Tag Archives: Donors

The gift of life runs in this family’s veins

Cathy Mendoza and her father, Gerald Stoltenberg
_____

It all started over 30 years ago when Cathy Mendoza of Modesto, California was pregnant. As a normal part of her prenatal blood work, Cathy discovered that she had O negative blood and was CMV (Cytomegalovirus) negative. CMV is a flu-like virus that most adults are exposed to over their lifetimes. Cathy was never exposed to CMV, so she does not have the antibodies to it. While CMV is generally harmless for adults, it can be fatal for babies. In layman’s terms, Cathy has very special blood. Her blood type and Rh factor, plus the fact that she does not have CMV antibodies, make her blood essential for babies who need a transfusion.

Cathy is one of a small but mighty group of blood donors across the country who are often referred to as “Heroes for Babies.” Without these special blood donors, sick babies would not receive the lifesaving blood transfusions they desperately need. Initially, Cathy was the donor in the family who would regularly be called to donate her blood to help medically-fragile infants who needed transfusions. Then, her dad, Gerald, decided to donate, and low and behold, he has the same blood type and Rh factor as Cathy.

Since her first donation over 30 years ago, both Cathy and her father have continued to donate blood regularly. Cathy recently hit her 14-gallon donation milestone. In addition to regularly donating blood, Cathy is also the Executive Director for Society for disABILITIES in Modesto. The Society provides numerous adapted recreational programs, and it also operates the largest medical equipment loan closet in Northern California. You can find out more about the society’s work on their website.

When asked what she would say to someone who is considering donating blood but worries that the process might hurt, Cathy simply encourages people to try it.

 “Sign up, make sure you are well hydrated, and if you are a little nervous, don’t be afraid to let the Red Cross nurse know you are a first timer” she said. “They are always so caring, and will take good care of you. The process is easy and painless, and can literally save a life. It’s a way to give back to your community that does not cost anything but your time. The reward of knowing that your donation may save a life far outweighs a little time taken out of your day.”

A family affair, Cathy and her father have spent decades giving life to their community, one unit of blood at a time.

About the author: Megan Erk is the Pacific Division External Relations Lead, Executive Board Member, and CEO Volunteer Partner for the Central Coast Chapter of the American Red Cross.

Sound the Alarm day of action a success

Red Cross volunteers and community partners

American Red Cross Sound the Alarm Day of Action on May 8 was a success!

Most of us don’t realize we have just two minutes to escape a home fire. That’s why the American Red Cross Northern California Coastal Region prepared families to act quickly through the Home Fire Campaign.

Joining a national effort to educate 100,000 people about home fire safety this spring, local Red Cross volunteers met virtually with families to review fire safety steps for their household.

On May 8, local first responders, Concord Police Department , CERT Ready volunteers and the Red Cross met with residents of the Clayton Villa Apartments in Concord to go over home fire prevention and safety training. Then everyone gathered in the courtyard for a hands-on demonstration of how to safely use a fire extinguisher. Twenty four apartment homes were made safer thanks to the Sound the Alarm training!

“On average, home fires kill seven people every single day in the U.S.,” said Kerrin Welsh, Regional Preparedness Manager for the American Red Cross. “That is why it is so important for families to have critical preparedness conversations like those offered through Sound the Alarm.”

Silicon Valley Chapter CEO Ken Toren and Councilmember David Cohen

Also on May 8, a signature event took place in District 4 of San Jose, featuring special remarks by Silicon Valley Chapter Executive Director Ken Toren, San Jose Fire Department Fire Captain Bien Doan and San Jose District 4 Councilmember David Cohen.

“Every second counts when there’s a home fire,” said Ken Toren, Executive Director for the Silicon Valley Chapter of the American Red Cross. “As families spend more time at home during the pandemic, it’s critical that we help our neighbors protect themselves from these everyday disasters.”

913 Homes in the Northern California Coastal Region have been made safer by the Red Cross this year; 324 of these homes were made safer in April and May.

HOW TO KEEP YOUR FAMILY SAFE Every second counts when there’s a home fire. Help protect your family against home fires by taking two simple steps: Practice your two-minute escape drill and test your smoke alarms monthly.

  • Create an escape plan with at least two ways to exit every room in your home. Select a meeting spot at a safe distance away from your home, such as your neighbor’s home or landmark like a specific tree in your front yard, where everyone knows to meet.
  • Practice your escape plan until everyone in your household can get out in less than two minutes.
  • Place smoke alarms on each level of your home, including inside and outside bedrooms and sleeping areas. Change the batteries at least once a year if your model requires it.
  • Check the manufacturer’s date of your smoke alarms. If they’re 10 years or older, they likely need to be replaced. Follow your alarm’s manufacturer instructions.

This work is made possible thanks to generous financial donations from regional partners: Pacific Gas and Electric Company, E. & J. Gallo Winery and CSAA Insurance Group, a AAA Insurer. Visit SoundtheAlarm.org for more information.

Sharing the ‘good’ in us

Juanita donating blood.

The first time Juanita Ellington donated blood, she was in her late 20s and became a little woozy during the process. She opted not to donate for a while, but then COVID hit. In December 2020, Juanita fell ill with COVID-19, which left traces of the virus’s antibodies in her blood. So, after a 30-year hiatus, Juanita decided to donate her platelets and plasma, specifically to help those who were sick.

As Juanita explains, “I had COVID; I know what it feels like. I feel very fortunate that I was not in the hospital like others, suffering.”

Before Juanita took ill, her father experienced a rapid decline due to an unrelated, pre-existing condition. Sick and isolated, Juanita endured her father’s failing health, his subsequent admission to the hospital, and his untimely demise. After a horrific year of unrest, sickness, and death, Juanita is determined to turn her tribulations into positive outcomes through regular blood donations.

Read more

Brandi and Tracy’s story: Blood donation runs in the family.

Brandi Pico

When Tracy Pico walked into the American Red Cross blood donation center in Pleasant Hill, California to donate blood, she was on a mission. She was determined to help another person in need just as others had donated blood for her 14-year-old daughter, Brandi. Last year, Brandi endured a long and arduous course of treatment for cancer which included multiple transfusions.  

Tracy’s family have all been blood donors for years. In fact, her father has been a regular donor for over 30 years at the Red Cross facility in Pleasant Hill. But it was Brandi’s ordeal with cancer that ignited her personal commitment to become a blood donor. 

In June of 2020, in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, Brandi was diagnosed with Ewing’s Sarcoma. Ewing’s Sarcoma is a rare form of bone cancer that typically occurs in children and young adults. Her early symptoms, which included a painful bump below her left knee, were initially thought to be caused by another condition that, although painful, would eventually resolve. Unfortunately, the first diagnosis was wrong, and Brandi faced a devastating cancer diagnosis at an incredibly young age.  

Read more

A leader in ‘a beautiful circle of caring’

By Marcia Antipa

Red Cross Gala 2015

Lillian Phan

This is the story of Lillian Phan, a bright and accomplished young woman, who also happens to be a stellar volunteer with the American Red Cross. Like so many American stories, Lillian’s begins with immigration, determination, and hard work.

Lillian’s parents immigrated from Vietnam, sponsored by a Christian organization that gave them a head start with food and shelter. Eventually, the Phans moved to Santa Clara County. Both had to overcome the language barrier and reinvent themselves.

“My Dad gave up architecture and became a nuclear engineer. My mom gave up her law degree.”

Read more

Celebration to commemoration: Red Cross thanks 2020 Gala supporters

Due to the uncertainty surrounding the COVID-19, we made the difficult decision to cancel our annual American Red Cross San Francisco Gala event this year to protect the members of our community and guests. Under usual circumstances, the Gala is a moment when we honor both an outstanding corporation and a dedicated individual who have furthered the Red Cross mission in the Bay Area. Our 2020 Red Cross Philanthropic Company of the Year, The Clorox Company, and 2020 Red Cross Humanitarian of the Year, Chief Eric Reinbold of the Paradise Police Department, will be honored at our 2021 event. But we want to take a moment to recognize them now. Read more

« Older Entries