Sickle cell warrior urges people to donate amid national blood shortage

Published: Sep. 15, 2023 at 9:23 AM EDT|Updated: Sep. 15, 2023 at 9:27 AM EDT
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COLUMBUS, Ga. (WTVM) - An opportunity to save lives that need your help...the American Red Cross is warning that its blood supply is critically low, declaring the national blood supply has fallen nearly 25% since a month ago.

East Alabama officials say the shortfall could jeopardize the medical care of patients who require emergency blood transfusions for conditions like cancer and sickle cell disease.

According to the American Red Cross, someone in the United States needs blood every two seconds.

Sickle cell warrior, Monique Fortson, said it’s vital for people to give blood. Those donations could help save a sickle cell patient’s life.

‘’We need the blood because its very important to us,’’ she said.

Fortson found out at the age of one that she had sickle cell disease, an inherited blood disorder that affects hemoglobin, the protein that carries oxygen through the body. She said it can be excruciating at times.

‘’When you’re in a crisis, it’s when the white blood cells eat up the red blood cells, and they leave like a lack of oxygen to our bones, and which causes us pain. So, it be painful whether it be your arm, your legs, your back, your stomach, your chest... it hurts,’’ Fortson said.

In order to relieve that pain, sickle cell patients require blood transfusions. With blood donations down across the country, Fortson urges people to give blood if you can.

‘’You know, cause we always have to have blood transfusions, and without people donating blood how do we do that? Cause clearly our blood is kind of toxic , and it’s not working for us. We need other people blood,’’ she said.

Manager of LifeSouth blood donation in Opelika, Maggie Burns, said blood is not something that can be replicated.

‘’Collections are down this time of year. Just in general the summer is really tough for blood collections. Families are doing what they’re supposed to be doing right they’re on vacation, they’re with their kids and they’re preparing for back to school. So, our collections are really down at this time,’’ she said.

With this shortage, Burns said even if you are weary of the needle, there is no need to be.

‘’Everybody gets a little scared, it is a needle, but we like to say don’t think about the needle, think about the need and that single donation is gonna save 3 lives. And that’s a pretty awesome thing to think that you can spend 30 minutes and save three lives,’' she said.

If you would like to donate your blood, you can visit any LifeSouth location. There is one located in Columbus and in Auburn.