DeAndra Smith, Sickle Cell warrior, joins Red Cross MI Region to help raise awareness, increase donations
“It felt like I had an expiration date on my head.”
That’s how DeAndra used to feel about living with sickle cell disease. She was diagnosed with this chronic, excruciatingly painful and sometimes life-threatening condition at two years old. But DeAndra says she doesn’t feel that way anymore.
“In the sickle cell community we call ourselves warriors,” DeAndra says. “I’m always going to fight, always going to get up and make that difference.”
That’s why DeAndra says she joined the Red Cross to raise awareness, spreading the word about the importance of giving blood to help those who need it most.
“The good thing about people giving blood you have some who need blood on a monthly basis and you have some that go into the hospital that don’t even know that they will need it,” DeAndra says.
But, DeAndra wants everyone to know it is much more than that – just one blood donation can potentially save up to three lives.
“Your one act of service is like seeing into the future. It makes you a superhero,” DeAndra says.
That’s why the Red Cross launched an initiative to grow the number of blood donors who can help patients with sickle cell disease. This chronic condition makes usually soft and round blood cells hard and crescent shaped, causing agonizing pain and life-threatening complications. Most people with this disorder are African American, and blood donations from people of the same race or similar ethnicity are crucial.
When patients living with sickle cell disease face a crisis, blood transfusions can make a lifesaving difference. The Red Cross, which provides 40% of the nations blood supply, is facing an emergency blood shortage due to limits from the COVID pandemic and historically low donor turnout.
“You never know who you can help,” DeAndra says. “Although we’re focusing on sickle cell campaign you’re not only helping those that need this blood monthly, those that require 10 units plus per month, but you’re helping those who might need it in an emergency.”
There are a lot of complications for those diagnosed with sickle cell disease beyond the need for transfusions. Deandra is partially blind due to sickle cell behind her eyes. She has been in the hospital over 75 times and has combatted mental health issues. But she says she is now happier than she’s ever been, being able to share her story as a Red Cross worker.
“I’m glad I’m in a job where I’m making a difference for other people constantly and consistently,” DeAndra says.
How can you help?
The need for blood is not limited to patients with sickle cell disease. Every two seconds someone in the U.S. needs a blood transfusion, including individuals experiencing childbirth complications, people fighting cancer and accident victims being raced to emergency rooms.
The Red Cross asks you to join with us and our partners to help meet the needs of patients with sickle cell disease and other medical conditions to improve health outcomes. Please take action today and schedule a blood donation appointment by visiting RedCrossBlood.org, downloading the Blood Donor App or calling 1-800-RED CROSS.