Volunteering for American Red Cross

Volunteering for American Red Cross

For successfully finishing my online studies at the University of California (UCLA) I had to become a volunteer for a while. It might sound weird but I didn´t mind it since I had a lot of free time and so I had made a research looking for my future dream “job”. It didn´t take long until I found it – American Red Cross (ARC).

I think all of you have ever heard about the Red Cross. It is an organization that works mainly thanks to a team of volunteers who help people. Some of them do blood donations, others help the rescue workers during events and festivals, another go to educate people at school or centers how to provide the First Aid. And then there is me – I volunteer as a Blood Services´ Transportation Specialist which is something as a mail man who brings the blood and blood products to the hospitals.

Are you asking yourself what is necessary if you want to become a volunteer too? Well, first you have to register. ARC will provide you some materials to study so you´ll get a picture what you are about to do. Then you need to register for an interview that takes place at one of the ARC office where they will tell you more about the goal of the organization. You will also find out what kind of job you can provide for them and you will find out if that´s something you´d like. This interview lasts about an hour. I found an online quiz which results told me that I´d be a good above-already-mentioned “courier”. They had to check out if my register is clean and within a week a nice lady called me and I had “a second round” of the interview. She gave me a detailed description about the position I was interested in and after my agreement that it is something I want to do she sent me some paperwork that was necessary for my education training.      

This education training didn´t last long. My co-worker Ros and I did two 3-hours long drives. She showed me what kind of paperwork I have to fill out, how to recognize which goods go to which hospital, where to find a Blood Bank at the hospitals and I was also driving and parallel parking an ambulance for the first time in my life! After the second drive she said I was ready for my first solo drive…

My first solo drive…

… Was of course a disaster. My GPS stopped working and I ended up on some kind of neighborhood which I didn´t know. My ride to the hospital took instead of 7 minutes, 30 minutes. And don´t forget that I was in San Francisco and not in our small cute Bratislava. Then my GPS stopped working again and I overwhelmed my first emotional breakdown. Well and at last I had to go to a hospital I´d never been before. Accidentally I came to a different one (but they were on the same street, literally across the road!) and when I came there, their staff was staring at me as I was some kind of weirdo who came there with a small cart asking for empty blood product boxes. My shift I ended on time (actually one hour earlier!) and surprisingly no one was complaining about anything. I just got a few more grey hairs…

Another time as I was in the elevator, my cart packed with boxes fell apart. The thing was that I wasn´t alone there – there were doctors too and all of them gave me a scared look. I looked at them back and cool as cucumber I just said that it´s just an old cart and that this happens to me all the time… Somehow I took my cart out of the elevator and then I spent 5 more minutes trying to fix it and make it stable again. By the way, this has happened to me already twice and I love those people´s reactions.        

I got into bigger trouble during January shift. I really don´t like parking in front of the hospitals since there´s is always about ten taxi cars and ten other cars. And so, I always go behind the hospital where the staff parks. Usually (!!!) I can find one free spot. Once, when I was super tired that I could have barely seen, I accidentally parked literally on the line that divides two spots. As I was tired, I hadn´t noticed it until I was coming back to the car. As I saw how I´d parked (just like a woman), I held my head and started laughing at myself. But I wasn´t the only one laughing – hospital stuff who was outside and saw it was laughing with me. I was blushing soooooo much! 

Another day I had a problem to leave. I was lazy to park by backing up (and I can tell that I´m really good at it!) and as I saw a free spot on the Director of Maintenance´s place, I decided to park there. I told myself that there´s no chance he´d have come within those 20 minutes I was spending inside the hospital. Well guess what. He came and he blocked me. I was upset but embarrassed in the same time as I walked inside their office trying to find him. When his coworker saw me, he started to laugh and he asked me if I know where I parked. I was playing stupid and said no I had no idea and I also said that all the other spots were taken so I parked there. I was so lucky since he moved the director´s car for me and so I could have gone out. And he said that the director was saying that if I take his spot again, he will make me wait until the end of the day. Well at least, I´m happy he didn´t tow me away…

Another beautiful day I spent in the hospital where they had patients with coronavirus. Of course no one told me about it and I found out about it by an accident. And then I realized why the whole hospital staff was having face masks. Since I didn´t know about it, I didn´t pay any more attention to my hygiene and so my mom and I were making jokes about me asking me if it has been two weeks already and if I was still healthy. PS: I am all right so far and for the next shift I was having a face mask. I´d take vodka too but as a responsible driver I won´t do that. I´ll have some after the shift because I have to protect myself from the viruses… 

Few words at the end

Being a volunteer for the Red Cross is something amazing. San Francisco I know almost as well as my shoes, I gained a lot of knowledge, experiences, I´ve met new people and new options opened for me. I am going to get a certificate for CPR, AED and First Aid soon and all of this wouldn´t have happened if I didn´t do UCLA that made me to do something useful in my free time. I have great memories and even though sometimes I mess up things, I always have a wonderful feeling about my “job”. For example, once I had a really bad day and one old man stopped next to me. He asked me if I do the blood deliveries to the hospitals. I said yes and then he said that he was really happy that he met me because he´s been donating blood for years and now he could have seen how the blood is being brought to the hospitals. He was so happy to meet me. And these are the moments when I realize that I love doing this and it really worth it.   

Lula