WISCONSIN (WQOW) - The American Red Cross is sharing the importance of blood donations during Sickle Cell Awareness Month.
Red blood cells are normally soft, round, and disc-shaped, but sickle cell disease distorts red blood cells and turns them hard and crescent-shaped, or sickle-shaped.
As a result, the blood has difficulty flowing smoothly and carrying oxygen to the rest of the body, which may lead to severe pain, anemia, and organ damage. So, patients may require frequent blood transfusions throughout their lifetime.
Red Cross officials said the disease disproportionately affects the Black community so they highly encourage Black folks and other people of color to donate because the blood match is usually stronger.
Communications director Justin Kern said one patient described the pain from sickle cell disease as debilitating.
"He described it as hammers hitting him in the back. It was like hammers were hitting him in the backs of his legs. That's when he would have one of these flare ups from the disease, and it was constant. His mother would actually bring him to the hospital, and one of the main things that could help him through that was a blood transfusion," Kern said.
It's estimated that over 100,000 people in the U.S. have sickle cell disease.