• Archived Posts

QUIZ: Test Your Swim Skills Before You Hit the Pool

You’ve spent years around the water – at the beach, your local pool, or maybe even a backyard pond. You may love splashing around with your floaties, or maybe just tanning on the sidelines. But if you’re in or around the water this summer, have you thought about the five basic swim safety skills that could save your life in the water?

As part of a national campaign to reduce the drowning rate by 50 percent over the next three to five years, the Red Cross released national survey data that shows that most children and teens cannot perform the sequence of all five basic swimming safety skills.

So how do you fare? Take our quiz to find out!


“As a water safety instructor, nothing makes my day more than seeing a child who used to be afraid of the water have the confidence to dive into the deep end and swim to the other side,” said Connie Harvey, director of the Red Cross Centennial Initiative. “The Red Cross created the first national water safety program in the U.S. – and today it’s still the gold standard, training more than two million people annually.”

To find classes for your family, contact your local aquatic facility and ask for American Red Cross swimming and water safety programs, or visit redcross.org.

Gail McGovern: Stories of Resilience from Nepal

In my seven years at the helm of the American Red Cross, I’ve seen far too many disasters – both here at home and around the world. But no matter how many disasters I experience – I’ll never get used to witnessing scenes of destruction on a massive scale. I just returned from Nepal, and the devastation I saw there was truly heartbreaking.

Homes, businesses, and schools were destroyed; entire communities were flattened; and tens of thousands were injured or killed by the 7.8 magnitude earthquake that struck on April 25th. While heavy damage occurred in certain pockets of Kathmandu, many villages in remote areas were also severely impacted. Often these villages are very hard to find on a map and are lacking in even the most basic infrastructure. In fact, one Nepalese man told me that to get from Kathmandu to the village where his family lived before the earthquake, he had to take a 36 hour bus ride and then hike 9 hours.

Nepal Earthquake 2015Even in the midst of such terrible tragedy, the Nepalese people that I met with are among the most gentle and kind-hearted I’ve encountered. The landscape there is rough and rocky – and we had to hike over hilly terrain to get a sense of the damage done in more isolated communities. At one point during our trek, I was struggling to keep my footing on a particularly treacherous stretch of hillside. Seemingly out of nowhere, an elderly Nepalese woman grabbed my arm and helped safely guide me down the hill.

Nepal Earthquake 2015In another area we visited, I met a woman who was carrying her grandson in a very large pack on her back. I climbed up a large pile of rubble with her to see what remained of her home, which had been located on the top floor of a three story building before the earthquake hit. Once we reached the top of the pile, there was a fleeting moment where she seemed overwhelmed by the magnitude of what she was seeing. She grabbed my hand, and suddenly I was the one helping her climb down to safety. In that moment, I was reminded of the common bonds we all share and the vital importance of having someone there to provide support when you need it.

Nepal Earthquake 2015One of the most remarkable scenes I witnessed occurred when we stopped at a school that had been mostly destroyed in the disaster. Thankfully classes were not in session when the earthquake hit. And in a wonderful act of community resiliency, the students who normally attended class in the building had turned what remained of the structure into a field hospital of sorts. Upwards of 450 young people were working there – caring for the injured, handing out relief supplies and administering basic first aid. As it turns out, the students had been previously trained in preparedness activities through a partnership with the American Red Cross, the Nepal Red Cross and one of our generous donors that was active in a number of Nepalese schools. In the midst of such destruction and heartbreak, it was an amazingly uplifting moment to see so many young people actively helping their neighbors using the training they had received in a more peaceful time.

The people of Nepal are displaying incredible resilience, and they are eager to rebuild. In addition to committing an initial $5,000,000 to the response operation, the American Red Cross is working closely with the Nepal Red Cross and the global Red Cross network to help coordinate ongoing activities. We’re providing remote mapping and information management assistance. We’re also coordinating relief supplies from warehouses in Kuala Lumpur and Dubai. Additionally, nine American Red Cross disaster specialists are in Nepal – supporting emergency relief, cash transfer programing, information management, recovery planning and IT/telecoms services – and one expert has been deployed to Geneva to support global Red Cross efforts online. We’re also developing preliminary plans with the Nepal Red Cross to do long term recovery – targeting villages to help rebuild.

Nepal Earthquake 2015

But even with the outpouring of support from the global community, the need in Nepal remains tremendous. While I was traveling back to the United States earlier this week, another 7.3 magnitude earthquake struck there – further damaging infrastructure and causing more injuries and loss of life.

There is no doubt that it will take a great deal of time and resources for Nepal to recover from this trying period, and it’s vitally important the global community extends a hand of friendship and assistance to those in need. There are three main ways to support the ongoing relief work. You can donate to help the people of Nepal by visiting redcross.org. You can also volunteer to assist with our online mapping efforts by going to http://tasks.hotosm.org. You don’t need to be a tech expert to help, you just need a computer and an Internet connection. And you can also support the people of Nepal by sharing word about relief efforts and ways to help on social media channels.

While I’m still incredibly saddened when I think of the lives lost, the homes destroyed, and the communities that have been forever altered in Nepal – I also return home encouraged by the tremendous work of the global Red Cross network and our partners in the ongoing response operation. There certainly is a long road ahead, but I believe the people of Nepal have reason for hope given the incredible generosity of so many.

Red Cross Volunteers – From the Archives

American Red Cross service delivery began on a very small scale, with one female volunteer. Clara Barton’s passion inspired others to join her in meeting the needs of fellow Americans and other people throughout the world. And the organization grew. Today, the Red Cross depends on the involvement of its hundreds of thousands of volunteers. Although the work may be difficult, humanitarian aid is offered selflessly. But that does not mean that volunteers do not appreciate – and need – encouragement, thanks, a pat-on-the-back and recognition.

The Red Cross is committed to honoring and recognizing its volunteers, so we dug through our archives to find some ways the Red Cross acknowledges its most valuable asset.

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Posters with striking graphics helped to recruit volunteers to serve as nurses, for disaster relief, with youth projects and in general volunteer activities.

The Red Cross recognizes the value, commitment and dedication of its volunteers, especially those who have helped fulfill our mission for many years. Volunteers who are celebrating milestone year anniversaries receive service pins.

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Shown below is Jane Delano, founder of the Red Cross Nursing Program and the American Red Cross Medal of Merit that was awarded to her posthumously. The inscription on the reverse of the 14 karat gold and enamel medal, created by Tiffany and Co., reads “Awarded by the American National Red Cross to Jane A. Delano in grateful memory of her devoted and distinguished service 1908–1919.”

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Today’s nurses also receive recognition from our national Red Cross organization.

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The Ann Magnussen Award is presented annually to a volunteer or employed registered nurse who has made an outstanding contribution to strengthening or improving Red Cross programs and services. It is the highest honor of individual nursing achievement in the Red Cross.

Ann Magnussen (left) was a nurse who made many valuable contributions to the nursing and health-related professions, both nationally and internationally. This award was established in 1968 in her honor.

The Susan Hassmiller Nursing Award recognizes innovative programs that promote the involvement of local nurses in Disaster Preparedness and Response and combine disaster training, community partnership and the spirit of individual volunteerism.

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Prior to 1948, award recognition was done on the chapter level. For example, here is a Red Cross Certificate of Appreciation awarded by the New York Chapter to Marjorie Bonynge for her volunteer service as a Red Cross Motor Corps driver in 1945. Notice the signature on the right, Gladys F. Harriman, one of the two dedicated volunteers for whom the Harriman Award is named (right).

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The Harriman Award for Distinguished Volunteer Service is the highest recognition for volunteer service in the Red Cross. It was established in 1973 and honors volunteers who have demonstrated extraordinary accomplishments in Red Cross service to people and places beyond the local community.

The Harriman Award is named for E. Roland and Gladys Harriman, two of the most formidable volunteers the organization has ever seen. He served for 23 years as chairman of the Red Cross and helped revitalize and modernize the organization following a post-World War II slump. She served for more than 40 years as Chairman of Volunteers at the Red Cross in Greater New York.

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In 1917, President Woodrow Wilson signed a proclamation creating a nationwide Red Cross youth program. Wilson called on young people to help serve the war effort by joining the newly formed Junior Red Cross.

Over the years, various awards named in honor of  Woodrow Wilson and former Red Cross presidents George Elsey and Elizabeth Dole have recognized young volunteers who made significant contributions to their communities and to the Red Cross.

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To learn more about volunteering with the Red Cross today, contact your local chapter or explore opportunities on redcross.org.

National Nurses Week – From the Red Cross Archives

National Nurses Week celebrates nurses and their role in society. Nurses Week began May 6 and finished May 12, Florence Nightingale’s birthday. Nightingale, a nurse who treated wounded soldiers during the Crimean War, helped establish nursing as a profession.

In honor of our Red Cross nurses, here are some images from the Red Cross archives:

Red Cross nurses have provided assistance during times of disaster and conflict almost since the beginning of our organization in 1881. Red Cross nurses served at the 1888 Yellow Fever epidemic and the devastation of the 1889 Johnstown flood shown below.

1889 Johnstown, Pennsylvania Flood

But not until 1909 was Red Cross Nursing Services formally established by Jane Delano. In addition to her Red Cross service, Delano was also head of the Army Nurse Corps until 1912.

The American Red Cross Rural Nursing Service began in 1912 and focused on providing classes and instructors to women throughout the United States. This service was led by Lillian D. Wald, a pioneer of public health nursing for her entire life. Soon, rural nurses traveled to local areas on bicycle and horseback to provide care.

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Shown above is a poster (circa 1920) promoting the work of the Red Cross public health nurse. On the right is a 1934 image, taken by sociologist and photographer Lewis Hine, of a public health nurse. During the Great Depression, Hine worked for the Red Cross, photographing drought relief in the American South.

During World War I, nurses from all over the country volunteered with the Red Cross and served in the Navy Nurse Corps and Army. About 1,800 African-American nurses were certified by the American Red Cross for duty with the military. However, since the military was segregated at the time – and the Red Cross had no control over the nurses’ assignments – their services often were not utilized.

(Photo courtesy Armed Forces Institute of Pathology)

(Photo courtesy Armed Forces Institute of Pathology)

Nurses were recruited for service during World War II using posters such as the one below.

(1944, Jon Whitcomb, Artist)

(1944, Jon Whitcomb, Artist)

Civilian defense during World War II also involved Red Cross nurses. Shown below in this 1941 photo are Red Cross nurse’s aides for civilian defense as they complete their training. Red Cross nurse Virginia Flaig, left, fastens nurse’s aide pins on two students. The Red Cross taught a total of 100,000 volunteer nurse’s aides to free up registered nurses for military duty.

Civilian Defense World War II

Learn more about National Nurses Week, including nursing stories and historic Red Cross nursing pins, on redcross.org.

Blown Away: A Volunteer Story from Nepal

By Glen and Julie Bradley, American Red Cross IT/Telecoms disaster volunteers currently in Nepal

My little yellow tent sailed off the cliff where I had slept the night before.  I couldn’t stake it down because of the rockface, so I left my duffle inside as an anchor against the strong winds whipping up from the steep Himalayan valley. It was all replaceable; clothes, dehydrated food and sleeping gear. All the important stuff was right next to me in my backpack: satphone, radio, toilet paper….

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Ewan Coldicott and I were out in the field as part of a joint American/New Zealand Red Cross IT/Telecoms Emergency Response Unit (ERU). When I heard about my tent I looked down the mountain and kept on about our business. With all the serious disaster surrounding us, the loss of my tent seemed pretty mild. To get to this remote mountainous area of Nepal, we had driven at walking pace up a narrow, dusty road with steep drop-offs, stopping only for a landslide which partially blocked the road and to check on our sensitive equipment strapped to the roof of our car. Our destination was Dhunche, a remote village high in the northern mountains where we were going to support a 35 person Canadian Red Cross medical unit perched on a narrow strip of rare, flat land. This Red Cross unit was the only medical facility in the region and needed contact with the outside world to do their job.

Along the way we passed destroyed villages waving strings of colorful Buddhist prayer flags. Their baked brick homes built on a ridge line had literally crumbled during the earthquake. Survivors had salvaged and gathered what they could and were sleeping outdoors or under raised blue tarps with the Red Cross symbol.

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Finding a clear line of sight to the satellite among the steep mountains was a challenge. We finally locked on and got the row of green lights—success. At this point, the lack of useable living space turned into an advantage for us. As we hammered nails and strung our cables, we realized it was all so compact that we could cover the hospital as well as the Red Cross medical personnel sleeping quarters with one large wifi antenna. As Ewan explained the system to the Red Cross team, a villager ran up the mountain path carrying my tent and duffle over his head. “Auntie, auntie, your tent!”  Now we were all smiling; the Red Cross hospital workers had Internet and communication with the outside world and I had my tent back.


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Julie explains the Ruckus wifi antenna to a Canadian Red Cross doctor and nurse.

Three ways to help those affected by the Nepal Earthquake:

  • GIVE: To help people affected by disasters big and small, visit Redcross.org or contact your local American Red Cross chapter.
  • MAP: To help with critical mapping efforts, visit http://tasks.hotosm.org. No experience is needed, just a computer and internet connection.
  • SHARE: Spread the word on relief efforts and ways to help online. Find and share information on social channels, including the global Red Cross Twitter account and American Red Cross Facebook and Twitter posts.

For more information about our response on the ground in Nepal, please visit www.redcross.org/nepal.

The VSAT satellites installed by Julie and Glen Bradley as part of  a joint American & New Zealand RC IT-Telecommunication Emergency Response Unit (ERU) deployment provides critical connectivity to various Red Cross medical teams from the Canadian Red Cross, the Norwegian Red Cross and the Japanese Red Cross.  This capacity ensures a communications life-line to the outside world.  Because of the internet access established the Canadian Red Cross was able to capture this video from this morning’s 7.4 Magnitude Earthquake in Nepal. For more information about our response on the ground in Nepal, please visit www.redcross.org/nepal


Schedule a Donation and Get Your (Digital) Swag Starting Today!

One day can change a person’s life in a way they didn’t expect, in a way that left them feeling helpless.

People like Kathy in Derby, Kansas, whose family survived a tornado: “The [Red Cross] gave me hope. They showed me the best in people.”

Or Denise, who overcame a tragic house fire: “When you give even a little from the heart, it means the world to someone who has lost so much.”

Your support allows the Red Cross to be there so people in need can get back on their feet.


Starting this week, you can help bring more good days to those in need with a financial contribution to Red Cross Giving Day.

For those who like to plan ahead (or are worried you’ll forget come June 2), we set up a Giving Day donation option just for you! Now through June 1, you can simply visit the Giving Day website, enter your information, and your donation will be processed on June 2 along with all other Giving Day donations


First, thanks so much for your support! But don’t just tell us – tell all your friends too! We have some great digital swag ready on the Giving Day page for you to download and share on your social channels.

Check it out!


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This spring, people across the country are coming together All In 1 Day for Giving Day, a chance for neighbors, friends and families to unite in order to make a difference in the lives of those who need it most in our communities. Because we never know when an emergency will occur and a neighbor or family member may be left with nowhere to turn, your support is critical to be sure the American Red Cross is there to respond with help and hope.

Don’t forget to sign up as a Giving Day Social Ambassador too!

Moms Give Thanks for Blood Donors: “I’m So Lucky”

This Mother’s Day, two women share their heartfelt thanks for blood donors who saved their lives.

Noelle Gardner

New Picture (1)In June 1994, when she was 28 years old, Noelle Gardner hemorrhaged while giving birth to her son. Blood donations helped save her life. In a video submitted to the Red Cross, Noelle and her family share what those blood donations mean to them.

“Before this happened to me, I would never give blood. But I’m so thankful everybody didn’t think the way I did, or I would have died. So after that, I give blood now.”

Randi Mitchell

New PictureIn 1997, while living in Minnesota, Randi Mitchell lost a lot of blood while giving birth. Blood donations helped save her life. Randi remembers that moment and what it means to her and her family to have been able to spend the last 15 years with her wonderful sons.

Her son Henry addressed Red Cross blood donors, saying, “Thank you for my mom. I don’t know what I’d do without her, so thank you.”

“It’s really emotional for me,” said Randi. “I feel so lucky to have survived that day and have the rest of this life to be a Mom. I’m very thankful.”

Two Ways to Help

  1. Learn more about how you can help families like the Mitchells and the Gardners by donating blood.
  2. Shop with Amazon Smile this Mother’s Day, and Amazon will donate to the American Red Cross.

Amazon Smile Mothers Day

Connecting Nepal: A Report from IT/Telecoms Volunteers

Written by Julie Bradley, IT/Telecommunications volunteer with the American Red Cross Emergency Relief Unit in Nepal

When the dogs wake you up at night with frantic barking, it might be time to put on your shoes and get ready to run. So far, dogs have been reliable indicators of aftershocks ranging from ‘mild’ to ‘Let’s exit the building.’ Right now we are sleeping in tents in the field next to Search and Rescue dogs and they have been a reliable ‘canine early warning’ of coming aftershocks. Truly a man’s best friend.

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For the past few days, our job as the American Red Cross IT/Telecoms Emergency Relief Unit has been to support field units in the hardest hit areas of Nepal. New Zealand Red Cross team member Tom McNally and I just returned to Disaster Operations in Kathmandu after installing communications, Internet and wifi to support a rapidly expanding International Red Cross operation.

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Delayed en route by a landslide, Tom and I walked from the vehicle to the landslide blocking the road, gathering with the villagers to watch the slow but effective clearing of our path. In some areas, whole villages crumbled and the community is still in shock. But in the rest of Nepal, people are moving on with whatever they can do to help with the disaster relief efforts.

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Tom and I drove through crumbled villages on the way to our field units and arrived at the same time as the Red Cross hospital and sanitation teams we are supporting. It was an eerie scene as we worked well into the night, with dozens of Red Crossers working by headlight. Literally overnight, a 60-bed hospital camp was well underway, and by the next afternoon they were accepting casualties and patients. As the scene unfolded around us, Tom and I worked to get our equipment up and running: satellite communications, wifi and Internet-based phone service which were all desperately needed for the dozens of Red Cross workers to communicate and coordinate with the outside world. A Norwegian Search and Rescue team gifted us some equipment as they departed, so we even had a Red Cross laser printer and administrative supplies – trivial in civilization, but a major luxury for these field teams.

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The units we supported were smiling and appreciative of our efforts, but they are the real superheroes in this story. We will move on to the next site, providing communications, then move on once more. They stay, living in indescribable hardship, giving help and hope to destroyed communities.

(By the way, we know people want to get involved, and that’s a great thing! Donating money now is the only way to help, as supplies are only useful when there’s the coordination to distribute them. Learn more about the “cash is best” policy in another blog post.)

Three ways to help those affected by the Nepal Earthquake:

  • GIVE: To help people affected by disasters big and small, visit Redcross.org or contact your local American Red Cross chapter.
  • MAP: To help with critical mapping efforts, visit http://tasks.hotosm.org. No experience is needed, just a computer and internet connection.
  • SHARE: Spread the word on relief efforts and ways to help online. Find and share information on social channels, including the global Red Cross Twitter account and American Red Cross Facebook and Twitter posts.

Photos c/o Julie Bradley, IT/Telecoms volunteer

Three Lessons for Nepal From Haiti (The Huffington Post)

David Meltzer, Chief International Officer of the American Red Cross, penned an article for the Huffington Post this week with vivid stories and important lessons from his many trips to Haiti following the 2010 earthquake.

Here’s a quick excerpt:

When news broke of the devastating earthquake that struck Nepal, I had just returned from my 20th trip to Haiti and was tragically reminded of what we faced in the early hours following the Haiti earthquake.  Like Port au Prince in Haiti at the time of the 2010 earthquake, Kathmandu in Nepal is a city with many homes that are not earthquake-resistant and it is now confronted with the challenges of bringing relief supplies for hundreds of thousands of people into a city with one small airport and many impassable roads.  The challenges are daunting even to the most experienced and hardened disaster relief worker.  But as hard as it is to imagine that a country with this much devastation can ever recover, the example of Haiti, five years later, is instructive.

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Head over to the Huffington Post to read the full piece, including Meltzer’s three lessons for relief and recovery in Nepal from our experience in Haiti. 

Read more about how the American Red Cross is responding to the Nepal earthquake on redcross.org.

Brian Boyle Beats the Odds: C&O Canal 100 Mile Ultramarathon

Post by Steve Mavica, External Communications Manager, Greater Chesapeake and Potomac Blood Services Region

Author, American Red Cross blood recipient and national volunteer spokesman Brian Boyle continued his miraculous comeback from a horrific 2004 auto accident by successfully completing the C&O Canal 100 Mile Ultramarathon in Knoxville, Maryland, on April 26. Brian dedicated each mile of the race to the 100 people who pledged to donate blood or platelets through his recent SleevesUp campaign. The C&O Canal 100-mile race featured one 58-mile loop and one 41-mile loop almost entirely on the C&O Canal, starting and finishing at Camp Manidokan and running along the canal between Antietam Creek and Noland’s Ferry.

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Brian and his family arrived at scenic Camp Manidokan around 6 a.m. the day before to prepare for the race, but the sunny spring morning turned into something quite unexpected, at least in terms of the weather. Despite the brutal conditions on Saturday night, with freezing cold temperatures along with rain and sleet, Brian said the race was truly an amazing experience. Through extreme conditions Brian finished the 100-mile ultramarathon in just over 29 challenging, nonstop hours. While just over 130 runners registered for the race, only 69 crossed the finish line.BB Crossing the finish line

What makes this race even more significant to Brian was the fact that he was able to recruit 100 Red Cross blood and platelet donors through his SleevesUp campaign and dedicate each mile to these generous donors. Before the race, Brian printed out the names of the pledged blood donors and carried them with him as inspiration throughout the race. As a 36-time blood recipient, Brian say that he runs with an entire team of blood donors with him. This race gave new meaning to that statement because, as a blood recipient, he was running for 100 blood and platelet donors that helped up to 300 other blood recipients during their time of need, just like he did in the summer of 2004.

In 2004, on the way home from swim practice in Welcome, Maryland, then 18-year-old Brian’s future changed in an instant when his car was hit by a dump truck. Having lost 60 percent of his blood, he was airlifted to a trauma hospital. During many operations, he received 36 blood transfusions, 13 plasma treatments and died eight times. Following surgery, he was placed in a medically induced coma and given little chance of survival. When Brian finally emerged from the coma two months later, doctors predicted he might not be able to walk again. With enormous fortitude, Brian learned to walk, then run, and eventually, to swim and bike. With his dream of one day competing in the Ironman Triathlon spurring him on, Brian defied all odds and competed and crossed the finish line in the 2007 Kona Ironman less than four years after his accident. Today, Brian is a volunteer spokesman for the Red Cross.

Brian has beaten the odds again and again by completing many endurance races such as the Boston Marathon, the Marine Corps Marathon, the U.S. Championships Ironman Triathlon in New York City, the Ironman Triathlon in Cambridge, Maryland and now his first 100-mile ultramarathon. During each race, Brian wears the Red Cross emblem to represent the many blood recipients whose lives have been saved in part due to Red Cross blood and platelet donors and to thank the blood donors who helped save his life and were the foundation for his recovery.

Visit ironheartbrianboyle.com to learn more about Brian, including his published memoir, Iron Heart, describing on his journey back to life, and his new book The Patient Experience: The Importance of Care, Communication, and Compassion in the Hospital Room provides vital information from the patient’s perspective to help caregivers gain valuable insight. Photos from this amazing event can be found on the Red Cross Blood Services Flickr page.