Thanking African Americans in History on Behalf of Patients Today

February 1, 2011
 Sickle cell anemia is one of the most prevalent genetic diseases in our country, mostly affecting people of African descent. Although symptoms of this disease have been around for hundreds of years, it wasn’t until 1910 that the oddly
 shaped red blood cells were discovered.

Breanna Morgan (right) with MLK March Commission members at the MLK Blood Drive.

 Since then, treatments such as blood transfusions and cures like bone marrow and cord blood transplants have helped patients live longer, fuller lives. But all this would have never come about without the effortless contributions of African-Americans in medical history.  Charles R. Drew, for example, is credited as a pioneer in transfusion medicine and is recognized as the inventor of blood banking. His studies of blood preservation techniques have transcended decades, helping patients like Chris Pinkerton grow to be a strong young man and attend college.  Affected by sickle cell, Breanna Morgan knows the importance of blood donations. Breanna has her good and bad days, like most sickle cell patients. She suffers from pain crisis and fatigue, and has been hospitalized for such complications. Unable to donate blood herself, Breanna’s sisters have stepped up to the plate. “Not enough African-Americans donate blood. We don’t realize the importance this has in the lives of many people.  We need to do more,” says Erica, Breanna’s sister. Less than 3% of African Americans donate blood in South Texas and they only account for about 8% of the Be The Match national bone marrow registry. Some African American patients have rare blood types, so their best chance of finding a lifesaving match is likely within their own ethnic group. During Black History Month, we encourage the minority community to donate blood in honor of African-American patients and for those medical pioneers who have created a legacy of helping others.