Tuesday, August 23, 2016

My Red Cross VolunTeens Story: Valerie Myers and Annabel Lee

Written by: Valerie Myers and Annabel Lee, VolunTeens

This summer at the Walter Reed National Military Center in Bethesda, MD more than 50 high school students participated in the American Red Cross VolunTeen Program. The students received hands-on experience to learn what it’s like to be in a hospital setting and work in a Military Treatment Facility by engaging with patients, soldiers and other Red Cross volunteers. The competitive application process for the program began in the spring when high school students submitted a teacher’s recommendation and essays regarding their interest in the medical field, challenges they have faced in the past and relevant volunteering experiences. Just over 50 students were chosen to participate in the six week program that included a new educational component each week, called Medical Awareness for Teens. 

Students were assigned to departments such as Audiology, Dermatology, Hematology, Psychiatry and Pediatrics. Besides answering phone calls and organizing files for the staff, the students supported doctors, nurses and technicians, and even observed medical procedures and processes depending on their department. Some students were also assigned to the Red Cross office, where they helped other Red Cross volunteers deliver coffee, snacks and toys for the patients and families receiving care at Walter Reed.

“I’ve really liked it so far,” said Alyssa Yu, teen volunteer in the Pediatric Hematology/Oncology department. “I think it’s a really cool experience. It’s different from other things that I would otherwise do because of my age. Before coming here, I wasn’t that into the medical field. To be honest, I thought it was cool instead of doing camp counseling or something, but now that I’m here, especially with Medical Awareness for Teens, I’m actually a lot more interested in it. Surgery seems really fun … And I really like the new research that they [the doctors] are showing.”

With the help of some amazing staff at Walter Reed, the Red Cross was able to include an educational component called Medical Awareness for Teens (M.A.T). The educational events created opportunities to learn in an interactive way and take a closer look at a few departments within the Military Treatment Facility.

The MAT Program was divided into five parts over the summer: Common Medical Diagnosis, Amputee Clinic, Radiation Oncology/Radiology, Simulation Center, and Occupational Therapy. In these briefings students had the opportunity to hold plasticized body parts while learning about common medical diagnoses and even got to touch a real brain! They were able to operate the CAREN system, an immersive virtual reality system...basically an interactive video game used to train for balance and skills. They were also taught basic suturing skills and were able to practice these skills in the Simulation Center.

“[MAT] brings much more hands-on experience than what my actual job entails,” senior Tristan Hanlin said.

Through the work in their departments and MAT, the VolunTeens were able to get an idea of what the medical field entails and what they could possibly pursue in the future. Not only will they have earned hours for their student service learning this summer, but they also gained an invaluable experience that can be applied in future careers.

Friday, August 19, 2016

My Red Cross Disaster Story: Glenda Williams-Blackmon

Written by: Emily Goff, volunteer

On March 2, 2016 tragedy struck Glenda Williams-Blackmon's world when a house fire destroyed her home. Fortunately, Glenda along with her four family members and three dogs managed to flee from the toxic smoke and orange flames without so much as a scratch. Unfortunately, all of their possessions, from family heirlooms to toothbrushes, were
devastatingly lost. Imagine the bed you make every morning, the box of birthday cards you've been collecting over the years, and everything else gone forever.

The Red Cross was, in many regards, Glenda's saving grace. She contacted the organization shortly after the disaster in hopes of receiving support and ultimately bringing back a sense of stability in her family’s life. With the utmost gratitude in her voice, Glenda explains how these hopes came true. "The Red Cross gave me money, clothes and personal hygiene items. My family and I got to stay in a hotel, too, because of the organization." The Disaster Action Team of volunteers who helped Glenda in her time of need showed ample tenderness, according to Glenda. "They helped me out. They were extremely kind and friendly. I had no trouble working with them." Such comfort and caring is exactly what the Red Cross provides when it responds to a disaster every eight minutes.

Since the fire, Glenda has been focused on rebuilding her life and is still grateful to the local Red Cross volunteers for transporting her from a state of despair to a state of hope, courage and strength. She is also encouraging others to learn more about fire safety and prevention. "Make sure that you turn off your ovens and that your fire extinguishers work." These simple pieces of advice could be what spares you from such a common catastrophe.

The Red Cross is always promoting preparedness -- and in September especially! September is Preparedness Month, so start researching ways to keep yourself and your loved ones safe and you will gain the peace of mind that comes from knowing you have the skills to handle an emergency.

Friday, August 12, 2016

My Red Cross Volunteer Story: Aslan the Dog

Written by: Emily Goff, Volunteer

Woof! Woof! Woof! Hey! I’m Aslan.

You got to hear all about my best friend, Rika, a few months ago here. Here’s a woof-tastic fact: Rika was the one that convinced me to finally step into those spooky portals you humans call elevators! I happen to be a four-year-old Leonberger – or, as some folks call me, a “gentle giant” – that also loves contributing to the great things the Red Cross does. My special human friend named Jen O’Keefe was the one who helped me become involved with this organization two years ago, and I've been playing with all sorts of kind humans ever since. Jen always sees the potential in me, and I always see the potential in her; the two of us are even certified for crisis-response at another organization called HOPE. 

Though my spirit is generally pretty calm, my ears unfailingly perk up at the words, “We’re going to the hospital to pay some visits!” Forget about treats – the best feeling comes from bringing some brightness and comfort to the lives of humans who are ill or injured. You wouldn't believe how wide the smiles on those people’s faces get when I simply hang out and let them pet me! It’s amazing; I love the reactions I get. And, hey, I also am not complaining about the free massages that are a constant part of my volunteering experiences. Clearly, I’m the laid back one, while Rika is the diva.

Through the Red Cross, I was able to spend an incredible couple of months as the furry companion of a six-year-old child undergoing chemotherapy. As you can probably tell, my pal Rika and I’s canine souls have become healthy and happy because of our volunteering experiences.

So… dogs and humans alike, I urge you to join the Red Cross and lend a helping paw! http://www.redcross.org/local/dc/washington/volunteer

Friday, July 29, 2016

My Internship with the Red Cross: Part 2

Written by: Morgan Levin, Intern

Over the past month, I have served as an intern with the Communications Department at the American Red Cross in the National Capital Region. I have nothing but good memories from this internship. I have managed to discover far more than I could have expected in various departments of the Red Cross.

I knew the Red Cross was famous worldwide as a non-profit for the blood they collect and then give (40% of the USA's supply), but I did not know that the Red Cross is far more than that. As one of the nation's leading organizations in blood research, they also provide CPR training, first aid classes, respond to disasters such as house fires or floods, assist military families, and are part of the world's humanitarian network. Moreover, the Red Cross remains efficient while relying massively on a volunteer workforce. As an intern, I felt part of this while supporting the organization.

My work mainly consisted of writing blog posts for the website, but I also got to visit with other departments to get insight into what they do for the organization. For example, I learned the impact of the International Services departments reconnecting families program by speaking to a long-time, devoted volunteer, who explained how rewarding it is to successfully reconnect relatives separated by conflicts. To understand the assistance the Red Cross provides to military families, I spent a day with the Service to the Armed Forces Director to see how much of a difference we really make for the members of the military and their families.

Overall, the Red Cross experience will always hold a special place in my heart, as I met some great people and am delighted to see that there are people committed to making a difference for others that are less lucky.

Friday, July 22, 2016

My Internship with the Red Cross: Part 1

Written by: Morgan Levin, Intern

The idea of helping other people has always been appealing to me. I consider that when you are lucky enough to be born in a safe place, with a good education and a stable situation, it is natural to go out and help those who have been less fortunate. I come from the South-East of France, in a small village near Montpellier, a very dynamic and young city off the Mediterranean coast. I grew up there, and started studying geopolitics this year, which made me realize even more so how much some parts of the world are in great need of help, and seem at first glance totally forsaken. When taking a closer look, I noticed that non-profits are the ones that provide help and assistance to communities around the world without discrimination, regardless of their gender, social status, race or religion. And that is what made me want to join a non-profit for an internship, to discover from the inside how these organizations work and get a better understanding of their impact on our societies.

Why pick the Red Cross to intern with?

The Red Cross combines not only a strong international presence, which is what attracted me to the organization in the first place, but also a presence in every day life to provide the best assistance possible to the local community. I remember that there has always been a Red Cross Team at our student events in France! And that, in my eyes, made a difference that made me want to join them.

Additionally, joining the Red Cross abroad guarantees me the opportunity to discover the American culture and therefore the differences in terms of focus and methods of the American Red Cross compared to the French Red Cross.

During my internship, I hope I will be able to understand and get as much information as I can on the different service areas and the way the Red Cross works here in the United States, and that I will be involved as much as possible in making a difference for the Red Cross.

Friday, July 15, 2016

My Red Cross Volunteer Story: Sara El Saied

By Emily Goff

Within Sara El Saied, a spirit of profound selflessness glows, receiving its life from the most enriching fuel of all: volunteerism. More specifically, this admirable woman contributes her time, energy and skills to the Red Cross as a faithful volunteer and cherishes the extensive variety of experiences she has collected throughout her time thus far. Sara has been volunteering with the Red Cross since April 2015 and embodies what one ought to do in order to transform our society and world into a better place.

What kindled Sara’s linkage to the Red Cross was a friend’s recommendation, as well as a substantial amount of personal appreciation for the organization’s fundamental pillars. In fact, she informed me, “I was inspired to become involved with the American Red Cross because of the mission. To me, I have felt that there is tremendous value in being a volunteer because of my core belief in serving others. I felt pulled by this organization of volunteers who are committed so strongly to saving lives and ending human suffering around the world.”

In terms of her experiences as a volunteer for the Red Cross, Sara has been involved, and continues to be involved, with numerous crucial efforts.  She stated, “I served as the Volunteer Recruitment lead for the Salute to Service Gala, where I supported Volunteer Engagement with recruitment and orientation for the Gala. Currently, I am one of the Community Volunteer Leaders for Fairfax County and Youth Lead. I manage the recruitment/on-boarding of new high school or college/university clubs and support the logistics of their activities throughout the year. I also work with the Denise Miller, Executive Director of Fairfax County, to plan and execute quarterly meetings for all clubs. I work with her to support local fundraising events such as our In the Bag purse auction event, as well as work with local fire departments on the Home Fire Campaign.” There is seemingly no end to her compassion, dependability, and her generosity to the Red Cross.

The humanitarian spirit of Sara has been shaped by countless experiences, with one in particular that still lingers in her mind with perfect clarity, even months after its occurrence. Sara recalls, “The one profound moment that still stays with me is when I heard the story that Erwin [The Executive Director for Price William and Loudoun Counties] shared with the youth at our kick-off event about a woman who saved her husband's life because she performed CPR. The procedure she applied was the one that was taught by a class she had taken with the Red Cross. The strength of that woman speaking to a 9-1-1 operator while performing CPR – and especially after hearing that the ambulance first arrived at the wrong house – is absolutely remarkable.” Such a story certainly motivates and empowers Sara to help others through the Red Cross.

Sara’s story shares a critical truth we all should tuck into our pockets and invite to guide our actions as citizens, as aspiring volunteers, as current volunteers, as leaders and as humans: lives are fragile and we must always strive to preserve them, however minute our individual efforts towards such a large-scale goal may seem to be. As Sara voiced herself, “A pint of blood can save a life, taking a CPR class can save a life, informing your community about fire safety can save life – the list goes on and on.”

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Heat Wave Safety

This summer is turning out to be a hot one, as usual, so if you have not yet seen our tips for heat waves or need a refresher, keep reading this post to find out!

A few important things about heat waves:
  • A heat wave is a prolonged period of excessive heat, generally when the thermometer goes up 10 degrees or more above the average, with often excessive humidity
  • Do not underestimate heat waves. Though they can be less dangerous than other weather events, they are the most lethal weather phenomenon in the United States

It is important to stay aware of possible heat wave situations. The best way to stay informed is to listen to the weather forecast. Here are the terms weather forecasters use when referring to heat waves:
  • Excessive heat watch – It is expected that the heat index (the temperature you feel, affected by temperature and humidity levels) will go up to 105°F during the day
  • Heat advisory – For two consecutive days, the heat index has reached at least 105°F but less than 115°F during the day, for a duration of less than three hours per day
  • Excessive heat warning – For two consecutive days, the heat index has reached at least 105°F for more than three hours per day or 115°F at any time

 What you can do to prepare yourself for a heat wave:
  • Check that your emergency disaster kit is up to date, in case of a power outage
  • If you do not have air conditioning, pick a few places where you can go during the warmest parts of the day, such as shopping malls or libraries
  • Get trained in first aid at the Red Cross to be able to assist and respond to extreme situations

 What you can do during a heat wave:
  • Listen to NOAA Weather Radio to get live updates on the heat wave
  • Favor indoor activities over outdoor activities, which you should postpone if necessary to cooler parts of the day
  • If you can't delay outdoor activities, take small breaks
  • Even if you don't feel thirsty, drink as much as possible, preferably water and avoid drinks with alcohol or caffeine
  • Check on family, friends and neighbors, especially those who live alone or in places with no air conditioning
  • Don't forget your little buddies! Animals also suffer from the heat and need to be checked on. The best thing is to ensure they are not too exposed to heat and that they always have fresh water within grasp
  •  Hot cars are deadly during heat waves, because the temperature can climb very easily to 120°F. Never leave your children or pets in a car during a heat wave, even with the windows open or for a few minutes

 Here are some heat-related illnesses to watch out for:
  •  Heat cramps – Heat cramps are muscular pain that often occur in the abdomen or the legs. They are a sign that the body is not coping well with the heat. The best thing to do in this case is to get the person to a cooler place, to slowly stretch and massage the muscle and to give them an electrolyte-containing drink, such as a sports drink and water
  •  Heat exhaustion – Heat exhaustion is a more severe condition than heat cramps. Heat exhaustion signs include cool, moist, pale, ashen or flushed skin, headache, nausea, dizziness, weakness, and exhaustion. In case of heat exhaustion, move the person to a cooler place, remove as many clothes as possible and apply wet towels on the body. If the person is conscious, give them small amounts of water and fruits. If the person has a change in consciousness, or refuses water, call 9-1-1 or the local emergency number
  •  Heat stroke – Heat stroke is a life threatening condition. A heat stroke often occurs when the signs of heat exhaustion have been ignored. The signs of a heat stroke are often a very high body temperature, a red skin which may be dry or moist, changes in consciousness, a rapid pulse, a shallow breathing, confusion, vomiting, and seizures. If witnessing a heat stroke, remember that it is life threatening and immediately call 9-1-1 or your local emergency number. Also, try to cool the temperature of the body as much as you can, by immersing the body in cold water, or covering it with bags of ice
Do not forget that animals can also be subject to heat strokes, especially dogs with short noses or snouts such as bulldogs or boxers. If you notice that your pet has difficulties getting up, or an abnormally fast heartbeat, take their temperature rectally. If the temperature is above 105°F, cool the animal down until they reach a body temperature of 103°F. The easiest way to do that is by using a water hose. Also, take your pet to a veterinarian as soon as possible.

To read more about Heat waves, visit http://rdcrss.org/29fSCgZ