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We know that sometimes we sound like a broken record on this page encouraging people to give blood, but it’s an important gift you can make to help your friends and neighbors.

We never know when one of us may need the gift of life through a blood transfusion. Someone who has suffered a trauma such as a car crash may need blood, but often, people who are fighting cancer need blood transfusions, and many people with chronic illnesses need blood transfusions periodically over the course of their lifetimes.

Blood of all types, from all people, is needed all year long. But this September, the American Red Cross is making a special effort to attract Black blood donors to help fight sickle cell disease. September is Sickle Cell Awareness Month; sickle cell disease is a chronic illness that mainly affects people of African or Latino descent. About 100,000 people in the United States, including some right here in Suffolk, are fighting it. The most common genetic blood disease in the country, sickle cell disease causes red blood cells to be sticky, hard and crescent-shaped instead of soft and round. This makes it difficult for blood to flow smoothly and carry oxygen to the rest of the body, leading to severe pain, tissue and organ damage, acute anemia, strokes and other health effects.

Blood transfusion helps sickle cell patients, but blood for them must be matched very closely to reduce the risk of complications. Some rare blood types are unique to specific racial and ethnic groups, and because of this, sickle cell disease patients are more likely to get a compatible match from a donor who is Black.

Everyone, especially Black people, are encouraged to give this fall if you can. As an extra benefit, the Red Cross is testing donations for COVID-19 antibodies, and you’ll be notified of the results of the test. Everyone who is at least 17 years old, weighs at least 110 pounds and is in generally good health may be eligible. Check out RedCrossBlood.org if you have questions about any health conditions you have and medications you take; many do not preclude you from donating.

Quite a few blood drives are coming up soon. You can also visit RedCrossBlood.org to find other drives.

  • Sept. 16, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. — Community Church Suffolk Campus, 1242 Holland Road
  • Sept. 17, 1:30 to 5:30 p.m. — St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, 213 N. Main St.
  • Sept. 27, noon to 5 p.m. — Chesapeake Square Mall, 4200 Portsmouth Blvd., Chesapeake
  • Sept. 29, 1:30 to 6:30 p.m. — Liberty Spring Christian Church, 4213 Whaleyville Blvd.
  • Oct. 3, 7:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. — New Creation UMC Aldersgate Campus, 4320 Bruce Road, Chesapeake
  • Oct. 10, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. — Chesapeake Square Mall, 4200 Portsmouth Blvd., Chesapeake
  • Oct. 12, 3 to 7 p.m. — Healing Chapel Baptist Church, 2375 Godwin Blvd.