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LifeSouth blood donors can help Sickle Cell patients

MADISON – With September recognized as Sickle Cell Awareness Month, LifeSouth Community Blood Centers are encouraging blood donors to visit a donor center to help local patients with Sickle Cell Disease.

Sickle Cell is a genetic blood disorder that predominantly affects African-Americans. The disease is named for the thin, crescent-shaped red blood cells that face more difficulty passing through blood vessels than healthy, disc-shaped red blood cells, Eric Franchois said. Franchois is District Community Development Coordinator for LifeSouth.

Patients with Sickle Cell can face chronic fatigue, recurrent episodes of extreme pain, breathlessness and increased risk of complications, such as stroke, liver disease and delayed growth. Approximately one in every 365 African-American children is born with Sickle Cell.

Residents can help Sickle Cell patients in specific ways:

* Visit a LifeSouth center or drive to donate blood. LifeSouth will test each donation to identify potential “Sickle Cell Heroes,” Franchois said.

* When LifeSouth identifies a donor with a blood antigen profile, those donors can help by donating as much blood as possible. “If you’re identified as a Sickle Cell Hero, your donations will help a local patient living with the disease,” Franchois said.

* Join the “Be the Match Registry.” LifeSouth can assist local donors who are interested in being potential bone marrow or cord blood donors for patients in need, including those living with Sickle Cell Disease.

To help a local resident, Texas Roadhouse in Decatur recently conducted a blood drive in memory of Sickle Cell warrior Semaj Johnson. “He unfortunately lost in battle to Sickle Cell in April 2018. His family has continued his passion for raising awareness about Sickle Cell Disease and funds for North Alabama Sickle Cell Foundation,” Franchois said.

People living with Sickle Cell often need ongoing blood transfusions. LifeSouth works with Huntsville Hospital, Athens-Limestone Hospital, Decatur Morgan Hospital, Marshall Medical Centers and ECM Hospital to match patients with Sickle Cell Heroes, Franchois said.

To date, LifeSouth has identified 11,300 Sickle Cell Heroes across Alabama, Florida and Georgia.

LifeSouth’s address in Madison is 8190 Madison Blvd. Office hours are Monday, Wednesday and Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; and Tuesday and Thursday, 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.

For more information about LifeSouth, call 256-533-8201, email egfranchois@lifesouth.org or visit lifesouth.org/SickleCell.

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