(BLACK PR WIRE) -- An old slogan used in community blood drive campaigns said, "Blood is like a parachute. If you don't have it when you need it, chances are you'll never need it again." This pushed the life-and-death necessity of blood availability and the need for donors. Nowadays, bloodmobiles can be found outside churches, shopping malls, schools, grocery stores and anywhere else large groups of people congregate. Some offer giveaways to donors, including refreshments, t-shirts, coupons and tickets.
To make the slogan more specific, blood is like a parachute that opens for one person but not another person. That is because people have differing blood groups, some of which are compatible with each other while others are incompatible. Red blood cells are part of the ABO system because they are divided into categories of O, A, B and AB. While all four blood groups exist throughout the world, distributions levels vary among nations and ethnic groups.
According to the American Red Cross, O is the most common blood group among African Americans. Group O is a "universal donor," meaning people with this blood group can donate to recipients of all four groups. Other blood groups have limited cross-compatibility. Some individuals possess rare blood types that make normal transfusion procedures difficult. Blood types are genetically inherited, just like eye color and other physical traits. As a result, transfusion patients with rare blood types generally have a better success rate with a donor of similar ethnic background and compatible ABO group. This affects patients with sickle cell disease, who are largely African American, as well as other conditions.
What does this mean for you? In short, African American blood donors are needed. No matter how rare or common your blood type is, somebody somewhere needs it. The next time you see the bloodmobile, stop inside or contact your local blood bank. If you're concerned that you may have a disqualifying condition, ask questions before dismissing the idea. It is an easy way for a healthy individual to help save lives.