In honor of Black History Month, we want to highlight the tremendous importance of and need for African American organ, tissue and blood donors.
Organ and Tissue Donors
African Americans have a great need for organ and tissue transplantation. Why? It’s because there is a high rate of high blood pressure, diabetes, and heart disease among African Americans, and all of these conditions can lead to organ failure. Kidney failure, for example, occurs more frequently among African Americans than any other race.
African Americans make up about 40% of the local population, but over 50% of the people in Western New York waiting for an organ transplant are African American. African Americans who receive an organ transplant from an African American donor have a lower chance of organ rejection. However, nearly 70% of the organs transplanted into African Americans come from Caucasian donors.
About 70% of African Americans have blood type O or B, the types that are most in demand.
African American blood donors can also make a huge difference for people with sickle cell anemia. Sickle cell anemia is an inherited disorder of the red blood cells, as well as the most common genetic disorder among African Americans. People with sickle cell anemia have an abnormal type of hemoglobin in their red blood cells. Their red blood cells are crescent-shaped rather than the normal round shape. Crescent-shaped red blood cells have difficulty passing through small blood vessels, which eventually damages both the blood vessels and surrounding tissues. This is extremely painful.
There are about 90,000 people suffering from sickle cell anemia in the United States, and almost all of them are African Americans. One in 500 African Americans suffer from sickle cell anemia, while one in 12 African Americans carry the sickle cell trait.
Patients with this disease, many of whom are children, may need 15 to 25 blood transfusions a year. They often develop antibodies to the blood they receive, which leads to potentially life-threatening complications. The risk of these complications is minimized if patients can receive blood that is more closely matched to their own; the best matches are found among other African Americans.
You can help!
Would you like to become an organ, tissue or blood donor? Click here to find out how to become an organ and tissue donor, and click here for a list of our community blood donation centers.
Almost anyone can donate blood as long as they are in good health, are at least 17 years old, and weigh at least 110 lbs. People who carry the sickle cell trait can still donate blood, too.