The American Red Cross is partnering with the Idaho Black History Museum to raise awareness of the need to bring blood donations from all ethnic groups.
BOISE, Idaho — The American Red Cross is facing the worst blood shortage the organization has seen in the past decade. The Idaho Chapter is partnering with the Idaho Museum of Black History for the second year in a row to raise awareness of need and attract more donations from all ethnic groups.
“The problem with MLK Day is it’s supposed to be a day of service,” said executive director and president of the Idaho Black History Museum, Phillip Thompson. “I mean we can’t sit on our laurels and act like this fight is over, the battle has been won – we have to look for those opportunities where you can actually improve the region you reside in, especially now with this that we’re talking about medically.”
Thompson explained that the Red Cross needs a wide variety of people to donate blood because there is a wide variety of people who need it. He added that the best match for blood often comes from donors of similar ethnicity to the patient in need.
“You’ll be less likely to be rejected,” Thompson said. “Some medical conditions are unique to certain ethnic groups
According to the Red Cross, every two seconds someone needs vital blood. The nationwide shortage has forced doctors to make tough decisions about who can receive blood and who may need to wait. Red Cross leaders said the decade low was due to the COVID-19 pandemic, winter weather and staffing shortages.
“One blood donation can save up to three lives, that’s really important,” said Red Cross Idaho, Montana and Eastern Oregon Regional CEO Nicole Sirak Irwin. . “Every donation counts and helps hospitals get the supplies they need.”
For Thompson, this year’s partnership is all about getting the right information out to all types of communities.
“Yes, once upon a time, America categorized blood types by ethnicity out of ignorance, but low and behold, it’s something that’s beneficial to the recipient,” Thompson said. “If you’ve never donated, please make it your first.”
The first time Thompson donated blood was in 2021 when the Idaho Black History Museum partnered with the Red Cross to tackle the same issue. This year, he hopes to share more knowledge about the importance of giving to others.
“We all have to be in this fight together and we all have to donate because there’s somebody in need who’s probably from your ethnic group,” Thompson said. “Especially in a place like Boise, Idaho where it’s much more ethnically homogeneous.”
In a press release, the American Red Cross explained that it screens all blood, platelet and plasma donations from self-identified African-American donors for the sickle cell trait. They believe this additional screening can help black donors better understand their health, as well as help the Red Cross more quickly identify compatible blood types to help patients with sickle cell disease, who need trait-negative blood.
“Blood transfusion is an essential treatment for people with sickle cell disease, and blood donations from individuals of the same ethnic groups and blood type have a unique ability to help patients fight sickle cell disease,” said the American Red Cross.
The American Red Cross said it is committed to ensuring it has a diverse need for blood supply. There is a need for all blood types, but the demand is often greater for O and B blood types, according to the Red Cross. They added that about half of all African Americans and more than half of all Latinos in the United States have type O blood.
Anyone who can make a donation is invited to make an appointment as soon as possible. However, due to staffing shortages, Irwin said there could be a wait of up to two weeks.
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