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Blood drive encourages donors for sickle cell anemia awareness: HealthLink

The KD Hall Foundation organized a blood drive this month to support patients with sickle cell disease.

SEATTLE — The co-founder and CEO of the KD Hall Foundation has a personal connection to sickle cell and is encouraging Black donors to help out.

"People living with sickle cell, they're just like you and me. There's really no difference," said KD Hall.

Sickle cell anemia is a condition that affects an estimated 100,000 Americans.

From early on, Hall knew sickle cell anemia could impact her life. She is a carrier of the gene that causes the condition and her husband is, too.

"My husband, high school sweetheart, I always knew he had the "s" trait. I met him when I was 15 years old. I never knew that I was a carrier," Hall said.

When their daughter, KJ, was born, they soon found out she had sickle cell anemia.

"So that's how it goes. When you have children together, you know it's a one in four chance that you have sickle cell anemia," Hall said.

Sickle cell anemia is a hereditary disorder that causes the hemoglobin in red blood cells to turn from its normal round shape to a crescent or "sickle" shape.

"So they tend to stick to the lining of our vessels and eventually it cuts off our blood flow into the organs, so periodically patients have very severe pain crises," said Dr. Kleber Fertrin, a hematologist and director for the Sickle Cell Disease and Iron Overload program at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center.

It is pain that young KJ knows all too well. Now 8 years old, KJ helps her mom KD raise awareness on sickle cell anemia for the KD Hall Foundation, a nonprofit that advocates women leadership empowerment.

"That's one of our pillars for health that we advocate for," Hall said.

This month, the group partnered with the American Red Cross to hold a blood drive that is open to all donors, but it specifically encouraged Black donors to give blood.

"Anybody, everybody please come and give blood. However, I do want to state that sickle cell anemia does impact Black and Brown individuals, so we really need our Black and Brown communities to come in and give blood," Hall said.

Fertrin said treatment for sickle cell disease includes blood transfusions.

"So when we're looking for a good match for a sickle cell patient, it's more likely that we'll find a donor that's a match if they're also Black; similar to the patient that I'm trying to treat," Fertrin said.

A blood drive was held at the 2100 Building on 24th Ave South, in Seattle's Central District on Sept. 7. The KD Hall Foundation said 41 donors contributed, leading to 35 units of blood.

"I wanted to do my part and I'm super psyched about it," said Paula Johnson, a donor who showed up.  

"You never know if you might need blood one day so if you're healthy and strong enough to donate, I think you should take advantage of that opportunity to help someone else out," Johnson said.

September is Sickle Cell Anemia Awareness Month but the events go beyond this month. In October, the KD Hall Foundation is holding a virtual sickle cell disease conference called, "Sickle Cell Unveiled: Empowering Lives, Sharing Hope." It will be held Oct. 7 from noon to 1:30 p.m. on Zoom. Find more information here.


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