I am very honored to be recognized as a White House Champion of Change on behalf of the American Red Cross. I have my mom to thank for my connection with the Red Cross. She has influenced me in so many ways—in my nursing career, in my volunteer work, and in my involvement in my community as a whole.
I was 13 years old when my mom needed heart surgery. Because of an infection, she had two additional heart operations immediately after the first. At the time, no one told me that my mother was in such critical condition. I was allowed to visit her once in the hospital around Mother's Day. I only remember because I had made her a cake, and one of the nurses said that it was the one thing my mom had eaten in days. Later, my brother and I were told just how serious my mom's condition had been, and that she actually had died on the operating table. The medical care and the 12 units of blood she received during those operations are the reasons she is alive now.
As I got older, I came to realize that I am like my mother—I like to help people who are hurting and fix what others can’t. So it seemed natural to become a nurse like her and share that love of helping others with my community at the same time. In 2009, I moved from my hometown of Hilton Head, S.C., to Columbia, S.C., to start nursing school at the University of South Carolina. On top of being in school full-time, I work as a patient care technician on the surgery and trauma floor of Palmetto Richland Health Hospital in Columbia.
Now both volunteering and nursing have come together in my quest to get others involved in their communities and with the Red Cross. I first started volunteering for Red Cross Blood Services in Columbia in January 2011 when I was 20 years old. It had been on my mind for a while as something I wanted to do, so I just began making time for it. In addition to my school and work, I spend at least 20 hours a month at the Red Cross, representing nursing students on the National Nursing Committee of the American Red Cross, coordinating blood drives and serving on the South Carolina Blood Service Region Board of Directors. It’s exciting to know that I can use my career to be part of the long tradition of Red Cross nursing.
Knowing that the blood donated by strangers saved my mom’s life also made me want to become a blood donor. So when I turned 18, I donated for the first time at my high school. I’ve continued to donate blood in the years since because I know how important it could be to someone in need—and not only for them, but for the family members and friends connected to that person. I’m proud to say I’ve recently reached the gallon donation mark, and I plan to keep going!
After I graduate in May 2013, I would like to continue volunteering with the Red Cross. I know that the Red Cross is always in need of nurses to help during disasters. Hopefully, I’ll be able to continue my current work and also begin volunteering as a nurse in that capacity. For now, I’m enjoying my last year of nursing school, and am excited about continuing my work on behalf of the Red Cross at my university and in the larger community.