Giving the gift of life: A rare match meets

Giving the gift of life: A rare match meets
Johnny Sullivan's blood has provided the rare, life-saving match Latosha Markray needs to battle her sickle cell anemia.
Johnny Sullivan's blood has provided the rare, life-saving match Latosha Markray needs to battle her sickle cell anemia.

SHREVEPORT, LA (KSLA) - Every two seconds, someone needs blood. The problem is, there are not enough donors to meet the demand

That worries people like 34-year old Latosha Markray of Minden. She's one of the many faces you won't see when you donate blood. She's also one of those that needs it the most.

Markray has sickle cell disease, an inherited disorder that affects red blood cells, mostly among African-Americans. The disease is passed down through families in which red blood cells form an abnormal crescent shape. (Red blood cells are normally shaped like a disc.). It causes excruciating pain, and it makes it tough to even get out of bed.

"A typical day especially when I am feeling good I can do anything but on my bad days trying to wash clothes or cook is a big task," said Markray.

For years, Markray has depended on blood donations. She needs new blood every month just to stay alive.

"It makes me feel good that I have people that can donate for me because of all the antibodies in my blood," said Markray.

The good news is that those antibodies in her blood protect her cells from enemy cells. The bad news is that every time Markray receives blood, her body builds up new antibodies making it even more difficult to find the right blood match. For someone that needs blood so often,  a donor with rare blood is a life saver.

"So without them where would I be?"

Medical technologist Cindy Steinmetz with Life Share Blood Centers helps find that life saving rare match for patients like Markray.

"We get her sample in her serum and her cells, and so I choose cells that I can test against her serum and I see what kind of reactions I get,' said Steinmetz.

Blood donors like Johnny Sullivan of Minden are important to recipients like Latosha Markray. That is because Sullivan's blood is so rare, it provides the proper match. That is also why Sullivan is on Life Share's speed dial list. In the last 10 years alone, he has donated over seven gallons of blood.

"It's not like you're giving up something you're not going to get back," said Sullivan.

Sullivan's blood, along with other donated pints, is sent to a specialized lab in Dallas to screen for diseases. The good blood is sent back to Shreveport for further testing, a process that can take hours until Steinmetz and her colleagues find the perfect match.

"This happened to be the unit of blood that we tested that was negative for all of those things that matched her and we got a negative reaction so we knew it was safe to give her," said Steinmetz.

It was all made possible from a nameless stranger. That's until we introduced donor Sullivan to his recipient Markray

"I just hope it will help you out," said Sullivan to a tearful Markray. "I just want to say thank you," said Markray.

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