June 14 marks World Blood Donor Day, a day to recognize and raise awareness for the global need for safe blood donations and of the generous contributions of blood donors worldwide.
World Blood Donor Day is a powerful reminder of the critical need for safe and sufficient blood supplies to meet the demand for blood transfusions worldwide. From emergency situations to medical treatments, blood donors play a vital role in supporting individuals facing life-threatening conditions. Donated blood is used to save the lives of people involved in accidents, undergoing surgeries or battling life-threatening conditions such as cancer and blood disorders like anemia, sickle cell disease and beta thalassemia.
On World Blood Donor Day, we at Vertex Pharmaceuticals not only acknowledge the invaluable contributions of blood donors but also recognize the profound impact blood transfusions have on the lives of individuals facing various health challenges. We had the privilege of hearing directly from Joan Lambright and Tracy Antonelli, two individuals living with sickle cell disease and transfusion-dependent beta thalassemia. Read on as they share their stories, shed light on their struggles, and emphasize the impact blood donation has had on their disease and quality of life.
Worldwide, it’s estimated that over 300,000 babies born with sickle cell disease each year. Many of those living with sickle cell disease require blood transfusions throughout their lifetime because of severe anemia, before surgery or to help control pain. At 84 years old, Joan Lambright has lived with sickle cell disease her entire life and depends on blood donations to help manage her symptoms.
“I have lived with sickle cell disease my entire life. Unless you've experienced a sickle cell pain crisis, you don't understand what that kind of pain is like. The difficult part about it was not only the physical pain I was in, but also how those crises began to affect me mentally.
I began receiving blood transfusions at three years old. On the day of a transfusion, I feel almost excited, because once the transfusion begins and I receive those units of blood, I know I’m going to feel so much better. For a little while longer, I'm going to feel almost normal. With new blood, your determination to move forward, move on, becomes stronger. This new blood they put in allows me to live and do more things than I could before the transfusion.
Blood is my lifeline. Blood makes me feel better. Blood transfusions enable me to live longer and fight through whatever life throws at me. Someone out there has saved a little piece of this 84-year-old lady’s life by taking the time out of their day to share with me so I can live a little longer.
Blood donation is life-giving because it allows people like me to live, to have a second chance. Each time a person donates blood, and it is received, they have saved a life. I want to thank the people who choose to donate and the groups that come together to have blood drives on our behalf. There is nothing I can do to express my appreciation and gratitude that, through their generosity, I’ve been allowed to live a little longer.
When my time comes, that'll be alright because I've lived, and I've only lived well because of blood.”
Similarly, many individuals living with beta thalassemia rely on regular blood transfusions to manage their condition and avoid life-threatening complications such as organ damage and infections. For more than 100,000 people across the globe, beta thalassemia can require lifelong blood transfusions to survive. Tracy Antonelli is living with beta thalassemia. She and her husband Patrick have adopted three daughters, all living with transfusion-dependent beta thalassemia: Emmie, Rosie and Frannie.
“Beta thalassemia is a genetic blood disorder, and [some] patients with thalassemia require regular blood transfusions to stay healthy. The way I describe [beta thalassemia], it's feeling tired in a way that sleeping doesn't fix. You might have a headache, feel lethargic, feeling weak walking up the stairs. We schedule everything around beta thalassemia.
I was born with beta thalassemia and was diagnosed when I was about five years old. Being anemic for your whole life eventually starts to take its toll. As an adult, I started chronic transfusions every three weeks.
“New blood day” is a nickname our family has given for our transfusion days. It's a several day process. We go in a day or two before and the girls have labs done. Then the next day we go in for a blood transfusion.
Living with beta thalassemia, we know that patients with beta thalassemia need regular blood transfusions to live. Other people don't necessarily know that. When people think of blood transfusions, they often think of surgeries or someone in an accident. But a lot of people don't know that there are patients who need regular blood transfusions just to live. If you can donate blood, please consider it. If you can't, just spread the word about it.
To us, blood donors are truly heroes. It's not lost on me that right now someone else's blood is running through my veins, and in order for my kids to play basketball or sit at school and take an exam, they need somebody else's blood. And we never forget that.”
Joan and Tracy’s stories echo the importance of blood donation and the vital role that blood donors play in improving the health and well-being of those who need it most. We encourage all those who are eligible to donate blood to do so and help ensure a steady, ongoing supply of this life-saving resource. At Vertex, we hope to support these global efforts by organizing regular blood drives that provide employees with an opportunity to participate in life-saving voluntary blood donations.
For more information on donating blood or if you’d like to find a blood donation site near you, check out these resources: