My earliest memories of sickle cell were at seven years old. I recall stints in Hughes Spalding Children’s Hospital that would seem like an oasis compared to my home life. There I was showered with gifts, had access to play rooms filled with toys and was able to receive blood transfusions that got me through countless crises. I also remember the feeling of excruciating pain radiating all over my body that led me to the hospital in the first place. I played hard and loved being active. I didn’t understand that I could not do the same things as kids without sickle cell. I couldn’t even stress out over simple rules of the playground or childish banter. At birth I was diagnosed with hemoglobin SS disease, which is the most common and severe form of sickle cell disease that causes the worst symptoms at a higher rate.
I have lost count of the number of times I’ve fallen to the ground in pain and have needed blood transfusions to restore my health. Through my teen years I was rushed to the hospital once a month to receive blood transfusions, needing at least three units of blood before I felt better. If the blood I needed was not available, sometimes I waited days or multiple hours, adding to the stress I was already feeling. Having blood available for everyone that needs it is so important for people like me that fight sickle cell. It wasn’t fun then and still isn’t easy now, wondering if I will get the blood I need to survive a sickle cell crisis.A Challenging Childhood
Early on I was forced to adopt a strong mindset. My mother was on drugs most of my life and my father was incarcerated. So, I experienced a lot of adversity at a young age – from coming home to an empty fridge and going to bed hungry, to not having a home at all – such stressors can cause an average person to spiral, but for a person with sickle cell it’s like a double blow. One restless night at my sister’s house shelter, I laid in bed listening to the snores and whispers of those around me. I was 11 years old and somehow, I decided that I couldn’t be consumed with things that were out of my control. At the rate that I was in and out of the hospital, I knew that if I didn’t toughen up mentally I wouldn’t be here long.
Positive thinking helped me tremendously, but it was no magic wand. I still had one of my worst crises a year later at 12 years old. I don’t remember being rushed to the hospital. I just know that I had been stressing out about things going wrong at home, I went into a crisis and woke up two weeks later from a coma. This time it was acute chest syndrome, a condition that plagues many sickle cell patients by causing chest pain, cough, fever, low oxygen level and leads to a viral or bacterial pneumonia.Finding a New Passion
I have never hidden my sickle cell disease, but it has put a damper on some of my greatest aspirations. Playing football was out; instead I watched from the stands. I found joy in participating in ROTC and led the Color Guard at my school. Dreams of enrolling in the military after I graduated were crushed when I was denied enlistment because I have sickle cell. That was a huge bomb dropped on my future. I forced myself to quickly regroup and find a new passion.
As a kid I wanted to attend summer camp, but my mom never followed through with enrolling me. Now I can live out my dreams as camp administrator for the Sickle Cell Foundation of Georgia. I’m able to advocate for people with sickle cell, share my story and inspire the youth to keep fighting.
I still go to the hospital nine to ten times a year to receive blood transfusions when hydrating and my usual medications aren’t enough. Sickle cell disease is a lifetime battle and my odds at leading a healthy life depend on whether hospitals have adequate inventories of my A positive blood type or type O blood types. For any person questioning whether their generosity will make a difference, I want you all to know that you are silent heroes. When I receive a blood transfusion and my hemoglobin numbers go up, I feel like I’m back to myself: I don’t feel the pain; I don’t feel drained; It’s like putting gas in the car or batteries in a remote; I’m energized and that is priceless! In the words of my friend Shawn who lost his battle with sickle cell, I urge anyone reading this to not just think about donating blood, but to follow through and do it. Find your local American Red Cross blood donation center, make an appointment and give. Your generosity gives me life and I wouldn’t be here without you.
Blaze Eppinger is a sickle cell patient with a passion for sickle cell advocacy and motivating new and diverse blood donors to give. Blaze works as a camp administrator for the Sickle Cell Foundation of Georgia and enjoys captivating audiences on a variety of stages while sharing his personal journey with sickle cell disease.
The post Blood Donations Helped Me Survive Home and Sickle Cell Crises appeared first on red cross chat.
In life, everything comes full circle. Troy Miles, Regional Philanthropic Officer for the Red Cross Greater St. Louis Region, is proof of that. Throughout his life, the Red Cross has showed up at important moments, propelling Troy into a life of service to others. This journey began when he was just 19 years old.Troy’s First Experience with the Red Cross
Troy’s first interaction with the Red Cross occurred when he was 19. At the time, he was serving in the military and had just returned from visiting his grandmother for Mother’s Day. The visit revealed a truth that his family members didn’t have the heart to tell him: his grandmother was sick. Sadly she passed away just five days after Troy left her side.
Because he’d used his leave to go home the previous week, Troy was dealing with a difficult situation. He was emotionally crushed because aside from his mother, his grandmother was the second most important person in his life, and he didn’t know if he was going to be able to get back home for her funeral. Just when he’d lost hope, the Red Cross reached out to him and helped him get home for his grandmother’s funeral. This sparked both Troy’s interest in the Red Cross and his thoughts on what it means to truly help others in their time of need.
“Because someone did something for me, I’ve spent my lifetime repaying that,” said Troy.Receiving Help after a Home Fire
The second encounter Troy had with the Red Cross happened when he was 35 years old, just after his house burned down due to an electrical fire. Coming out of a Sunday work meeting, Troy was horrified to hear the news about the fire and was relieved to know that his wife and child were safe. On that day, he recalls how the Red Cross showed up just after the fire department and gave him enough money to get back on his feet. It took him back to being a 19-year-old young man when the Red Cross helped him get back to his family. Today, Troy remembers these instances that propelled him into a life of service.
“I’m happy about how it all came together, I really am. The opportunity to serve in a way that others have served me,” said Troy.A Lifesaving Donation
Five years later, Troy’s mother was diagnosed with stage IV breast cancer. While in the hospital, she received platelets from the Red Cross to get through a series of chemo and radiation treatments. She has been cancer free for 12 years now.
“I know she wouldn’t have survived breast cancer without the platelet donations from the Red Cross,” said Troy.Giving Back in His Own Way
After working in social services for 30 years, Troy applied for his current role at the Red Cross. When he found out he’d gotten the position, he was ecstatic. He was looking for a role that would help him continue to grow and knew that this was his opportunity to give back to an organization that had helped him throughout his life.Find Your Unique Way to Contribute
“If you are looking for an honest way to contribute, there’s no greater way than the Red Cross. Every day you come to work, you contribute to someone else’s life. You don’t always see the end result, but you’re laying the foundation to help build a person’s life. If you want to do something that means something, this is really the place to be,” said Troy.
Find your dream career by visiting https://www.redcross.org/about-us/careers.html.
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The Red Cross not only works to support those who have experienced disasters, but also encourages everyone to feel empowered to help their communities through training and certification courses. From CPR and babysitting to water safety programs, we know each community has unique needs and want to support them in every way we can. The same goes for Elvia Price, the Regional Chief Program Officer for the Cincinnati Dayton Region of the Red Cross. Read on to learn how she is working with partners to help decrease the number of accidental drownings in her community.
In addition to serving as a Regional Chief Program Officer, Elvia provides staff support to her region’s diversity and inclusion committee. Through information from the National Red Cross she first heard about the Red Cross Diversity in Aquatics Centennial Initiative and its partnership with Jack and Jill of America, an African-American membership organization of mothers with children ages 2-19. The organization aims to strengthen children through leadership development, volunteer service and civic duty. From there, she got in contact with her local Jack and Jill chapter and the Cincinnati Recreation Commission. Together they started planning a program to help more children in their community learn how to swim.
“This time of year, there are more and more children that want to go out to the pool. They’re drawn to lakes and pools, but they often don’t know how to swim. We don’t want to see drowning in our communities,” said Elvia.
Cleveland and Columbus, Ohio were initially targeted to receive funds from the Centennial Grant because they have higher numbers of accidental drownings within the African-American community.
“But we felt we needed the same intense focus targeting our youth in Cincinnati,” said Elvia.
Through this partnership, the Red Cross, Jack and Jill, and the Cincinnati Recreation Commission were able to increase the number of free swimming lessons offered at community pools through the generosity of funds from the Recreation Commission, which manages their community pools. Through this effort, they hope to continue to expand opportunities for children to learn how to be safe in and around the water.
“What’s unique about the partnership between the three groups is how each group raises awareness of the need to learn how to swim. The role we play lies in providing most of the training for trainers at the recreation pools. All parties hope to see more people taking advantage of the swimming lessons,” said Elvia.
This month Elvia is celebrating her 20th anniversary with the Red Cross, and she’s looking forward to many more. She is thankful for every opportunity to give back and help others.
“It is a joy to be able to give back and help others. There are always new partnerships that come up. There is always a way to be innovative about how we do this. There is always a service we can provide to the community and that’s the exciting thing about working with the Red Cross,” said Elvia.Learn More
To learn more about our water safety resources, visit www.redcross.org/watersafety
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Jacqueline Rogers was Eight-Years-Old when her Surgery was Postponed due to a Blood Shortage
Our daughter was only two-days-old when she underwent her first open-heart surgery. At a time when most new parents would be leaving the hospital, my husband and I were watching Jacqueline recover from a major surgery. Since then she has had one additional open-heart surgery and four heart catherizations, which is a procedure that examines how well your heart is working, helps identify heart problems and allows for procedures to open blocked arteries.
Jacqueline underwent her second open-heart surgery when she was eight years old. We remember how we were getting on the elevator early in the morning, heading to the surgical floor when my husband and I got a phone call on our cell. It was the doctor calling to tell us that Jacqueline’s surgery had to be canceled because there was a shortage of O negative blood. We were all in total shock! We never imagined that a lack of blood could cause a child’s surgery, our child’s surgery to be canceled in a big city like Boston. Her surgery was rescheduled and eventually took place once there was enough blood in the hospital’s inventory, but that experience left our family with a feeling of fear that will never go away. We are always worried that the lack of blood could cancel another surgery. Our daughter will need more open-heart surgeries in the future; it’s just a fact surrounding her heart condition. With so many things to worry about leading up to that time, no parent should have to also be concerned about whether the blood supply their child needs will be available.
It was hard to hear our daughter express how frightened she was and know that we couldn’t do anything to change what was happening. Now that Jacqueline is 14, it’s interesting to hear how she felt that day. Her story is below. Please read it and consider donating blood today.
I have always enjoyed being active, but had to be careful when choosing activities to join because of my heart condition. I cannot play contact sports or ever ride roller coasters, but really love to dance, do gymnastics, swim and play golf. I can do these things because of the open-heart surgery I had when I was eight years old. Even though my surgery helped me to be able to enjoy normal activities for people my age, it was a very scary experience. I remember having to stay germ free before my operation and had to stay away from a lot of my family and friends. On the morning of my surgery I was scared to death and ready to get it over with so I could get back to enjoying normal parts of my life again. Having my surgery canceled because blood wasn’t available had never crossed my mind. When my parents got the call from my doctor saying they had to cancel, I thought that meant that I was going to die. I was only eight and didn’t know what that meant for me and for my life. I remember my mom being frantic while my dad tried to keep me calm and explain what was happening.
I was so thankful to have my parents with me in that moment and don’t know what I would have done without them. My mom never left the hospital during my surgery and always slept in my room, so I wouldn’t be afraid, and my dad would keep me laughing by doing and saying silly things.
Now life is good – I am on a dance team and like to swim in my new pool and hot tub! I can enjoy time with my family, my dog and friends because of all the blood donors that saved my life. You can save a life too through blood donation. To learn more about blood donation or to make an appointment click here.
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Amid rushed evacuations, strong winds, and approaching floodwaters of a disaster, chaos often ensues, forcing families to make impossible decisions about the animals that are part of their families. It’s never easy to leave a pet behind but often, there is no choice.
These situations may not always be preventable but having a plan in place can give your pets their best chance. Keep that plan, and the tools needed to implement it, within an emergency kit tailored specifically to your pet.
Here’s the top 10 items recommended for your kit:
- Food. At least a three-day supply in an airtight, waterproof container.
- Water. At least three days of water specifically for your pets.
- Medicines and medical records. Most boarding kennels, veterinarians and animal shelters will need your pet's medical records to make sure all vaccinations are current.
- Important documents. Registration information, adoption papers and vaccination documents. Talk to your veterinarian about microchipping and enrolling your pet in a recovery database.
- First aid kit. Cotton bandage rolls, bandage tape and scissors; antibiotic ointment; flea and tick prevention; latex gloves, isopropyl alcohol and saline solution. Including a pet first aid reference book is a good idea too.
- Collar or harness with ID tag, rabies tag and a leash.
- Crate or pet carrier. Have a sturdy, safe crate or carrier in case you need to evacuate. The carrier should be large enough for your pet to stand, turn around and lie down.
- Sanitation. Pet litter and litter box if appropriate, newspapers, paper towels, plastic trash bags and household chlorine bleach.
- A picture of you and your pet together. If you become separated, a picture of you and your pet together will help you document ownership and allow others to assist you. Add species, breed, age, sex, color and distinguishing characteristics.
- Familiar items. Familiar items, such as treats, toys and bedding can help reduce stress for your pet.
Visit Ready.gov’s Pets and Animals Preparedness page for more information.
The road to the American Red Cross for Col. Clara Moses started in 2017. As a surgical nurse, Clara was in Fort Gordon, Georgia, preparing for deployment when she received news that her husband had been involved in a near-fatal car accident in Fort Worth, Texas, and needed surgery. Clara’s Commander at the time contacted the Red Cross to help Clara travel to Texas so she could be by her husband’s side. Throughout her husband’s recovery, representatives from the Red Cross continuously checked in with the Moses family to make sure things were going well. It was through this experience that Clara’s interest in and admiration for the Red Cross blossomed.
“The Red Cross was very kind during this process and I cannot thank them enough for all of their efforts,” said Clara. “They were able to quickly arrange transportation so that I could be with my husband when he needed me.”Retiring from the Military
Clara joined the U.S. Army Reserves as a Second Lieutenant Recovery Room /Operating Room nurse and deployed overseas several times throughout her career. She has deployed to places like Landstuhl, Germany, in 2003 at the height of Operation Enduring Freedom, and to Iraq in 2008 in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, where she served as the Officer in Charge for the surgery department in Tikrit, Iraq. She has also traveled to Haiti and South America on humanitarian missions.
Clara was the Chief Nurse of a Combat Support Hospital in Texas when she Clara decided to retire after 27 years of service in 2016.
“I immediately decided to join the Red Cross after I retired so I could help other soldiers who might be faced with a family emergency like I was.”Serving Members of the Armed Forces
While researching different opportunities within the organization, she learned about the Red Cross Service to the Armed Forces program, which serves as a vital link of communication between members of the military and their families. She recalled her own experience with the Red Cross and knew this was the perfect fit for her.
One of the first things Clara did as a Red Cross volunteer was to sign up to work at the Red Cross Booth at the Armed Forces Bowl, where she was able to interact with military members, families and fellow veterans.
“It was such a wonderful experience to talk to veterans and current service members from all branches of the military, and I was honored to be there.”
Since 2012, the Red Cross has had a partnership with the Armed Forces Bowl in Fort Worth, Texas, enabling the organization to serve as the presenting partner of Veterans Village, the bowl game’s pre-game fan fest that features organizations dedicated to supporting military members, veterans and their families. The Bowl game partnership is one way that the Red Cross can showcase its mission to provide vital services to those who have served and continue to serve this country.Clara speaking with a veteran at the Armed Forces Bowl.
“I am so thankful for the Armed Forces and I was proud to wear the uniform with honor. I try my best to embody the seven Army values – Loyalty, Duty, Respect, Selfless Service, Honor, Integrity and Personal Courage –to all aspects of my life, including now as a Red Cross volunteer.”
Even though Clara retired from the U.S. Army Reserves, her commitment to serving others continues.
The post Why a Retired Army Reserve Colonel Became a Red Cross Volunteer appeared first on red cross chat.
In July 2009, Jessie and Bradley were only two weeks away from their wedding date and were expecting their first child. Both Jessie and Bradley had served in the U.S. military, and Jessie had just returned from a 10-month deployment in Iraq as a certified combat lifesaver. They were looking forward to beginning their lives together when the unexpected happened.
At their local gym, Jessie saw Bradley stumble off the treadmill and fall to the ground. She didn’t know at the time that Bradley was in cardiac arrest due to an undiagnosed cardiomyopathy. Hearing the commotion, physical trainer Amy Holmes ran to the scene. She was a month away from completing a nursing degree and had also served in the military as a combat lifesaver.
Jessie’s sister grabbed an AED and brought it to Amy who was monitoring Bradley’s condition while awaiting EMS’ arrival. After less than a minute, his heart completely stopped. Amy administered an AED shock, performed chest compressions and gave one rescue breath when suddenly, his eyes opened. “Why am I lying down next to the treadmill?” asked Bradley.Jessie and Bradley, 2009. Jessie’s Reflections Ten Years Later
Jessie reflects on this life altering experience:
“After Bradley’s life was restored that day it changed the path of my life in ways I could have never imagined. We have had the joy of raising our wonderful daughter, Sylvana, together and Amy is Sylvana’s Godmother. We all live in the same small town and keep in touch regularly.
Bradley had open heart surgery in 2014 to relieve the worsening symptoms of his cardiomyopathy and we go jogging now, while I keep a close eye on him. We stay CPR certified for our professions, and frequently request AED defibrillators be placed in public locations that are lacking them. You never know when they can save a life!
If Bradly would have lost his life that day, I would not be writing this now. We are abundantly grateful for every day, both good and bad because we are fortunate enough to have these days to share thanks to Amy and the training she received.”Register for Lifesaving Training
Register to take a Red Cross training course at redcross.org/take-a-class today to learn lifesaving skills for tomorrow.
The post 10 Years After Surviving Cardiac Arrest: Jessie and Bradley’s Story appeared first on red cross chat.
The thunder of a small biplane has just roared overhead as I look out the window. A sound that never phased me before my most recent disaster deployment, it now elicits a wave of sensations. In a flash, I’m transported back to our Emergency Operations Center—oceans away in Mozambique.
In a span of six weeks, two cyclones of hurricane strength pummeled the people of southeastern Africa. First by Cyclone Idai, followed by Cyclone Kenneth to the north—pinning the region back on the map of current events the world wanted to know about.Katie and Gina Tomas Duarte, a resident of Beira, find time to connect and laugh despite the hardship many face in communities across Mozambique.
After a 40-hour trip from Chicago, I arrived just after the first storm wiped out 90 percent of the dense coastal city of Beira. My mission: To help the Mozambique Red Cross raise awareness about humanitarian needs and empower survivors of the storm tell their stories.
Our Red Cross basecamp tents lay adjacent to eleven tons of relief supplies being loaded systematically onto cargo planes, ready for airdrop. On my daily journey to the base, my eyes became locked downwards, scouting where my boots stepped, keeping watch for cobras per the security briefing I received on my first day. “And keep an eye out for crocodiles in the river. But don’t forget, the number one killer in all of Mozambique is the mosquito.” Extra stocks of malaria medication were in all of our delegate kits.
Since 2010, I have proudly worn my American Red Cross vest as a volunteer. This emblem is the only thing that has stood between me and the stories of disaster survivors released in the rawest form. I witness pieces of lives turned upside down, unfiltered. They roar from the tongues of mothers who have gone through hell protecting their children, and dance from the feet of toddlers running in circles, grasping at my pant legs in between their little panting breaths. I enter their world as a visitor, often leaving with more questions than answers.Glimpsing into one Father’s Eyes
It is my second full day in Beira. I stand in a straight line, one of nine relief workers waiting to board the helicopter headed to Buzi, an area entirely inaccessible by road weeks after the first cyclone hit.
One by one, we step forward as our names are called. I watch each of the international agencies represented by the logos on our vests and am reminded of the enormous scale of this relief effort—Save the Children, USAID, World Food Programme, UNICEF, OCHA, Red Cross Red Crescent. We have flown from around the globe to support local teams attempting to reach the 1.5 million people affected by the storm.
I grab a pair of red earphones strung on a wire above the seats in the helicopter and keep them around my neck until we are ready for lift off. The smell of fuel meets my nose as I watch the lopsided, windstruck palms grow smaller out the porthole window.
A half hour later, we begin our descent over the latte colored Buzi River, peering into homes and businesses standing naked without roofs. These parts of life were not meant to be exposed, the entire town an open wound. I spend the day talking with local residents to learn what they need so I can report back to my team. At first glance, I see a line of people waiting peacefully. Looking closer, I see that one by one, they are receiving free cholera vaccines from a local nurse, a promising sign as the disease quickly turned into an outbreak—leaping from five to 5,000 cases within weeks.
Through the red-veined whites of his eyes, a father of two looks at me as I reach the port, a busy area. He drops the limp chicken hanging in his right hand to grab my own. I had mistaken it for a dead bird, but saw its head jerk once slamming the ground. A neighbor helps translate: The father had lost everything and is now sleeping in the streets. His days spent transporting families from one bank of the river to the other in his wooden boat.
He looks down as a glassy wetness suddenly takes over his eyes. I shove down the needles I feel puncture my own heart. He goes back to pick up his chicken.Maria Luisa was carried through neck high water with the help of a neighbor the night Cyclone Idai hit. She is still unable to walk, but takes comfort in her daughter and granddaughter staying with her in Buzi, Mozambique.
Slowly, he and thousands of others will start the road to recovery. But no matter how many disasters I respond to, it has never gotten easier feeling the pain of others I meet. I must accept that I can never take away the hurt, no matter how hard I try. No tarp or medical procedure we provide will ever feel like enough.
Mud is caked on the sides of buildings and a visible water line stands waist height—demonstrating how high the waters had risen during the cyclone. A woman tells me she waded through neck-high water, unable to walk, as she clung to her neighbor.
I meet Ismail, a Mozambique Red Cross volunteer for 12 years, who told me that since the cyclone hit, he separates each grain of rice from the mud by hand to salvage what he can still eat. He had stood on rooftops for three days enveloped by the floodwaters but continues to proudly help his neighbors.
Our teams lead emergency supply distributions where families receive basic relief items to help them through these difficult days. We often target the most vulnerable first: female heads of households with children, for example. In camps filled with those with nowhere to go after the storm, Red Cross workers are also busy installing water filtration systems to provide clean drinking water and building toilets and showers. Workers fan out, leading focus groups to assess how life was different before the cyclones hit: a difficult task for communities struggling to meet their basic needs even before the storm hit.Aid Worker Life in Mozambique
No two days of the month I spent in Mozambique were alike, but I quickly created routine. In close quarters with my fellow Red Cross and Red Crescent teammates, privacy turned comical. I learned to take fast showers as the backup generators usually went out multiple times a day. We kept collapsible jerry cans filled with water nearby in case we wanted the luxury of flushing toilets.
I peeled off my soaked red polo shirt one evening, stepping into the shower to wash off the dirt and emotions I’d harbored. Moments later, I heard the familiar drooping “ka-zoom” sound of the power shutting off. Knowing I had about 10 precious seconds before we lost water completely, I cupped what water I could as the stream slowly died to a trickle – a bit like playing a game. I look up at a moving shape and see our resident tree frog climbing up the wall. Showering by the mood light of a headlamp became slightly atmospheric.The Scars of Survival
Days later, we are able to drive three hours north to the small fishing village of Ndjalane to reach a community previously cut off from aid. We pass baboons meandering on the roadside. Just ahead is our convoy of hundreds of tools, blankets, buckets, hygiene items and kitchen sets. I watch the trucks wheels get stuck in the sand, a foot deep in areas where there previously was none.“We are so worried. We still worry. Nothing about this is easy,” says Celeste, the matriarch of her town.
There, I meet Celeste, a matriarch of the town. Making our way along pathways drenched in sun through the tropical town, it was clear that neighbors had done anything but wait around for help to come. Men stand on roofs, patching them with palm leaves and strips of makeshift plastic. A young mother works to rebuild her home’s walls by rolling and stacking balls of mud between sticks. When we reach Celeste’s house, we stand confused at first. What damage? To the naked eye, it looks untouched. Her son explains to us that the night Cyclone Idai hit, Celeste was alone as the winds picked up. Frightened, she ran to a neighbor’s home to seek shelter, only to have the house collapse on both of them. Together, they ran to the local church praying aloud when moments later, the church crumbled, too. Her final refuge was another neighbor’s home, filled with parents struggling to hold the roof and protect their children.
The house proved no match to the winds. Behind Celeste, a wall toppled onto an eight-year-old boy taking his life. “We are so worried. We still worry. Nothing about this is easy,” she told us. Nevertheless, she got to work repairing what she could in the days following. Now, her home stands largely on its own, a model for the others still perished around it.
It will take years for the people of Mozambique to recover. But what is full recovery, anyway? It is the scars of survival I have been privileged to witness that remind me what we are each capable of enduring. To break down is to learn of our strength. And to meet each other where we are—often in the eyes hardest to look into—is the greatest piece of our heart we can give.
The post After the Storm: One Aid Worker’s Month in Mozambique appeared first on red cross chat.
David Markenson, MD, serves as the Chief Medical Officer for the Red Cross Training Services Division. In his 25 years as a physician, he’s seen how CPR and AEDs can save lives.Tell us about the first time you performed CPR.
I was 15 years old and a summer lifeguard when someone went into cardiac arrest at the pool. The whole team went into response mode and activated our pool emergency plan. The front desk called 9-1-1; I started performing CPR; and the team got the AED. We did exactly as we were trained.When working in hospital did you have experience with bystander CPR/AED?
One summer when I was running the pediatric emergency department in Westchester, a child fell down going to second base in a Little League game. He was unconscious and wasn’t breathing. Two parents and a coach started CPR; others got an AED. After we stabilized him in the ER, we looked at the AED data and discovered that he was born with an abnormal cardiac rhythm. The boy got an implantable defibrillator and went home. That was one of four saves in two weeks from “regular people” doing CPR and using an AED, all of them on children.How have things changed in the 25 years that you’ve been a physician?
I now see AEDs everywhere. Even if you haven’t been trained, if you see someone suddenly collapse, I urge you to grab an AED off the wall and turn it on. It will tell you what to do, and it won’t go off unless the person needs a shock. Apps are another great tool. Even if you’ve been trained in CPR, turning on the steps in the Red Cross First Aid app can give you that extra bit of confidence and direction. Lastly, call 9-1-1 as they can guide you through CPR and first aid.Why is CPR + AED Awareness Week important?
This week gives us the opportunity to remind people that anyone can save a life. People are afraid of not knowing what to do or doing the wrong thing. If you are trained by the Red Cross, you will always know what to do in an emergency.
Calling 9-1-1 is always an excellent first step. The dispatcher can help guide initial actions and send help. In cardiac arrest, the person’s heart has stopped, so even though starting CPR can be scary, doing anything is an improvement and might save their life. If you are untrained or unwilling to give breaths, doing compressions is a great first step. But to give the person the best chance, compressions with breaths are the choice, so taking a CPR course is a great thing to do.
This Pride Month, we’re celebrating our staff and volunteers who are part of the LGBTQ+ community. Each and every day they work to carry out our humanitarian mission in communities across the country. This week, we’d like to highlight Leah Foxhill who helps recruit blood services volunteers in Minnesota and serves as the Co-Chair of the American Red Cross Pride Team Resource Group. Here is a conversation we had with her around Pride Month and the importance of diversity and representation.Why is Pride Month important to you?
Visibility and representation matter. For one month, our nation shows its support for our community and we are given platforms to express ourselves publicly in a way that we might not otherwise be empowered to do. It also serves as a flagship to remind folks that our community exists, as it always has, and serves as a time to reflect on where we are. For far too long, we had to operate in the shadows, in closets, and in secret. The struggle for acceptance and recognition has been a long and arduous one, with lives lost and families torn apart. From that, we have built a community based on love and understanding, and are able to offer that to other marginalized groups. Pride Month means we evaluate where we have come from, and the sacrifices others have made to get us to where we are. It gives hope to the next generation that they are not alone, and that they have a home with us. We also get to revel in the diversity and beauty of our community. Every kind of awesome human imaginable is represented under our rainbow umbrella! Strangers embrace one another, and we lift each other up as we keep marching towards full equality for everyone.What drew you to the Red Cross?
I came to the Red Cross because of the wide breadth of the services we offer, and the longstanding history of serving those that need it the most. The Red Cross is strongly formed on the shoulders of neutrality and impartiality, and that really connected with me. Then I read a bunch of biographies of Clara Barton herself, and she just blew me away! What an inspiring person and a lofty mission to have. How can you not want to be a part of that?What is one of your favorite Red Cross Moments?
One of my favorite Red Cross moments happened at a volunteer appreciation event. I was wearing my rainbow diversity pin and an older volunteer I had not met came up to me and struck up a conversation. She noticed my pin and was overwhelmed that the Red Cross would have such a branded, visible rainbow available to show support and inclusion. We ended up talking about all kinds of experiences she has had, from living as an atheist and how she was drawn to us for our neutrality, to her increasingly vocal support of the queer community. I gave her the pin off my sweater and she beamed with gratitude, and immediately put it on. She walked all through the event showing it off, and later came up to see how she could better spread our message of inclusivity and gave me a big hug. Something as small as a pin can have a large impact, and helping just one person feel inspired can change the entire culture.What is the Red Cross Pride Resource Group and how does it help Red Cross staff and volunteers?
We are the national group for the LGBTQ+ community (and allies) within the Red Cross—volunteers, employees, and partners. We are exactly what the name suggests—a resource. We are proud to represent our community within this organization, and work closely as an advisory body, support network, and educational resource to our membership and to the organization as a whole. We have established a vibrant and diverse membership, which better enables us to work from within to develop trainings and offer new insights to the Red Cross. We always have room to expand and encourage everyone who feels a connection to this community to join!What does it mean for you to be a part of the LGBTQ+ community and work at the Red Cross?
Being a part of both the queer and Red Cross community means so much to me. The Red Cross has always been seen as a leader, both nationally and internationally, in its policies and work serving marginalized communities. Showing that the Red Cross is an organization that embraces diversity, and fosters acceptance and support for the queer community, has a broad and lasting impact not just internally but will ripple out to the country as a whole. In times where many in my community are feeling like they are not supported, or are struggling to exist authentically within the laws and culture of this country, the Red Cross is a visible beacon of hope. Based on the sheer size and impact of the Red Cross, it serves as a voice of reason and calm that reaches every corner of America.
Giving back means using my time, talent, and resources to help others. I am lucky in that I have some of all of the above to offer, and was fortunate enough to benefit from others offering me the same as I was growing up. It’s the “pay it forward” mentality—if you are able, do. Being able to provide support or insight to others so that their lives can improve is one of the greatest privileges we have. Simply existing authentically and visibly can have an impact, and I try to live my life that way every day. Giving back can mean different things at any point in time—a financial donation, organizing events, or just sitting to talk with someone who needs to feel heard. I want my son to see firsthand what empathy and service is so that he can take that knowledge and spread it to the next generation. He is a lucky little guy, as all of his parents and grandparents are kind and generous people who lead by example.What’s one piece of advice you’d give your 20-year-old self?
There is a lot of heartbreak in the world, but also more love and beauty than you ever could imagine. Don’t hold yourself back from any new experiences, even if you think you’ll fail. Use those lessons to grow and bring others up along with you. Also, your parents are cool and were right about basically everything ? Use that, remember that, emulate that as you navigate parenthood.What would you tell someone who is interested in working or volunteering with the Red Cross?
DO IT! There is so much opportunity that no matter what your interests or talents are, you have a home here.