I remember my first certification class in Burlington, VT at the Red Cross building. The small air conditioners were humming, the room felt rather stuffy, and we filed in and took our seat in a small room. In walks an instructor, eyes wide open and beaming with a smile. The class took most of the day, and we learned basic life saving skills such as cardio pulmonary resuscitation, rescue breathing, first aid, and the Heimlich maneuver. I clung onto every bit of instruction with bated breath. I LOVED THE CLASS.. so much, that I came back and took the Infant and child CPR class, the defibrillator training, and the HIV/AIDS courses so I could teach about HIV/AIDS prevention and safety. A few months after taking these courses, I learned we had the opportunity through AmeriCorps (of which I was an AmeriCorps volunteer at the time), to have FURTHER Training and become certified to teach these incredible life saving skills.
I signed up, and began the classes to take this incredible information to others.. When I learned I could be a paid instructor, this was even more of a WIN.
I had the honor of teaching at hospitals, armories, schools, daycare, summer camps, businesses, and town centers. I met hundreds of incredible people from around the state of Vermont that wanted to be certified, because they wanted to help.
After a year of teaching PT for the Red Cross while working full-time in the non-profit sector, I decided I wanted more.. so I enrolled in the University of Vermont College of Medicine and took the EMT course. This was 6 credits in 6 months. I absorbed it like a sponge and loved learning rescue skills, life saving skills, and seeing how beautifully the Red Cross curriculum weaved in with the Emergency National Care system. Harmoniously. Upon completing the course, I began running rescue.. again PT, while continuing my FT work.
The scope of people who I was working with came from every level of poverty, gender, race, culture, and religion.. and guess what? They all bleed red. They all felt fear. They all wanted to live.. even those that tried to die through suicide, when their plan failed.. they fought to live.
I even had the privilege of working in Guyana for a month with the Red Cross/Red Crescent teaching basic First Aid, CPR, and HIV/AIDS instruction to indigenous villages that were getting sick and dying due to the AIDS epidemic. I loved the Red Cross. Across the globe and on the equator.. the same humans needed the same basic skills to live.. to survive.. We ALL BLEED RED.
Eventually I had to stop my emergency work, and my PT work with the Red Cross as my role as the Executive Director of a non-profit had become too demanding.
Fast forward a few years and I find myself accepting a job in CT.. although I should have listened to my inner “gut” and not taken a job which was had a shaky and unsolid financial floor, I took it on as a challenge.. (Lesson learned, sometimes.. listen to your gut.) Sometimes, your heart tries to trick your gut.. gut always wins**
When I was in that traumatic event last October on my way home from work, everything I had learned and studied unraveled before my eyes… From glimpsing at my own mangled body and quickly assessing my own trauma and the severity there-of, to the screaming sirens from the ambulances I use to drive, to the bystanders that most likely took those CPR course and immediately came on scene.. checking.. calling.. caring.. to the blood, I bleed.. COMPLETELY out.. that was RED, just like everyone elses blood around the world.. To the fact that my heart was failing because it could not pump so well anymore.. to the trust, I needed to take in all those care givers.. who had no idea who I was.. they simply desired to save a life.
As I lay there receiving chest compressions for minutes on end, just like I taught so many hundreds on Red Cross dummies.. they counted out loud.. “One, Two, Three… ” as someone bagged breathed for me… “One, Two, Three….” and finally.. THUMP BUMP, THUMP. BUMP… All the bags of blood that were rushed into the trauma OR from hundreds of people had finally made its way back to my limp heart.. THUMP BUMP.. “We got her.. she’s beating”.
Just like that.. Saved…
Fast forward ten months later and many pints of many people’s blood, and I stand in a room with people rushing around.. It is an hour from the blood drive opening its doors.. The room looks much like a triage room. Tables with empty bags ready to accept blood, tables set up for donors to lay on, small sections corridored off to ask personal questions regarding their choices throughout life to determine if their blood can be accepted, and even a kitchen with smiling faces preparing free sandwiches for hungry donors after they give.
Then, the doors are open.. the phlebotomists, other staff, and volunteers already look exhausted.. this may be their 6th day straight of working a blood drive.. sometimes 9-12 hours on their feet… collecting blood.. and its ALL RED. The donors walk in, HAPPY… no one is crying, or getting their arms twisted to get a thick needle stabbed into their vein while someone helps syphon it out.. no, they are SMILING.. because they are giving. What beauty. Suddenly the energy of love fills the room. Smiles erupt. People are becoming heroes.
In my case, One blood drive wasnt even enough to keep me alive. Truly humbling. However, I received and gave countless hugs.
If you really want to meet people who are the salt of the earth, go to a blood drive.
In the end, we all bleed red.. In the end.. The Red Cross and Emergency Response teams are our immediate link to surviving and living.
Thank you Red Cross. You make my heart beat.