The Urban League of Greater Madison Guild and Young Professionals are partnering with the Red Cross to host a Sickle Cell Blood Drive on Thursday, July 9.
“Every year, the Urban League celebrates Sickle Cell Awareness Month which is in July and we encourage people in the community to do an event to bring awareness to sickle cell disease and this year we decided to do a blood drive,” April Kumapayi, the vice president of the Urban League Young Professionals and the event chair, tells Madison365.
Sickle cell anemia, a genetic condition, is a disease in which your body produces abnormally shaped red blood cells – normally round and flexible blood cells become stiff and sickle-shaped, stopping the blood cells and the oxygen they carry from being able to move freely around the body.
“It’s a blood disease where your blood cells form a sickle shape – kind of like a horn. What happens when it goes through your bloodstream is that it pokes the person so they feel that pain throughout their entire body,” Kumapayi says. “There are mild cases and there are severe cases where people have to go to the hospital to help manage the pain.”
Over time, people with sickle cell can experience damage to organs such as the liver, kidney, lungs, heart and spleen. The sickle cell anemia and this trait can be found in about 1 in 13 African-American births.
“Sickle cell happens to be a disease that occurs mostly in African Americans so we want people to be aware of it and also to not be afraid if you do have it,” Kumapayi says. “It is a disease that has no cure but there is treatment for it and there is help for people who need it to help reduce the pain or the number of episodes you might have.”
Many sickle cell patients depend on regular blood transfusions from Black blood donors to treat the effects of the disease, but the number of African Americans donating blood with the American Red Cross has dropped by more than half in recent weeks due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“It’s very important to get more and more African Americans to donate blood because we’re the number-one group to have this disease and the best match is to get somebody from the same racial background,” Kumapayi says.
Launched in 2012, the Urban League Young Professionals are a volunteer auxiliary of community leaders ages 21-40 who work to empower communities and change lives through the Urban League Movement. For the Sickle Cell Blood Drive, they are looking for healthy adults of all ages to come in on Thursday.
“They will ask you a few health questions to make sure that you are healthy enough to draw blood. They do recommend with COVID-19 that if you are experiencing any symptoms, do not come,” Kumapayi says. “They will provide personal protective equipment if you don’t have a mask. They would like you to bring one. All of the volunteers and workers will be wearing gloves and masks and will have protective barriers.”
As part of drive, the Red Cross is offering all who donate at the Urban League on July 9 testing for COVID-19 antibodies, too. Donors should learn of their test results within 7-10 days.
The Sickle Cell Blood Drive will take place at the Urban League of Greater Madison, 2222 S. Park St., from 11 a.m.-4 p.m. on Thursday, July 9. Walk-ins are welcome. You can register for the event here.