Northeast Times

Red Cross program gives advice on giving blood

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All hu­man blood is red, but the blood you donate to the Red Cross is bet­ter for someone who shares your ge­net­ic back­ground.

A Latino is a more suit­able blood donor for someone who also is Latino, Mon­ica Orozco-Ca­dena told mem­bers of the North­east EPIC Stake­hold­ers dur­ing their Sept. 27 meet­ing at the Second Baptist Church of Frank­ford. A close ge­net­ic match helps the body ac­cept donated blood, she said.

Orozco-Ca­dena is a Red Cross com­munity out­reach pro­gram man­ager and was at the EPIC ses­sion to talk up an Oct. 13 blood drive.

Ge­net­ic matches for blood donors and re­cip­i­ents are im­port­ant in a city with a di­verse pop­u­la­tion, said An­thony C. Tor­netta, Red Cross re­gion­al com­mu­nic­a­tions man­ager.

It is es­pe­cially im­port­ant for people who get many blood trans­fu­sions, said Dr. Ral­ph Vas­sallo, chief med­ic­al of­ficer of Amer­ic­an Red Cross Blood Ser­vices for the Penn-Jer­sey Re­gion.

The sug­ars and pro­teins that are on the sur­faces of blood’s red cells, from a donor and a re­cip­i­ent, can be dif­fer­ent enough that the re­cip­i­ent’s im­mune sys­tem re­gards the donated blood as for­eign, Vas­sallo said in an in­ter­view on Monday.

The im­mune sys­tem then cre­ates an­ti­bod­ies to at­tack the donated blood, the doc­tor said.

These sug­ars and pro­teins are called an­ti­gens. Most of us refer to the most com­mon of them as blood “types” like A, B or O and also Rh. And they’re what are com­monly tested for in the United States, Vas­sallo said.

“But there are lit­er­ally hun­dreds that we don’t match for,” he said.

Mem­bers of dif­fer­ent pop­u­la­tions have some an­ti­gens that are dif­fer­ent, the doc­tor said.

For any­one who might re­ceive one or two blood trans­fu­sions, those hun­dreds of oth­er an­ti­gens are not likely to cause any trouble, the doc­tor said, be­cause they might not be re­cog­nized as for­eign.

“It’s a game of stat­ist­ics,” he said.

However, someone who gets many trans­fu­sions might have some wor­ries, he said.

“Even­tu­ally, it catches up with you,” Vas­sallo said, “and your body will form an an­ti­body.”

That could hap­pen to a black re­cip­i­ent who gets many trans­fu­sions from white donors, the doc­tor said.

People who have the pain­ful blood dis­ease sickle cell an­emia re­ceive many blood trans­fu­sions. Since 90 per­cent of sickle cell an­emia pa­tients are black, match­ing the blood donated by Afric­an Amer­ic­ans to those pa­tients is something the Red Cross has been try­ing to do since the 1990s, Tor­netta said.

Blood from donors who vol­un­tar­ily identi­fy them­selves as Afric­an Amer­ic­ans is “blue tagged” and tested to see if it has the com­pon­ents that will help chil­dren with sickle cell an­emia, Tor­netta said.

ldquo;It’s im­port­ant to di­ver­si­fy the blood sup­ply,” Tor­netta said in an in­ter­view Monday. “But we are not try­ing to spe­cific­ally say we need X amount of people from this com­munity or that com­munity.”

Every­body should donate blood, he ad­ded.

On Sept. 27, Orozco-Ca­dena spelled out how donated blood is used, who gives blood and who doesn’t.

— Any­one who gives a pint of blood is help­ing three pa­tients, she said.

“We nev­er give any­body whole blood,” she said, ex­plain­ing that it is di­vided in­to red cells, plate­lets and plasma.

— About 1 per­cent of the na­tion’s black pop­u­la­tion that is eli­gible to donate blood ac­tu­ally does. The num­bers for Lati­nos and whites aren’t much bet­ter — 3 per­cent and 5 per­cent — she said.

“Nobody gives enough blood,” she said.

An op­por­tun­ity to rec­ti­fy that is com­ing up on Sat­urday, Oct. 13, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., at the As­pira cam­pus, 6301 N. Second St. The drive is sponsored by As­pira, Hunt­ing Park Stake­hold­ers, El Zol and Azteca-Philly. Tor­netta said the Red Cross is hop­ing to col­lect 30 pints of blood that day.

Any­one who wants to donate blood should sign up be­fore­hand by call­ing 1-800-RED­CROSS or by vis­it­ing red­cross­blood.org. Those who use the Web site should enter 022122497 as a spon­sor code.

Be­sides sign­ing up ahead of time, the Red Cross wants you to eat up the week be­fore.

“Eat well,” Orozco-Ca­dena said. “Lots of iron-rich food.”

Drink plenty of li­quids, too, she said, but not cof­fee. Avoid as­pir­in for a couple days, she said.

Also, the Red Cross has re­stric­tions on ac­cept­ing blood from any­one who has got­ten a tat­too in Pennsylvania, she said. But if you got your body art in New Jer­sey, there’s no prob­lem.

Tor­netta said New Jer­sey cer­ti­fies that its tat­too par­lors ob­serve the state’s health codes, but Pennsylvania does not. Any­one with made-in-Pennsylvania tat­toos must wait a year to give blood, Orozco-Ca­dena said.

All blood is tested to make sure it is clean and healthy, Tor­netta said. ••End­Frag­ment 

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Blood made simple

Those eli­gible to give blood are healthy, at least 17 years old, stand at least 5 feet 1 inch tall and weigh at least 110 pounds.

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You can reach at jloftus@bsmphilly.com.

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