LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18) — The national blood shortage is a huge issue for doctors and patients right now.
But UK doctors explained that minority patients are affected even more due to a lack of minority blood donors.
"It's an easy thing to do and I feel like I can give back," said donor Kristen Gerton.
UK researchers explained Gerton's blood makeup makes her donation more valuable to doctors and patients.
"It's important that patients that are non-white get the best type of blood as possible," said UK oncologist Dr. Reema Patel.
Patel explained that the best way to do this is by transfusing minority blood with minority patients.
Blood from black and other minority donors contains antigens not found in white blood, providing a more precise match for patients.
"We know that in the black population, the Latin American population, even the Asian American population, those antigens can vary a lot," said Patel.
"That is why it makes it important to know that we have a diverse donor pool because we want to make sure that we can get the typing as precise as possible so that we don't have complications for patients."
According to Red Cross, Caucasian people make up about 75 percent of the national donor pool. Minority donors account for the other 25 percent, with black donors making up less than 3 percent of the pool.
So, what happens if a patient requiring a more precise match can't find one?
"Either we can't give you any blood at all depending on how specific your blood type is or there is just an increased risk you may have what we call transfusion reaction. Complications from blood product infusions," said Patel.
Putting more stress on minorities in an already stressed blood supply chain.
"The national blood shortage just across whites and non-whites is a huge issue. But it becomes more of a spotlight on non-white minority populations. "
Making donors like Kristin happy to continue rolling up their sleeves.
"If I can help a minority person that needs my blood a little more than anyone else it makes it more worth it, " said Gerton.