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  1. The Blood Donor Shortage and How You Can Help

    January 16, 2018 by Andrea

    blood donor shortage

    All that snow, ice, and flooding that hit a slew of states a couple weeks ago didn't just ground flights, close schools, and interrupt other plans, it also caused blood drives to be cancelled, resulting in a severe blood donor shortage, according to TIME. Hospitals rely on blood donors to help save the lives of people during emergencies, as well as the lives of those who live with diseases such as sickle cell. Just take a quick look at the Red Cross's homepage, and you'll see a bold call: "Blood Donations Urgently Needed", followed by an easy way to find a drive near you.

    TIME reports that in addition to winter weather, a severe flu outbreak has also hampered the collection of donations -- a loss of about 28,000. The article goes on to say that the blood the Red Cross needs most right now is Type B negative and Type O negative, the latter being the universal blood type. Platelets, which must be used within the first few days of donation, and therefore run out quickly, are also desperately needed.

    As January is National Blood Donor month, now is the perfect time to help the Red Cross recover from its donation deficit, and ensure that more lives can continue being saved. Real talk, in order to maintain a healthy supply of blood, the Red Cross states that it must receive more than 13,000 donations per day! Unfortunately, though, only 10 percent of eligible U.S. donors give blood.

    It doesn't have to be that way, though. If you're 17 years of age or older, weight at least 110 pounds, and are generally healthy, you can donate. And, if you'd like to make sure your donation specifically goes to a sickle cell warrior, you can do that, too.

    Why not start today?

  2. This Choir’s Cover of “Rise Up” Encourages People to Donate Blood for Sickle Cell Warriors

    December 12, 2017 by Andrea
    B Positive Choir

    Photo: Twitter

    The English-Welsh health organization, NHS Blood and Transplant (NHSBT), has partnered with the British music awards show, MOBO, for the second year in a row to push for an increase in blood donations. Understanding that diversity in the blood supply is extremely important, especially since sickle cell disproportionately affects people of African descent, NHSBT and MOBO have created a new addition to this year's partnership: the B Positive Choir. 

    A 60-member singing group composed of sickle cell warriors, caregivers, friends, and family from all over England, the B Positive Choir most recently performed at the MOBO Awards show, which re-aired last night (Monday, Dec. 11) on BET International. Today, the choir also released their very first single -- a cover of Andra Day's "Rise Up" -- to motivate people to "'Rise Up' and be counted as blood donors." 

    Currently, the NHSBT states on their website that they are in need of 200,000 new blood donors -- 40,000 of whom need to be Black, so the closest blood match can be given to Black warriors who desperately need it. 

    If you live in the UK, you can register to give blood here. In the U.S., visit redcrossblood.org to find a blood drive near you. 

    In the meantime, be sure to check out the B Positive Choir's MOBO awards show performance below: 

  3. 4 Ways to Increase Your Hemoglobin Levels

    May 16, 2017 by Andrea
    Photo: Flickr/Scott Robinson via CC by 2.0

    Photo: Flickr/Scott Robinson via CC by 2.0

    Because sickle cell warriors already have a lower red blood cell count than non-warriors -- and the RBCs that are present are susceptible to sickling -- they also possess lower amounts of hemoglobin. Hemoglobin is a protein found in red blood cells that carries oxygen throughout the body, and when that oxygen can't get to where it needs to go, a pain crisis can set in. Here, we're bringing you four ways to increase your hemoglobin, thus helping reduce painful episodes.

    1. Get your daily dose of Xickle RBC-Plus.
    While this doesn't exactly produce red blood cells, it is specifically made to help maintain their structural integrity in sickle cell warriors. Xickle RBC-Plus (the supplement version of the drug SCD-101), can help ensure that RBCs can flow through the blood vessels easily, delivering oxygen to various parts of the body. Combined with the nutrient sources below, warriors can improve red blood cell health.

    2. Raise your iron intake.
    Iron merges with other proteins in your body to create the hemoglobin that's found in RBCs. If you don't have enough iron in your system, you won't be able to make enough hemoglobin to oxygenate your organs and tissues. To be sure you're getting enough, reach for foods like lean meats, shrimp, whole grains, raisins, spinach, and nuts.

    3. Load up on fresh fruits.
    Skip the juice (it's mostly sugar, anyway), and up your body's supply of vitamin C and folate. Vitamin C helps the body absorb iron, and folate is a key component in red blood cell production. Examples of fruits to enjoy include apples, oranges, papayas, bananas, strawberries, and grapes, just to name a few. You can also get folate from broccoli and greens, for example.

    4. Boost that B-12.
    Another nutrient imperative to the development of red blood cells is vitamin B-12. Seafood is rich in this nutrient, so enjoying more salmon, crab, tuna, and the like is definitely a good move. And, if your doctor recommends it, you can take B-12 as a vitamin supplement, as well.

    Managing your intake doesn't need to be overwhelming, either. Check out on of these apps to help you track and reach your hemoglobin level goals.

  4. “Immortal” BEL-A Cell Line is a Huge Breakthrough for Blood Transfusions

    May 9, 2017 by Andrea

    petri dish

    Last year, we talked about the potential of artificial blood being created and used to give blood transfusions to those in need when supplies of donated blood fall short. Since then, there has been an exciting new development in this technological space: An immortal stem cell line -- the first of its kind ever -- has been produced, allowing scientists to engineer an unlimited supply of artificial red blood cells whenever they're needed.

    Known as BEL-A (Bristol Erythroid Line Adult), these "immortal" cells were created by researchers at the University of Bristol in the UK using blood from volunteers who donated for the purpose of this study. Science Alert reports, "To create these 'immortal' cells, [the researchers] effectively trapped the adult stem cells in an early stage of development, which means they can divide and create red blood cells forever without dying, which avoids the need for repeat donations." Such findings will enable scientists to more easily and quickly harvest and maintain large amounts of red blood cells.

    The purpose of red blood cells is to carry oxygen throughout the body -- this is especially important for sickle cell warriors, as sickled red blood cells can disrupt this flow and block blood vessels, causing pain and potentially, a crisis. "Cultured red blood cells provide such an alternative and have potential advantages over donor blood, such as reduced risk of infectious disease transmission, and as the cells are nascent, the volume and number of transfusions administered to patients requiring regular transfusions (sickle cell disease, thalassaemia myelodysplasia, certain cancers) could be reduced, ameliorating the consequences of organ damage from iron overload," explains a recent article from Nature Communications.

    Clinical trials for the artificial blood created by BEL-A cells are expected to begin by the end of 2017. If everything goes well and the product is proven safe and effective in humans, it can begin being used to treat people in need all over the world.

  5. Mortality Rates in Pregnant Women with Sickle Cell Slashed

    January 2, 2017 by Andrea


    Happy New Year! We're only two days in to 2017, and already, there's been an amazing new advancement in the care of patients with sickle cell. Namely, pregnant patients with sickle cell.

    Of course, sickle cell warriors who are with child can face serious complications stemming from pulmonary hypertension and renal disease, among other things, but what's been even more worrisome is the death rate of these women during childbirth. In the West African country of Ghana, the maternal mortality rate has been 12 times higher than that of pregnant women without SCD. (The stats in the U.S. aren't too much better at 10 times higher.) But recently, a new hope has pushed through.

    A research team at Ghana's Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital has found a way to slash that mortality rate by 90 percent.

    Here's how: Each pregnant woman with sickle cell is now given a designated care team comprised of nurses, obstetricians, and blood and lung specialists, reports The New York Times. Additionally, doctors have put into place new practices, such as pre-cesarean blood transfusions and deep breathing exercises to combat chest pain and prevent lung collapse.

    We couldn't think of a better bit of news to kick off this new year right.

  6. Hemoglobin Can Now be Measured Without Actually Drawing Blood

    December 12, 2016 by Andrea



    Over the past couple of years, we've kept you up-to-date on several new cell phone apps that benefit sickle cell warriors. There's one that makes recording and communicating pain events easier for consumers, and a similar one for hospitals, and there's an app that can diagnose and monitor SCD with a smaller sized blood sample and less money than typical methods.

    And now, there's an app that can measure hemoglobin levels without even having to draw blood at all!

    Much less expensive than the Masimo Pronto (another device that can measure hemoglobin noninvasively), the HemaApp, which was developed by scientists at the University of Washington in Seattle, works solely via cell phone. "By shining light from the phone’s camera flash through the patient’s finger, HemaApp analyzes the color of his or her blood to estimate hemoglobin concentrations," reports UW Today, a University of Washington publication. "HemaApp bombards a patient’s finger with different wavelengths of light and infrared energy and creates a series of videos. By analyzing how colors are absorbed and reflected across those wavelengths, it can detect concentrations of hemoglobin and other blood components like plasma."

    And yes, the app works on all skin tones.

    The article goes on to say that this new program isn't meant to make actual blood testing obsolete. It is, however, able to help determine whether or not a patient needs further testing without having to prick them first. So far during testing, the HemaApp found low hemoglobin levels with an accuracy rate of 79 percent using the phone's camera alone and 86 percent using the phone camera paired with additional light sources.

    Furthermore, this app will make hemoglobin monitoring more accessible in developing countries. For more details on this revolutionary development, check out the entire article here.

  7. 5 Alcohol-Free Holiday Beverages Every Sickle Cell Warrior Can Enjoy

    October 17, 2016 by Andrea

    It's hard to believe, but we're already half way through October -- and the holidays are right around the corner. This means lots of family, fun, friends -- and drinks. But having a few adult bevvies, can potentially send a warrior into a painful crisis.

    Why? Alcohol is a diuretic, which leads to more frequent urination, which causes the body to lose a lot of fluids, which, in turn, causes dehydration. And dehydration is a definite trigger for a crisis. "Alcohol [also] suppresses the secretion of anti-diuretic hormone (ADH), which means that your body is unable to regulate how much water you are losing ..." reports Sickle Cell Warriors, Inc.

    But, there's no need to miss out on all the merriment -- we've rounded up a list of alcohol-free holiday mocktail recipes that everyone can enjoy this season!

    1. Ginger-Cinnamon Apple Cider
    To create this tasty treat, all you'll need are a few ingredients that you probably already have in your kitchen: sugar, water, ground cinnamon and cinnamon sticks, ginger root, and apple cider. Easy peasy!










    Sparkling Cranberry Punch
    The color itself is oh-so-festive, but the added fizz of sparkling water tops everything off. Simply mix together cranberry juice, frozen pink lemonade, and sparkling water, and voila! 











    Frost Bite Mocktail
    Embrace the wintry weather with a refreshing drink that combines the flavors of lime juice, pineapple juice, white grape juice, mint leaves, blueberries, and lemon-lime soda.

     Frost-Bite-Mocktail retry2

    (From The Little Kitchen)

    4. Frozen Peppermint Hot Chocolate
    Perfect for cozying up around the fire, this peppermint-infused goodness is super easy to make. Just throw the hot chocolate mix, milk, and ice into a blender. Then, blend until smooth, and top with whipped cream and crushed peppermint candy canes.


    (From Pocket Change Gourmet)





     5. Pumpkin Pie Steamer
    If you're hosting Thanksgiving this year -- or you're thinking of something to contribute to another hosts' meal -- consider this recipe for the pumpkin pie steamer. After all, anything boasting fall's favorite flavor is sure to be a hit. Simply microwave the pumpkin puree and water together in a mug; then, stir in pumpkin pie spice, vanilla extract, and the sweetener of your choice.


    (From OatmealAfterSpinning.com)





















  8. Why Diversifying the Blood Supply is So Important

    September 26, 2016 by Andrea
    Photo: Flickr | CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

    Photo: Flickr | CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

    We've talked about blood donation a couple of times here at Xickle. Last week, we shared stories of Warriors who are alive today because of such donations, and last year, we brought attention to National Blood Donor Month. To close out Sickle Cell Awareness Month, we want to discuss another related area: the need for more diversity among blood donors. It's true, sickle cell can affect anyone, as we all have blood; however, it affects more African Americans than any other ethnic group. But according to tacklesicklecell.org, only 7.3% of all blood donations in the U.S. come from Black people.

    "Certain blood types are unique to specific racial and ethinc groups," says the Red Cross. "Therefore, it is essential that the donor diversity match the patient diversity. For example, U-negative and Duffy-negative blood types are unique to the African-American community. So, sickle cell patients with these blood types must rely on donors with matching blood types in the African-American community."

    Warriors rely on blood donations often -- transfusions are a common need. Thankfully, the Red Cross makes it super easy for people to designate their blood donation to a person with sickle cell. Here's how: Simply visit your local Red Cross center, give blood, and let the clinicians know that you want to participate in the Blue Tag program. Open only to the Black community, the Blue Tag program marks donations specifically for use in patients with sickle cell.

    Besides giving blood yourself, you can help increase diversity in the national blood supply by hosting a blood drive in your area or by creating a SleevesUp campaign to pledge your donation and encourage your family and friends to do the same.

    In order to  ensure that Warriors receiving blood are at lower risk of rejecting the donation and causing more complications, it is imperative that more Black people give blood. "Minority and diverse populations ... play a critical role in meeting the constant need for blood, " the Red Cross confirms.

    Have you ever donated or received blood? Share your story below!


  9. Looking Toward the Future: Sickle Cell and Gene Editing

    April 25, 2016 by Andrea
    Photo: CreateHer Stock

    Photo: CreateHer Stock

    Currently, the only "semi-cure" for sickle cell disease is a bone marrow transplant. However, not everyone is able to find a match or afford the surgery. Plus, surgery of any kind has risks associated with it. As you may have heard, though, many researchers are starting to take a closer look at gene editing, and people like Ceniya Harris -- a 9-year-old Boston resident, as reported by Scientific American -- are a major reason why. 

    According to Scientific American, Ceniya has SCD, but has never once experienced a crisis or any other side effects of sickle cell. "The secret to Ceniya's good fortune lies in a second genetic mutation she inherited -- one that limits the aberrant curving of red blood cells," reports the science and technology magazine. "This unusal combination of genetic alterations means that she has yet to suffer a sickle-cell crisis, and her doctors believe that she will probably be protected form the effects of the defective hemoglobin for the rest of her life."

    Basically, researchers would like to duplicate the process that happens  with Ceniya in other SCD warriors to help lessen the effects of SCD. Scientific American makes it clear that this isn't a complete cure, but that "the compensatory treatment would spare many of the 300,000 infants around the world who are born every year with sickle cell." This, of course, could take many years to achieve, but the fact that Ceniya's body does what it does is fascinating and hopeful.

    Read the full article here.

    Even though this technology isn't quite ready yet, there is still a way that you can mitigate the effects of SCD now: Xickle, an all-natural supplement (which is currently in clinical trials to be classified as a drug) made from cloves, pepper, and sorghum functions by reducing the clumping of red blood cells and by maintaining the shape of those cells, even in low oxygen conditions, consequently helping to lessen the effects of sickle cell.

  10. Here’s What You Need to Know About the #ImOnIt Campaign

    April 20, 2016 by Andrea
    Photo: YouTube Screenshot

    Photo: YouTube Screenshot

    We like to talk a lot about the various ways you can reinvigorate your sickle cell awareness campaigns, inject more fun into your fundraising, and just generally help the warriors of the world, whether you personally know them or not. Here, in the U.S., some of our favorite campaigns have been #BoldLipsForSickleCell, #SpeakOnSickleCellObama, and #SleevesUp.

    Recently, we also learned about a new movement out of the UK called #ImOnIt. A collaboration of the African Caribbean Leukaemia Trust and NHS Blood and Transplant, this campaign seeks to raise awareness about the importance of minorities in the UK, especially black and mixed race people, to donate their blood, organs, and stem cells.

    According to The Voice, a British newspaper geared toward the British Black community, there's also an accompanying short film featuring various UK celebrities calling for people to join the cause. The Voice reports: "During the video, the celebrities speak directly to camera and call on people to say 'I’m On It' and register to become a blood, organ, and stem cell donor. Alesha Dixon, in her support of the campaign, said: 'As a community we need to stand together and make a change to ensure anyone fighting an illness where a lifesaving donor is needed, has the chance to receive the ‘gift of life'. If we all say #ImOnIt – this will take us closer to that becoming a reality.'"

    Check out the video about the campaign below, and to our UK friends reading this, let this be your #MondayMotivation to get on it.

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