One Chicago-area mom who has been impacted by sickle cell disease is Shakara Gross. She and her 15-year-old son, Javon, who was born with SCD, spend about 100 days a year in the hospital. For the past 3 years, Javon has received monthly blood transfusions at UIC Medical Center to keep the disease in check.
A blood donor since her days while attending Fremd High School in Palatine, IL, Shakara is active in raising awareness for SCD and encourages people to donate blood as often as possible.
“I see the immediate effect it has on Javon when he receives his transfusions and I am thankful to those who selflessly roll up their sleeves to donate,” says Shakara.
“You never know when you’ll need the life-saving gift of blood that can come from area donors,” she adds. “It really is the easiest way to give someone a second chance at life.”
LifeSource is honoring the strength, hope, and courage of mothers and caregivers of children by encouraging those who are blood type O negative to donate blood on behalf of the area’s newborns and premature babies, as well as children who have been impacted by the need for blood donations.
Children as young as newborns can be greatly impacted by the generous gift of blood donations; as little as 3 teaspoons of blood can save a baby’s life.
O negative donors are rare but very special because their blood is the safest to use for intrauterine transfusions and to treat newborns, premature infants and those with suppressed immune systems. But such donors are scarce: only 7% of the population has type O negative blood. O negative is known as the “universal” blood type because O negative red blood cells can be transfused to any patient in need. O negative is typically used in emergency situations when there isn’t time to determine a patient’s blood type.
While O negative is particularly important, all blood types are always needed as many children are impacted every day with the need for routine transfusions. Oftentimes, these transfusions are needed unexpectedly.
“There is such great joy to see a mother and her healthy child, and by having an optimal inventory of O negative blood on our shelves, we can ensure that patients in need will receive this great gift of life,” says LifeSource spokesperson Thelma Sardin.
You can help patients like Javon by donating blood on a regular basis. With each blood donation, you can impact up to 3 lives!
Managing sickle cell disease can often require routine blood transfusions, so having a more ethnically diverse donor pool available for these patients may be their best hope. We encourage everyone to donate this month to help diversify the blood supply for all patients who receive routine transfusions.