A National Search by the American Red Cross Identifies only 3 donors in the U.S. to help
Oakland, CA.- Doctors at Children's Hospital & Research Center at Oakland are treating a five-year-old boy with a blood type that has never been seen before. Doctors believe that antibodies in the child's blood changed after he received a blood transfusion for his sickle cell disease in August 2004. The change was detected four months later and just before doctors were preparing to operate on the boy to remove his enlarged spleen. The operation had to be delayed until a compatible donor was found by the American Red Cross this month.
The operation was necessary because the child's red blood cells began to clog his spleen, which caused it to fill with trapped blood. Red blood cells of sickle cell patients assume a "sickle" shape that can stack up and cause blockages that deprive organs and tissues of oxygen-carrying blood. "His enlarged spleen dramatically increased the risk that he would suffer heart failure said," Dr. Keith Quirolo, Pediatrician at Children's Hospital & Research Center at Oakland. "His condition also prevented the use of an effective sickle cell drug, hydroxyurea, which had given him a near normal life with few symptoms of his disease." Children's Hospital Oakland has one of the country's largest and most innovative sickle cell disease treatment and research programs.
The boy's parents and a number of blood relatives had their blood tested but none matched his extremely rare hrB- blood type. "What makes his case even more difficult is that his new blood antibody is molecularly different from any hrB the National Rare Blood Donor Program has ever seen," said Brenda Hutson, Reference Lab Supervisor, American Red Cross Blood Services, Northern California Region.
An extraordinary search by the American Red Cross was launched, nationwide, in January. Five potential donors were found in the Red Cross' Rare Donor Program. Blood samples from the donors were then sent to the Red Cross' National Reference Laboratory in Philadelphia for molecular testing. The tests confirmed that only three of the registered donors living in Florida, Illinois, and Wisconsin were compatible. "The most likely source of hrB- blood is going to be from the African-American population. Unfortunately, minorities are the least likely to donate blood even though they are the most likely to need vast supplies of very rare blood types. One person's donation can save the lives of three people. We hope this child's story will encourage others to make a difference and become a donor," said Hutson.
**Note: The family has requested to remain anonymous. Doctors from Children's Hospital Oakland and experts from the American Red Cross are available for interviews
Venita Robinson, Director, Media Relations, Children's Hospital Oakland, 510-428-3069 or email@example.com
Sara O'Brien, Communications, American Red Cross Blood Services, 510-594-5202 or firstname.lastname@example.org