Doctor urges African-Americans to donate blood

The Associated Press

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CHARLOTTE — A Charlotte doctor is appealing to African-Americans to donate blood to help battle sickle-cell disease.

The Charlotte Observer reports Dr. Ify Osunkwo of Carolinas HealthCare System says there is a need to increase the number of blood units that represent the unique blood types of the African American population.

Sickle cell disease is a hereditary disorder in which the body makes sickle-shaped, instead of disc-shaped, blood cells. These abnormal cells tend to block blood flow in the limbs and organs. That can cause pain and organ damage and increase the risk for infection.

Osunkwo said people are living longer with the disease, but with that comes a problem. She said the cells damage organs, and people with the disease need more medical support, including the need for blood transfusions.

Osunkwo has created a comprehensive sickle cell center, with doctors, nurses, social workers, psychologists and case managers to help "manage the disease" instead of just treating episodes of pain.

Most people know the major blood types - O, A, B and AB, positive or negative. But there are also minor blood types, such as little c, big C, little e and big E, that vary among ethnic groups.

"If I get blood with big C positive but I'm a big C negative, I'm going to have a reaction against that person's blood," Osunkwo said.

People can donate blood even if they carry sickle cell traits, she said.

"We want everybody to go and be screened," Osunkwo said.

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