blood donation

Hartford Woman Pushing to Diversify Blood-Donor Base

A specialized blood drive event planned for November aims to attract more Black blood donors.

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By profession, Geanna Jarosz helps fill pints of beer. Now though, she wants to collect pints of blood.

Jarosz, who is Hartford Hog River Brewery's events director is planning a blood drive for November. She wants to help create awareness about a growing need for more Black blood donors and is hoping to broaden the donor base by holding a blood drive in the brewery tap room this November.

“Having this space where we can reach those people, I felt like it was almost a no-brainer,” she said.

Jarosz said she has recognized the need - among the reasons is sickle cell disease.

The American Red Cross explains this is one of the most prevalent blood disorders in the United States and it disproportionately affects African-Americans.

Those effected by sickle cell need frequent blood transfusions. The Red Cross said the closer the match is to an individual’s make up, the better the transfusion will work.

“Someone of the same race and ethnicity is going to best provide that transfusion or that donation for them,” said Peter Boucher of the Connecticut American Red Cross.

Although it's not necessary, the Red Cross said it is ideal to match races when making transfusions. Currently, though, they say more than 50% of African-American blood transfusions are done without a perfect match.

“We don’t currently have enough Black and African-American donors to meet the need,” Boucher said.

Aside from sickle cell, the Red Cross said African-Americans have a greater need for type B blood compared to other races. About 19% of African-Americans have that blood type.

Jarosz recognizes this need and wants to make a difference.

“I am mixed [race] so, that could be me who is lacking those cells one day and doesn’t have that blood,” Jarosz said.

Jarosz said she has made arrangements through a partnership with the Connecticut Blood Center to ensure most of the blood collected in November is earmarked for Hartford hospitals, and not just for the Black community.

“Forget the fact that there’s a lack of Black and minority people donating, but there’s also just a lack of everyone donating,” she said.

While this event isn’t until November, the Red Cross is urging people not to wait. There is a definite need right now for all races.

They collected about 12% fewer blood donations in June than what is needed to sustain a sufficient blood supply.

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