As long as it’s from someone and there’s always someone else, always a donor, so we don’t have to think about it. Not yet, not until something happens.
Actually, there isn’t always someone else. Last year there were only 20 Black organ donors but there were more than 600 Black people on the transplant waiting list. And there are more people currently living with Sickle Cell Disease in the UK than there are active Black blood donors.
This is why we need more Black blood and organ donors. Black patients often require highly matched blood and organs, and donors with similar ethnic backgrounds are more likely to be a close match.
Black people are more likely to suffer from Sickle Cell Disease. Sickle Cell Disease is a genetically inherited blood disorder in which the oxygen carrying red blood cells are more likely to alter their shape and cause problems such as bone pain. There is no cure for Sickle Cell Disease and patients with this condition often require regular blood transfusions. Blood from donors with a similar ethnic background gives the best match and outcomes in the long term.
People from the Black community are also more likely to need an organ transplant as they are more susceptible to illnesses such as hypertension, diabetes and certain forms of hepatitis, all of which may result in organ failure and the need for a lifesaving transplant.
Kidneys are allocated according to many factors, with blood and tissue type amongst the most important and matching is likely to be closer when the ethnicity of the donor and recipient are closer. With not enough Black organ donors, Black patients are over represented on the transplant waiting list and will wait, on average almost a year longer for a kidney transplant than a white patient.
So, how do we change this? How do we increase the number of blood and organ donors from Black communities?
The first step is to think. Think about becoming a lifesaver. Think about how you would feel if your mum, your dad, brother, sister, wife, husband or child needed blood or organs.
To donate blood you need to be generally fit and healthy, just a regular person with a motivation to do something good. One blood donation can help to save or improve three lives. Anyone can join the Organ Donor Register. Donating your organs after you die can help save or transform up to nine lives.
After you join the Organ Donor Register please make sure you share your decision with your family.
Black history is not just about the history that passes, it’s about the history we make. Change the odds for Black patients, help ‘Be There’ for them.