By Ray Lapine, American Red Cross Volunteer
“When you get to a hospital someplace at eleven o’clock at night” and the staff meets you at the front door to rush the blood you are transporting inside, it’s “because someone in that hospital needs help now. So, there is a sense of doing something good for people.”
That’s how Al Brown describes one of the rewards of being a volunteer blood transportation specialist for the Red Cross blood distribution point in Yakima, WA.
Every Wednesday, Al drives a pre-scheduled route delivering blood products to area hospitals. He leaves at 7 AM for a route that takes about five hours on a normal day. Winter weather can make the time longer. And sometimes, an added delivery to an outlying hospital can require an overnight stay.
But it’s Mondays that can lead to a rush delivery. Monday is when Al is on call to respond to an emergency need for blood. Then it’s important to get to the place where the blood is being packaged for shipment within 15 minutes and head out to a hospital. “You get there as fast as you can…without breaking any laws,” Al says.
Al uses a Red Cross vehicle, usually an SUV, to make his deliveries. If he needs to stay overnight at the end of a trip, the Red Cross pays for the hotel. “The only thing we spend is our time,” he says.
In the three and a half years after his retirement as the Executive Director of a non profit, Al has driven over 60,000 miles transporting blood for the Red Cross. The miles and his dedication earned him a trip to the Red Cross national headquarters in Washington D.C. to receive an American Red Cross Presidential Service Award. Al says the experience was an “extreme honor.”
Why did Al choose to be a blood transportation specialist out of all the ways he could volunteer to help the Red Cross? He says he likes to drive and didn’t want to get stuck behind a desk. “I have radio stations I listen to. I get to watch the seasons change. It’s really kind of cathartic for me personally.”
One thing Al made clear in our conversation: He wants to get the word out that the Red Cross is experiencing a shortage of volunteer blood transportation specialists. So, if you or someone you know feels the way Al does about driving, being a blood transportation specialist might be a good fit. To learn more, or sign up to become a transportation specialist, click here.
As Al says, “If you like to drive, it’s a wonderful way to get out and do something for your community.”