Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Quilt a Symbol of Red Cross History- and Impact

Volunteer Eileen Hadbavny has served the Red Cross since she first donated blood in the 1960s. That initial experience sparked a lifelong connection to the Red Cross, spanning more than fifty years and half a dozen volunteer roles.  Eileen supported the Red Cross first as a blood donor, then as a blood services coordinator in Virginia. She now serves the Palmetto SC Region of the Red Cross as the Regional Nurse Leader, a Health Services volunteer, the coordinator and lead caseworker of Services to the Armed Forces, and the instructor and lead caseworker for International Services.

Her medical knowledge and passion for giving back to others has made her an incredible asset to the Red Cross, then and now. Recently, Eileen’s years of support and leadership became tangible through a surprising medium  – a quilt, cleverly and creatively stitched by Eileen's sister. 

The quilt weaves together American Red Cross blood drive promotional T-shirts that Eileen had earned and kept over the years. One particularly close to Eileen’s heart is a celebration of the Red Cross Blood Services' 50th anniversary, featuring a design dating to 1948. Eileen notes the historical significance of the shirt, which she received in 1998, tacking on a quote from the Red Cross website that notes the Red Cross' role in World War II: 

"Saving Lives for 50 Years, American Red Cross Blood Services"
"The Second World War called upon the Red Cross to provide extensive services once again to the U.S. military, Allies, and civilian war victims. We enrolled more than 104,000 nurses for military service, prepared 27 million packages for American and Allied prisoners of war, and shipped over 300,000 tons of supplies overseas. At the military’s request, the Red Cross also initiated a national blood program that collected 13.3 million pints of blood for use by the armed forces."

Her history as a frequent blood donor is additional evidence of Eileen's commitment to the Red Cross over the years. Wherever Eileen lived, her pattern of involvement with the Red Cross repeated. With her O Negative blood type, Eileen is a universal donor. She recalls her initial motivation to donate during nursing school. "I saw the need for blood while helping to administer blood to patients following surgery or accidents," she said.

She also knows the intense need for blood during times of personal health emergencies. "At one blood drive, when it was my turn to donate, the nurses saw my donor card and asked for a special blood bag. They said there were babies at MUSC needing my type of blood, so they were going to put a rush on testing the blood," she recalled. 
"That impressed me," she continued, "that the need was real and the need was now. If I had not been donating that day, what would have happened to that infant? Also, while living in Miami, I would go in to donate, and the staff would check the heart surgery schedule and reschedule my donation before specific surgeries because of the need for my blood type for specific patients."

Each shirt has a story. The majority of the T-shirts are from Virginia during the 1990's and early 2000's.  One came from a national convention Eileen attended in 1999 in Richmond, Virginia. That year, the Red Cross celebrated and promoted youth involvement. With the phrase, "Own the Future," the organization emphasized that "Youth is about 40% of the population but 100% of the Future!"

"Own the Future"

Another shirt is embroidered with “Red Cross for All People." Eileen purchased it after becoming involved with International Services and learning that the Red Cross is the largest humanitarian network in the world. She now serves as the Instructor for International Services here, upholding humanitarian law and human rights in conflict zones. 

Red Cross for All People
The quilt has local influences as well. Lowcountry SC Major Gifts Officer Dick Miller left the “I Give Blood to Honor Those Who Serve” shirt in Eileen’s office one day to honor her previous work as an Air Force nurse and ongoing support to military personnel through the Red Cross’ Services to the Armed Forces program. 
Eileen regularly donated blood for more than 30 years until she was no longer eligible. Yet, her dedication to the organization and its mission didn't unravel. She now assists in the organization of the VFW Blood Drives on James Island. The next one is on Saturday, July 25, at 1639 Camp Road from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., and her quilt will be on display. Her motto is "If you cannot donate, then you need to recruit. A donor can give up to six times a year, but a recruiter can get many more units exponentially."
Eileen encourages others to consider giving blood. "If they are eligible to donate, it can be the greatest gift to give to a perfect stranger," she began. "And should you or a family member ever need blood, the hope is that there was another stranger who selflessly provided that gift of life so the blood product is readily available, when and where you need it."

For information on upcoming blood donations, visit

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