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Redcrosser Shares Her Story of Battle with Sickle Cell

By Jalisa Turner

How has the sickle cell disease impacted your life?

Sickle cell has affected my entire life since the day I was born. I have had countless blood transfusions, surgeries, procedures, etc. Although the blood transfusions that I have received throughout my life have saved my life many times, there are some downfalls to receiving those transfusions. I have received so many blood transfusions that I had foreign antibodies build up in my blood and caused me to have reactions to blood transfusions. The reactions would cause me to be hospitalized for weeks and weeks on end, on top of being in (a pandemic) crisis. The antibodies that built up in my blood have affected my life more than ever because now, there are only eight people in the country that I can receive blood. It makes it very difficult for me because I am very anxious to receive blood transfusions. It has made it very hard for me to move forward to receive a bone marrow transplant. My case is so unique that my doctors had to make up my own yet completely different protocol.

What are your thoughts about the constant need for Black donors?

It is so important to give blood around the country. We are currently having a blood shortage, especially in the African American community. It is very important for African Americans to give blood. African American blood is more compatible with each other. If more African Americans donated blood, it would be such a big help to the African American patients who need blood transfusions. Please don’t get me wrong, I am forever grateful for everyone from who I have received blood. I will always be grateful and appreciate the people who have helped me but if more African American people donated blood, people like me with sickle cell wouldn’t have to worry too much about building foreign antibodies because our blood is compatible with each other.

What do you hope to accomplish as a Red Cross volunteer?

I know that a lot of people don’t like to donate blood because they do not like needles, but I promise you, it is a small price to pay to help save someone’s life like mine. (This is why) I started volunteering with the American Red Cross. I want to help people and educate them on why it is important to donate blood. I urge all my peers in the African American community to donate blood because we need to help each other.

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