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

Cancer Does Not Quarantine

“It’s a small thing that helps someone in a big way. It’s especially important right now,” stated Heather Vahdat, a Red Cross Board Member of the Central NC Chapter in Durham.

Inspired by her parents, Heather has been a long-time blood donor. Due to health concerns, her mother had received many blood transfusions over the years and her father routinely donated blood in his community. “Now, I have a family member with leukemia, and I would do anything to help him. While I may not be a match for him, I know I am a match for someone.” Heather recently decided to donate platelets and her second donation was made during the COVID-19 pandemic. “Before I donated, I thought ‘cancer does not quarantine.’ There are people fighting cancer and need platelets. I can help.”

Heather also serves as chair of the Biomed Committee with fellow board members, they strive to promote and influence successful blood drives and partners.

Red Cross Board Members like Heather play a critical role across Eastern NC.  These volunteers serve as advocates in their communities, strategic advisors, and connectors to philanthropic resources.  From recruiting volunteers and blood drive partners, connecting communities to resources, and meeting with donors, Board Members are connected to every part of our mission.

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High School Senior James Alligood Jumps Into Action to Help Victims

Sept 20, 2018 – Like most high school seniors, Greenville native James Alligood, is looking forward to graduation in the Spring.  The 18-year-old is excited about heading off to Wingate College next fall where he’ll study Special Education on a four-year academic scholarship.  In many ways, James is a typical North Carolina teenager, but as much as he has in common with his peers, a greater number of attributes sets him apart.

Last week, James spent four and a half days working in an evacuation shelter in Greenville as an American Red Cross volunteer. In the days leading up to, and following landfall, more than 150 people sought refuge at E.B. Aycock Middle School as Florence approached.   “Most of the people that were there were from my community that I’m close to. I felt like the clients would like to see someone they know to insure them that everything is going to be ok,” explained James.

09-22-18 -- Photo 1 - James AlligoodCommunity service hours are a prerequisite at J.H. Rose High School, where James attends; with Florence looming, James chose the Red Cross to complete his required service. “I blew through my required volunteer hours in one week–last week,” James said proudly.  “It feels like I’m doing something good for the community and I like that feeling.”

James holds down a couple of different part-time jobs where he works about 40 hours per week. He took a week of vacation to volunteer because he felt the time after Florence would be the most hectic for the Red Cross. James has quickly become a “go-to” volunteer for Cally Edwards, the Northeastern North Carolina Chapter Executive.  James spent Friday running errands, setting up and answering phones at the WITN disaster relief telethon. “He’s a real dynamo,” Cally said of James.  “He’s a very impressive young man who gives his heart and soul to help the Red Cross.”

You can make also make a financial donation to aid in disaster relief by calling 1-800-REDCROSS, by going to www.redcross.org or by texting FLORENCE to 90999 to make a $10 donation.

Story by Marita Salkowski/American Red Cross

 

Red Cross Volunteer Overcomes Hardship to Support Blood Donations; Next Drive September 21

Sept 20, 2018 – Beautiful Carteret County, North Carolina, is a welcoming community positioned between the Neuse River and the Atlantic Ocean.

“We are a unique group of people,” Kristin Willis said of her beloved neighbors in Carteret County. But residents are now struggling with massive flooding from Hurricane Florence.

To hear Kristin tell it, “it looks like someone took a bomb and dropped it” on her hometown of Newport, which sits off State Route 70 near Morehead City.

Less than one week ago, Kristin, her husband and three-year-old son Liam, barricaded themselves in her parents’ Carteret County home to ride out the storm. They evacuated to Georgia, but came back when they thought Hurricane Florence was going South. The storm then returned to its original track through Carteret County and caused significant damage. Showing traditional Southern strength, she states that “we will get our lives back.”

Fast forward one week and you’ll find Kristin helping run a Red Cross blood drive at the Knights of Columbus Hall in New Bern. Kristin helps manage blood collection in Carteret and Craven counties.

“We had to cancel blood drives last week leading up to Hurricane Florence, we can’t delay getting back to it any longer.”

Chalk her commitment and work ethic to the belief she has her “dream career” but also to her understanding of the importance of a well-stocked blood supply. Kristin’s grandfather was helped by a lifesaving blood transfusion. With many neighbors in great need following Hurricane Florence, she views restocking the blood supply as particularly vital. Nationwide, the American Red Cross provides 40 percent of the nation’s blood supply.

Blood drives are a higher priority for Kristin than cleaning up the storm damage to her home, or helping her uncle whose farm was destroyed. That same dedication is seen in her neighbors who came from the midst of their own hardship, including homes damaged and without power, to donate blood. It’s no wonder Kristin is convinced those affected by Hurricane Florence will get their lives back.

If you’d like to help, another blood drive will be held Friday, September 21, from10:00 A.M. to 4:00 P.M. at the Knights of Columbus Hall in New Bern.

You can make also make a financial donation to aid in disaster relief by calling 1-800-REDCROSS, by going to www.redcross.org or by texting FLORENCE to 90999 to make a $10 donation.

Story by Marita Salkowski/American Red Cross

Key Words: Hurricane Florence, Blood Services, Disaster Services

Red Cross Volunteer Overcomes Hardship

Sept 20, 2018 – Beautiful Carteret County, North Carolina, is a welcoming community positioned between the Neuse River and the Atlantic Ocean.

“We are a unique group of people,” Kristin Willis said of her beloved neighbors in Carteret County. But residents are now struggling with massive flooding from Hurricane Florence.

To hear Kristin tell it, “it looks like someone took a bomb and dropped it” on her hometown of Newport, which sits off State Route 70 near Morehead City.

Less than one week ago, Kristin, her husband and three-year-old son Liam, barricaded themselves in her parents’ Carteret County home to ride out the storm. They evacuated to Georgia, but came back when they thought Hurricane Florence was going South. The storm then returned to its original track through Carteret County and caused significant damage. Showing traditional Southern strength, she states that “we will get our lives back.”

Fast forward one week and you’ll find Kristin helping run a Red Cross blood drive at the Knights of Columbus Hall in New Bern. Kristin helps manage blood collection in Carteret and Craven counties.

“We had to cancel blood drives last week leading up to Hurricane Florence, we can’t delay getting back to it any longer.”

09-22-18 -- Photo 2 - BackhoeChalk her commitment and work ethic to the belief she has her “dream career” but also to her understanding of the importance of a well-stocked blood supply. Kristin’s grandfather was helped by a lifesaving blood transfusion. With many neighbors in great need following Hurricane Florence, she views restocking the blood supply as particularly vital. Nationwide, the American Red Cross provides 40 percent of the nation’s blood supply.

Blood drives are a higher priority for Kristin than cleaning up the storm damage to her home, or helping her uncle whose farm was destroyed. That same dedication is seen in her neighbors who came from the midst of their own hardship, including homes damaged and without power, to donate blood. It’s no wonder Kristin is convinced those affected by Hurricane Florence will get their lives back.

If you’d like to help, another blood drive will be held Friday, September 21, from 10:00 A.M. to 4:00 P.M. at the Knights of Columbus Hall in New Bern.

You can make also make a financial donation to aid in disaster relief by calling 1-800-REDCROSS, by going to www.redcross.org or by texting FLORENCE to 90999 to make a $10 donation.

Story by Marita Salkowski/American Red Cross

 

‘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

 

 

Camp Lejeune hosts Red Cross Totes of Hope drive

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Red Cross volunteers spent time in late November at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, leading a Totes of Hope drive to benefit veterans.

Totes of Hope is a personal care kit drive in which items for homeless veterans are collected, assembled in a backpack or tote bag, and distributed through veteran’s hospitals or veterans outreach programs. Kit items include socks, toothbrushes, deodorant, shampoo, etc. The care kits also include a personal note of thanks to veterans.

During the drive at Camp Lejeune, current military members, retired veterans and their family members gave graciously to make the day very successful, donating enough items to assemble 100 totes for distribution!

At the event, one Marine shared with his young son, “This is what we do to help those who need our help. It’s our way of paying [it] forward to our fellow comrades who are our brothers and sisters.”

Interested in hosting a Totes of Hope drive? Contact your local Red Cross for more information.

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Photos courtesy of Terry Gentry.

A special thank you to George Blalock and Catherine Bruggeman of Marine Corps Exchange for hosting and providing display of items for purchase.