Minorities encouraged to donate blood, share ‘the blessing God has given us’

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, October 22, 2002

Little Jamylia Godfrey, 8, reigned over the Legacy of Life dinner meeting at Tabernacle Christian United Church of Christ recently as the 2002 Peninsula Association Poster Girl for Sickle Cell Anemia.

Dr. Linwood Spruiell, anesthesiologist at Obici Hospital, was the guest speaker at the dinner that was sponsored by the Suffolk Chapter of the American Red Cross, to encourage blacks to donate blood. John R. Bright, chairman of the Blood Services Committee Suffolk Chapter of the American Red Cross, served as emcee.

Blood donations from minority groups – particularly blacks – are crucial because of the increased incidence of rare and much needed blood types that assist in the treatment of diseases that require repeated blood transfusions, such as cancer, heart disease, transplants and sickle cell anemia.

Email newsletter signup

Spruiell said that people should make the decision to donate because it will have an important impact on many people who may need blood. He also spoke on the improvement in the quality of life that he has witnessed in some transfusion recipients.

&uot;Ninety-five percent of those who can donate don’t,&uot; he said. &uot;When we do donate, we are just sharing in the blessing that God has given us.&uot;

Jamylia is a third grade student at Newsome School in Newport News, which is a magnet school. Her mother, Joyce, shared with the audience about why her daughter needs to have blood transfusions.

&uot;I have sickle cell anemia and my husband has the trait,&uot; she said. &uot;We didn’t realize that Jamaylia was going to be born with sickle cell until I was five months pregnant. She was born two months prematurely, had asthma and was prone to upper respiratory infections. I didn’t really want to see her experience the chronic pain that goes along with an individual who has sickle cell.&uot;

By the time Jamylia was 4 she began to have headaches and experienced temporary blindness. She was in the Childrens’ Hospital of Kings Daughters (CHKD) the whole month of December, 1998, which is the time that she was diagnosed having sickle cell. Doctors ran a CAT scan and a MRI and said she would be prone to strokes. They then recommended monthly blood transfusions.

&uot;We went with that program and the transfusions cured her of her asthma and she is no longer prone to the upper respiratory infections,&uot; her mother said. &uot;It has been a life changing experience for her and something that my husband and I can’t do for her – my husband because his veins won’t cooperate at times. I cannot tell you how important blood transfusions have meant to us.&uot;

Jamylia now travels to CHKD once every three weeks to receive one pint of blood because she is still prone to strokes. However, with any kind of blood transfusion there is still a possibility of an overload of iron. The risk is greater if she doesn’t have the transfusions because if she doesn’t, she could have numerous strokes that could threaten her life.

Leo Calhoun, vice chair of the Diversity Task Force and member of Mid-Atlantic Regional Blood Services Board, encouraged the audience to make a commitment to give blood in the near future and told them how important it was to continue. He encouraged everyone to sign up to give that evening.

&uot;It’s not the Red Cross who needs the blood, it’s the patient,&uot; he said.

Tonya Frazier from Community Development Services then gave the audience points on what they could do to help to encourage minority donors. Some of these ways are to become a donor, educate the community and sponsor a blood drive.

Others on the program were the Rev. Carlton Upton, pastor of Tabernacle UCC; Paul Regal, CEO of the Mid-Atlantic Regional Blood Center of the American Red Cross; and Stewart Tyler, chairman of the Mid-Atlantic Regional Blood Services Board and member of the Suffolk Chapter Blood Services Committee.

Legacy of Life is a program sponsored by the Diversity Task Force of the American Red Cross and area church congregations. The program aims at educating communities about the importance of minority blood donations and recruiting new minority blood donors. This collaborative effort allows church congregations the opportunity to donate blood together and save lives while raising awareness of the need for blood donors.