OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – The Red Cross is asking African American community members to donate blood to help those afflicted by sickle cell disease.

Two blood drives will be held at Langston University campuses to support sickle cell disease patients in honor of Sickle Cell Awareness Month.

The first blood drive will be from 1-7 p.m. Monday, Sept. 19 at the Langston University OKC Campus, 6700 Martin Luther King Jr. Ave., in Oklahoma City.

The second blood drive will be from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 20 at the Langston University MultiPurpose Building, 701 Sammy Davis Jr. Blvd., in Langston.

The Red Cross is collaborating with community organizations, including the National Pan-Hellenic Council – known as the Divine Nine – to host blood drives and inspire Black community members to donate and support people living with sickle cell. It’s part of the Sickle Cell Initiative, which was launched in 2021 and helped bring about a 60 percent increase in African American blood donations.

Sickle cell disease affects over 100,000 people across the nation, most of whom are of African descent. Regular blood transfusions are essential to treating the extreme pain and life-threatening complications faced by many, according to a Red Cross news release states.

However, those who struggle with sickle cell disease may develop an immune response against blood from donors that is not closely matched to their own.

One in three African American blood donors is a match for people with sickle cell disease because most individuals who are Black have unique structures on their red blood cells that are not often found in other donor populations, according to the Red Cross.

Blood donations from African Americans are essential to helping people with sickle cell disease.

“When cells harden, they can get caught in blood vessels, potentially leading to stroke and organ failure,” says Dr. Matthew Coleman, Red Cross Regional Medical Director. “Transfusions provide healthy blood cells, unblocking blood vessels and delivering oxygen, minimizing crises patients with sickle cell may face.”  

Visit RedCrossBlood.org or by call 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767) to schedule a blood donationEach person who donates through Sept. 18 will receive an exclusive Red Cross T-shirt, while supplies last.

Go to RedCrossBlood.org/OurBlood to learn more about the Sickle Cell Initiative.