We Asked You To Drive, And You Did

by Erica Steen, director of the Morris Cafritz Center for Community Service at the Washington DCJCC

Bone Marrow DonationsHave you ever had an experience that at the time didn’t seem like much but afterwards you were flabbergasted by it? That’s what last week’s Bone Marrow Drive was like.

At 4:00pm 8 volunteers arrived. They discussed the plan for the evening and how they would organize themselves along with the supplies. They hung up a banner, set out fliers and questionnaires and took the time to register themselves.

I got nervous, it was pouring rain. Would anyone really come out of their way to swab their cheek with an extra large cotton swab? Gift of Life had sent us 100 kits to register donors and after 150 people registered in-advance to stop-by we called and asked for more. Our contact giggled and said we were very ambitious and that 100 would be plenty. In fact he reminded us to send back the unused kits along with those that had been filled out. To ease our minds a bit, one of the volunteers had an extra 25 kits from a drive she’d run. She brought them just in case.

The evening ran like clockwork. A stead flow of community members came in, asked the front desk where to go and then headed over to the J café area to fill out their paperwork and swab. Some people asked what motivated the drive and many of the volunteers spoke of their friend Elissa, a vibrant 26 year old living in our community. Everyone was cheerful, feeling good about being a part of this effort and to be out of the torrential rain outside.

Congresswoman Donna EdwardsThere was steady flow of registrants from throughout the DC area. We even had a VIP guest, Congresswoman Donna Edwards stopped by to add her name to the Bone Marrow Registry. It was nice to know the word spread!

And believe it or not, by 7:00 pm, 125 kits had been completed and we were having to turn people away. OK, we didn’t actually turn them away; we invited them back on September 15 for our Patriot’s Day event that will include among other things, a bone marrow registration.

After leaving the event, it hit me. What a wonderful thing our community did. In a matter of 2 hours we added 125 names to the National Bone Marrow Registry. Without batting an eye! Through word of mouth, the Washington DCJCC website and Facebook we may have saved a life. My fingers are crossed; let’s hope we’ve found a match for Elissa and maybe someone else. You never know!


How I Became a Stem Cell Donor (part two)

This is the second in a series of posts by Erica Steen, the director of the Morris Cafritz Center for Community Service. You can read the first post here.

It’s been a week of ups and downs. There is no doubt in my mind that I am happy to donate my Peripheral Blood Stem Cells (PBSC) to “Luke” (aka– the anonymous recipient of my PBSC). But as excited as I have been there’s also trepidation. I am not a fan of needles or the sight of my own blood. I have spent the past week totally psyching myself up for my day at the Fairfax clinic. My mother has a plane ticket and two of the best girlfriends in the world have taken the day off to come hang with me. Their task: to distract me for the many hours it takes to complete my donation.

But, now I feel like I’ve let Luke down. I just got a call that he is in the ICU. Of course it’s not my fault he’s in the ICU, the donation isn’t even scheduled until next week but now it has been postponed. He needs at least five full days of chemotherapy before receiving the PBSC transplant and he needs to be in stable condition before that.

I am still Luke’s donor, but now we have to wait and pray. So if you find yourself with an extra prayer please send them his way (not that we know where he is).


Just in-case Hurricane Gustav wasn’t enough to remind you about emergency preparedness

Tomorrow afternoon from 4:30–8:30 pm the Morris Cafritz Center for Community Service will be hosting its first ever, “Prep and Plan” workshop. The recent evacuation of New Orleans ahead of Hurricane Gustav was a study in how disaster preparedness can make a world of difference for a city and its many residents. While Gustav was certainly not as destructive as Katrina, there can be no doubting that the city was certainly better prepared for whatever did come.

How can you prepare? You can sign-up in advance to learn CPR; registrations are also being taken for our Blood Drive, although walk-ins are certainly welcome for that and the Bone Marrow drive (the former involves needles, the latter does not).  We’ll be displaying a Red Cross-assembled emergency duffel bag which contains recommended supplies for a typical family of four for three days. We’ll give you instructions on how to assemble your own emergency duffel, and we’ll be giving one away as a door prize. We’re not talking about plastic sheeting and potassium iodide pills, but real and practical steps you can take to be better prepared for a host of possible disasters.

Image via flickr
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