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Des Moines group seeking more Black blood donors in Iowa

Black Women 4 Healthy Living is holding a blood drive on Sept. 29 at Corinthian Baptist Church in Des Moines from 11 a.m. - 5 p.m.

DES MOINES, Iowa — Black Women 4 Healthy Living, a Des Moines group, is pushing to get more Black Iowans to donate blood.

They say the move is to help Black people living with sickle cell disease and bring awareness to Sickle Cell Awareness Month.  

"Sickle cell is a health disparity that is known but not understood," said Angela Mickens, a board member for BW4HL who is also a surgical nurse.

She described the disease as someone having a shortage of healthy red blood cells, because their red blood cells have become hardened and are shaped similar to the letter "C" that can clog the blood flow. 

The disease disproportionately impacts African Americans.

According to the CDC, SCD occurs in about one out of every 365 Black or African-American births, compared to one out of every 16,300 Hispanic-American births. 

One of the most useful treatments for patients to receive for SCD is blood transfusions. 

And if the person is Black, Mickens said the most helpful blood comes from someone who looks like them. 

"People that are donors who are Black have a unique protein in their Blood," Mickens said. "These markers correlate with the sickle cell recipient …They receive that blood better so they are able to have less crisis in between their health issues."

However, less than three percent of the Black and African-American population in the United States are blood donors. The Red Cross says they have seen a significant decline in diverse populations since the pandemic began.

BW4HL's goal for an upcoming event is to collect 60 units of blood. 

"For those that are dealing with the sickle cell disease, I know that it's not something that goes away," Brandi Miller, the president of the group, said. "But if we can regularly be giving blood to those in our community to help them with their life, while they're still here, it helps improve their quality that would be a goal for us."

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The Blood drive is in partnership with the Red Cross of Central Iowa, and both organizations said they hope this shows support for Black Iowans living with SCD.

The blood drive is being held Wednesday, Sept. 29, at Corinthian Baptist Church, in Des Moines. It's from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Though the organizers of the drive are looking for Black blood donors, they said they are still accepting blood from everyone.

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