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Myth Busters: Accepting Blood from ‘White’ Donors…

There is a huge misconception about this blood thing and since we get blood often, it’s important for us to sort out the truth from fallacy.

MYTH: Black people should accept blood transfusions only from other Africans/African-Americans because of the increased risk of adverse reaction from blood of other races…after all, with bone marrow transplants (which makes the blood), you do need a perfect racial match, so therefore blood needs a perfect racial match as well.

Bone marrow and blood are not the same thing in fact, as you know, they are completely different. Bone marrow matching is based on HLA antigens. A bone marrow transplant is like an organ transplant. These are more complicated to test for and more complicated to find donors for because HLA antigens are gotten from DNA. Genetically, my HLA type would not be the same as a white person, because it’s kinda like DNA. My bone marrow wouldn’t even match another random person with dark skin: but could only match a sibling,  offspring…or maybe someone from my village. This is why it’s so difficult and people are on the list for YEARS and can’t find donors, especially interracial patients.

Regular blood matching is usually a broader type of matching. There are only 4 possibilities, your blood type is either A, B, O or AB.

The only possible thing that distinguishes your blood from someone else in your blood type are proteins called antigens or antibodies.
 There are so many antigens and antibodies. It is different from PERSON to PERSON, irrespective of race. However, there are certain antigens that are specific to black people, Jewish people, Latin American people, or white people. There are different antigens specific to all people born in North America, that might not be in people born in Australia.

For example; the Dossy antigen is ABSENT in Africans living in Africa; but PRESENT in Blacks living in the USA. White people have the presence of Dossy A or Dossy B. With black people originating predominantly in tropical areas, the malaria parasite attacks the Dossy Antigen, so Africans born and living in Africa genetically developed the immune response of getting rid of the Dossy Antigen. Dossy is a clinically significant antigen because if you give the blood of a white person to a black person, they will get Dossy A or Dossy B. As a result, African Americans mostly have Dossy in their bloodstream whereas straight Africans do not.  I live in Oregon, and it’s predominantly a white population, so I’ve gotten tons of ‘white’ blood. This means that although I’m straight African, I also do have Dossy A and Dossy B antigens because I’ve gotten so many blood transfusions.

If you get a transfusion and you are given an antigen that you do not have, your immune system will create antibodies to take out the foreign antigens or absorb them into your system. This makes your blood type more and more unique and a great collection of antibodies and antigens. As a result, those that get chronic blood transfusions have several antigens and antibodies that can make it difficult to get a ‘standard’ match.

The point is this: On the blood in the laboratory, they don’t write,” this is White blood” or this is “Black blood”. Blood is blood, it is a rare, beautiful commodity that should be graciously accepted from the wonderful donors who decided to let a random person stick a big needle into them every couple of months to give the gift of life to us. Blood is treated the same, and processed the same: the Red Cross doesn’t look to see whether the person is Black or White. The only reason it is taking so long to match your blood is as a result of having gotten multiple blood transfusions, your body has developed multiple antigens and antibodies.

In the blood bank, there is no racial consideration, the choice is based strictly and solely on your blood type. So settle down, relax and breathe easy. Getting ‘white’ blood is not going to kill you but only make you stronger.

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About Author

Sickle Cell Warrior

Sickle Cell Warrior

Tosin is dedicated to perpetuating healthy and positive messages about sickle cell. Although sickle cell is a subject often taboo in the communities this condition is most prevalent, Tosin's message is that sickle cell is not something to be ashamed of and you can live a rich and fulfilling life with sickle cell. Sickle cell warriors are the most amazing people in the world, with a great fortitude for compassion, willpower and strength.

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  1. Belly
    Belly May 01, 02:41

    I am A +. White blood but I am brown.

  2. Neeks
    Neeks June 24, 01:01

    So if everything you say above is true why has the nhs launched this urgent appeal?

  3. Vic
    Vic July 13, 06:01

    I am A+ Rh and Ro subtype, I am white, and very pleased my blood is of ethnic origin so when I donate it will go towards helping people with Sickle Cell Disease or Thallesemia

  4. Sickle Cell Warrior
    Sickle Cell Warrior Author July 18, 03:14

    @Neeks, because of antibodies. Antibodies are protein markers that tell your body what is friend or foe. After repeated blood transfusions, you can develop a string of different antibodies that make it more difficult to match. So they need to find blood that will not trigger the antibody reaction, and this is why they are trying to increase their donation base.

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