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School Bells and Sickle Cell

Tue, 09/10/2019 - 06:59
AJ and his sisters.

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.

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Red Cross Volunteer Travels to Georgia to Help with Hurricane Dorian Relief Efforts

Thu, 09/05/2019 - 08:06

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.”

For up to date evacuation center and emergency shelter information and for Hurricane Dorian-related safety tips, visit RedCross.org or download the FREE Red Cross Emergency App.

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Personal Trauma Compels Blood Donor to Give Back

Wed, 08/28/2019 - 07:00

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.

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In retirement, SAF volunteer Holsinger is proud to be ‘somebody who cares’ for veterans and service members

Thu, 08/22/2019 - 13:30

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.

Click here for a list of veterans and active duty resources from the American Red Cross, as well as to find out ways you can help.

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!”

Find out how you can become a Service to the Armed Forces volunteer here. 

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First time Blood Donor Fights Fears to Become Lifesaving Hero

Thu, 08/22/2019 - 11:00

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.

Through August 29, 2019, Amazon is offering a $5 Amazon.com Gift Card via email to all donors that roll up a sleeve to give. Schedule your appointment to give today.

Donating Blood was Quick and Painless

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!

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Discovering an Unlikely Passion

Mon, 08/19/2019 - 09:55

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.”

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Working at the Red Cross with Regional Philanthropy Officer Jeff Redfield

Wed, 08/14/2019 - 07:20

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.

What’s one of your favorite Red Cross campaigns to work on and why?

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.

Would you encourage other people to work with us?

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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How This Blood Donor Won Tickets to See New Kids on the Block

Tue, 08/13/2019 - 08:06

Leslie Desmond has never won a sweepstakes so you can imagine her surprise when she listened to a voicemail left by the American Red Cross this summer. After her most recent blood donation, she was notified that she had won two tickets to attend the New Kids on the Block Mixtape Tour in Fort Lauderdale, Florida!

“I never win anything,” says Leslie. “When I listened to the message, my first thought was that it was one of my friends playing a joke on me.”

Why Leslie Became a Blood Donor

Leslie Desmond lost her father to cancer in November, 2018. Her love and respect for him grew in the aftermath of his passing, after she and her siblings discovered how charitable he had been. In his honor, Leslie wanted to find a way to give back as well. She had big shoes to fill, but through her research was able to confirm that blood donations help people fighting cancer.

She began quietly donating, never expecting anything in return, but was excited to have won. She and her wife Bethany made the trip to Fort Lauderdale and enjoyed two amazing days. When asked about her favorite moment from the trip, she found it hard to name just one.

“Everyone that we met was so nice; the people at the Red Cross, the hotel was great and we were able to meet the band members and they were amazing and so fun to talk with,” says Leslie. “I will continue to donate blood in memory of my father and I will never forget this trip; it was a wonderful if unexpected ‘thank you’ for something that I am honored to do.

Emergency Blood Shortage — Schedule Your Appointment Now

Right now the Red Cross is experiencing an emergency blood shortage. Like Leslie, you can schedule a blood donation appointment to help save lives by visiting RedCrossBlood.org, using the Blood Donor App or enabling the blood donor skill on any Alexa Echo device by saying, “Alexa, find a blood drive.” To speed up the donation process, you can also complete a RapidPass® online health history questionnaire at RedCrossBlood.org/RapidPass on mobile devices and through the Red Cross Blood Donor App. Come to give by August 29 and you will receive a $5 Amazon.com Gift Card via email.

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Red Cross Awarded Outstanding Employer Support Certificate from the Navy Reserve

Fri, 08/09/2019 - 06:31
Koby Langley, Senior Vice President for Service to the Armed Forces and International Services (center), accepts an Outstanding Employer Support Certificate from the Navy Reserve on behalf of the Red Cross.

In late June, the American Red Cross was honored to accept an Outstanding Employer Support Certificate from the Navy Reserve at a ceremony in San Diego, California. At the ceremony, Vice Adm. Luke M. McCollum, chief of the U.S. Navy Reserve and commander, Navy Reserve Force, honored civilian employers from across the nation for their exceptional support of America’s Navy Reserve Sailors. At the ceremony, McCollum said, “Navy Reserve Sailors are a vital part of the Navy’s Total Force, and the operational support they provide is critical to the continued success of the United States Navy. Employers [like the Red Cross] are a key element in the life of every Reserve member, and the service each Sailor provides to the Fleet is achieved in no small part due to your company’s patriotism, understanding, and support.”

Since the founding of the Red Cross in 1881, we’ve emphasized the importance of supporting members of the military, veterans and their families through intentional action. Whether before, during, or after deployment, the military community can count on us to be a dependable resource and employer. That’s why we’re proud of this recognition as an Outstanding Employer Support for the Navy Reserve. Read on to learn how we’re continuing to help service members, veterans and their families.

How the Red Cross Helps Veterans

In 2018, more than 20% of our employees in Red Cross Humanitarian Services identified as military veterans. With these numbers in mind, a new Red Cross Veterans Resource Group was established under the advisement of Michael Jordan, a military veteran and senior vice president for the Red Cross Pacific Division. We also placed a new emphasis on identifying and educating the Veteran and Service Disabled-Owned Business community about employment opportunities with the Red Cross.

Hillary Sandy is a longtime Service to the Armed Forces volunteer who works with military families. Serving Military Families

Last year, we provided employee training certifications to more than 300 military spouses who care for wounded, ill, and injured service members. Our 14,700 volunteers also logged 1.4 million hours of service to support US military members. These actions are deeply rooted in our history of serving members of the armed forces, a legacy that began with our founder, Clara Barton.

A historic portrait of Clara Barton. A Resource Before, During and After Military Service

With Clara’s legacy as our foundation, we strive to help members of the military, veterans and their families prepare for, cope with, and respond to the challenges of military service. Before deployment, we offer information referrals that can help connect members of the military and their families to organizations that can support them and meet their unique needs. During deployment, we help families contact their loved ones serving overseas during an emergency. Our Hero Care App, in particular, provided 325,000 emergency communication services to more than 88,000 members of the military and their families last year alone. Mind-Body Workshops, along with our coping and deployment courses, also help veterans and their families post-deployment. We’re here to help every step of the way, 24/7.

How You Can Help

To learn more about our Service to the Armed Forces Division and how you can help support military families, visit redcross.org.

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One Year after the Lombok Earthquakes: Sydney Reflects on Her Deployment

Wed, 08/07/2019 - 07:12
Baiq and 17-month-old Abizar live in Northern Lombok. Baiq shared with me “I wish for my son to always be healthy and to give back to his neighbors.” The Indonesian Red Cross provided rice and diapers for little Abizar.

Last year, Sydney Morton deployed to Lombok, Indonesia, after a series of devastating earthquakes struck the area. This week, we spoke with Sydney to hear how her perspective has changed a year later. Read on to learn how this deployment has made a lasting impact in her life.

What did you do in Lombok with the Red Cross?

I deployed from Washington, D.C. to Lombok, Indonesia, in September 2018 as a trained international disaster responder with the American Red Cross. My job was to lead communications for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC). I helped tell the story of how communities were being impacted by earthquakes and aftershocks, and how the Indonesian Red Cross (locally known as Palang Merah Indonesia) was responding around the clock.

Looking back a year later, what has affected you the most?

One year later, there are many people, smiles, sounds and moments that remain close to my heart. To name a few: the smiling faces of grade schoolers playing and laughing when their school reopened; communities singing songs about “gempa” safety (gempa means earthquake in the local language); and the sound of hammers swinging in the sunrise as determined families started to rebuild.

What sticks out most and has forever changed me, is the spirit of the community. In many villages, residents came together to rebuild cornerstones of the community, like mosques and schools. Neighbors contributed supplies and long days of effort to restore these important communal spaces even before rebuilding their own homes.

Residents embodied strength and determination. One local entrepreneur I met, Fauziah, lost her shop in the earthquakes. Her family moved to a temporary shelter in the neighboring peanut fields. And yet, Fauziah restarted her business selling snacks. She said with resolve, “I will provide for my family no matter what.”

Children in Lombok experienced five major earthquakes and more than 1,500 aftershocks. Through games and songs, Red Cross volunteers taught these children to take cover, listen to directions and early warning signals, and stay calm during earthquakes What was the scariest thing you experienced? Did it change your views on the strength of the people living there?

Three days after arriving, I experienced my first major tremor. The ground started shaking below me at the Red Cross office in the bustling city of Mataram. Although my memory of running outside is blurry and dizzying, I will never forget that morning.

Traffic halted as the streets flooded with people. Teachers consoled children who fled nearby classrooms in their uniforms. Voices called out in search of friends, colleagues and loved ones. Others looked on in silence and shock.

I saw exhaustion in the eyes of residents that morning. The power shut off and phone lines were down. Community members had already experienced multiple devastating earthquakes, unfathomable damage to their homes and businesses, and hundreds of aftershocks.

When the ground settled and it was safe, I witnessed a local business owner, Suliko, tidying up her coffee cart. She boiled water and opened back up for business. Suliko’s presence and resilience seemed to bring a sense of peace and normalcy to the community around us. In awe of her, I asked how she was doing. Suliko replied, “We are tired, but have to stay strong.”

Ifa (right) and Lina (left) call Central Lombok home. They decided to join their local Community Based Action team after the earthquakes. “We want to be prepared and mobilize our community,” explained Ifa. What was the most impactful thing you witnessed?

Indonesian Red Cross volunteers put on their uniforms every day for weeks on end and truly gave their all.

These volunteers are parents, students, local professionals and community members like you and me. Many are from Lombok and were personally affected by the earthquakes. In some cases, they lost homes, livelihoods and loved ones. The situation was extremely dynamic and daunting as tremors continued for weeks.

And yet, people like Ifa bravely raised their hands to help. She trained in disaster preparedness for the first time and signed up to lead her community through this challenging time. People like Warjo drove from dawn until dusk delivering badly-needed wheelchairs to the farthest-reaching communities. I watched relief wash over the faces of community members when Warjo embraced them with warmth.

The compassion, care and commitment that local volunteers embodied made the greatest impact of all.

Indonesian Red Cross delivered wheelchairs to provide mobility – and hope to Lombok earthquake survivors.

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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.

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