September is Sickle Cell Awareness Month, and LifeSouth Community Blood Centers are seeking community members to support local Sickle Cell Disease (SCD) patients through a special program called Sickle Cell Heroes. Sickle Cell Heroes have a special blood type that causes fewer complications for sickle cell patients and others who receive numerous transfusions. All it takes is a few minutes of your time to be someone’s hero.

What is it

SCD is a genetic blood disorder that is named for the thin, crescent-shaped red blood cells that face more difficulty passing through blood vessels than healthy, disc-shaped red blood cells. Patients with SCD may experience symptoms such as chronic fatigue, recurrent episodes of extreme pain, breathlessness and increased risk of complications such as stroke, liver disease and delayed growth.

Sickle Cell Disease Is the Most Common Genetic Blood Disorder in the United States

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, SCD affects approximately 100,000 Americans; it is present in an estimated one in every 365 African-American children born in the United States, and one out of 16,300 Hispanic-American children. LifeSouth’s 365 Movement focuses on raising awareness for the need of African American donors and other donors with rare blood types to help patients who need specially matched blood for transfusions 365 days a year.

People living with SCD often need blood transfusions to increase the amount of healthy red blood cells in their bloodstream and lessen the effects of the sickle-shaped cells. LifeSouth works with local hospitals, such as Oak Hill Hospital, Bayfront Brooksville and Bayfront Spring Hill to match SCD patients with Sickle Cell Heroes: donors whose red blood cells are precisely matched to reduce complications from blood transfusions. The best matches are likely to be found within a patient’s own ethnic group. To date, LifeSouth has identified 11,300 Sickle Cell Heroes across Alabama, Florida and Georgia.

You can help

Support Sickle Cell Awareness month in these ways:

• Know your sickle cell status to help prevent passing the gene to children. Prior to 2006, newborns were not tested for SCD. In an effort to help donors know their sickle cell status, LifeSouth will test donors who identify as African American for Sickle Cell Disease and Sickle Cell Trait using hemoglobin electrophoresis throughout September. All donors receiving the testing will be notified by mail of their test results.

• Join the 365 Movement by scheduling regular blood drives to help individuals who could be a potential match for a SCD patient.

• Visit a LifeSouth donor center or blood drive to donate blood. LifeSouth will test each donation to identify potential Sickle Cell Heroes.

• Donate as often as you can if your identified blood antigen profile is a match. If you are identified as a Sickle Cell Hero, your donations will help a local patient living with SCD.

• Join the Be The Match Registry. There is no universal cure for SCD, but some patients may qualify for a bone marrow transplant. LifeSouth can assist local donors who are interested in being potential bone marrow or cord blood donors for patients in need, including those living with SCD.

To learn more, visit LifeSouth.org/SickleCell.

Donors must be at least 17 or 16 with parental permission, weigh a minimum of 110 pounds and be in good health. A photo ID is also needed. LifeSouth’s donor centers in Hernando is located at 12395 Cortez Blvd, Brooksville, FL 34613. LifeSouth’s bloodmobiles will also be out at many locations in the coming weeks.

For additional information, call LifeSouth toll-free at 888-795-2707 or visit www.lifesouth.org.