By Cindy Brookshire, Contributing Writer
Don Flory is living proof of how the American Red Cross saves lives in Prince William. During a “High-Heeled Happy HourTM” fundraiser for the organization, his wife Donna Flory whistled down a noisy crowd at Old Towne Sports Pub in Manassas to share the couple’s compelling tale.
“On July 27, 2013, at 1:15 in the morning, my husband Don suffered a massive heart attack, resulting in a cardiac arrest in my living room,” she shared. Her husband had a complete physical six weeks prior, with no risk indicators. They had enjoyed dinner out in Old Town Manassas earlier that evening. He went to bed early, but came back downstairs.
“What does it mean if my chest hurts and I feel warm all over?” he asked her.
Donna Flory had been an American Red Cross supporter her whole life—as a blood and platelet donor, financial donor, disaster volunteer and board member. Now the Red Cross was about to give back to her.
Before his wife could ask “Do you feel a pain in your left arm?” Don collapsed into a recliner, unresponsive to her shouts. Trained by the Red Cross in CPR, Donna dialed 911, put the dispatcher on speaker and started chest compressions, all within seconds.
Paramedics arrived, stabilized Don and transported him to Novant Health Prince William Medical Center in Manassas. The decision to transfer him to The George Washington University Hospital in Washington, D.C. for further lifesaving measures depended on the immediacy of Donna’s actions. Did she start compressions right away? Did she interrupt them at any time?
Her actions, made possible by Red Cross training, helped save Don and enabled the quality of life that he enjoys today.
Don entered the room at the Old Towne Sports Pub to cheers. He has since returned to his Prince William County government job as a contract administrator and his freelance photography business. He has also returned to the volunteer work that he enjoys, taking photographs for Manassas Museum, Center for the Arts at the Candy Factory in Old Town Manassas—and the American Red Cross.
Thankfully, according to Donna, he doesn’t remember anything about his medical adventure. “We’re getting used to what my mom calls ‘the new norm,’” she said.
“What keeps me dedicated in this job are couples like the Florys, and the fact that every 60 seconds, about 63 people are assisted by the American Red Cross throughout the country,” said Erwin Stierle, community executive for the organization’s Prince William and Loudoun offices, part of the American Red Cross’s National Capital Region.
The Prince William Chapter of the American Red Cross became part of the National Capital Region four years ago with dramatic results: Our community now has access to 2,500 metro area Red Cross volunteers who could mobilize to Prince William in the event of a major disaster.
The merger also lightened local administrative and overhead chores, said Stierle. Now a smaller team of four staff members and two volunteers work at the Prince William Red Cross office, located on Liberia Avenue in Manassas. Stierle keeps a finger on the pulse of the community by speaking at meetings, building partnerships and engaging frontrunners.
“I am the point person. It’s up to me to identify where the needs of the community are, get the right line of service involved and make sure we can deliver that service,” said Stierle, who is also a member of Leadership Prince William, an association of current and future community leaders.
In Prince William, as well as worldwide, Red Cross feeds, shelters and provides emotional support to victims of disasters—also teaching lifesaving skills and providing humanitarian aid. Nationally, the Red Cross provides about 40 percent of the country’s blood supply as well as supports military members and their families.
The local Red Cross responds to an average of one event weekly in the area, including every house fire, day or night, Stierle said. Volunteers provide comfort, basic necessities and often shelter. In response to the extreme heat during the Civil War Sesquicentennial in 2012, volunteers set up cooling tents at Manassas Battlefield for visitors and reenactors. Prince William Red Cross volunteers were also part of the response to the mass shooting Sept. 16 last year at Washington Navy Yard, bringing food, blankets and comfort to employees who were detained for interviews.
At redcross.org/prepare/mobile-apps, an app is available to help citizens prepare for emergencies. Users receive alerts of watches and warnings of storms and other potential disasters. Additionally, at redcrossstore.org, the organization sells items such as hand-crank radios and survival kits designed to help families and businesses weather emergency situations.
Stierle said that since the merger he works with the Red Cross’s all- volunteer Prince William County Leadership Council on fundraising initiatives. Gainesville resident Rebecca Vaughan-King, president of Manassas-based marketing and design firm Imagine, chairs the council, one of three Leadership councils in the National Capital Region.
Under Stierle’s and her joint leadership, in 2013 the local Leadership Council raised more than $40,000 during the “Online Heroes for the American Red Cross” fundraising and awareness campaign, and its “Under the Sea” prom benefit raised nearly $30,000, Stierle said.
Planning is underway for this year’s prom, themed “One Enchanted Evening,” which will take place March 28 at Heritage Hunt Country Club in Gainesville. Vaughan-King said that volunteers for the organizing committee are welcome.
You can bet that Don and Donna Flory, who celebrated 30 years of marriage on Jan. 14, will support the local Red Cross’s fundraising efforts.
“I always had a message to share, but I have a bigger one now,” said Donna. “You can’t go through life thinking you’re not capable of learning CPR or using it when you need it. If sharing our story makes one more person be more prepared, than the American Red Cross did their job, and so did I, making you aware of it.”
Stierle said that the Red Cross always needs donors and volunteers. Stop by the Prince William office at 9934 Liberia Avenue in Manassas or call 703-584-8702 to find ways that you can help.
You can also make a difference digitally. According to Stierle, this is the number-one region in the country for digital reach. Visit www.redcross.org/charitable-donations for more information. Among options: Texting “Redcross” to 90999 to donate $10 to disaster relief. You can also give non-monetary donations, such as airline miles and credit card or hotel rewards points.
Manassas resident and freelance writer Cindy Brookshire is a frequent contributor to Prince William Living. She can be reached at [email protected]