‘If it weren’t for the blood supply, we wouldn’t have our two little girls’

Genevieve Skinner appears to be a typical 15-year-old girl who keeps a calendar full of activities and enjoys spending time with family and friends. To her parents, Gary and Ann, she is very special. She is a miracle.

Ann suffers from a rare blood disorder called hypofibrinogenemia/Factor I deficiency. The disorder put her at high-risk during her pregnancy with Genevieve. Doctors worried she wouldn’t carry to term. But Ann and Gary took a chance at making their dream of having a family come true. They agreed to a treatment requiring Ann receive multiple infusions of cryoprecipitate each week through the duration of her pregnancy. Cryoprecipitate is one of several components of whole blood that can be transfused from plasma.

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The treatment Ann received was a success. Thanks to Ann’s infusions, she was able to deliver a healthy baby girl. Nearly five years later, the Skinner family experienced another miracle when they welcomed their daughter Claire. Ann had more blood transfusions while carrying Claire.

Gary Skinner credits blood donors for helping bring his babies into the world. “If it weren’t for the blood supply, we wouldn’t have our two little girls.”

Now the Skinner family pays it forward by hosting blood drives at their church. Genevieve leads the charge to collect blood donations by recruiting donors and educating the congregation about the importance of blood donations.

“I enjoy leading. I always try to give back to the community, and there is pride in knowing that I was a part of it,” Genevieve said. It’s her goal for others to understand the importance of giving blood. “It’s amazing how people [are] impacted and helped. I feel like I should do what I can to help.”

The Skinner family hosts three blood drives at Wake Forest Presbyterian Church every year and have been doing so for more than a decade. In the last 10 years, the church has collected about 2,750 units of blood and hopes to continue this effort for years to come. The next drive will be held on Super Bowl Sunday, Feb. 4, from noon to 6 p.m.

Genevieve has a simple message for those who have considered giving blood but are afraid of needles: “Donating blood helps people more than it hurts you.”

Wake Forest

 

 

What’s it like to be a disaster team intern?

Greg Watts_2After graduating from high school, Gregory Watts chose to pursue a disaster services internship with the Red Cross of Eastern North Carolina. And in the fall, he became fully immersed in disaster relief operation work. The then 19-year-old deployed twice to Texas for Hurricane Harvey relief efforts, and once to Puerto Rico to help assist victims of Hurricane Maria. When Gregory returned home, we spoke with him about his deployments. Here’s what we learned!

Q: First, why and how did you choose to work for the Red Cross in disaster relief?

A: I always enjoyed giving blood and platelets, so I called and inquired about an internship. I chose disaster relief because it sounded exciting. One deployment turned into three with the recent hurricane season!

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Gregory Watts speaks with a reporter before deploying to Puerto Rico.

Q: What were your assignments on deployments?

A: In Texas, I was delivering food and water to victims. In Puerto Rico, I was the warehouse distribution supervisor in charge of coordinating water, tarps, baby food, meals, toilet paper, etc. to be delivered appropriately.

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A shelter area in Texas. 

Q: What was most rewarding about deploying to help?

A: The best part was delivering supplies personally to people in Texas. It was incredible to be able to actually shake people’s hands and see their faces light up in the midst of everything going on. In both places [Texas and Puerto Rico] it was really great to see how in disaster all hidden agendas are stripped away for the good of the whole. The focus of the Red Cross is being there to help and it was amazing to be associated with such a worthy cause.

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Devastation in Texas following Hurricane Harvey.

Q: What was your greatest challenge?

 

A: Beside the overall stress of [being on a disaster relief operation], there were occasional conflicts between those who were deployed. Time and kindness resolved what was at first most difficult. Then we were faced with the other big challenges of power outages and insufficient resources at times. In Puerto Rico I learned so much about making quick decisions in order to be sure people got what they needed as quickly as possible. There’s not much time to think so you have to think fast and have a good plan. I learned it saved a lot of time to have my graphs, forms, and charts organized.

Q: Is there anything you wish you brought with you that you did not?

A: We were advised to bring five days worth of food and water which fortunately we didn’t need at the time. I really wish I had brought bug spray. The mosquitoes in Puerto Rico were bad! There was not enough bug spray.

Q: Any comic relief in the midst of disaster relief?

A: All I can say is as hard as we all tried to stay organized, there were days the truck would run out of gas then we would lose the keys – but it would be so ridiculous we would wind up laughing in the end. 

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Gregory Watts stands in front of what used to be a beach-side resort in Arecibo, Puerto Rico.

Story by Phoebe Fulkerson/American Red Cross

Photos courtesy of Gregory Watts