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My Daughter’s Need for Emergency Blood Products Inspired me to Help

Fri, 07/19/2019 - 05:45

After serving people in need every day as a firefighter for 35 years, I wasn’t accustomed to receiving help. So, I couldn’t be more grateful to the blood donors that selflessly gave their time to ensure blood was available for my daughter Hannah, when she was diagnosed with leukemia at 24 weeks pregnant.

Hannah had gone to the doctor with cold symptoms and a fever but was told that she had cancer. My wife and I rushed to the hospital where we found her sitting up in bed, talking to her sister and an ICU nurse. We were so relieved, but things quickly changed in the middle of the night. Doctors called and advised us to get back to the hospital immediately. Once we arrived, we were told Hannah’s death was imminent. Doctors urged us to contact nearby family and friends to allow them the opportunity to spend the next few hours saying goodbye. Hannah had quickly begun to exhibit symptoms of acute disseminated intravascular coagulation, which means her blood was not clotting, as a result she suddenly began bleeding throughout her entire body. For the next three weeks Hannah remained in ICU in a comatose state attached to a ventilator, receiving dialysis and blood transfusions 24 hours a day. Based on the bleak prognosis, we didn’t know if she would survive, but remained hopeful. As the days went on, my wife and I never left Hannah’s bedside; we prayed, talked to her and rubbed her baby bump, anything to encourage her to survive.

Donated Blood Helped My Daughter to Keep Fighting

We knew the transfusions were working because Hannah and the baby were still alive, but she remained pale and in a coma. Against all odds she began to show signs of improvement. Doctors even confirmed our unborn grandchild was thriving. The baby was delivered at 34 weeks. Hannah’s eyesight had become impaired due to the excessive bleeding throughout her body, so her love at first sight reaction was delayed until a week after Jenson was born. In all Hannah received 40 units of donated blood and 38 units of donated platelets. Today, we have our daughter and grandson thanks to the generosity of blood donors. Without them the hospital couldn’t have provided the lifesaving blood they needed, and we wouldn’t know the joys of spoiling our first grandchild.

My wife and I became regular blood donors after witnessing Hannah receive five gallons of blood. We now understand the importance of hospitals having blood available when patients need it. When you donate you’re saving people’s lives. It’s amazing how many people need blood and there’s nothing else like it – no alternative or synthetic property that can take its place.

A Badged Community that Works Together

In addition to donating blood I’ve also started working with local firefighters and police officers to organize and host blood drives in Hannah’s name. The first was held this past winter and the rest have been staggered to coincide with winter and summer months when shortages occur most frequently. It’s been extremely rewarding. I urge you all to seek ways to host your own blood drive or simply find a location to donate blood. Hannah’s strength and courage throughout her battle with cancer inspired me to help further. So, one day I started attending local Red Cross meetings. I became so active that members voted me Board President. Now I have the honor and privilege of meeting donors face to face and learning about their incredible blood donation milestones. I greet each with a smile, confident that I will reach the same milestones one day.

Tips for Hosting a Blood Drive in Your Community

Hosting a blood drive with the Red Cross is easy, they provide a wealth of resources, so your drive is executed without a glitch. You find the location, volunteers and rally donors while Red Cross provides planning assistance, recruitment tools, day of equipment, supplies and trained staff. For more details on how to host a blood drive click here.

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Donating Blood with Tattoos: Can I Really Do Both?

Wed, 07/17/2019 - 05:45

Back in 2011, I got my first tattoo. A small piece on the outside of my right ankle that represents my relationship with my anxiety disorder, the love that I have for my late grandfather and a daily reminder to never quit. Fast forward eight years, and my love of tattoos has not waned in the slightest. I now have nearly 20 tattoos ranging from a large flying lemur to a small piece of pizza.

My tattoos are a visible reflection of who I am to the outside world, however what people can’t see is that I am also a committed blood donor. It’s difficult to work for an organization like the American Red Cross and not want to roll up your sleeves and help save lives. Luckily for me, my tattoo habit doesn’t keep me from donating blood.

Many people don’t know that you can still donate blood after you get a tattoo if the tattoo was applied by a state-regulated entity using sterile needles and ink that is not reused.

In fact, I got a tattoo last year in Washington State, where tattoo shops are regulated, so I was eligible to donate blood. After getting inked, I went to a blood donation center to give for the first time.

I was excited to tell my family and friends that I finally donated blood. However, I received a few surprising responses.

“You can’t donate blood. You have tattoos.”

“You just got a tattoo a few months ago, can you donate blood after that?”

Even after I explained the rules associated with having tattoos and donating blood, some people refused to believe me.

After experiencing those interactions, I decided that I wanted to do something to help de-stigmatize people with tattoos donating blood. So, I scheduled an appointment to get a new tattoo in Virginia, another state with regulated tattoo shops, and then scheduled another blood donation appointment a few days later.

I prepared for my tattoo the same way I did with all my previous tattoo appointments. I made sure to eat a big breakfast, grabbed some hard candies to snack on during the appointment and arrived promptly on time to meet with my artist, Troy. He showed me the design, prepped and placed the stencils, and then got started.

I planned to ask Troy questions about tattoos and donating blood but became too distracted by the pain to chat. However, based on conversations with previous artists, donating blood isn’t a topic that often comes up during appointments or consultations.

A few hours later I left the tattoo shop with some fresh ink, it’s literally the bees knees, and a smile on my face.

Fast forward five days and I made my way to my blood donation appointment.

The appointment started just like any other. I checked in, filled out my RapidPass® and waited to get taken back to an examination room.

Once in the room, my phlebotomist went through my health survey with me.  My fresh tattoo did come up, but once she confirmed that the tattoo shop I visited was regulated, she took me back and my donation went off without a hitch.

Tattoos are a great form of self and artistic-expression and donating blood is a great way to give back to your community and help save lives. Lucky for me and my fellow tattoo enthusiasts, there is little keeping us from doing both.

Make a Difference

Schedule a blood donation appointment to help save lives by visiting RedCrossBlood.org, using the Blood Donor App or Amazon’s Alexa by saying, “Alexa, find a blood drive.” To speed up the donation process like I did, complete a RapidPass® online health history questionnaire at RedCrossBlood.org/RapidPass on mobile devices and through the Red Cross Blood Donor App.

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#MissingTypes: Helping Patients in Need

Mon, 07/01/2019 - 05:30

Did you know only three out of 100 people in the U.S. give blood? Yet each day, kids battling cancer, accident victims being raced into emergency rooms, and new moms with complicated childbirths, need lifesaving blood transfusions.

That’s why we launched the Missing Types campaign this June to raise awareness about how new blood donors and existing blood donors, can help save lives.

 

Helping Fill in the #MissingTypes

Between June 11 and June 30, corporate and civic brands, celebrities, and influencers removed letters A, B and O – the main blood groups – from signage, websites and social media platforms to illustrate the critical role blood donors play in helping patients.

Lead partners who joined the campaign to help raise awareness for the need for new blood donors included: Ace Hardware, Adobe, Amazon, AVANGRID, Boise Paper, CarMax, The Clorox Company, The Coca-Cola Company, Domino’s, Facebook, Google, Herbalife Nutrition, IBM®, Land O’Lakes, Inc., Mall of America®, Nationwide®, OnStar, Oreo, PayPal, Salesforce, State Farm®, Suburban Propane, Sunoco, U.S. Bank, Zaxby’s Franchising LLC and Zebra Technologies Corporation.

For those who have never donated before, or who haven’t rolled up a sleeve in a few years, our message is clear: You are the missing type. And patients need you.

 

The Need for Blood is Constant

We urge those who have never donated blood or platelets, as well as current donors, to make a donation appointment now and help sustain a sufficient blood supply this summer. Those who come to give blood, platelets or AB Elite plasma July 1-6, 2019, will receive a Red Cross T-shirt, while supplies last, and automatically be entered for a chance to win a trip to Cedar Point or Knott’s Berry Farm.*

Don’t wait until blood types go missing from the hospital shelves. Make an appointment to give blood by visiting RedCrossBlood.org, using the free Red Cross Blood Donor App ,calling 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767) or opening the Red Cross Blood skill on an Alexa-enabled device with a selection of prompts such as, “Alexa, open Red Cross Blood Skill” and ask, for example, “Alexa, find a blood drive.”

In most states, individuals who are 17 years of age (16 with parental consent where allowed by state law), weigh at least 110 pounds and are in generally good health may be eligible to donate blood. High school students and other donors 18 years of age and younger also have to meet certain height and weight requirements.

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Meet Eric Williams: Red Crosser and Pride Advocate

Fri, 06/28/2019 - 11:06

 

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 Eric Williams who helps manage logistics and our emergency response vehicles during disasters. He also serves as a Co-Chair for the American Red Cross Pride Team Resource Group. Here is a conversation we had with him around Pride Month and the importance of diversity and representation.

Why is Pride Month important to you?

Pride Month is important for me because it always denotes the past, but for me it’s more of a driver of where I would like the LGBTQ+ community to go. I see Pride Month as a catalyst to embolden the community to see what progress has been made and realize how much further we must go to obtain equality. It also helps us realize that achieving such a measure will require collaboration with other entities that seek to be treated appropriately as well. I believe Pride Month signifies awareness, togetherness and action. Nothing worthwhile can truly be achieved alone, you must hold the hands of your brothers and sisters, tell your story and request their assistance, but also offer your assistance to their cause as well. Compassion for the plight of others will help you understand another person’s emotions and feelings and perhaps help you achieve your goal through unique and progressive measures.

What drew you to the Red Cross?

The Red Cross was my second position out of college and a great opportunity. I saw it as a place where I could serve the diverse communities of the United States and grow as a humanitarian, individual and professional.

What is one of your favorite Red Cross moments?

During 2011, the Joplin, Missouri, tornadoes disaster operation was the largest operation I had the opportunity to support on site. One night I went to a Walmart to get a special brand of toothpaste my dentist makes me use, and I met a woman in line whose name I don’t recall, but I remember that she looked stressed. I inquired if she was alright. And we started to discuss how the tornado had affected her and her boyfriend and how they were coping and dealing with their road to recovery. After hearing her story, I told her why I was in town and where she could go to get support. She told me she already knew and planned to go when they had time. Even though she was clearly affected in her current state of events, she took the moment to truly smile and to thank the Red Cross and me for coming to support her community. I remember thinking, you don’t have to thank me. Knowing that I can impact people’s lives in a positive manner is why I do this and that is more than enough.

What is the Red Cross Pride Resource Group and how does it help Red Cross staff and volunteers?

In addition to my paid position, I volunteer on the Pride Resource Steering Committee as a Co-Chair. As a steering committee member, I help to foster a supportive environment for the LGBTQ+ community, but more importantly, a place where all people should feel welcome. We do this through presenting programs and opportunities to engage and understand the issues facing the LGBTQ+ populous and show how the Red Cross can be a part of the solution. We strive to help the Red Cross understand the unique issues facing the LGBTQ+ community and how we can work within the organization’s principles to ensure that the Red Cross community is a comfortable place for all people.

What does giving back mean to you?

I think of giving back as a compassionate spark of action (whether through money, time or knowledge) that is meant to help a community reach a goal that can move them to new heights.

What’s one piece of advice you’d give your 20-year-old self?

Be bold, take more risks and try to have fun. It’s not that serious – well it is, but take it in small doses. In fact this is actually what I’m telling myself now.

What would you tell someone who is interested in working or volunteering with the Red Cross?

Come ready to learn and practice what you’ve learned. Always have feedback. The Red Cross is a place that is continually growing and changing for the better, and we need people like you to make that change happen.

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I am Alive because of Donated Blood

Thu, 06/27/2019 - 06:11

Originally published on redcross.org

June 11, marked the start of the second annual Red Cross Missing Types Campaign – to get the word out about the need for life-saving blood. The best way to participate in this movement is to donate blood. But I am not eligible to donate—so my plan is to help by urging at least three compassionate people to give blood on my behalf.  I know I can do it. You see a few years ago, when my fiancé, Justin, was still my boyfriend and I was actively undergoing treatment for Hodgkin’s Disease, I was able to convince him and five of my friends to roll up their sleeves. I remember it vividly because around that same time, Justin was talking about getting engaged. But I had a strict rule on that: no ring, no official engagement until I was in remission.

I was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma on April 28, 2015—exactly ten days before the commencement ceremony for my Master’s in Public Administration from the University of Georgia. Unknowingly, I had been exhibiting symptoms for a few months—but finally made an appointment with the University Health Center after I noticed lumps around my neck. That entire next month was filled with tests and procedures. Then, it was official. I had cancer.

Almost immediately everything started piling up. How would I finish my finals? Would I still graduate? It was overwhelming, stressful and scary.

My professors were great and worked with me to make sure I finished my exams. Then, my medical team and I got ready to begin chemo. Before graduation, a chemo-port was put into my chest – complete with a catheter to a central line that went into my neck.  In fact, the bandage over the catheter was quite visible in most of my graduation photos. One week after receiving my diploma, my treatments began.

Here’s the thing with chemo: it makes your red blood cell count go way down. So, because of my chemo treatments, I needed blood transfusions. A lot of them.

I also went through two stem cell transplants and you guessed it—I needed blood transfusions and platelets for those procedures, as well. During certain types of cancer treatments, like many of mine, your immune system just gets so low that doctors have to feed you with healthy red blood cells and platelets – until it starts to bounce back.

I don’t even know how many units of blood I’ve received—but I know all of that blood came from selfless individuals who made the decision to make an appointment and donate.

During the evening of February 8, 2019, Justin and I got the good news: my cancer was in remission! The very next day (and unbeknownst to me) Justin told his boss he had something to do, left work early, and went to the jewelry store. That evening, as soon as he walked through our front door, he got down on one knee and proposed. And you guessed it—I said yes!

I still have bouts when my red blood cell count gets low. When that happens, those times when I feel more than tired, when I feel like my blood is tired, I go in for another blood transfusion.  Just last month, I received two units of blood. That procedure alone took about four hours; but during those four hours I counted my blessings because I know how much better life feels after I am replenished with healthy blood from kindhearted donors.

So, I think it’s safe to say that my successful battle with cancer depended upon complete strangers and their donated blood. For this, I am grateful! Sometimes I hear stories from friends about people who are scared of needles or afraid to donate blood. I wish I could stand face-to-face with those people and tell them there is nothing scary about saving a life—a life like mine.

To join the #MissingTypes movement and help people like Stephenie overcome life-threatening medical conditions, please visit RedCrossBlood.org and schedule an appointment to donate blood.

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Blood Donations Helped Me Survive Home and Sickle Cell Crises

Wed, 06/19/2019 - 05:30

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.

A Lifetime Battle

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.

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An Honest Contribution: How One Moment Sparked a Life of Service for Troy Miles

Tue, 06/18/2019 - 10:44

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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This Cincinnati Community Uses Swimming Lessons to Confront Statistics

Fri, 06/14/2019 - 15:19

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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 A Family Shares the Emotional Journey of a Postponed Open-Heart Surgery

Fri, 06/14/2019 - 05:45

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.

Jacqueline shares her story on TODAY Show with Savannah Guthrie and Jenna Bush Hager.

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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Why a Retired Army Reserve Colonel Became a Red Cross Volunteer

Wed, 06/12/2019 - 08:36
Clara (right) at the Armed Forces Bowl with another Red Cross volunteer.

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.

10 Years After Surviving Cardiac Arrest: Jessie and Bradley’s Story

Mon, 06/10/2019 - 11:18
Jessie, Bradley and their daughter Sylvana, 2019.

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.

After the Storm: One Aid Worker’s Month in Mozambique

Thu, 06/06/2019 - 08:46

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.

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CPR & AED Awareness Week: Q&A with Dr. Markenson

Wed, 06/05/2019 - 07:09

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.

Okay, but it’s still scary. Can’t I just call 9-1-1?    

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.

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Celebrating Pride Month: Meet Leah Foxhill 

Tue, 06/04/2019 - 06:00

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.

What does giving back mean to you?

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.

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Having a Plan Helped My Family Stay Safe during the Dayton Tornado

Wed, 05/29/2019 - 07:56

In that glorious window of time between putting the kids to bed and succumbing to sleep myself, I had planned to do the dishes. After I placed the baby in his crib, my husband came in from hauling mulch bags to report that a tornado watch alert had popped up on his phone.

We turned on the news to check and didn’t turn it off for the next four hours. We watched the radar as tornadoes formed. We heard meteorologists reporting with increasing urgency. And as we looked at our sweet kids sleeping via their video monitors, we wrestled with a decision no parent wants to face: when to grab the kids and head to our safe spot.

The final tornado warning came through just before midnight – a second possible tornado was forming behind the one that had already caused major destruction in Trotwood and Beavercreek. This new one had a potential southbound track.

We kept watching carefully, mindlessly repeating “Oh my gosh,” (as one does in unbelievable situations), trying to figure out what landmarks might be in the path.

While I normally stick to a quiet, dark room for nighttime feedings, last night I nursed the baby next to a glowing TV, obsessively refreshing Twitter and fielding new alerts on my Red Cross Emergency App. Thankfully, the last tornado-warned cell stayed north of us. I breathed a sigh of relief as my 6-month-old baby slept soundly on my chest with a full tummy, oblivious to the destruction we narrowly avoided.

There are three main things I have in place to stay safe and informed in emergency situations like this that I highly recommend other families put together. Luckily, the threat never got close enough to wake everyone and get in the bathtub, but we were ready.

Find a Way to Get Real-time Information

We don’t have cable, but when we cut the cord we decided to install an antenna to get local news stations. We really only turn it on if I wake up before the kids and can watch the TODAY show (it’s the little things, folks!), and for emergency weather situations. I would have been beside myself last night had we not been able to watch local meteorologists tracking tornado paths, which helped us make smart, informed decisions for our family.

I have our location saved in the Red Cross Emergency App, which sends out real-time alerts for a long list of possible disasters. I also have alerts saved for my family members, which came in handy last night as the storms headed straight to my sister’s town.

Additionally, I can check this app for other ideas about what preparedness items to collect, where to go and how to stay safe when my brain is in overdrive during an emergency.

Have an Easy Action Plan

When we first moved into our single-story ranch home, we had to figure out our safe spot. Typically, it’s the most interior room on the lowest level of your home. We don’t have a basement, so we identified our master bathroom tub as the most interior spot in the house to shelter from a tornado. Last night we slipped on our tennis shoes (in case we had to walk through debris) and grabbed our bike helmets from the garage. The baby’s car seat was even moved to the bathroom in lieu of a helmet, and I found myself wishing I too had a five-point harness contraption for protection. We had pillows ready to cover our heads, and even a whistle in the room in case we needed to lead rescuers to our location.

My husband and I both know our safe spot, we know what items to grab (shoes, helmets, pillows, etc.) and even assigned ourselves each a kid to grab so we are on the same page and can act quickly.

Stock Emergency Supplies and Water

This morning we learned we’re under a boil advisory and there’s an urgent need to conserve water, since the water plants are out of power. We already have gallons of water with spigots tucked in the corners of our garage, so I hauled one out for dishes, drinking and hand-washing. Thank goodness we already had them bought and stored – dragging a 3-year-old and a baby to the grocery store during a community-wide run for water would not be fun.

I also make sure to keep a rotating stock of dry goods that we can eat in case we lose electricity or water, and a host of other useful items like lanterns, a hand-crank radio and even cash for emergencies. I’m a big list maker, so luckily the Red Cross has already compiled some great ideas of what to have on hand for emergencies.

Dealing with the Aftermath

Today I’m left with a sink full of dirty dishes, unable to use our water safely. If a boil advisory is all we are left with, and our friends and family members have checked in safe, I’m grateful. Many folks in our community are dealing with a long road of recovery, so I’m keeping my eye out for official accounts and established, reputable organizations to donate to and lend a hand to my neighbors.

(By the way, if you are wondering how you can prepare your own family, the American Red Cross has some awesome ideas to get started).

The post Having a Plan Helped My Family Stay Safe during the Dayton Tornado appeared first on red cross chat.

Asian Pacific American Heritage Month: Meet Michelle Peterson

Tue, 05/28/2019 - 08:43

This Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, we’re highlighting men and women who play an important role in helping the American Red Cross fulfill its humanitarian mission every day. This week, we’d like to feature Michelle Peterson, a dedicated volunteer who serves on the communications team in our San Diego Region. Here is a conversation we had with her around Asian Pacific American Heritage Month and the importance of giving back.

Why is your Asian or Pacific American heritage important to you?

It is important to know where we’ve been and the struggles our ancestors had before us. I think this helps shape who we are.

How and why did you get involved with the Red Cross?

I was on a San Diego State University alumni panel with a Red Cross staff member who ended up recruiting me to volunteer with the communications team. Because of that networking opportunity, I’ve been able to work on an array of different projects and events.

What does it mean for you to give back?

I think giving back is important because it gives hope to those in need. By helping others when they are in need, it shows that they aren’t alone.

What is one thing you’d tell your 20-year old self?

Don’t be afraid to get involved and follow your dreams! Do little things that will take you to what you want to do.

How would you encourage others to get involved with the Red Cross or in their communities?

Reach out to current volunteers to learn their Red Cross story. There’s a lot of volunteer opportunities that fit a wide variety of interests. Find something that interests you or something that you’d like to learn more about.

What is your proudest life or Red Cross achievement?

Getting the 2017 Rookie of the Year for the communications team would be my proudest Red Cross achievement. So far, I’ve really enjoyed meeting and working with Red Cross staff and volunteers while fulfilling the Red Cross mission and sharing the Red Cross story.

Become a Volunteer

You can learn how to become a volunteer like Michelle by visiting redcross.org.

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Asian Pacific American Heritage Month: Meet Cliff Hu

Tue, 05/21/2019 - 14:23

This Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, we’re highlighting men and women who play an important role in helping the American Red Cross fulfill its humanitarian mission every day. This week, we’d like to feature Cliff Hu, a dedicated Red Cross volunteer who works in our San Diego Region. Here is a conversation we had with him around Asian Pacific American Heritage Month and the importance of giving back.

Why is your Asian or Pacific American heritage important to you?

Though, I’m fourth generation American, my ancestors braved thousands of miles in Polynesian canoes to make a new home in Hawaii. I’m proud knowing this is part of my heritage.

How and why did you get involved with the Red Cross?

In 2003, during the Cedar Fire, my family evacuated to a Red Cross shelter. Though our stay was short, the Red Cross made a positive impression on me. At that point, I knew someday I wanted to join the Red Cross.

What does it mean for you to give back? 

This means a lot to me. It is my personal ethos to help others quietly.

What is one thing you’d tell your 20-year old self?

Be patient and kind, and don’t expect others to do the same.

How would you encourage others to get involved with the Red Cross or in their communities?

When people ask me what I do in my retirement, I tell them about the Red Cross. I tell them how grateful I am to work with so many smart, courageous and caring Red Cross people. I tell them they should volunteer and get involved; and not just say, “Maybe someday.”

What is your proudest life or Red Cross achievement?

I’m most proud of the fact that I’ve been a Red Cross volunteer for 15 years. I’ve helped the Red Cross organization during the down times and have been there to celebrate the up times with my Red Cross family. Helping to move RC View, a portal that’s used across the organization to collect information during disasters, forward is an achievement that I am especially happy about.

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Celebrating 138 Years of Service

Tue, 05/21/2019 - 10:02

On May 21, 1881, Clara Barton founded the American Red Cross. Since that day, we’ve worked to embody Clara’s passion and dedication for helping people in their darkest hour in everything we do as an organization.

Those of us who have the privilege of carrying on her legacy 138 years later are still inspired by her trailblazing efforts, particularly for a woman during that time period. Clara began teaching school when most teachers were men and was among the first women to be employed by the federal government.

My favorite quote of hers, which I framed and hung in my office, reads: “I defy the tyranny of precedent. I go for anything new that will improve the past.”

The American Red Cross draws from her spirit of innovation to improve how we deliver our mission in communities every day. Today we use a GPS system and drones to assess damage after disasters; the electronic transfer of funds allows us to quickly get money in the hands of people using their mobile phones following a disaster; we are installing solar panels in Puerto Rico to prevent power outages in future hurricanes; a Bot, appropriately named Clara, answers questions about your eligibility to donate blood; and you can ask Amazon’s Alexa to schedule a blood donation, learn CPR, donate funds or receive emergency weather alerts.  And just as Clara provided support to soldiers on the battlefield during the Civil War, we continue to aid our men and women in uniform – only now they can access Red Cross services through our Hero Care App.

Thanks to the generosity of the American public and the dedication of hundreds of thousands of remarkable volunteers, the Red Cross continues Clara’s legacy in ways she could never have envisioned, but we believe would make her proud.

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When Emergencies Call, the Red Cross Answers

Fri, 05/17/2019 - 12:05

By Heather Fay, American Red Cross, Services to the Armed Forces – Outreach and Education

As a military spouse of over 20 years, I liked to think I had always been aware of the American Red Cross and the services it offers military families. Over my husband’s Navy career, we were fortunate to never need to file an emergency message, so the Red Cross existed in the periphery of my military world among the other services available to military families.

When my husband became a ship commander and I felt a sense of responsibility to the families of the crew, or our ‘ship family,’ Red Cross support was something that moved a little closer to the forefront of my consciousness. More than one of our families needed to use messaging services and many (including my own) began working toward natural disaster preparedness with the help of Red Cross staff and volunteers. It wasn’t until our third overseas tour, to Yokosuka, Japan, that it became clear to me how much Red Cross services are needed when the unexpected happens.

First, we used Red Cross support to develop a preparedness brief for possible events on and around our base in Japan. For example, we practiced a family evacuation in the event any credible threats from a North Korea missile strike.

However, Japan in 2017 brought more than threats of missile strikes when our military community woke one morning to the news that one of our ships had been involved in a collision at sea with a commercial vessel. Immediately, the base community sprang into action to take care of whatever our military families needed. Red Cross employees and volunteers alike were there distributing information, helping the emergency response center field endless calls from the States and doing countless other things to serve our people. Those intense first hours and days led to a summer where the community banded together to support those who needed it, however they needed it. Service to one another was part of our new reality.

When my family returned to the United States in late 2017, memories of the summer were still fresh. Armed with experience and a recently earned Master of Public Health, I began to search for employment. After a short time, a position with Service to the Armed Forces (SAF) in Outreach and Education announced itself on LinkedIn and the decision to apply was an incredibly easy one. The recent service to my military community had opened my eyes to the need for increased awareness of what all Red Cross lines of service have to offer the military community. Being personally prepared for a natural disasteror security emergency meant it was easier to predict what others might need in moments of danger, tragedy and loss. Once officially on the Red Cross SAF team, I began promoting not just emergency messaging, but preparedness and our resiliency programs as well. That summer in Japan, I learned building a resiliency tool kit is deeply important to the well-being of a military community – even one as small as a single military family. Spreading the word of what the Red Cross SAF has offered to our military and their families is the single most satisfying thing I have experienced in my time as a Red Crosser.

 

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Asian Pacific American Heritage Month: Meet Angela Zeng

Tue, 05/14/2019 - 14:20

This Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, we’re highlighting men and women who play an important role in helping the American Red Cross fulfill its humanitarian mission every day. This week, we’d like to feature Angela Zeng, a dedicated Red Cross volunteer and member of our National Youth Council. Here is a conversation we had with her around Asian Pacific American Heritage Month and the importance of giving back.

Why is your Asian Pacific American heritage important to you?

My Asian heritage is a constant reminder of the sacrifices my immigrant parents made to build a life here. To me, my Chinese heritage means understanding Chinese culture and traditions and preserving the values that have shaped me into who I am.

Why do you believe Asian Pacific American Heritage Month is important?

Asian Pacific American Heritage Month is a reminder to our country of the history and challenges faced by Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. It is a celebration of their contributions to society and an opportunity for people to learn about their culture and communities.

How and why did you get involved with the Red Cross?

I joined my high school’s Red Cross Club in order to volunteer at blood drives. From there, I found my passion to serve my community not only through organizing blood drives, but by teaching disaster preparedness, fundraising for disaster relief, installing smoke alarms and helping in any way I could. As I got more involved with my Red Cross chapter, I grew to appreciate the leadership development opportunities the Red Cross offered and was inspired to guide other youth to become service-oriented leaders in our community. I am now a member of the National Youth Council, continuing to advocate for youth volunteers and promote youth involvement in the Red Cross.

What is one thing you’d tell your 20-year old self?

Giving back to the community means doing what I can with my time, ability and resources to improve the lives of people around me. In whichever way I am serving, knowing that I am allowing someone to be happier, healthier or more prepared for the future makes my heart full. Reflecting on everything I’ve been blessed with in my life motivates me to continue serving the needs of others with a cheerful attitude.

How would you encourage others to get involved with the Red Cross or in their communities?

If you are a high school student, I would encourage you to join the Red Cross Club at your school. Otherwise, contact your local Red Cross region to find out about various volunteer opportunities. There are so many ways you can serve your community if you are willing to seek them out. From volunteering at a veterans hospital to writing thank you cards to blood donors, there is always a need that you can fulfill. Volunteering in your community is one of the most rewarding things you can do with your time – go out and don’t be afraid to try something new!

What is your proudest life or Red Cross achievement?

I never would have imagined myself as a leader in any sort of capacity. But volunteering with the Red Cross opened me up to connecting with others and gave me a passion to contribute to society by putting my ideas into action. My journey from being a Red Cross Club member to president, to Youth Council chair, to National Youth Council member was unforeseen and it is something I am both humbled by and exceedingly thankful for. The creative, passionate and hardworking individuals I work with on the National Youth Council are some of the most driven and inspiring people I’ve met, and being able to strive toward new accomplishments with them is my proudest achievement.

Become a Volunteer

You can learn how to become a volunteer like Angela by visiting redcross.org.

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