Daejon Glasgow is a busy guy.
The St. Paul Central graduate works full-time and attends college online. He also loves taking walks, enjoying nature, and watching comedy videos as his schedule allows. He also lights up the room when he walks in, and genuinely loves meeting new people.
If you met him on the street or at work, you’d never know that Daejon has also lived his entire life with sickle cell disease.
“As a kid I remember having to be in the hospital a lot, not being able to do a lot of things that my friends were doing,” he said. “During the summers if I went swimming, I’d need the pool to be warmer, because pools that were too cold could cause a pain crisis.”
Sickle cell disease is a life-long blood disorder in which a person’s body produces crescent-shaped red blood cells, as opposed to normal donut-shaped cells. Sickle cells can clump together, blocking the flow of blood and oxygen. When blood flow is blocked, a person can experience extreme pain, strokes, and even organ damage.
For some people living with sickle cell disease, blood transfusions are the only way to alleviate debilitating pain. Daejon’s life with sickle cell has been a full-contact experience—rather than getting occasional transfusions, he goes into the clinic once a month for a blood exchange.
“On exchange days, it usually starts first thing in the morning, around 7 a.m. We don’t get done until around 2 p.m.” Daejon receives eight units of donated blood during his exchanges. The average human body holds between 9–12 units of blood.
Sickle cell disease is caused by inheriting two abnormal hemoglobin genes—one from each parent. People who inherit just one abnormal gene carry the sickle cell trait but do not have symptoms. Daejon’s mother and brother both have sickle cell disease, although their lived experience isn’t quite like Daejon’s—his brother has occasionally needed a blood transfusion following a severe illness, but no one else in his family experiences the type of pain Daejon does.
“It’s a constant story to tell,” Daejon said. “A lot of my classmates used to ask why I missed school a lot, why I’d always be going back and forth to the hospital. Not a lot of people are familiar with sickle cell disease. Even some nurses and doctors aren’t familiar with it, or only know what they learned from a textbook, which can be different from treating a patient with sickle cell.”
Because he receives eight units of blood during each exchange, it’s possible he receives eight different people’s donations every month.
“The main thing I wish everyone knew is that it’s different for different people,” Daejon said. “Sickle cell disease is different for every person who has it.”
And yet in all the years he received blood, he never thought he’d one day have the chance to meet a few of the people whose donated blood he received during his exchanges. With consent from all parties and work from Memorial Blood Centers staff, Daejon got that opportunity, and recently met three of his donors face-to-face.
“I got to meet my donors at the What’s Your Type? gala,” he said. “It was a surreal experience. I never thought I’d meet any blood donors, let alone my blood donors. Up until then, I never knew whose blood I got. It was a bittersweet moment.”
Most donors give blood because they know they’re doing something good—but never learn where their blood winds up. However, three Memorial Blood Centers donors got the chance of a lifetime to meet someone who received their blood.
“The opportunity to meet Daejon and to hear his story was unexpected and confirmed for me the importance of continuing to donate on a frequent basis,” said Anne Dooley, who met Daejon at the Memorial Blood Centers What’s Your Type? gala.
“It was so inspiring to meet my blood recipient and to see the impact made!” said Heather Boock, another of Daejon’s donors. “I grew up watching my dad donate and am so happy to carry on the family tradition. It’s especially meaningful as I was also able to meet an organ recipient upon my dad’s passing and organ donation.”
For Daejon, donating blood isn’t just about feeling good. It’s about being able to live a normal life—to be able to take walks, enjoy comedy videos, and to be able to finish his degree.
“Donating blood is so important because you don’t even know how much it means to whoever needs it,” he said. “It could be someone with a disease or someone with an emergency. It might feel like you’re just sitting there, but it’s actually being used for a good cause.”
One in 365 Americans of African descent are born with sickle cell disease, and one in 13 are born with sickle cell trait. Learn more about joining the Memorial Blood Centers Sickle Cell Donor Program, or schedule an appointment to donate and help young people in your community like Daejon.