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'I beat the odds': As blood banks see a shortage, donors needed to treat sickle cell disease

People who battle sickle cell disease are among the many who benefit from blood donations.

MACON, Ga. — Tongala Broker was born with sickle cell disease, a condition primarily seen in African Americans.

"Back when I was born, they told parents kids wouldn't live past 16. Well, I'm 61, so I beat the odds," she recalls.

As part of the sickle cell, the lack of oxygen in blood cells causes pain triggering what Broker calls a "crisis."

"For the last couple of weeks, I've been having a lot of crisis in my knees and stuff, but I'm dealing with that," she says.

The one way to fight that crisis is through blood transfusions. Krischele Brown with the Sickle Cell Foundation of Georgia says that's where donors come in.

"The blood is coming from people with normal blood cells to people with abnormal blood cells, and it's allowing them to be able to function again properly," Brown says.

Functioning is something Broker hasn't let sickle cell take away from her. She volunteers with people who have the same disease and works with special needs children.

"Anything I could do to try to get a special needs child to meet their highest potential," she says.

She hasn't needed a transfusion yet, but she knows that could change.

"One day, I might need that blood transfusion, and I want it to be there for me if I need it, so whenever I know someone is doing a blood drive, I'm on the phone 24/7 calling everybody I know," she says.

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