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
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.EndFragment