In the days leading up to the first school bells sounding, I was busy buying back-to-school supplies, lunch items and organizing weekly schedules. However, there’s one additional step I take every year along with most parents that have children battling illnesses—like sickle cell disease.
During meet-the-teacher night, I greet my son’s teacher with a smile and a folder full of resources. Aaron, whom we affectionately call AJ, is eight years old, entering the third grade and living with sickle cell disease. Most times he’s the only student at his school with sickle cell disease. As his mom, I feel better knowing that his teachers and administrators know about his disease and potential signs of a health crisis, in case he begins to suffer from one at school. My motto is, “If you don’t know, get educated!”Sickle Cell Disease is Rare in the Latino Community
Of our three children, AJ is our youngest and only child with sickle cell disease. To us, our boy is happy and normal, but I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge that he is in a rare population of 1 in 16,300 Latino children born in the U.S. with sickle cell disease.
This disease causes red blood cells to become hard and crescent-shaped instead of soft and round. As a result, blood has difficulty flowing smoothly and carrying oxygen to the rest of the body. When the body becomes deprived of oxygen it goes into a sickle cell crisis, which can lead to severe pain, tissue and organ damage, acute anemia and even strokes.
My husband and I both carry the sickle cell trait. I am originally from the Dominican Republic and he is originally from Ecuador. We knew there was a possibility that our son would inherit the disease, but it did not make the news any easier to swallow.Coping with Crisis
AJ takes medication to help prevent a crisis, but in the back of my mind I fear that he will one day begin to suffer from the horrible and damaging side effects many labels warn about. Instead, I prefer that he receive lifesaving blood from generous blood donors to treat a crisis. It’s the most natural form of relief, that cannot be manipulated or manufactured, but leaves AJ dependent on volunteer donors to give.
My son is such a good boy and receives blood transfusions with no complaints or tears. He was born into this and needles don’t scare him one bit. Within minutes of receiving a blood transfusion, I watch his strength restored, pain vanish and energy return—soon he transforms back to himself—a rambunctious little boy. If an eight-year-old can withstand a needle, so can you.
In the U.S. about 100,000 people of various racial and ethnic backgrounds are living with sickle cell disease, most of whom are of African or Latino descent. A patient in need is more likely to find a compatible blood match from a donor of the same race and ethnicity.
A blood donation from a diverse donor can help tremendously as students battling sickle cell disease go back to school this year and fight crises. My son and so many sickle cell patients are relying on your generosity. Schedule your blood donation through the American Red Cross today and play your important part in ensuring diverse blood is available for sickle cell patients in need.Parenting a Student with Sickle Cell is Tough
Although AJ looks healthy and bright eyed, there are challenges that he might encounter that his classmates will not.
He misses between three and five weeks of school each year due to complications from a crisis. It’s hard for him to miss field trips or fun school events. We’ve tried to recreate the experience when he’s feeling better, but it’s not the same. During longer absences he complains about missing his friends and sadly, I can’t provide much of a solution. I can only hope that he feels better soon enough to get back to school.
As a protective parent, I don’t allow AJ to go back to school until I know he’s 100% healthy. Sitting on hard seats and climbing flights of stairs can be unbearable when he is going through a sickle cell crisis. Although they try their best, a teacher can’t give him undivided attention like my husband and I can at home. Plus, I know he hates experiencing pain in front of his friends.
Our family has become outspoken advocates for sickle cell disease awareness, and we encourage AJ to participate in some sickle cell events. I want him to always know that although he is 1 in 16,300 Latinos born with sickle cell disease he is not alone. There is a community of people willing to donate lifesaving blood to treat sickle cell disease and his mom is his fiercest supporter.
Originally published on redcross.org.Gary Weinstein and Betty Blessing welcomed fellow Red Cross volunteer Pam Pampe to Atlanta Saturday, as she traveled to help with Hurricane Dorian relief efforts.
Photo Credit: Thom Patterson
American Red Cross disaster relief volunteer Pam Pampe has turned her experience surviving one of America’s worst hurricanes into a mission to help others — including those who may be affected by Hurricane Dorian.
In 1992, Pampe lived in southern Florida where Hurricane Andrew, a monstrous Category 5 storm, forced nearly a quarter million people from their homes. Surviving and recovering from that storm inspired Pampe to become a Red Cross volunteer and show others that they can make it too.
“It gives me a chance to reassure them that in the long run they’re going to be fine,” Pampe said. “Stronger, more resourceful and wiser.”
Pampe is just one of more than 1,600 trained Red Cross volunteers from all over the nation who’ve been deployed to the Southeastern U.S. to help with Dorian relief efforts. The Red Cross has also pre-staged a fleet of over 100 emergency response vehicles and shipped more than 100 tractor-trailer loads full of relief supplies – including cots and blankets in preparation for the storm.
On August 30, Pampe flew from where she now lives, in Virginia, to Atlanta. On this deployment, she is hoping to drive an Emergency Response Vehicle.
Helping Pampe and dozens of other volunteers make their way through Atlanta’s busy and sprawling airport were two welcome ambassadors from the Red Cross Georgia Region — Gary Weinstein and Betty Blessing.
Blessing – who has deployed in the past as a Red Cross volunteer – also has lived in South Florida, where she faced down her share of powerful hurricanes.
“If I came off a plane by myself traveling on a Red Cross deployment, it might be a little bit overwhelming,” Blessing said. “So if they can see a friendly face who’s also with the Red Cross, I think it makes a world of difference.”
As many as 60,000 people across Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas may need emergency shelter from Hurricane Dorian and Red Cross volunteers will be there to provide it.
As Pampe put it: “My job now is to offer a smile and a handshake and ask how can I help.”
The post Red Cross Volunteer Travels to Georgia to Help with Hurricane Dorian Relief Efforts appeared first on red cross chat.
As the storm track and severity of Hurricane Dorian changes, it’s important for those in its forecasted path to stay alert to the dangers it could bring.
Pay attention to the forecast in your area, and be prepared to follow guidance from local officials. You may be ordered to evacuate with little notice. Be ready to leave, have a plan for where you will go.
Areas in the storm’s path include Florida, southeastern Georgia and the Carolinas. Impacted areas could experience life-threatening storm surge, dangerous winds and significant infrastructure damage in the coming days. This could include damage to power, water and road systems.
The window of time to prepare is rapidly closing, so don’t wait to finalize your storm preparations.
- In Florida, download the FL511 mobile app for updated road and traffic conditions on evacuation routes. You can visit floridadisaster.org for information on emergency preparedness, shelters, road closures and evacuation routes. In Georgia, visit GEMA.Georgia.gov for evacuation or storm updates. In South Carolina, download the SC Emergency Manager mobile app. In North Carolina download the ReadyNC mobile app.
- Download the FEMA app (in English or Spanish) for directions to open shelters, a customizable checklist of emergency supplies, disaster survival tips, and weather alerts from the National Weather Service.
- Visit Ready.gov for more information on what you can do ahead of this dangerous storm.
FEMA and its federal, state, local, tribal partners will continue to dedicate resources and staff until this storm is no longer a threat to our country.
Orginally published on redcross.org.Volunteer Amy Erickson donates blood in Sioux Falls, SD on February 26, 2019.
I never really understood the importance of donating blood until I was the one needing it.
In 2010, a pulmonary embolism nearly cost me my life. I recovered with the help of strong blood thinning medication, which ironically, would later threaten my life.
Those medications caused my blood to become too thin and I required a transfusion of two units of blood and one of plasma to replenish my supply.
As I lay in the Intensive Care Unit too weak to move watching someone else’s O- blood flowing into my arm, I realized what an important gift it was. Later I learned I can only receive O- blood. No other type will work.
I decided that day I would become a donor. I didn’t realize at the time what a challenge that would be.
My first attempt at donating blood was a couple years after my transfusion. It was unsuccessful because the phlebotomist could not pin down my uncooperative veins. That continued to be the outcome on many subsequent attempts so, frustrated, I stopped trying.
Then, in 2017, I became a volunteer for the Red Cross.
One of my first experiences was volunteering at a blood drive. Again, I felt a responsibility to donate blood just like that stranger had when I needed it most.
I had also learned that O- blood is always in need because it can be given to almost anyone else, no matter their blood type.
I tucked my anxiety away and signed up for a blood donation. While the phlebotomist was preparing for the donation, I told him about my other unsuccessful experiences. Undaunted, he said, “oh we’re going to get blood today.”
And he did.
Finally, I was able to give back just like that selfless blood donor did for me when I needed it most.
Kudos to the men and women trained to collect blood from donors like me because since I became a donor, only once have I been unable to donate.
I’m telling my story to encourage others to donate because you never know when you’re going to be the one on the receiving end.
As for me, I’m going to continue to donate blood because I can be certain that my donation will matter to someone.
And maybe, that someone, will become a blood donor.
In retirement, SAF volunteer Holsinger is proud to be ‘somebody who cares’ for veterans and service members
Originally published on the Red Cross Wisconsin Stories blog.Rich Holsinger preps Service to the Armed Forces materials for his activities with veterans and service members in the Madison area.
Volunteers may not always have a background in the area where they dedicate their time and talent. But they’ve all got the passion.
Rich Holsinger is a retired professional who has spent his career honing his managerial skills in regional management positions at a national retail giant and a popular coffee roaster. After his retirement, Rich began working with the American Red Cross two years ago as a lead volunteer at the William S. Middleton Memorial Veterans Hospital in Madison with the American Red Cross Service to the Armed Forces (SAF) Department.
On the surface, Rich’s volunteer work with SAF is quite a bit different than his professional background. SAF at the Red Cross proudly serves veterans, service members and their families. All the same, since taking up his volunteer leadership role, Rich has made a remarkable impact on the lives of numerous veterans and their families and caregivers.
“The volunteers don’t do a lot of talking, but we do a lot of listening. It’s interesting to hear their stories and just show them that there’s somebody who cares,”Rich said in regards to why he enjoys serving and working with his team.
Rich has created exciting weekly programming for patients including activities such as dinners with game nights, BINGO with prizes, tailgate parties, nightly performances from local music groups and sing-a-longs.
“With the different programs we’re running now, whether you’re working with a veteran or you’re working with a caregiver of a veteran, to see them relax, to see them talk about something else rather than medical … I usually get more out of it than I put into it. I find it very rewarding,” Rich said.
In two weeks, Rich is looking forward to hosting the Madison V.A.’s first picnic.
“We’re working with the V.A. to ensure that we have the right kind of food for them… the Red Cross will supply all of the food and the hospital will prepare it,” he said.
He also spoke about how some hotels in the area including Stay Bridge Suites Middleton/Madison-West have provided spaces for veterans during their time at the Madison V.A. as well as resources for events for veterans and their caregivers.
While Rich is truly enjoying his role and continuing to help the Red Cross team at the Madison V.A. grow, he didn’t have plans to volunteer for the Red Cross before his retirement and explained more about why he chose to apply as a volunteer for the Red Cross and got his start as the new lead volunteer at the Madison V.A. Medical Center.
Rich had been retired for about five months when he realized that he didn’t want to just retire and focus on himself and play golf all day, one of his favorite pastimes. With the extra time on his hands, he wanted to make a difference in his community where he could and help people in need.
He began researching volunteer organizations and found a volunteer position that was seeking “somebody to take charge and start building some programs for the veterans at the hospital in the area.”
Rich said that two people who have been monumentally helpful and amazing to work with on projects are Richard Seymour, SAF Program Director, and Michelle Matuszak, SAF Manager. Rich said Matuszak and Seymour have been instrumental in helping Rich on his volunteer journey, and he’s thankful that they gave him the freedom to “do his own thing.” The praise goes both ways.He knew that his vast experience of managing people in project and program development would be a great fit. He saw it as an exciting opportunity to do what he enjoyed and was familiar with and put his passion and talent to the test, starting with new entertainment and program development for veterans and their families and caregivers.
“We had issues with getting leadership in the Madison V.A.,” Seymour said. “Within a year Rich has started and established programs, built a volunteer team and … controls the budget we have established for the Madison V.A. I wish I could clone him 10 times!”
Originally published in Chadds Ford Live.
When I was in high school, my sister and I would run home from the bus stop, throw our books down on the kitchen table and dash into the den to watch “Dark Shadows,” a soap opera about Barnabas Collins, a tormented vampire roaming the docks of 1795 Collinsport, Maine, looking for his next victim while seeking the face of his lost love Josette, and wanting nothing more than to become mortal. So when I’d hear of people donating blood, I’d shudder, imagining it would be like being attacked by a vampire and feeling your life grotesquely draining away. And then again there were those uh…needles.
Like many of you, I give to the American Red Cross whenever there’s a national disaster like a flood, hurricane or wildfire. But I’ve never considered donating blood — oh no, not me. Even when I go to the local lab to get my blood drawn to check my A1C and cholesterol, the tech always says, “I can’t find a vein. Maybe I better try your other arm.”
And then I go home with a bruise the size of Delaware inside my elbow.
A few weeks ago, I got an email from the American Red Cross about an emergency need for blood donations, indicating there was only a three-day supply of most blood types on hand. While our nation’s blood supplies have dropped precipitously as donors go on summer vacations – trauma, surgery, cancer, leukemia or sickle cell anemia patients don’t take vacations.A Few Surprising Blood Facts
Only three percent of the population gives blood, but every two seconds someone in the United States needs it!
Blood can be safely donated every 56 days. Red blood cells have a shelf life of only 42 days.
Accidents and traumas are unpredictable, one accident victim can need many units of blood. During an emergency it’s the blood already on hospital shelves that helps save lives.
So I took a deep breath, went online and clicked a time slot at the local Red Cross Donation Center in West Chester that was less than 10 minutes from our home. It’s tucked away in a little shopping center. Inside it was calm and peaceful. About ten or more people reclined on special chairs giving blood. No one looked the least bit distressed.
Most of your appointment is spent on a mini-physical which includes pulse, blood pressure, a quick blood hemoglobin test and a health history.
To save time, the health history can be done online the day of your appointment using RapidPass®. You will be asked about certain foreign countries where you may have lived, prescription and non-prescription drugs use as well as any unsafe practices that might put your blood at risk.
If you pass the health history and hemoglobin test, it’s on to your station.
Except for the brief pinch you feel when the needle goes in, the actual collecting of blood is totally painless and takes about eight minutes. Surprisingly, I was not one bit dizzy or unsteady when I got up.
After a few minutes at the snack table enjoying some cold cranberry juice and munching on a granola bar, I walked out to my car and drove home feeling no different, except for the knowledge that my pint of O Positive, or its components, would save more than one life.
And guess what…not one bit of bruising. What pros!
Now listen up all you good, red blooded people. No one would ever consider me brave. Hey – I’m scared of Ferris Wheels. Right now the Red Cross is experiencing an emergency need for blood donations and www.redcross.org/give-blood.html desperately needs you to donate blood now. If I can do it, so can you!
The post First time Blood Donor Fights Fears to Become Lifesaving Hero appeared first on red cross chat.
WASHINGTON – During a back-to-school rally on Saturday, employees of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) headquarters distributed 224 backpacks filled with school supplies and 50 laptop totes to families living in Southeast District of Columbia (DC) Housing Authority communities as part of the USCG’s Annual St. Elizabeths Back-to-School Backpack and School Supplies Drive. Both headquarters are located within the Southeast DC community.
USCG Chaplain Jonathan Alexander, co-lead on behalf of USCG, said this year’s success was a team effort.
“I’m very thankful for the support, generosity and enthusiasm of the DHS and Coast Guard team working on St. Elizabeths Campus,” he said. “I think it is important to show that we do more than just work in these communities – we must also show we care about our neighbors.”
DHS Office of Partnership and Engagement Chief of Staff and DHS co-lead Karinda L. Washington said everyone can help ready students of underserved communities for a brighter future.
“It is crucial to ensure that children in Southeast DC have the tools they need to be successful academically,” she said. “Tomorrow’s DHS and Coast Guard leaders live here and we’re doing our part to get them started on a path to success.”
This year’s drive exceeded DHS’s goal, more than doubling the 100 backpacks filled with school supplies that were donated last year. The donation will benefit kindergarten through 5th grade students living in the Southeast DC Housing Authority communities.
(From left) Monica Watts, Shanice Brooks, Rhonda Harvell, Ronnie Friday, Justin Cartagena, Antonio Balza, Emmanuel Bonet, Karinda Washington, and Jonathan Alexander are ready for the Southeast District of Columbia Housing Authority back-to-school rally. Employees of the Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Coast Guard headquarters distributed 224 backpacks filled with school supplies and 50 laptop totes to families living in the Southeast District.
###Topics: Academic Engagement, Homeland Security Enterprise
Keywords: coast guard, community engagement, Kids, schools
Originally published on the Red Cross Northern California Coastal Region blog.Pamela Ingram (second from left) accepts her award from Debbie Yee, Senior Disaster Program Manager.
Like many empty nesters, Pamela Ingram, 58, was at a crossroads a few years ago when her son left home to attend college.
A former stay-at-home mom and mortgage underwriter, Pamela wanted to re-enter the workforce. So she joined a job skills training program and was assigned to a front desk position at the Red Cross in Fairfield, Calif.
“I really didn’t know much about the Red Cross when I started,” recalls Pamela, whose responsibilities included answering the phones and providing basic office support. “I just thought the Red Cross responded to national emergencies.”
But the more time Pamela spent volunteering, the more interested she became in local humanitarian work. “I would hear what the volunteers were doing and how they were helping people, and it really fascinated me,” says Pamela. Little by little, she decided to get more involved.
With encouragement from a co-worker, Pamela completed training to become a Red Cross caseworker and joined the Disaster Action Team (DAT).
Her first deployment was to Guerneville, California, where she spent three days interviewing flood victims. “It was cold, it was rainy, and we didn’t have a building to work out of, but it was gratifying to be able to help people who had lost everything,” she says.
During the recent California wildfires, she provided administrative support and logistical assistance from the Fairfield office to volunteers deployed to the fires.
“It gave me such a different outlook on our volunteers,” she says. “They didn’t get paid, and they didn’t complain. It was just amazing to see how hard they worked.”
Participants in the job skills training program receive new assignments every six months, but Pamela has chosen to stay at the Red Cross. She loves her position and feels invigorated by the work. “I always wanted to directly help people, and I never knew how I could do it,” she says. “Now, I feel like I can.”
In April, Pamela was recognized for her commitment to the Red Cross by being named Solano County’s 2019 Volunteer of the Year. The award was presented at the Bay Area Chapter’s annual volunteer appreciation dinner in Vallejo.
“It was such an honor,” says Pamela, who attended the event with her 22-year-old son, a student at San Francisco State. “I can truly say that since becoming a Red Cross volunteer, I am more compassionate and empathetic – a better person.”
Jeff Redfield learned about the importance of smoke alarms early on after a fire started in his childhood home. Little did he know he’d later work for an organization that combats home fires in communities every day. Jeff joined the Red Cross as a Regional Philanthropy Officer in our Ohio Buckeye Region in late 2013 and has worked in the fundraising field for over 21 years. Read on to find out how Jeff has shaped his career at the Red Cross.What made you decide to work at the Red Cross?
I wanted to work at the Red Cross because I was drawn to the mission to prevent and alleviate human suffering in the face of emergencies and hoped to work with a larger team of people who were passionate about helping others. In my role, I help us achieve that mission by working with generous financial donors who want to make a difference. I really enjoy using my professional fundraising skills to help such an important service organization.What’s your favorite thing about working with the Red Cross?
It’s a tossup between our passionate volunteers and the commitment of our donors. I have the privilege of working with people who have dedicated many years to volunteering. And donors are also in a position where they can really make a difference in other’s lives. Being able to use my years of experience as a nonprofit fundraiser so we can achieve our mission is both professionally and personally rewarding.Outside of your current role, what are some other ways that you’ve gotten involved at the Red Cross?
I have been a member of the National Red Cross Pride Resource Group for five years now. This LGBTQ+ and Ally resource group is an important aspect of the organization because it conveys to internal and external partners a sense of inclusion and acceptance within the Red Cross. It also reflects our history of a commitment to diversity and the seven founding principles of the organization. I have served as a Recording Secretary in the group for the last two years where I help with membership updates, writing meeting minutes, distributing diversity pins and tracking information.
In middle school, I remember coming home one day and seeing smoke floating out of my sister’s room. I later learned that a child who had been playing with my sister in her room threw a match into the garbage can and started a fire. Luckily, the damage was limited to my sister’s room – no one was hurt and we didn’t lose much, but it makes me think about all those families who aren’t so lucky. That’s why campaigns like the Red Cross Home Fire Campaign, created in 2014 to reduce home fire-related deaths, are so meaningful to me. As part of the campaign, I’ve installed smoke alarms with volunteers and written grants to donors that ensure there’s funding to help prevent fires throughout my region. This work is a direct connection to our mission, and it’s always been exciting to see how the campaign grows and how it helps save so many lives.
Absolutely! The Red Cross embraces people from all different backgrounds and ethnicities and celebrates those with different talents. And if you’re looking for a place to work with a direct line of service mission, the Red Cross is it.Join Us
Searching for a career where you can make a difference? Start your Red Cross job search here: https://www.redcross.org/about-us/careers.html.
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