Blood donations critical during the holiday season

December 11, 1998

Thirteen-year-old Jabriel Gause has needed 55 units of blood as well as multiple blood products since November 1995, when he began suffering complications associated with sickle cell disease. Without the donation of blood to the American Red Cross centers in the New York-Penn Region, he may not have survived.

Diagnosed prenatally with sickle cell disease, Jabriel’s health was monitored as he grew. He had minimal complications until the age of 10, when he suffered a sickle cell crisis that caused severe chest pain. Due to his deteriorating health, he required blood transfusions beginning in March 1997, and, as a result of the disease, was put temporarily on a ventilator in December 1997. Jabriel recovered from that acute episode but continued to require blood transfusions on a regular basis for eight months.

In August 1998 he underwent a bone marrow transplant – the first involving a sickle cell patient at Strong Memorial Hospital – using his brother’s marrow. Jabriel is currently doing well and doctors are optimistic about his outcome. Further testing to determine the complete replacement by his sibling’s marrow is ongoing.

"Procedures like bone marrow transplant hold great promise for people suffering from sickle cell disease, but they require more blood products," said Neil Blumberg, director of transfusion medicine and the blood bank at the University of Rochester Medical Center.

A decrease in the number of blood donations during the holidays could create a potential problem for both critically and chronically ill patients, like Jabriel. That is why community members are asked to take the time to donate blood this month at locations in Rochester, Greece and Perinton.

Strong Memorial Hospital uses about 24,000 units of red cells, 27,000 to 28,000 units of platelets, and a total of 70,000 units of blood components every year.

Travel and vacation time significantly reduce the amount of blood donated during the holiday season, according to Mark Thornhill, donor services director for the American Red Cross New York-Penn Region, which needs to ship an average of 1,000 units of blood daily to hospitals in the 60-county region, whether it is a holiday or weekend. Since a single blood donation can be broken down into three components, one donor can help as many as three patients.

"The need for blood for hospital patients never takes a holiday, but travel and other activities this season typically lower the number of blood donations," said Thornhill. "The Red Cross is asking community residents to donate blood during the holidays to avert any shortages."

For more information about special donor needs and opportunities, such as bone marrow transplants, contact Carolyn Laque at the American Red Cross, (716) 461-4183.

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Karin Christensen
(585) 275-1311
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