb. 7, from 1:30 p.m. until 6:30 p.m. at Bremen Elementary Middle School in the Multi-Purpose Room, located at 700 W. South St. in Bremen. 
Call 1-800-860-8611, ext. 8255 or visit redcrossblood.org to schedule a blood donation appointment. This is a Pint Size Heroes blood drive.
 Individuals who are 17 years of age (16 with parental permission in some states), meet weight and height requirements (110 pounds or more, depending on their height) and are in generally good health may be eligible to donate blood. Bring a Red Cross blood donor card or other form of positive ID when coming to donate.