Sickle Cell Fighter: Justina Williams

Justina Williams of Raleigh, NC

At age 27, Justina Williams is living her dream. She supports sickle cell warriors across the Carolinas, by helping them work through health-related challenges. It’s work she’s been passionate about since she was a child navigating through life as a sickle cell warrior herself.

Diagnosed with sickle cell disease SS at birth, Justina was six-months old when she experienced her first sickle cell crises. She required her first emergency blood transfusion at age three. Blood transfusion is a common treatment for patients whose red blood cells, which are usually soft and round, sometimes harden and form a C-shape, like a sickle.

“Doctors said they could have lost me had I not gotten to the hospital and got that transfusion.”

That was the first of many blood transfusions to help relieve Justina of the pain she endures during a crises.

“I was one of the sickest babies at Duke University Hospital,” Justina recalls.

After that frightening incident, life got better for Justina. She remembers a childhood filled with joyful experiences. Her parents and doctors supported and encouraged her to do try things that made her happy, so she began dancing and cheerleading.

To manage her sickle cell disease today, doctors require that Justina receives monthly blood transfusions. But the blood she receives can only come from volunteer donors, and to reduce complications sickle cell patients rely on donated blood from individuals with a similar ethic background.

“For the African American community, it is very important that we do donate due to our genetic makeup. I think it’s very important that we do donate a lot of blood, during these times and in the future as well.”

To date, Justina estimates that she has received blood on more than 100 occasions.

“I’ve been doing very, very well on blood transfusions so far,” Justina says of her monthly treatments over the last year. Not only is she an advocate for sickle cell patients, but blood donors too. She continues to rally family and friends to donate blood in honor of patients who depend of lifesaving transfusions.

Want to become a Sickle Cell Fighter? Click here to find out how to help patients like Justina today!

Story by: Maya Franklin | American Red Cross

Life Saved at Wilmington Pickleball Game

For members of the Cape Fear Pickleball Club, November 4, 2019, was an ordinary day of sport and fellowship. Until one of the members of the club who was preparing to take part in a match suddenly collapsed on the court.

Photos by New Hanover County, NC – https://flic.kr/s/aHsmP5oZRL

Jackie Sage, an off-duty registered nurse, responded immediately. She quickly dialed 9-1-1 to alert emergency personnel and took control of the scene. Jackie was joined by Rudy Thurman, a former respiratory therapist, who helped to assess the man. After the assessment, it was determined the he needed CPR. Rudy began chest compressions. Tammy Frieberg, also a registered nurse, came to aid the gentleman by audibly counting chest compressions as they were conducted. Once Rudy had begun to tire, Tammy relieved him and resumed compressions. Leigh Grainger assisted by providing rescue breathes in conjunction with the compressions. Jackie continued to control the scene while on the phone with 9-1-1.

The man was not responding, so Jackie sent a bystander, Kevin Devol, to obtain an AED. Kevin retrieved the AED with help from Malik Glaspie from the MLK Center. Once the AED had arrived, Jackie and Tammy connected the pads to his chest. The AED analyzed and suggested administering a shock. All stood clear as a shock was delivered. Emergency Medical Services arrived on scene as the shock was delivered.

Without a doubt, the skills learned in the American Red Cross Training Services course helped to sustain the life of this man. The American Red Cross is honored to award the lifesaving actions of these extraordinary individuals

For their heroic and lifesaving actions, Jackie Sage, Tammy Frieberg, Rudy Thurman, and Leigh LaGrange were awarded the following American Red Cross Lifesaving Awards at a ceremony on Friday, June 26, 2020, at Robert Strange Park in Wilmington, NC. The American Red Cross Cape Fear Executive Director James Jarvis and New Hanover County Emergency Manager Rob Zapple presented the awards to these deserving individuals.

The Certificate of Merit is the highest award given by the Red Cross to individuals who save or sustain a life using skills learned in a Red Cross Training Services course. “We’re extremely proud to present a Certificate of Merit to Jackie and Tammy,” said James Jarvis, Executive Director, American Red Cross Cape Fear Chapter. “Their actions exemplify our mission  to help people prevent, prepare for and respond to emergencies.”

“The Certificate of Extraordinary Personal Action is given to individuals, like Rudy and Leigh who step up in an emergency situation and help save or sustain a life,” said Jarvis. “These individuals exemplify the mission of the Red Cross to prevent and alleviate human suffering in the face of emergencies and are to be commended for their willingness to help others in distress.”

Red Cross training gives people the knowledge and skills to act in an emergency and save a life. A variety of online, blended (online and in-person skills session) and classroom courses are available at redcross.org/takeaclass.

If you or someone you know has used skills and knowledge learned in an American Red Cross Training Services course to help save or sustain the life of another individual, visit LifesavingAwards.org to nominate, recognize, or be inspired.