Tag Archives: Heart of the Valley

A nurse, a red cooler and paying it forward

Joseph Padilla and his wife, Susan.

Joseph Padilla proudly works for the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) in San Joaquin. There they store and supply everything for all five branches of the military: parts, gear, food, etc. Joseph relishes the ability to serve his community through work, a value instilled in him by his parents. He also counts himself lucky to be alive following a dreadful car accident in 2015.

Three years after the accident left Joseph fighting for his life, he received an alert at work for a blood drive with the American Red Cross. What he recalled from the ER on that terrible night flashed back, and he could see yet another way for him to help.

“I remember when I was rushed to the ER that a lot was going on,” Joseph said. “I had never had anything major before. Unfortunately, I was awake the whole time. I was so cold.”

Because of a storm, medics could not airlift Joseph to Stanford Hospital, so he had to be driven. As they wheeled him into an ambulance, Joseph remembers a bright red cooler sitting on his gurney. He says, “One of the guys shouted, ‘We’re not authorized to send this blood with him.’ But then a woman shouted back, ‘He needs this blood, or he won’t survive.’ It was the moment I realized how bad it was.”

“That memory sticks with me,” says Joseph. “Man, I wouldn’t be here without those donations, and if that one nurse hadn’t sent the blood with me. That act of kindness saved my life, so I’m paying it forward.”

And he did.

Joseph attended the drive at work in 2018 and has been donating blood ever since. He’s even a Power Red donor. A Power Red is similar to a whole blood donation, except a special machine is used to allow you to safely donate two units of red blood cells during one donation while returning your plasma and platelets to you.

“Knowing that I’m helping save someone’s life is all the motivation I need,” Joseph says. “It’s an awesome feeling to know that you are helping people. I wish I could give more!”

Local leaders join the Red Cross Board of Directors in multiple chapters

In early 2020, mere weeks before the pandemic hit, Red Cross CEO Gail McGovern visited the San Francisco office for a Town Hall meeting, her first in the Bay Area in four years. She often speaks about the importance of leadership and the crucial role Board members fill. Photography by Eric Carmichael | American Red Cross

This June, individuals from all across the Northern California Coastal Region of the Red Cross stepped up to help lead their respective chapters. Each chapter’s Board of Directors elected new members and most installed new officers.

“As we dive into the next fiscal year, we look forward to the potential of our new members combined with the expertise of our officers,” says Jennifer Adrio, CEO of the America Red Cross Northern California Coastal Region. “Their combined diverse experiences are critical to the work our Region does for more than 10 million people throughout 15 counties.”

The new board members bring a wealth of diverse experience to their roles, including decades of experience in IT, communications, technical consulting, social services, mental health expertise, the field of law, education, communications, design, real estate, government, environmental sustainability and more.

“During the past year alone, Red Crossers responded to 1,342 local disasters — many of them home fires — collected 103,240 units of lifesaving blood and trained 56,943 residents in first aid and water safety,” Adrio says. “And those are just a few of the many ways our region made a difference in our local communities.”

The new members began their terms effectively July 1.

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We’re all in this together

  By Debbi Behrman

Nancy Houghton
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Giving blood is one of the most personal things someone can do. And it’s something that American Red Cross blood donor and volunteer Nancy Houghton does as often as allowed. Nancy has donated blood for years, first as a Red Cross volunteer during the Vietnam war, and then again more recently when someone close to her needed blood.  

All blood donors at Red Cross blood centers receive a feedback form asking them why they chose to be a blood donor. Here is what Nancy wrote:  

“I know someone who has been getting blood transfusions. Somebody somewhere gave their blood to help him through that. I can do the same for somebody else. We’re all in this together. So simple, so easy, and so important to someone somewhere. It could be you or your loved ones. It made such a difference in his well-being.” 

Nancy’s poignant response prompted the public affairs team to reach out and learn more. 

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The gift of life runs in this family’s veins

Cathy Mendoza and her father, Gerald Stoltenberg
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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.

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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.

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How Red Cross teams supported those affected by regional wildfires

Since mid-August, when many of the wildfires described below started in our region, we have been updating this post on a regular basis. Now that most of our efforts are focused on helping residents as part of the recovery phase of these Red Cross responses, we will only update this post if future circumstances warrant.

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Please see the information below that summarizes all of the great work our volunteers, employees, and partners have done to support our communities. We are also so appreciative of the donors whose generosity makes our work possible.

Background: The lightning storms that swept through our Northern California Coastal Region in mid-August caused a number of large and destructive fires in our chapter areas, prompting quick responses by our region’s Red Cross teams. Other fires subsequently started in our region in September, including the Glass Fire in Napa and Sonoma Counties.

Working alongside our government and community partners, Red Cross teams — comprising responders from inside and outside our region — have provided shelter, food, and comfort to the many residents impacted by these wildfires. Read more

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