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A Mother’s Perspective: Red Cross Helps Reunite a Family Facing the Unthinkable

Watertown, Wisconsin resident Kathy Preston knows what it’s like to feel really scared. She was terrified when her son Michael’s kidneys failed. And when he received a transplant, she was on pins and needles during his surgery. Over the years, Kathy worried when Micheal’s already weakened immune system had to battle a cold or flu. During several hospitalizations, she questioned whether the end was near, but doctors remained optimistic.

In October of 2009 Kathy again became terrified when a simple cold landed Michael in the hospital and his condition worsened. Little did Kathy know that she would soon turn to the American Red Cross for comfort and help during this exceptionally difficult time.

“I did not think he was going to come home this time,” Kathy confessed. “I can’t tell you how scary it was.”

Compounding her anxiety was the fear that her other children might not see their brother one last time. Her son, Mark, works in Iraq for the United States Defense Department. Her daughter, Michele, an Army Reservist, is mobilized at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C.

With a shaking voice, Kathy asked the doctor if she should contact Michele and Mark about coming home to see their brother. His answer, a simple yes, brought a new level of urgency to an already stressful family situation.

With no quick way to reach Mark, the family realized they had to turn to the one organization that could expedite their request- the American Red Cross. Mark’s wife made the first call at 9:00 p.m. while Kathy left a message on her daughter’s cell phone.

Within two hours, Mark called from Iraq. Because the Red Cross had already verified the family’s emergency, Mark was able to make arrangements immediately to come home to see his brother.

When the family still hadn’t heard from Michele the next morning, Kathy called the Red Cross at 7:51 a.m. The caseworker’s demeanor left an impression on Kathy.

“She was so nice,” Kathy says.

By 10:00 a.m., Michele had called home. Using the information from the Red Cross, Michele’s leave was expedited and within 48 hours, the entire family was together.

“It was so nice to have my three kids home together,” Kathy says. “Even if it was for the last time.”

Thankfully, the family’s frantic calls to the Red Cross and bedside watch was not the end of their story. Miraculously, Michael made a full recovery.

A few months later, with her son home to celebrate the holidays, Kathy took a moment to write a letter of gratitude to the people that made a difference during their difficult time.

“The Red Cross united our family,” she wrote. “Thank you, thank you, thank you American Red Cross.”