Local volunteers preparing to help residents affected by Dorian

Hurricane Dorian made landfall Sunday afternoon in the Bahamas as a Category 5 storm leaving behind catastrophic damage—from destroyed homes to contaminated water sources. While a complete picture of the damage isn’t available yet, it’s clear the storm is dealing a devastating blow to families on the islands.

Bahamas Red Cross volunteers and pre-positioned relief supplies—such as tarps, hygiene items, jerrycans, and hand-crank cell phone chargers—are at the ready.

Hurricane Dorian 2019

September 1, 2019. Orlando, Florida. Seven-year-old Deshawa hold his sister, 1-year-old Keelen, while talking with a Red Cross worker at the Evans High School evacuation center. The children’s family came to the evacuation center to escape the expected high winds and torrential rainfall associated with Hurricane Dorian. Photo credit: Daniel Cima/American Red Cross

In the U.S., the American Red Cross is preparing to help tens of thousands of people in the path of Hurricane Dorian as the extremely dangerous storm tracks towards the southeast coast. While the exact path of Dorian is still uncertain, millions of people live in areas that could be impacted by wind, rain, flooding and a high storm surge, even if the storm doesn’t make direct landfall on the coast.

The Red Cross is coordinating with community partners and emergency responders to prepare evacuation centers as planning estimates indicate as many as 60,000 people in Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina may need help. Sunday night, some 2,600 people sought refuge in 60 Red Cross and community evacuation shelters in Florida. We are mobilizing over 1,600 trained volunteers from all over the country, including 14 from Northeast Ohio.

Media coverage of Red Cross volunteers preparing to deploy on Sunday was extensive

Two emergency response vehicles from the region are among the 110 vehicles being deployed, and 99 tractor-trailer loads full of relief supplies, including cots, blankets and 63,000 ready-to-eat meals are on the way.

While the Red Cross does not typically collect and distribute blood in Florida, we have sent approximately 350 blood products to local blood centers there to ensure patients in need continue to have access to lifesaving blood. The Red Cross has also pre-positioned additional blood products and stocked many of our hospitals to capacity in areas of the Southeast likely to be impacted by the storm early next week.

On the wrong side of the hospital room – a nurse becomes the patient

By Doug Bardwell, American Red Cross volunteer

Kristin Palocko  had been engaged for a year and was looking forward to her first wedding dress fitting in 2017. Working the night shift as a critical care nurse, she was often tired, but suddenly she was more fatigued than normal.

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“That night, a doctor came into my room at the emergency department and told me that I have a bleeding disorder called thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura (TTP),” recalled Kristin.

With TTP, blood clots form in small blood vessels throughout the body. The clots can limit or prevent the oxygen-rich blood from reaching the various organs that need it.

The condition is extremely rare, affecting maybe only two people in a million. “We barely touched on it in nursing school…it’s that rare. Luckily, with so many great hospitals in our area, it’s no longer fatal.”

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Prior to the 1980s, the disease was 97 percent fatal. Now with early detection and with plasma exchange, it’s considered very treatable. Treatment can last days or even months.

“This started me on a roller coaster of a 12-day hospital stay, a central dialysis line in my neck, and multiple units of red blood cells and plasma.” Kristin received 330 units of plasma, taking four hours each for 10 of those 12 days.

“It was an eye-opening experience being on the receiving end of treatment and being on the other side of the monitors. As a nurse, I realize the value of each unit of blood. It’s like liquid gold for our patients.”

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With three months medical leave, routine doctor’s appointments, countless blood draws and continual prayers, Kristin’s condition is still stable today. TTP could come back at any time, but some people have gone 17 years without a relapse.

“Less than six months after diagnosis, I married my best friend, Brad. Ever since I’ve been diagnosed, he’s been a frequent blood donor.”

“Two years later, I am feeling blessed for everyone’s thoughts and prayers through it all—especially the blood donors. They have helped me, and numerous others, in our time of greatest need with their generous donations. Without those willing to give of their time (and blood) there would not be treatment for TTP.”

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Kristin goes to Cuyahoga Valley Church and recently saw the sign there that volunteers were needed for an upcoming American Red Cross blood drive.

“After all that plasma I used during my treatment, I felt guilty, and I realized I needed to do something to give back. So, between shifts I went to the church during the blood drive and I volunteered.”

If you’d like to volunteer at a blood drive, we would love to have you. Volunteers are invaluable to the daily operation of the Northeast Ohio Region of the American Red Cross and are truly the heart and soul of the organization. Click here to register as a volunteer or sign up here to become a donor.

Edited by Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross volunteer

Northeast Ohio Region weekend disaster response report: July 4-7, 2019

By Eric Alves, Regional Communications Specialist, American Red Cross of Northeast Ohio

July 8, 2019- As residents across Northeast Ohio were enjoying barbecues, fireworks, nice weather and the start of the Major League Baseball All-Star Game festivities, the American Red Cross was actively assisting individuals who were experiencing their most difficult moments.

During Independence Day weekend, July 4-7, the Red Cross of Northeast Ohio responded to 13 incidents, including a structural collapse in Lorain. The disaster team assisted 34 adults, 24 children and provided more than $13,000 in immediate financial assistance to help these individuals get back on their feet following the local disaster.

Another weekend incident the disaster team responded to over the holiday weekend, was a home fire resulting from arson on Dudley Avenue in Cleveland.

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Dudley Avenue home fire

“It has been a busy time with home fires recently in Northeast Ohio. We have responded to multiple fires in the last few weeks under suspicion of arson. This is one of the wonderful attributes of this organization. We are so inclusive that we provide assistance to anyone who is in need, despite how the disaster began,” said Ben Bellucci, the disaster program manager for the Greater Cleveland Chapter.

“This past weekend, the volunteers were beyond amazing,” Ben added. “With the average temperatures in the 90s and high humidity, the disaster action team was up at all hours providing light in many individuals’ darkest hours. We can’t do it without our volunteers, and the generosity of our community, who all make it possible.”

Just as disasters do not discriminate in terms of whose lives they destroy; the Red Cross does not discriminate in terms of whose lives we help rebuild. The Red Cross does not turn away people who need assistance after a disaster. We are committed to helping everyone in need.

As the largest humanitarian organization in the world, the Red Cross has the ability to use your donation to reach more people in need, more quickly. Your donation to the Red Cross helps provide food, shelter, relief supplies, emotional support, recovery planning and other assistance during disasters.

To help the Red Cross provide hope and comfort to individuals in Northeast Ohio experiencing their darkest hours, please visit our Crowdrise page to provide a financial donation. Any amount donated truly helps with their recovery.

Edited by Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross volunteer

World Sickle Cell Awareness Day highlights need to fill Missing Types

By Glinda Dames Fincher

June 16, 2019- My name is Glinda Dames Fincher and I have lived with sickle cell disease for 60 years. Today is World Sickle Cell Awareness Day.

Sickle cell disease affects red blood cells. It makes them hard and sickle shaped instead of soft and round. As a result, blood has difficulty flowing smoothly through the blood vessels and carrying oxygen to the rest of the body.  This causes severe anemia and excruciating pain called sickle cell crisis.

Because of my illness, I depend on blood donors giving blood on a regular basis. As part of my treatment, I receive monthly red cell exchange transfusions. I receive two pints of red blood cells during each of these transfusions. If I have to undergo a major surgery, I receive a total exchange transfusion, which requires about seven to nine units of red cells. I have received regular blood transfusions for the last 20 years to help manage my sickle cell disease. Without donated blood, sickle cell patients face sickle cell crisis, and other complications such as strokes, organ failure, chronic wounds, and shortened lifespan.

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Glinda Dames Fincher speaks at the the Missing Types campaign kick-off at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland

Since most of those with sickle cell in the U.S. are of African and Latino descent, those who receive frequent blood transfusions need blood from those of their same race in order to decrease the chances of the patient having a reaction to the red cells. African American and Latino blood donors are greatly needed to provide the lifesaving transfusions needed not only by those with sickle cell, but also those with other diseases such as cancer, kidney failure and other chronic disorders.”

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I encourage everyone to help fill the Missing Types this summer. Sickle cell disease is the most common inherited blood disorder in the US and the world, with about 100,000 with the disease in the US, and an estimated 10 million with the disease worldwide and 100 million carriers of the sickle gene which they may pass on to their children. More blood donors are needed now. Join the American Red Cross and give blood to ensure patients like myself, and so many others, have the lifesaving treatment we need.

Do your part to help fill the missing types this summer and help save lives by visiting RedCrossBlood.org/MissingTypes to schedule a donation appointment today.

#Help1family affected by a disaster this Giving Day

March 27, 2019 – Have you ever wondered how much it costs to help a family affected by a disaster, such as a home fire? Have you wanted to provide support but figured there was nothing you could do?

Following a year of record disasters, the American Red Cross is asking everyone to #help1family today, March 27, on Red Cross Giving Day.

EVERY 8 MINUTES, DONATIONS HELP FAMILIES

207701-05-Giving-Day-2019-Social-Media-1200x1200-FB3Every eight minutes, the Red Cross helps someone affected by a disaster. Last year, Red Cross disaster workers—90 percent of whom were volunteers—helped millions of people during a second consecutive year of record wildfires, hurricanes, tragic shootings and other large crises—all while responding day and night to home fires in communities across the country.

In fact, home fires are the nation’s most frequent disaster—often, devastating homes, livelihoods and cherished possessions. Just in January and February of this year, Red Cross volunteers across the country responded to almost 11,000 home fires, assisting nearly 33,000 people affected by these fires. In Northeast Ohio, the Red Cross responds to three home fires, on average, every 24 hours.

#HELP1FAMILY ON MARCH 27

You can provide hope to people across Northeast Ohio affected by local disasters by donating on Red Cross Giving Day, a 24-hour fundraising campaign. Our goal is to help 25,000 families affected by home fires or other disasters, and we need your support. Visit redcross.org/givingday to provide urgent relief, like food, shelter and other essentials for families who need it most. You can also give by texting REDCROSS to 90999 to give $10, or by saying, “Alexa, make a donation to Red Cross Giving Day” on your Alexa-enabled device.

  • Support a family in urgent need for one day: A gift of $88.50 can provide a family of three with a day’s worth of food, including breakfast, lunch and dinner, plus blankets and other essentials in the aftermath of a disaster.
  • Supply warm meals: A donation of $60 can help provide six people with a nourishing meal that includes a main course, snacks and drinks to those impacted by disasters.
  • Deliver cozy blankets: A gift of $30 can ensure that children and families stay warm and can get a good night’s sleep with six comforting blankets.

You can also use the hashtag #help1family on your social media accounts to let others know you are supporting families in need and to encourage others to donate on Giving Day.207701-05-Giving-Day-2019-Social-Media-1200x1200-FB

The Red Cross is grateful for any generous support to help people in need on Giving Day and throughout the year. During March, we honor the volunteer heroes who fuel our lifesaving work every day—a tradition dating back more than 75 years, when President Franklin D. Roosevelt first proclaimed March as Red Cross Month to raise awareness for our humanitarian mission.

On behalf of the Red Cross of Northeast Ohio, thank you for considering a donation. Your generosity will help a family recover from one of the worst experiences of their lifetime.

Do you hear it? Sound the Alarm is coming

By Doug Bardwell, American Red Cross volunteer

March 18, 2019 – Mark your calendar. It’s coming.

April 27 through May 12 are the dates for the 2019 Sound the Alarm campaign.

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This spring, the American Red Cross needs your help to install 100,000 free smoke alarms and raise funds for lifesaving services in more than 100 cities in all 50 states, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands during Sound the Alarm home fire safety and smoke alarm installation events.

And, to quasi-quote Smokey the Bear, “Only you can help ensure our success.” One day of your time might be the difference that saves a family’s lives.

Every day, seven people die in home fires and the Red Cross wants to do everything we can to prevent these needless tragedies. That’s why we launched our Home Fire Campaign.

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Volunteer participants work alongside fire departments and other local groups, canvassing at-risk neighborhoods to install free smoke alarms, replace batteries in existing alarms, educate families about fire prevention and safety, and fund raise to help sponsor this lifesaving mission.

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It’s a perfect time to grab your family, your friends and your neighbors to come along and do a good deed installing smoke alarms. You needn’t be a Red Cross volunteer or employee to work these events. Instructions, tools and supplies are all provided the day of the event.

Last year, during the inaugural Sound the Alarm event, more than 103,000 smoke alarms were installed in 43,000 homes nationally over a three-week period. There was also an impact locally. In Northeast Ohio, during the same three-week period, 350 volunteers installed 2,500 alarms in more than 900 homes.

To date, there are 511 lives that have been saved because of smoke alarms installed during previous Sound the Alarm events. More than 1.5 million free smoke alarms have been installed to date.

To find upcoming Sound the Alarm installation events and to sign-up to volunteer to an event near you, visit SoundTheAlarm.org/NEO.

Unable to attend?  You can always make a donation that helps educate families and children about home safety. A donation can also provide food, shelter and comfort to those who’ve lost their home to a fire.

Donate today at https://www.redcross.org/donate/home-fire-campaign.html/ or call 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767).

Edited by Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross volunteer.

All photos by Doug Bardwell.

 

Winner winner, chicken dinner – thousands of them!

By Karen Conklin, Executive Director, Lake to River Chapter

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Working for the Red Cross provides wonderful opportunities to use our creative skills.

Recently I got a call from an over the road trucker who wanted to give us chickens – 3,200 chickens. Yes, that is the number he was offering – 3,200 ready to cook, whole chickens. It seems the birds were originally destined for Walmart, but the expiration date was two weeks out; Walmart declined them.  The driver had tried the local homeless mission and another organization with no luck.

Let’s face it…that is a lot of chickens!

The driver was on his way to the American Red Cross office in Jefferson County when he called with his generous offer. I was able to connect him with the Food Bank in Youngstown, and he was happy to make the drive to pass the chickens on to someone.  OK, anyone!

End of story:  3,200 families can now get a free chicken thanks to the power of the Red Cross brand and the power of community connections.

This incident clearly falls in my job description under “other duties as assigned.”

Editor’s note: While we don’t deliver chickens, we do have volunteer positions available for drivers to pick-up and deliver lifesaving blood products.  Visit redcross.org/volunteer to learn more about volunteer opportunities available.  And you can hear from current volunteers and staff members in person at one of our upcoming volunteer information sessions:

  • Cleveland (3747 Euclid Ave), March 6th from 5:30 – 6:30 pm
  • Cleveland (3747 Euclid Ave), March 9th from 10:00 – 11:00 am
  • Akron (501 W Market St), March 13th from 5:30 – 6:30 pm
  • Akron (501 W Market St), March 16th from 10:00 – 11:00 am

RSVP to Melanie Collins at melanie.collins4@redcross.org, or call 330-204-6615.