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Friday, December 19, 2014

My Red Cross Story: What The Red Cross Means to Me Now

Like many others, I've heard of all the good things that the Red Cross does for families and communities in times of natural disasters like fires, floods and tornadoes. During those times of crisis, the Red Cross supplies food, shelter and health services. They also help teach emergency preparedness and important lifesaving skills like CPR, first aid, water safety and babysitting.

But the Red Cross means even more to me now. 

I am one of five siblings. In May 2014 my brother Bill became critically ill and was on life support. I drove 250 miles from my home in Grand Junction to Denver while two other siblings flew to Denver from Wisconsin and Florida. After over a week in ICU, my brother's condition had improved; he was off the ventilator and able to make his own health care decisions. But the situation encouraged us to consider our emergency plans and take steps to be prepared for family emergencies. 

Terri and her four siblings, all together for the first time in about 20 years.
Courtesy of Terri Ahern
The time was right to take action and we accomplished a lot. While we supported my brother in ICU, we began planning to prepare our parents' Advance Directives and Medical Durable Powers of Attorney. My youngest brother, Johnny, a Chief in the U.S. Navy in Florida, helped us prepare to activate the Red Cross should Bill take another turn for the worse. The Red Cross can send emergency messages to members of the military. These messages can reach deployed service members in geographic areas and assignments where other messages might not make it through, and the messages are often critical for obtaining approval for emergency leave to travel home. We gathered the necessary information for Johnny and another brother, Mike, a Commander in the U.S. Navy who is stationed in Naples, Italy. 

Little did we know that we would need that information in less than three months for another family member. 

Our mom, who suffered with chronic illnesses, was hospitalized several times around her 80th birthday in July. After emergency rooms, hospital rooms and a stay in rehab, she choose palliative and hospice care. I provided the Red Cross activation information to our step dad. The hospice personnel utilized the information and were able to bring Mike and his family from Naples to the Denver area a few days before my mom died, while she could still talk and recognize the family. They were also able to attend a quickly put together funeral and memorial service before they had to return to Italy. 

It had been about 20 years since all five of mom's kids had been together at once. During this three-month time period in 2014, my family had two critically ill family members while two of my siblings were serving in active duty in the military. Thanks in part to the Red Cross, we were able to be together with each other and our mom as a family in her final days. (See photo.) Until May of 2014 I had never known about this Red Cross service, and it had a profound impact on my life. 

Now I know exactly what the Red Cross means to me. Thanks for all you do for individuals, families and communities in their time of need. I have given a monetary donation as a small token of my gratitude for the help the Red Cross gave during our family's time of need. I hope the gift will help "pay it forward," honor my two siblings who proudly serve in the U.S. Navy, and honor our mom, Patricia Oestereicher-Jones.

--Terri Ahern
Grand Junction

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