Saving Lives in Real Time

by Visvajit Sriramrajan, American Red Cross Volunteer

Swift, dedicated, and tireless: theserco_blog_img_hfcare what the Red Cross workers are in a nutshell, and a recent incident in Lawrence proved that their training and quick decision-making skills were enough to save lives. On April 20th, Disaster Program Manager, Deb Duxbury and volunteer Justin O’Mahoney arrived at a home on Howard street for an appointment to install smoke alarms and CO detectors. When they arrived the two began to do a safety check, walking through the home looking for fire hazards and other potential risks.

“The normal process is for the resident to guide us around their house or apartment,” explained Justin. “We check existing smoke alarms to see if they are installed correctly and functioning properly. We then also determine the needs of the residence, install the detectors accordingly, show the residents how to change batteries, and give a preventive brief along with additional Red Cross fire educational leaflets,” he added.

But this time was a bit different.

After completing their work on the first floor, Deb and Justin headed down into the basement. And that’s when they noticed the distinct odor of gas.

The landlord, who was with them, explained that she had smelled gas for a few weeks, but hadn’t bothered to do anything about it. “No smoke or carbon dioxide detectors were installed in the basement of the home,” noted Deb. “Justin and I saw this as an immediate red flag.”

Smelling gas in a home is never something to take lightly. Some clients don’t quite grasp the seriousness of it. “What could go wrong?”, they ask, without realizing that it could mean the difference between life and death. Deb, however, immediately recognized the risk, phoning the fire department and asking the client to evacuate the building. The children and two adults waited in the driveway of the home with Deb and Justin until emergency personnel arrived. The children’s eyes lit up as fire engines pulled into the driveway in almost no time.

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After inspecting the home, Captain Jim Flynn of the Lawrence Fire Department determined there was a notable gas leak, which was subsequently fixed by a local gas company contractor. The resident who lives in the home thanked Deb and Justin for saving the lives of the family that lives there, while the fire department and the gas company both thanked them for the Red Cross Home Fire Campaign that put them in the right place just in the nick of time.

From April 1 to May 3, 2017 the American Red Cross has made more than 240 homes safer in Lawrence through smoke and carbon dioxide detector installations.

  • Note – At a Home Fire Campaign installation in the Dorchester neighborhood of Boston May 6, Red Cross volunteers and a member of the Boston Fire Department noted a stove leaking unburned natural gas into a home. The two elderly residents were not aware of the toxic leak. The Boston Fire Department official was able to stop the leak and through the home fire prevention training given during the visit, the homeowner was made aware of silent danger carbon monoxide can be.
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The Food Pantry Must Go On

by Visvajit Sriramrajan, American Red Cross volunteer

Thursday, April 6, 2017 was a fairlyrco_blog_img_foodpant busy day at the American Red Cross Food Program distribution, much as it is on any distribution day. But what wasn’t usual was a small accident that occurred that day: a loose piece of ceiling cement fell to the ground and grazed two people: a client and a staff member. Both were taken to the hospital, and thankfully, neither suffered any serious injuries. But in the interim hours, Red Cross staff was shaken, both by the unexpected accident and by the prospect that the Food Pantry would need to stay closed until further notice. According to Food and Nutrition Director, David Andre, the Food Pantry serves hundreds of people each week, providing basic quality foodstuffs to people struggling to make ends meet.

Both shaken and determined, Andre said, “We are the Red Cross —when a disaster strikes, the Red Cross does not close down for repairs.” He continued, “Far too many people rely on us to be open on schedule, and so closing our program for repairs is not a solution.”

While the Red Cross’ Disaster Relief team immediately began offering mental health support to the client and the staff in the pantry during the time of the incident, Andre was scrambling to find a way for the Saturday food distribution – just two days away – to move forward. After dozens of phone calls and back and forth with the city inspectors, the distribution went on as scheduled. But not in the building, which was still under inspection by city engineers. Instead, the pantry went off  as planned in an outdoor market at Clifford Playground, a relatively large park behind the original building.

The event was incredibly successful: forty-five enthusiastic volunteers served an approximated 31,000 pounds of food to 656 families across the Boston area. Thousands upon thousands of food bags were assembled, food receptacles were efficiently wheeled to the park, and intake and distribution areas were neatly set up, all a safe distance away from the repair work being done in the warehouse.

One Boston Day Food Pantry

The Red Cross’ Boston pantry is considered one of the largest pantries in the city of Boston in both the amount of food provided and number of families served. In 2016, the pantry distributed over 1.8 million meals to 122,550 individuals. The majority of the food was fresh produce. About 9,400 families use the pantry during the year.

Although the unfortunate accident that transpired on April 6 caused injuries and building damage, it galvanized the staff and volunteers of the Red Cross of Massachusetts Food Pantry. And thanks to a special permit issued by the City of Boston, the Red Cross was able to stage its food distribution out of the Clifford Playground throughout the month of April.

Through the sacrifice and dedication of the organization’s volunteers, and particularly the pantry staff of Peter Hubbard, Sharon Curry, Bill Hill, and Suresh Mijar, the show must and will (and did) go on.

Hospital Patients Rely on Lifesaving Blood Every Day – But How Does it Get There?

Volunteerism is an enormousrco_blog_img_biodriver part of what makes communities powerful and resilient. The American Red Cross organizes volunteers to bring services to the American people in times of urgent need, not only during disasters, but every day in our local community.

Volunteer Biomedical Transportation Specialists are real heroes working behind the scenes to deliver life-saving blood products where they are most needed.

The American Red Cross supplies about 40 percent of our nation’s blood to hospitals where patients are in desperate need. Most of us are familiar with Red Cross blood drives, but the donation is just the beginning of the journey. Once it is tested and properly stored, we then have to deliver the donated blood, plasma or platelets to those who need it, when they need it. Our volunteer Biomedical Transportation Specialists provide this essential service.

Patients with serious medical conditions – including accident and burn victims, heart surgery patients, organ transplant patients, and those receiving treatment for leukemia, cancer or sickle cell disease – may all need blood or blood products at any time. Volunteer Biomedical Transportation Specialists answer the call: driving donations from blood drives to our labs, and from storage facilities to hospitals throughout the region.

Each shift is about four hours, and our volunteers embrace the opportunity. Some enjoy the quiet time behind the wheel. Others look forward to the welcome they receive when they bring their precious cargo to its destination. Those who volunteer as a Transportation Specialist should feel the glow of knowing they might have helped save a life that day.

Our region has several openings for volunteer Biomedical Transportation Specialists. The requirements include being a licensed driver with a clean driving record for at least three years. You also need to be able to lift boxes weighing up to 45 pounds.

To view the complete job description and apply for this volunteer position, please click to http://www.tinyurl.com/biodriver

How the Red Cross CNA Program Changed Denise’s Life

 

Denise’s story is not yourrco_blog_img_moses average tale about overcoming adversity. Her story begins as a child growing up among seven siblings, all raised by parents caught in a cycle of substance abuse. Bounced from foster home to foster home, Denise set her mind to finding a job that would allow her to rely on no one but herself, and so she dropped out of high school, found a menial job but then soon after found herself pregnant. Her childhood quickly fading away and then pregnant with her second child, Denise realized that in order to create a better life for herself and her family, she would need to go back to school.

Denise first encountered the American Red Cross as a young girl when her family suffered the devastating loss of their Boston home in a fire. The Red Cross was there to provide financial assistance and lodging for the nine members of her family, leaving them incredibly grateful to have received help when it was needed most.

When thinking about her new life to come, her Red Cross experience came to mind, and so she inquired about a career in health care and the American Red Cross Certified Nurse Assistant (CNA) Program.

“CNA pays very well, you get as many hours as you want, and you can go anywhere and always have a job. That can change anyone’s life.”

While taking night classes towards her CNA certification with the Red Cross in Lawrence, she simultaneously completed her GED. Going to two schools at once consumed all of her time. The time it took to get from her home to her classes was her biggest hurdle because Denise is legally blind and unable to drive. She didn’t let transportation limitations stop her from accomplishing her dreams and instead walked to and from classes. As if this wasn’t enough of an obstacle, Denise also has a learning disability. Classes were difficult for her and she did not pick things up as quickly as her classmates but she studied hard and never gave up. “Nothing can stop me,” she said. Denise graduated from the Red Cross CNA program in 2016 and passed the state exam on the first try.

When talking about the Red Cross CNA program, Denise boasts that “the class was very disciplined. The way they teach you is very close to how it is in real life.” After, the instructors continue to call and check up on her, not because they have to, but because they care.

“They call to check and see if you have a job and if you don’t they ask how they can help. They really care.”

Immediately upon graduation, Denise was offered three positions. She now works two jobs and walks 20 miles a day to get there, five hours of walking a day. Denise leaves for work an hour before she needs to so she can stop and talk to all her neighbors along the way. She has become so attached to her clients that sometimes she will go spend time with them on her day off. “It’s not about the money, I like the fact that I can interact with the patients.”

Denise received employee of the year her first year on the job. One would think Denise’s struggle should end here. Unfortunately, Denise was diagnosed with breast cancer shortly after she got her first job. While undergoing treatment, Denise managed to continue to walk to work. She never took a day off when she wasn’t in the hospital and never let the cancer stop her.

“It’s not about me, it’s about my patients. I am there for them.”

While working as a home health aide in the Lowell area, Denise stays in touch with her instructors, occasionally having lunch with them and talking about future plans. “I’m going back to school next year to continue my education to become a licensed practical nurse,” she states eagerly. “And my former instructors keep encouraging me.” She promised her kids that she would one day become a nurse and she is dedicated to continue her education until she gets there. For now, Denise is paying for her sister to take the Red Cross CNA classes so that she can follow the same path to success that Denise did.

Sign Up For Certified Nurse Assistant Training

 

Remember the Good on an Awful Day

With the Mark Wahlberg movie Patriots Day in wide release today, it’s an appropriate time to reflect on the good work the American Red Cross and its volunteers do every day here in the Commonwealth.

patriots-day-headerWhen two bombs exploded near the finish line of the Boston Marathon, focus shifted from a day of personal achievements to a rescue and response atmosphere. Over the next two weeks the region cycled through the fear of an attack, the determined drive to bring the accused to justice and a feeling of collective healing as people rallied around the victims, all while people tried to find what normal was after the Patriots Day bombing.
The American Red Cross has a long history supporting the Boston Marathon, staffing medical tents and water stations. Red Cross volunteers were at the finish line in 2013, directing marathon finishers to recovery areas, medical assistance, all the while keeping race lanes clear for the finishing wheel chair participants.

Lisa Contee was one of those volunteers working the finish line area of the Boston Marathon April 15, 2013. She helped runners through the finish line area, often times into the medical tent to receive treatment after the grueling 26.2 miles course.

“When the first explosion happened, we all thought it was some type of construction, perhaps just out of site,” Lisa recalled. “When the second explosion occurred, I was terrified; we all knew what it was.”

As organizers and police closed the finish line area for security reasons, Lisa and other Red Cross volunteers made their way back to the Regional Headquarters in Cambridge to await instructions on how to help.

Lisa describes the next 10 days as a flurry of support activities. Volunteers drove emergency response vehicles around the city of Boston loaded with coffee, water and snacks to help support law enforcement and medical personnel. The Red Cross disaster operation center was opened and staffed to ensure services were available to all who needed them.

“For 10 days we worked nonstop, but I needed to keep myself busy. I couldn’t cope with what happened, it was surreal for me,” Lisa said. This was a common thread among Red Cross volunteers and first responders.  But as work slowed most realized the need to speak about what had happened.

Lisa spoke with disaster volunteers who specialize in coping with tragedy. Disaster mental health volunteers assisted first responders, National Guard troops as well as Red Cross staff and volunteers who had been working around the clock supporting police and recovery operations.

Though an exhausting time, both physically and emotionally, Lisa said it was an unforgettable time because of the people she met and assisted. The American Red Cross mission to alleviate suffering was definitely felt over those difficult weeks.

Thank you to all those who stepped forward to help during the aftermath of that day, and our thoughts continue to be with those still recovering from that day nearly four years ago.