CHAMPAIGN COUNTY, Ill. (WCIA) — The WCIA Gift of Life Blood Drive is this week and there is one woman who is a big advocate of donations.

Ruthie Harper has a Sickle Cell Anemia trait. She does not have the disease, but she has passed it down to her children.

The disease took her son Robert’s life when he was just two. Her nephew, Gary, also had it. He lived until he was 42.

When he was born, the life expectancy for someone with Sickle Cell Anemia was only 22. Harper said the reason he was able to enjoy so many years is because he had blood transfusions twice a year.

“Most people just wait till it hits them before they care about something like this, and that’s not good,” said Harper. “When it hits you, you want it there. Last year, I had a knee replaced and I had to have a blood transfusion, and I thanked God that I’m a donor.”

Sickle Cell Anemia is a blood disorder. It is very painful for those who have it. But because of blood transfusions, the life expectancy now is around 45 to 55.

Harper added that if you have the Sickle Cell Anemia trait, you can still donate. You just cannot give whole blood, but you are able to donate platelets and plasma.

For more information about the 2020 Gift of Life Blood Drive, click here.