Dino Ingram is a Red Cross volunteer and contributing writer.
Tom and Joyce McRae, ages 69 and 64 respectively, met at a Bridge game at Emporia State University in 1969. Joyce’s table needed a fourth player. Due to a lucky turn of the cards, Tom was available and joined the game. The rest is history. As of January of 2014, they have been married for forty-five years and have a grown son and daughter. Tom and Joyce worked for the state in a variety of SRS positions, both retiring on the same date in 2006.
They are both active blood donors and Red Cross volunteers. Joyce has been a blood drive coordinator in their home town of Junction City since 2009, where she coordinates three of the six community blood drives every year. When Tom isn’t assisting her with that, he’s busy as a Red Cross disaster volunteer, both locally and nationally. He loves being an Emergency Response Vehicle (ERV) driver where he handles feeding and distribution of supplies to disaster victims. He’s also trained in sheltering and providing client casework.
You couldn't have blood donations without needles. Since most people have a disdain or fear of needles, me included, I asked him about that. The answer I got was quite profound and quotable. “Neither of us fears needles. Bravery is not the absence of fear but the facing of your fears. Will you refuse a blood transfusion and die in the ER because you are afraid of needles?”
Tom began donating blood in Navy boot camp at the age of eighteen when his company was ‘volunteered’ for a blood drive. Joyce joined in donating blood later in life due to a medical deferral, which was eventually lifted. She’s been a committed blood donor ever since. As Tom puts it, “She always wanted to donate, but was deferred. She actually gets upset if she is deferred for any reason now.” But, deferrals do happen, especially for those who love to travel. And yes, both Tom and Joyce love to travel.
When Tom was just shy of his eighteenth birthday, he joined the Navy so he could, “See the World.” He had a three year enlistment which he extended for three months in the hope of seeing some beautiful ports-of-call before he was discharged. However, “Fate, it seems, is not without a sense of irony.” He got stationed of the coast of Vietnam.
Now that they’re retired, Tom and Joyce travel together and can choose their ports-of-call. Their retirement life reads like a Fodor’s Travel Guide. They’ve been to Australia, New Zealand, the Mediterranean, Ireland and Scotland. They also travel the U.S. in a 17 foot travel trailer. However, they don’t let their travels get in the way of donating blood.
In Tom’s words, “If we are on the road at the time of our community blood drive, we look for a drive or donor center wherever we are.” Despite the fact that some of their travel destinations put them on a temporary donor deferral, they are both very close to receiving their “nine gallon pins” with the Red Cross. Tom and Joyce have taken their commitment and passed it forward. Their son, daughter and son-in-law are all blood donors.
Tom and Joyce, like all blood donors will never know who benefits from the gift of life they provide. We’re going to touch on some of those stories very soon.
So, anyone up for a game of Bridge?