‘Father of blood banking’ honored as part of Black History blood drive

Blood transfusions are an important part of sickle cell disease treatment

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by Mary Chapman |

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Suburban Propane joined the American Red Cross and other supporters in February to mark Black History Month with a blood drive that celebrated the life and work of Charles R. Drew, a renowned surgeon, medical researcher, and pioneer in blood transfusions.

Drew was known as the “father of blood banking” due to the methods he developed for storing blood plasma that were used during World War II.

Sylvia Drew Ivie, Drew’s youngest daughter spoke at a reception to honor her father, who died in 1950. She was joined by representatives of New Jersey-based Suburban Propane, the American Red Cross, the Beverly Hills West Chapter of The Links organization, and James T. Butts, the mayor of Inglewood, California, where the event took place.

Before the early 1930s, blood for transfusions was obtained from donors as needed. This meant donors would be asked to report to a hospital at any hour to donate. Drew, who was born in Washington, D.C., in 1904, developed a standardized system for collecting and storing blood, which led to modern practices used in today’s blood banks.

“Suburban Propane is acutely aware of the importance of blood donation and transfusions throughout the United States and we are honored to join the American Red Cross, Faithful Central Bible Church, and the Beverly Hills West (CA) Chapter of the Links Incorporated to celebrate the work of Dr. Charles R. Drew and to increase awareness for such an important cause,” said Suburban Propane spokeswoman Nandini Sankara in a press release. “We hope today’s events will inspire others in the community to carry on Dr. Drew’s legacy by becoming blood donors.”

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Blood transfusion as treatment in sickle cell disease

Red blood cell transfusions are often necessary in sickle cell disease (SCD), whicih is caused by genetic changes that lead to a defective iteration of hemoglobin, a protein that ferries oxygen inside red blood cells. As a result, cells form a rigid sickle-like shape and can’t move normally through blood vessels, stopping blood circulation and causing painful episodes known as vaso-occlusive crises.

Transfusions can mitigate anemia and help sickle cell patients avoid complications, such as organ damage and stroke.

Suburban Propane, a nationwide distributor of propane, natural gas, fuel oil, and related products and services, hosted a blood drive with The Links and the Red Cross at Faithful Central Bible Church. The event was part of an ongoing Red Cross effort to increase blood donations for SCD patients. One in three Black donors is a match for those with the blood disorder that primarily affects Black people.

“Blood transfusion is an essential aspect of treatment for sickle cell disease, which primarily affects Black and African American individuals,” said Rosie Taravella, CEO of the American Red Cross New Jersey Region. “More than 100,000 people in the United States have sickle cell disease and could require as many as 100 units of blood, per patient, each year. We appreciate Suburban Propane’s continued support to help raise awareness for this critical need.”

Suburban Propane’s participation is part of its SuburbanCares commitment to support community efforts nationwide.