Blood donations from the African-American community are vital to the treatment of sickle cell disease. As Director of Multi-Cultural Relations for Lifeblood, Lauran James says education is key to increasing blood donation. Given an audience with whom she can share knowledge, she dispels the myths that keep African-Americans from donating blood, increases levels and frequency of donation, and, ultimately, saves lives.
James considers her work a ministry rather than an occupation. She started her quest as a consultant liaison between the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church (CME) and Lifeblood. “Bishop Graves wanted to respond to 9-11 and recognized the need for blood from the black community. He knew we had the power to make a difference with our 60-plus churches in the area. From those efforts, my current position was ‘born’ here at Lifeblood and I am proud to say we are making a difference. In two-and-a-half years, we have raised the percentage of African-American donation levels from 13 to 15 percent,” James explained.
In collaboration with Pat Adams-Graves, MD, Internal Medicine, and Kimberly Lamar, PhD, Preventive Medicine, both on the faculty at UT Health Science Center, Lauran James has completed three surveys to find out why African-Americans are hesitant to donate blood. What they discovered is that most of the reasons for not giving blood are almost always based on myth and are simply not true. One of the most common reasons people give for not donating blood is because they take medications – especially for high blood pressure and diabetes. “I personally take high blood pressure medication on a daily basis and give blood every two months,” she said.
The second biggest myth is that the quality of blood is questionable. “They base this feeling on people who sell their blood to plasma centers. The truth is that if money is exchanged for blood donations, that blood cannot be used on living humans. Only freely donated blood, that has gone through major testing is ever distributed for human use. Once we can dispel the myths, people become regular donors – saving three lives every time they give one unit of blood,” she explained.
Although James’ efforts are making a difference, the needs are much greater than the donation levels. If you are an African-American and would like to help save three lives with every unit of blood you donate, please call Lifeblood at 901.529.6320.