Blood bank seeking more African-American donors to help with unique disease

ATLANTA — This summer, there is a critical need for one type of emergency supply: blood.

Local blood bank officials told Channel 2 Action News they need more African-American donors to help with a unique disease.

Tiereny Bell manages several things at once, including her new eyelash beauty business, her job as a scientist at the Environmental Protection Agency, and the pain of her sickle cell disease.

"At six months, I had my first pain crisis. As a little girl, I was in and out of the hospital," Bell said.

The trophies and diplomas in her mom's house show her determination to power through.

"Going to school was so hard," Bell said. "Sometimes it is the fatigue. Sometimes it is the restlessness. Sometimes it is... you get depressed from not wanting to be sick."

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Every month, Bell now relies on a blood transfusion to manage the disease, but the supply isn't always there.

"It's been times that it wasn't there for her, and we had to wait days and she was on edge," Beverly Carrekey said.

Emergency need signs are a red flag for any patient who needs blood.

LifeSouth Community Blood Centers see a drop in donations every summer.

"What that means is that we have less than a two-day supply of all blood types," Grant Toth, with LifeSouth Community Blood Centers, said.

The need is especially great for African-Americans, and experts say for a patient, same-race donors can be the best match.

"When you have African-American sickle cell patients, there is more of a likelihood that the antigens in their blood will match with an African-American donor," Toth said.

"It feels like if you give blood, you can be a superhero. That's where you can get your cape," Carrekey said.

Finding the most precise match is crucial for preventing some serious complications.

Donating blood takes about 30 minutes.

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