Hometown Hero donates kidney to man she met just once

By MATT OCHSNER

Emily Shaw had no idea one simple question would dramatically change her life and the life of a man she had met only once.

One day while at a birthday party, Emily asked a friend how her father was doing. She was told the man was in need of a kidney. With hardly any hesitation, Emily offered to donate one of hers.

“There really wasn’t much thought. I knew he had been sick for a while, but it really hadn’t dawned on me to donate my kidney until then,” Emily said. “I asked my husband about it and he said ‘it’s your kidney. Do what you feel is right.’”

If you know someone you would like to nominate for a Hometown Hero award, visit http://www.redcross.org/news/event/local/idaho/Red-Cross-Idaho-Hometown-Heroes.

That began an intense 10-month process of exams, blood tests, X-rays and extensive education about the long-term effects of organ donation.

After she was eventually given the go-ahead by doctors, Emily’s kidney was removed in July. She woke up to learn her recipient had made it out of recovery and was doing well.

Emily’s selfless act proves that not all heroes wear capes, and that ordinary people can do extraordinary things when the need arises. Now a family that Emily doesn’t even know that well can spend more time together because of her kindness and generosity.

Earlier this year, Emily and more than 20 others were presented a Hometown Hero Award at a ceremony in Boise.

If you know someone you would like to nominate for a Hometown Hero award, visit http://www.redcross.org/news/event/local/idaho/Red-Cross-Idaho-Hometown-Heroes.

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Deployments never easy but always rewarding

By MATT OCHSNER

Disaster mental health services volunteer Terry Tippery calls Boise home, but his American Red Cross work has taken him across the country and the world.

Since becoming a volunteer in 2001, Tippery’s deployments include time in Palm Beach following Hurricane Jeanne in 2004, work in in Long Island after Hurricane Sandy in 2012 and a mission to Saipan in the Northern Marianas Islands following Typhoon Souledor in 2015. He also drove more than 2,000 miles in 10 days to help Montana wildfire victims.

“If you have the spirit of adventure and can take the time, it’s rewarding on a personal level.”

But it was Tippery’s very first deployment that has stuck with him perhaps more than any other. In 2001, Tippery worked in a service center two blocks from Ground Zero for 14 days, providing mental health support to those impacted by the terrorist attacks.

“We spent 12 to 14 hours a day, processing 300 people a day, wandering the room working with caseworkers and clients,” said Tippery, the director of the Boise Vet Center. “We just let people tell their stories and do some defusing. Those were a series of long days.”

A lot closer to home, Tippery provides mental health services to those impacted by house fires and leads Service to Armed Forces reconnection workshops for those returning from military deployments. He’s also helped debrief those who were deployed to disasters like Hurricane Katrina.

Tippery’s volunteer experiences are rarely easy, but he appreciates the opportunity.

“If you have the spirit of adventure and can take the time, it’s rewarding on a personal level,” he said.

To become a Red Cross volunteer, visit www.redcross.org.

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Volunteer intake team wins Red Cross Presidential Award!

by Danielle Pozernick

In April 2016, the National Volunteer Services department launched a pilot project that changed the way volunteer applications were processed throughout the nation. The Idaho and Montana Region was one of several regions selected to run the pilot, and to help fine tune the volunteer application process to make it more efficient.

The Volunteer Intake Processing Center pilot was a huge success. Technological systems can be challenging enough when working properly, but a team of our dedicated volunteers had to test out a brand new system with many bugs. The team worked hard with changes constantly coming at them; sometimes within the same week.  The project could not have been successful without Lynn Tyler, Judy Brownfield, and Gay Winkler of the Idaho and Montana volunteer intake team. In April, 2017, our volunteer intake team was recognized for their hard work with the national American Red Cross’s Presidential Award. This award is given to staff and volunteers who demonstrate above and beyond job performance.

When asked why she joined the American Red Cross, Lynn Tyler, our Regional Volunteer Intake Team Lead, replied, “I joined the Red Cross because someone talked me into it.”  The president of Lynn’s homeowner’s association invited Lynn to a DAT meeting, and the rest was history. Lynn started volunteering with us in October 2011. Her favorite part about volunteering here is seeing the grateful faces of the individuals whose lives she impacts.

Another critical team member who received the Presidential Award is Judy Brownfield.  In March 2012, at the suggestion of a friend, Judy applied for a volunteer position with the American Red Cross. At first, she started as a Jill of all trades in the office and also helped clean CPR training tools. After a short time, Judy joined the volunteer intake team where she began processing volunteer applications. Judy’s favorite part about volunteering is interacting with staff and volunteers. She also donates blood as often as she can, and has donated 2+ gallons so far!

Last but not least, Gay Winkler also won a Presidential Award for her significant contributions to the Red Cross. Gay started with the American Red Cross to acquire field experience for her degree in Human Services. Even though her volunteer work started as a requirement, Gay fell in love with the Red Cross staff and volunteers. “At the American Red Cross, you’re not just a number. You’re a valued member of the team,” Gay says. Fun fact: Gay has entered her baked goods into the county fair for many years and won a Best in Show ribbon and 1st place for her sweet potato cookies, which are amazing!

Thank you, Lynn, Judy, and Gay for all the work you do! We are so proud of you!

The gift of life

While vacationing on the Oregon coast in August 2013, Brylee Gabby began having trouble with her legs. Her father, Rob Gabby, recalls: “At first, Brylee said that her legs had fallen asleep and they wouldn’t wake up; however, we soon noticed that she had trouble walking.”

Within 24 hours, doctors found two tumors impinging Brylee’s spinal cord and diagnosed her with Acute Myeloid Leukemia, a form of blood cancer that affects the cells in the bone marrow. Leukemia cells reproduce fast and interfere with normal white and red blood cell and platelet production, lowering their blood levels severely and creating the need for transfusions.

Brylee immediately had surgery to remove the tumors and started a rigorous chemotherapy regimen to kill the Leukemia. Unfortunately, chemotherapy also kills normal cell production and Brylee needed red blood and platelet transfusions throughout her fight.

Brylee had to endure 111 doses of chemotherapy and a stem-cell transplant to achieve remission. During that time, she received 23 red blood cell and 26 platelet transfusions. Happily, Brylee is a courageous fighter. She celebrated her one-year post stem-cell transplant in March 2016.

During their daughter’s courageous fight, the Gabby family learned the importance of having blood products on hand. “We were so grateful to the American Red Cross and especially the individuals who chose to donate blood and platelets,” said Rob Gabby. The Gabby family urges everyone to become an American Red Cross blood donor and to consider platelet donation.