COLUMBUS (WCMH) — About 100,000 Americans suffer from sickle cell disease.
With one out of every 365 Black people diagnosed with the disease, it’s affecting minority communities at a disproportionate rate.
“Communities of color have always had challenging experiences with the healthcare system, and whether we can trust what’s being given to us, what’s being put inside of us,” said Habiba Bankston, who is living with the disease.
Bankston sits through a blood transfusion every month. Every transfusion requires seven bags of blood — a 3- to 5-hour process every time.
“It has been the key to my life,” she said. “It’s really helped me in managing my illness, and being able to do everything that a normal, able-bodied person would be able to do.”
But the need for blood donations is as high now as it has ever been.
“With COVID, there is a shortage, and actually it’s become critically low,” said Heather Sever with Versiti, a blood research center that collects donations and offers transfusions for those in need of blood.
Forty-four percent of Black people have the Ro blood type, but only 4 percent of donors Versiti sees are a match, which means people of color face a blood shortage more serious than usual.
“If we can get them out and get them to donate, we can help save people like Habiba,” Sever said.
Bankston started her own organization called Beyond the Cell, an online platform where people share stories and work to connect visitors to blood drives within the community.
Because for Bankston, saving a life sometimes means going beyond giving time and dollars.
“We’re all lifelines. We all have the ability to save and support one another,” Bankston said.
For those interested in donating blood, donors can donate every 56 days.
To find a blind blood drive in your community, click here.