Friday, August 17, 2018

My Red Cross VolunTEEN story: Charles Lewis

By Charles Lewis, VolunTEEN

Over the summer, I was given the amazing opportunity to participate in the Red Cross VolunTEEN Program at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. The VolunTEEN Program lets teenagers from across the DMV volunteer in different clinics at Walter Reed.

I learned about the VolunTEEN Program through my mother’s friend, whose daughter participated during the summer of 2017. I asked her about her experience at Walter Reed and she said that she loved it and had a great time. Her positive response was one of the major factors that played into my decision to apply. I had considered becoming a doctor before I even heard about the program, and so I thought that participating would help provide clarity in my future as this program would expose me to the work environment of a hospital.

The application process started in February of this year, and it required a 500-word essay and one or two letters of recommendation from a teacher, coach, or mentor. I was notified that I got into the program during the middle of May, and I was ecstatic that I would be able to spend my summer doing something really meaningful and beneficial.

Orientation took place the last week of June, where all the VolunTEEN's received a tour of the Red Cross Office, obtained badges and name tags, learned more about how the Red Cross supports the hospital and received information on what department we were assigned to. We also received an in-depth training on patient privacy from one of the hospitals Privacy Officers.

I was assigned to the Pediatric Sedation Unit (PSU), where I work two days a week. While I’m there, I clean beds, fill patient folders, and assist with organization in the storage area. My favorite thing to do in PSU is watch procedures. When my shift coincides with a procedure, I’m allowed to go into the operating room and watch. Thankfully, none of the procedures have been too gory, which is a plus because I do not tolerate blood well at all, which isn’t ideal for someone who wants to be a doctor. The doctors are always so happy to see kids watching their procedures, and will sometimes stop to show us stuff. Speaking of great staff, the nurses who work in PSU are amazing. They’re so friendly and nice and they’ve been super informative about the general operations of the hospital.

When I’m not working in PSU, I’m usually helping out in the Red Cross Office. I usually re-stock the storeroom, take calls, or deliver items requested by patients throughout the hospital. The best part about working in the office is definitely taking the Kids Cart. The Kids Cart is a cart which gets filled up with games, toys and boxes of Girl Scout Cookies, and is taken around to all the pediatric sections of the hospital, where kids and their parents can take games and toys and enjoy some cookies. Seeing the kids’ faces as they see all the games and toys, and the variety of Girl Scout Cookies roll by, is amazing and super rewarding because it confirms that what I’m doing is really important and beneficial. Something else that is confirmed by the Kids Cart is that Trefoils (in the blue box) are indeed superior to all other forms of Girl Scout Cookies because they disappear off of the cart at a speed that would make you think that teleportation has already been invented.

The final thing that takes place in the VolunTEEN Program are Medical Awareness for Teens (MAT) programs. These programs took place throughout the course of the summer and gave the VolunTEENs an inside look at specific practices in the hospital. We would go to different parts of the hospital and see presentations given to us by doctors in different departments.

The first MAT program was about prosthetics and dentistry at Walter Reed. I learned about the process of creating different types of prosthetics, and even heard stories of people who had received prosthetics. We got to see different prosthetic body parts that were made for wounded warriors, including eyes, noses, ears, hands, and whole halves of faces. The stories of the wounded warriors who got prosthetics was very intriguing and inspiring. After the prosthetics section, two dentists came over and talked to us about dentistry in the military and the path they each took to become military dentists.

The second MAT program was about physical therapy (PT) and occupational therapy (OT). We learned about the differences and similarities between the two, and how each therapy type goes about providing support to patients. In my opinion, physical therapy is the “fun therapy” while occupational therapy is the “interesting therapy”. That’s not to say that OT would never be fun or that PT isn’t interesting, but they both have different strong points. While we learned about PT, we took part in some therapeutic relay races where two teams competed to see who could do the form of therapy properly and the quickest. We put rubber bands around our legs and attempted to walk along the sidewalk outside, however for some, more time was spent trying to stand back up then actually walking. We also tried to stand on an unstable rubber circle contraption and throw a ball back and forth, but for some people that was just as unsuccessful as the first race.

The final part of PT was going to see the Computer Assisted Rehabilitation Environment (CAREN) lab, which essentially is a huge virtual reality game that helps patients in their recovery. They have a skiing simulation, a hiking simulation, a hit-sharks-with-a-boat simulation. Overall, it was a super cool experience, which really displays how advances in technology can be used for medicinal purposes. While OT didn’t have any virtual reality contraptions or children falling over, it did have a really interesting way of providing therapy. There was a kitchen in OT, where patients will go and learn how to cook and become familiar with a home environment, which is really important. Additionally, depending on where the patient was injured, different board games would be played with the patient. For example if the patient had trouble pinching his/her finger and thumb together, they would play Jenga where you are forced to make a pinching motion to move the blocks. Overall, both forms of therapy were interesting and cool, and it was great that I got to see how they work.

The final MAT program was working with ultrasounds, forensics, and the morgue. Which took place in the Uniformed Services University (USU). I learned how to use an ultrasound, which I found to be the best part of the tour, and got to practice on my fellow VolunTEENs. After that, we watched a power-point presentation about forensic pathology and learned about different types, forms and manners of death. We were then able to identify which form or manner is present based on marks on the body. The final part of the MAT program was the morgue in the basement. We split into groups and looked at bodies that have been dissected to see what the body really looks like inside. That was by far the most interesting part of the whole VolunTEEN Program because I got to see the complexities and intricacies of the body.

Walter Reed National Military Medical Center
The VolunTEEN program has been an amazing and memorable experience for me, and I am dreading the day the program ends. All the people at Walter Reed are so friendly and welcoming that you really feel like you are part of a community of fantastic people who want to give back to their country. The VolunTEEN program has shown me how much volunteering can help the lives of many people and I am definitely going to pursue more volunteer opportunities in the future.

To learn more about our Service to the Armed Forces program, visit:

Friday, August 10, 2018

100th Anniversary of the Red Cross Gray Ladies

By Divya Mathur, Volunteer

In times of war and distress, a Service Member longs for the comfort of home. Red Cross volunteers have aided these soldiers in need for 137 years, as did the Red Cross Hospital and Recreation Corps, who have served the community for a century.

Founded in 1918, the Red Cross Hospital and Recreation Corps consisted of mostly female volunteers who provided non-medical care to injured soldiers during the ravaging World War I. Whether the soldiers were physically or emotionally injured, the Recreation Corps supported our fighting troops.

During the Great Depression of the 1930’s, demand for these volunteers significantly increased, expanding the Corps’ reach to stretch across hospitals all over the country. To better serve those in need, volunteers not only assisted military members, but civilians as well. Schools started Junior Red Cross programs, giving our youth an opportunity to support American troops. Eventually, the Corps became the largest of the uniformed Red Cross volunteer services.

The number of volunteers peaked at almost 50,000 during World War II, with more people serving their community than ever. Their services included reading to patients, communicating with patients’ families through letters, teaching patients new skills, picking up supplies, and staffing the front desk of hospital recreation rooms. The volunteers also provided emotional support efforts to soldiers and civilians, while keeping morale high and proudly wearing their gray uniforms.

The color of their uniforms led soldiers to lovingly coin the name "Gray Ladies" to describe the volunteers. The Corps’ name was officially changed to the Gray Ladies service in 1947, after the end of World War II. Some members even volunteered in American hospitals overseas, spreading the Gray Ladies’ service to even more American troops.

After the mid-1960’s the Gray Ladies’ numbers dwindled. That led the Red Cross to restructure their programs, resulting in the standardization of the “Blue Vests”, so well-known not just to the U.S. Military and families but to all.

This year, 2018, marks the centennial anniversary of these effervescent and compassionate Gray Ladies. Their volunteer work serves as a foundation for the Red Cross mission and represents the positive impact that the Red Cross organization continues to have on the community.

References (MLA Format):
Morris, Joan. “Joan's World: Learning about Gray Ladies.” The Mercury News, The Mercury News, 24 Nov. 2010,
“Ranae's Swedish-Chicago Heritage.” Mystery Photo of Great Aunt Ruth,
“Red Cross Retrospective - The Gray Lady Service.” American Red Cross,
“Red Cross Veteran Recalls Gray Lady Service.” American Red Cross,

Friday, July 27, 2018

My Red Cross Story: Janice Chance

By Ian Seth Levine, Volunteer

While serving in Afghanistan, Marine Captain Jesse Melton III agreed to take the place of another soldier. While Jesse rode in the soldier’s Humvee, the enemy detonated a bomb. The bomb killed Marines and an interpreter on impact—and set Jesse’s uniform ablaze. He went into cardiac arrest while in transit to the field hospital and died soon after. But before deploying, he told his mother, Janice Chance, that he wanted to “go change the world…”. While still mourning his loss, she set out to do the same.

But let’s rewind.
Marine Captain Jesse Melton III

Janice was raised in low-income housing (with a half dozen siblings) by a single mother. While her mother had a high school education, she stressed the importance of college. And Janice was already swimming against the stream as a Black woman in the 1970s. During the tail end of segregation, she graduated with a degree in nursing.

Not long after graduation, she met and married a war veteran with whom she had two sons and one daughter. They were divorced after 11 years of marriage, leaving  Janice alone to raise her three children – one of whom had special needs.

Janice stared at the television; and then, an epiphany. The TV evangelist delivered a sermon that changed her life. He asked, "do you want to know God in your heart and not just your head?".

She used to attend church. Now, she participates in church. She said, “church became a part of my DNA.” She looked to her church’s fellowship for kindness and support. They supplied her and her children with everything from clothing to driving lessons. One churchgoer even offered to be her accountant for free.

Despite the support, Janice promised herself not to count on the generosity of others. So she supplemented her income as a nurse by selling makeup. With God and grit, she had the pleasure of sending off all three children to college, including Jesse.

Countless army recruiters sought after Jesse. As you may know by now, Jesse joined the Marines and became captain. He often said, “I want my soldiers to follow me out of admiration, not an obligation.” And in that spirit, he served in another soldier’s place, until—

Now, Janice is the president and chaplain of the Gold Star Mothers Maryland Chapter, Inc. They are mothers whose children died while in military service, died as a result of that service, or are missing in action. Their mission is finding strength in the fellowship of other Gold Star Mothers (GSM) who strive to keep the memory of our sons and daughters alive by working to help veterans, those currently serving in the military, their families and our community. GSM often partners with other humanitarian organizations, such as the American Red Cross.

Over a century ago, Clara Barton established the American Red Cross. She banded together talented, committed, and compassionate women dedicated to saving lives. In 2006, her legacy continued when the Tiffany Circle formed. The Tiffany Circle is women who want to ensure the American Red Cross can continue its mission. To fundraise on The Tiffany Circle’s behalf, Janice also volunteers on a dedicated committee.

Janice has been volunteering with the Red Cross since 2010. But the legacy of her son especially influences her good works. She told me “Jesse died because he agreed to take another Marine’s place. Two days later, on September 11th, that Marine’s daughter was born. I know that that baby has her father because of my Jesse.”

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Pet Summer Safety Preparedness

By Carly Flumer, Volunteer

Summer has arrived and the hot tempatures it has brought along with it are something to take very seriously. Not only do we need to take care of ourselves, but our furry friends, too! Here are some quick tips to keep your pet safe in the sunshine:

  1. Never leave your pet in the car! Even if you’re parked in the shade, the inside of a car can quickly reach 120 degrees. If you happen to see a pet inside of a parked car, locate the manager of the store closest to the vehicle. If the owner doesn’t return, call animal control or the police.
  2. Don’t put your pet in the back of a car, specifically pick-up trucks. If a driver is to suddenly hit the brakes, undue harm can occur.
  3. Watch out for plant food, fertilizer, and insecticides which can be fatal to pets, if ingested. Also, more than 700 plants can produce active or toxic substances which can cause harmful effects to animals.
  4. Avoid heat exhaustion by providing your pet with plenty of water by bringing a water bottle and/or a disposable dish during walks or long trips.
  5. Spaying or neutering your pet reduces the likelihood of dog bites, which are more likely to occur during the summer months.
  6. Finally, make sure your pet is identifiable by a tag with their name, and your address and phone number, on a collar.

For safety tips on the go, download our Pet First Aid App in the Apple App Store, the Google Play Store, or the Amazon Marketplace.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

My Red Cross Journey: Lynda Ellis

By Rose Ellen O'Connor, Volunteer

Lynda Ellis was 22, newly married and new to Japan, and was having trouble finding a job because she didn’t have a visa. She decided to volunteer for the Red Cross, a commitment that would begin in 1969 and continue on and off throughout her lifetime.

Abandoned by her mother at seven, Lynda was taught to work hard and give back to the community by her Irish-immigrant father. She rose to be a senior executive at several multi-million-dollar companies and go on to own her own multi-million-dollar business.

Her first assignment for the Red Cross was the casualty staging facility at Yokota Air Base in Tokyo, where they brought the severely wounded and psychologically damaged from Vietnam. The men stayed for 24 hours at Yokota before being transferred to military hospitals in Japan or the United States. Lynda didn’t know what to expect at first. She didn’t know how she’d handle triple amputees and men suffering post traumatic stress disorder. Once she started volunteering, she was delighted to find that the smallest kindness could make someone’s day. She enjoyed her work so much that she went five days a week starting at 10 or 11 a.m.  and staying until 4 or 5 p.m.

“It didn’t take very much. They just wanted somebody to listen to them and be with them,” Lynda says. “I didn’t even think about the hours that I was spending there because honestly, it was more of a gift to me than it was to them.”

She recalls walking a young man in a full body cast up and down the hallway, with beds barely separated by curtains lining either side. He had crutches and was in pain but he told her he could do the walk if she stood by him. When they got back to his bed, he told her that this was the best day he’d had.

“My heart sang,” Lynda says. “To think that I could make a difference in his life even for a few minutes. How extraordinary is that?”

Lynda spent her days going from bed to bed, writing letters home, listening and just being there. The men wanted to talk about home. They were looking forward, not back, to the trauma they’d endured, Lynda says. She often saw incredible courage in dealing with terrible hardships.

She was talking to a man younger than she was, maybe 19 or 20, and he was reaching his right arm over to a drawer on the left side of the bed to get something out. He had lost his left arm and both legs. She told him she’d get it for him and took out a small box from the drawer. The young man smiled and said, “Look what I got. I’m so proud of this.” It was a Purple Heart.

“He was so proud and I thought, oh my gosh, your battle is just beginning,” Lynda recalls. “I will never, ever, ever forget him.”

On another day she talked to a young man whose face had been disfigured. He told her she looked at him like he was still good looking and asked her if she thought his girlfriend would still look at him that way. She told him that nothing had changed.

“You’re still the most wonderful person she has ever met,” she told him.

In 1971, the Red Cross hired Lynda full-time as a bookkeeper/secretary, but she still visited the casualty center when she could squeeze it into her schedule. By then, she was also working as the blood drive chair. The blood drive operated out of small activity center with a little cafeteria and sofas and chairs. Things were slow, but Lynda knew where to get volunteers. She went over to the NCO (non-commissioned officers) club and found her husband with a group of friends. (Her husband, Bill, was a manager for Mutual United of Omaha and sold life insurance to the military.)

“What the hell are you guys sitting here for?” she demanded. “Get your butts up. I will give you a free shot and a donut. But people are dying, blood is being spilled and you’re here in this stupid NCO club instead of going over to the activity center to give blood. So I’m going to stand here until you all go.”

The group got up and went to donate blood. From then on, whenever she went to the club, people would say, “Ellis’s wife is coming. We need to give blood.” Lynda used the same tactics at the stag bar and the officers club. She doesn’t remember how many gallons of blood she raised, but it was more than had ever been collected.

In 1976, Bill was offered a job as manager of the San Antonio office of Mutual United of Omaha and they moved back to the states. Lynda was hired as a case worker for the Red Cross field office in San Antonio. Every night from 10 p.m. until 8 a.m., phone calls would be transferred from the main office to her home line. She worked answering phones in the office on weekends. Lynda handled all kinds of emergencies but remembers one as the most harrowing.

A man called in and said he was holding his 18th-month-old baby and he had a gun to the baby’s head. He said he couldn’t handle it anymore and was going to shoot the baby and himself unless she got ahold of his wife, who was in the service overseas. Lynda immediately called the sheriff’s department and over the next few hours tried to calm down the man. She was able to locate his wife and arrange for her to come home and the sheriff’s department went to the man’s home and convinced the man to put down the gun.

“It was very, very scary because he was on the phone and I had to use every single skill I could drum up within my body and soul to help this person calm down and at least hear what I was saying so he wouldn’t hurt the baby,” Lynda recalls.

Lynda resigned from the Red Cross in 1977 to go to college. She studied management science at St. Mary’s University in San Antonio, Texas. While taking classes, she started a business selling custom novelty gifts and eventually sold her business to Neiman Marcus. She was an executive at several computer-based education companies before coming to the Washington, D.C. area in 1995 to work as vice president of marketing and sales for Loral Learning Systems, a division of Loral Aerospace. She convinced two colleagues to buy the company and they renamed it PLG, Inc., after their first names, Pierce, Lynda and Gary. They merged with a competitor and sold the company in 1997. She was hired to head Capitol Concierge, a multi-million-dollar company in August 1998 and bought the company, celebrating its 32nd anniversary this year, in November 2007.

Lynda returned to the Red Cross four years ago as a Tiffany Circle Donor. As a member of the Circle, she works to recruit women to the Red Cross locally, nationally and internationally, and commits to donating at least $10,000 a year. So far, she has contributed $50,000. Last year, she upped her commitment to contribute $150,000 in 10 years. That is known as the “Hall Pledge.”

Lynda grew up in Las Vegas. She had two older half-brothers and a younger half-brother. Her mother, Dorothy Gurrisi, took her two older brothers and left when Lynda was about five, returned briefly and left again for good when Lynda was seven. Despite that, Lynda remained close to her brothers throughout her life. The oldest just died recently.

Lynda was also very close to her father, James Daniel O’Connor, an Irish immigrant who came to America when the help-wanted ads frequently used the acronym, “NINA,” No Irish need apply. He became a butcher and opened his own shop. When it failed, he went to work for someone else. When he was 76, he started his own landscaping business and had his first stroke when he was 90 and doing 26 lawns. He has since died.

Despite his struggles, he loved his country and taught Lynda that she was lucky to be an American. He taught her that she could achieve anything she wanted if she worked hard enough. When she was 12 or 13 and asked for some money, he told her someone’s grass needed to be mowed or someone’s windows needed to be washed and she should go earn it.

He also raised her to volunteer, a lesson that would stick with her throughout her life. As a member of the Brownies and the Girl Scouts, she picked up trash in the mountains and at Lake Mead. As a member of the Mason’s Rainbow Girls, she visited hospitals and nursing homes. She also volunteered at her Episcopal Church.

“I learned that in any community you give back,” Lynda says. “That’s what the community is there for. I really relish those times because it taught me to be part of something bigger than myself. And that was truly my dad.”

Lynda lives with Bill and two cats, Denko and Taiho, in Glenelg, Maryland. The couple will celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary next year. They have a daughter, Misty, four grandchildren, a step grandchild and three great grandchildren.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

How Soccer Star Cristiano Ronaldo Donated Enough Blood to Fill a Car’s Gas Tank

By Ian Seth Levine, Volunteer

Superstar footballer Cristiano Ronaldo has donated enough blood to fill the gas tank of the fortwo-model car from Mercedes-Benz. And just in case he must donate to you or me one day, he has also forsaken alcohol, cigarettes, and tattoos. The likelihood we will need need his blood is stronger than you might think. In the U.S., someone needs blood every two seconds. By the time you finish reading this paragraph, twelve people will need donors like you and me. But we don’t have the same time, money, or energy as Cristiano to warrant regular donations, right? There are only ten steps for donating blood, and the bulk of them is in the preparation. Every time Cristiano prepares to donate blood, he does five things:

1. Make an appointment using Rapid Pass®.
2. Abstain from aspirin for two days before the appointment.
3. Drink an extra 16 oz. of water (or other non-alcoholic drink); and eat a healthy, iron-rich meal --avoiding fatty foods like hamburgers, fries, and ice cream.
4. Bring a list of current medications and a photo ID.
5. Wear a shirt with sleeves that can roll up above the elbows.

Before we even wake up, Cristiano plunges himself into an ice bath. He exercises for four hours a day, five days a week. He sleeps a solid eight hours, eats small meals every two hours, and swelters in twenty-minute baths. He psychs himself up by staring into the mirror. In fact, his teammates say he’s always training. And yet, he still finds eight minutes of his time to donate to patients like Lindsey, Brian, Markita, Niki, and Emily.

Source: Singapore Red Cross “BE THE 1” campaign

Cristiano is worth $450 million. It’s easy to say that (unlike him) we can’t afford to lose money from missing work. However, many employers allow their employees up to four hours to donate blood without charge to leave or loss of pay. So, depending upon your employer, step six could be a fantastic opportunity to donate (and possibly get paid for doing so). Compensated or not, Cristiano has been donating whole blood every fifty-six days for the last nine years. That’s over seven gallons of whole blood.  Join him, and…

6. Donate.

Although Cristiano is in his thirties, his teammates say he has the energy of a man ten years younger.  It might seem that as a star athlete, he can expel more energy than you and me. But with Rapid Pass® from the American Red Cross, you can schedule your donation faster than it takes him to finish his patented ab workout. And before you can say “World Cup”, you’ll be completing the final four steps of blood donation:

Source: Men's Health UK

7. Enjoy a snack.
8. Tell others about your good deed.
9. Abstain from heavy lifting or vigorous exercise for the rest of the day.
10. Call 1-866-236-3276 to report additional health information or request medical care after donation.

For more information and to schedule an appointment to donate blood:

Monday, July 9, 2018

Blood Donation 101

By Carly Flumer, Volunteer

Imgine yur helth cre eing delyed ecuse yur bld type ws missing frm hspitl shelves. That sentence was kind of hard to decipher, right? Well, it highlights the three main blood types, A, B, and O, that are always in need. And right now, there’s simply not enough people donating. The Miller-Keystone Blood Center cites the Top 10 Excuses for Not Donating Blood, with the number one reason being afraid of needles.

Past blood donors have mentioned that they “only felt a pinch.” Plus, the good that you’re doing by donating a pint, including saving up to three lives, easily outweighs the tiny prick. However, if you’re still not convinced, the American Red Cross’s Red Cross Chat has a blog post dedicated to “How to Donate Blood for Newbies and Needle-Haters.” Another reason is people believe that their blood type isn’t in demand.

While it’s true that blood centers often run short of types A, B, and O, all blood types are accepted, including plasma and platelets.

Now are you ready to give? Great! Here’s how to do so:

1) First, you must:

  • Be in good health/feeling well
  • Be at least 17 years old (16 in some states with parental consent)
  • Weigh at least 110 pounds
  • Have not donated within the last 56 days.

2) Find your nearest blood drive location by going to:

3) When you arrive, you will be asked to read some information as well as provide a photo ID.

4) You will then be asked to answer questions online or in a private interview and receive a health check.

5) After, you will be seated comfortably for your donation where a pint of blood will be drawn. It will take approximately 8-10 minutes.

6) After donating, you may enjoy a drink and a snack for about 10-15 minutes before returning to the rest of your day.

7) Your blood is then tested and sent to a patient in need! If you donate through the Blood Donor App, you will be able to track your blood's journey!

To learn more about what happens with your donated blood, please visit:

We thank you for your donation!