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

Play Ball! Chapter volunteers treated to night at the ballpark

By Jim McIntyre, Regional Communications & Marketing Manager, American Red Cross of Northeast Ohio

June 28, 2019- Ballgame!

Volunteers of the Greater Cleveland Chapter brought home a winner on Saturday, June 22, 2019, gathering at Classic Park in Eastlake to watch the Lake County Captains play the West Michigan Whitecaps. It was Heroes Appreciation Night at the ballpark, and some American Red Cross hero volunteers took advantage of the offer to go to the game free of charge to recognize their vital contributions to the Red Cross mission.

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Fans of the Lake County Captains, a Class A affiliate of the Cleveland Indians, weren’t disappointed. The Captains beat West Michigan 5-2.

“We can’t think of a better place to honor our heroes, our Red Cross volunteers, than at a Lake County Captains game,” said Mike Parks, Regional CEO of the Red Cross of Northeast Ohio.  He then led the crowd as they sang “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” during the 7th inning stretch.

Before the game, Mike threw out one of the ceremonial first pitches. Afterward, he claimed the Burning River jersey he was awarded for submitting the highest bid. It was autographed by Captain’s pitcher Thomas Ponticelli, who led  the Captains with a combined no-hitter the night before.

Volunteers received vouchers for free parking and a meal, so they didn’t have to spend a dime to have good time at the ballpark. It was a great evening of summertime baseball and a fun way to reward the dedicated volunteers who pitch in to help the Red Cross serve up  relief on a daily basis for community members in need.

See more photos in our Flickr album here.

Edited by Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross volunteer

 

Christmas marks birth of “Angel of the Battlefield” Red Cross founder

By Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross volunteer.

Merry Christmas! Billions of people around the globe will celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ today. This religious and cultural holiday is also the birth date of a significant figure in American history. Clara Barton, founder of the American Red Cross, was born on December 25, 1821. It seems fitting that a day focused on giving marks the birth of a woman who dedicated her life to giving to those in need.

Matthew Brady Portrait of Clara BartonBorn Clarissa Harlowe Barton in Oxford Massachusetts, Clara was a shy child. She became a teacher at age 15 during a time when most teachers were men. She was also among the first women to be employed by the federal government. She moved to Washington, D.C., in the mid 1850s to work as a recording clerk in the U.S. Patent Office.

In Washington during the Civil War, Clara collected clothing, supplies and food for sick and wounded soldiers. But she felt she was needed most on the battlefields. She persuaded government and army leaders to provide her with passes to bring her volunteer services and medical supplies to battle sites and field hospitals. Her work earned her the nickname “Angel of the Battlefield.”

Clara’s pioneering vision and commitment to service continued throughout her life. She founded the American Red Cross at age 60 and served as its first president. Her spirit of giving shines on to this day through the ongoing relief work of the organization she created.

In a second consecutive year of record wildfires, hurricanes, tragic shootings and other large crises, the Red Cross’ disaster workforce—90 percent volunteers—helped millions of people across the country.

In 2018, generous support enabled the Red Cross to:

  • Serve over 8.2 million meals and snacks
  • Distribute over 2.2 million relief items
  • Provide over 290,000 overnight stays in shelters
  • Make over 188,000 health and mental health contacts
  • Provide over 73,000 households with recovery support after home firesAmerican Red Cross Historical Photo

Locally, the Red Cross Northeast Ohio Region responded to about 900 disasters, the vast majority of them home fires, assisting more than 4,200 people—about 1,600 families—and distributing about $800,000 in assistance in 2018.

To celebrate Clara’s birthday, if you would like to donate to the Red Cross and give something that means something on this momentous holiday, visit redcross.org/donate.

To read more about the life and achievements of Clara Barton, visit here.

Deck the halls and trim the tree: Tips for a festive and safe home

Written by Brad Galvin and edited by Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross volunteers

The holidays are approaching, so is the heightened risk for home fires. Unfortunately, this time of year is tragically one of the busiest for fire departments due to the surprising danger of holiday décor, dry Christmas trees, holiday cooking and misuse of fireplaces and chimneys.

fireplace-1024x683.jpgBeautiful, fragrant and festive, the live Christmas tree can be very risky if safety precautions are not observed. The longer the tree is in the home without being given ample water, the more it will dry out and become a fire hazard. A dry live tree can go up in flames quickly if there is an electrical mishap with a strand of lights or if an open flame gets too close to the needles. It is important to continue to give your tree plenty of water and keep it away from energy sources. Strands of lights should be checked frequently.

According the National Fire Protection Agency, between 2012 to 2016, U.S. fire departments responded to an average 170 home fires per year that started with Christmas trees. These fires caused an average of four deaths, 15 injuries and $12 million in direct property damage annually.

Festive décor should be installed with common sense in mind. Décor such as candles and lights can catch their cheerful counterparts such as garland, bows and wreaths on fire if they aren’t properly inspected and used correctly. Do not overload sockets and connect too many extension cords.

Hams, casseroles and delicious cookies are staples on the holiday plate but use caution 240_F_146531964_rcj4af3xtTm2f3nW8aoKU9G6Y14fPSt6when using the oven and cooking range. FEMA recommends a common-sense practice of simply staying in the kitchen when you are frying, grilling or cooking on the stove top or broiling food. The idea of “set-it and forget-it” is dangerous. Additionally, FEMA recommends to never use a turkey fryer in a garage or on a wooden deck. It’s imperative to watch the fryer carefully, as the oil will continue to heat until it can catch on fire. To avoid oil spillover, don’t overfill the fryer.

The holidays are the perfect time to enjoy the crackling of a fire in the fireplace. Stockings hung from the mantel is an iconic holiday image. While picturesque, it is critical to be smart when operating the fireplace. Some suggestions from the American Academy of Pediatrics include:

  • Even if the chimney is not due for cleaning, it is important to check for animal nests or other blockages that could prevent smoke from escaping.
  • Make sure the area around the fireplace is clear of anything that is potentially flammable (furniture, drapes, newspapers, books, etc.). If these items get too close to the fireplace, they could catch fire.
  • Never leave a fire in the fireplace unattended. Make sure it is completely out before going to bed or leaving the house. If you leave the room while the fire is burning or the fireplace is still hot, take your small child with you.
  • Always have a fire extinguisher nearby.

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The holidays are meant to be enjoyed with friends and family. The excitement can often divert our attention and distract us from our usual diligence. It’s imperative to use these common-sense suggestions to decrease the risk of a dangerous home fire.

You can learn more about preventing home fires with tips from the American Red Cross at redcross.org. The Red Cross offers simple safety tips that take you safely through the holidays and into the new year. Read  them here.

Travel tips to get you safely to your Thanksgiving celebration

By Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross volunteer

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Thanksgiving is a special holiday that brings people together to give thanks and celebrate their blessings. Relatives gather around the table to enjoy their family’s version of the traditional Thanksgiving feast. Each year, millions of people drive to spend Thanksgiving with family and friends, making it one of the busiest times for road traffic.

 

If you are headed “over the river and through the woods to grandmother’s house,” as the childhood song goes, prepare in advance to ensure a safe visit. The American Red Cross offers 10 tips to help you stay safe if you are traveling by car:

  1. Make sure your car is in good condition for a road trip.
  2. Pack an emergency preparedness kit, supplies and a first aid kit in the trunk.
  3. Share travel plans with a family member or friend.
  4. Check the weather before departing and along your route. Plan for travel around any storms that may be coming.
  5. Be well rested and alert.
  6. Buckle up, slow down and don’t drive impaired.
  7. Follow the rules of the road and use caution in work zones.
  8. Give your full attention to the road. Avoid distractions such as cell phones.
  9. Make frequent stops. During long trips, rotate drivers. If you’re too tired to drive, stop and get some rest.
  10. If you have car trouble, pull off the road as far as possible.

‘Tis the season . . . flu season. So if public transportation is part of your travel plans, keep this in mind. From luggage to seats, everything that you touch is likely touched by someone else. Follow these tips to help avoid the spread of germs.

  1. Handle your own belongings.
  2. Wash your hands often with soap and water.
  3. Carry hand sanitizer and anti-bacterial wipes with you. You can use them to wash your hands or wipe down surfaces, such as armrests.
  4. Bring your own pillows and blankets. They can act as a shield against the seat itself.

To find out what supplies you should have on hand in an emergency preparedness kit, the Red Cross offers this checklist and quiz to test your knowledge: https://www.redcross.org/get-help/how-to-prepare-for-emergencies/survival-kit-supplies.html.

You can also download the free Red Cross Emergency App to help you monitor severe weather and emergency alerts.

Whichever road leads to your Thanksgiving destination, these Red Cross tips and tools can help keep you and your loved ones safe.

Safe travels!

Red Cross volunteer who provided service in Vietnam War among those to be honored this weekend in nation’s capital

By Sue Wilson Cordle, Summit, Portage, Medina Chapter board of directors member. Edited by Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross Volunteer

Jackie Otte is the Regional Volunteer Lead for the American Red Cross Disaster Mental Health Services team and has been a Red Cross volunteer for the last 26 years. That in itself is significant; but it is just one aspect of her commitment to the organization.

1883jo Jackie Christmas Card 1968 copyIn the late 1960s, Jackie served with the Red Cross in Vietnam. She explained, “There were two national Red Cross programs serving the military during the Vietnam War: SMI, Service to Military Installations, and SMH, Service to Military Hospitals.”  Jackie served in both areas doing casework and recreational therapy.

“When I received orders for Vietnam in the spring of 1968, the patients I worked with told me not to go— that I would forever be affected. However, I was an idealist and did not turn down orders.”  She was assigned to the 2nd Surgical Hospital in Chu Lai, about 50 miles south of DaNang.

This weekend, her contribution for those years and many more will be recognized at the American Red Cross Headquarters in Washington, D.C., with a Legacy Award. This award recognizes Red Cross staff and volunteers, like Jackie, who have served side-by-side with members of the United States armed forces in combat zones.

After her service in Vietnam, Jackie was stationed in Germany. “I am the daughter of a veteran and my service in military hospitals has given me a life-long desire to give back to our military personnel and veterans. I am still working part-time as a social worker in a hospice program,” she said. Jackie is very involved with We Honor Veterans, the national hospice organization that recognizes vets at end-of–life and trains staff on end-of-life issues faced by combat vets.

Jackie, who is originally from Grand Rapids, Michigan, comes from a Red Cross family. Her father, a World War II vet, served the Red Cross as a board member at both the local and national levels until his death. Jackie learned while planning his funeral that her dad used to read her letters from Vietnam at Red Cross board meetings. While in Washington this weekend for Veterans Day-related events, she’ll stay with her nephew, who is a former Red Cross employee, and his wife, a current Red Cross employee. Red Cross roots spread wide in her family.JackieOtte2

Jackie also plans to visit the Vietnam Veterans Women’s Memorial on its 25th anniversary. “I was the Ohio volunteer coordinator for the Vietnam Women’s Memorial,” explained Jackie. “I made a lot of appearances to educate others about the memorial and raise funds to build it.”

Jackie said she is looking forward to seeing old friends, both from the Red Cross and military. “It has been 50 years since we were there and we aren’t getting any younger. Many may not be with us in the near future.”

The Red Cross legacy of service to members of the military began when founder Clara Barton provided comfort on the battlefields during the Civil War. Since then, American Red Cross staff and volunteers have served in every major military combat or conflict operation around the world. They are among a select group who have proudly worn the Red Cross emblem to provide care and comfort to members of the United States armed forces, their families and our veterans. And Jackie is a member of that select group who will be honored this weekend.

In Jackie’s words, “These ceremonies are always moving for all involved. It will be an honor to take part in a ceremony like this for recognition for combat Red Cross staff.”

Congratulations, Jackie, and thank you for your years of dedication and service to the Red Cross, our military and our veterans.

You are a true hero.

Keep Calm, It’s Stress Awareness Day

By Brad Galvan; edited by Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross Volunteers

Does even the thought of Stress Awareness Day stress you out? Stress, anxiety, pressure and strain are all synonyms for that uncomfortable burden on one’s mental health. Each of us have experienced stress in varying degrees often caused by workloads, relationships or other factors. Effective, healthy stress management can literally be a Hurricane Matthew 2016lifesaver. That’s the focus of Stress Awareness Day, which is recognized on November 7.

A healthy amount of stress can be viewed as a motivator, a reason to strive for improvement and it can feel good when one can overcome challenges. But when it’s overwhelming, causing illness, hurting relationships and overall well-being, it’s important to evaluate environmental stressors. Stepping back, evaluating the cause of stress and using a mitigation technique can be very effective.

Many people suffer from stresses related to not feeling as if there are enough hours in the day or stress related to not being prepared for the known, and unknown. There’s no need to re-create the wheel; checklists, planning documents and organizers are readily available. Consider reviewing The Be Ready Red Cross checklist. Other folks find comfort in turning the attention away from themselves and focus on others as a strategy to reduce stress. A great way to do that is to donate blood. Finding a nearby drive whereBlood bank Campaign ceremony 2017 you can relax for a few minutes and know that you are helping someone else could be a wonderful way to reduce tension.

If personal evaluation of anxiety and management of stresses do not seem to help, consulting a mental health professional is always the best bet. Mental health is just as important as physical health—it’s critical to care for your own well-being on November 7 and throughout the entire year.