by Xavia Malcolm, American Red Cross in Greater NY
American Red Cross Health Services volunteer Neale Sanchez takes great pride in helping others. This is one of the reasons he decided to become a nurse. Today, although he is semi-retired, Neale continues to utilize his experience in healthcare to provide support and assistance to individuals affected by disasters. Neale is known by many for his ability to adapt in stressful situations, roll up his sleeves and serve in multiple roles.
Why did you pursue a career in nursing?
I survived a life-changing car accident. Having been hospitalized for almost seven months and undergoing eight surgeries, I know what it is like to be on the receiving end of the kindness of nurses. This was an inspiration. I actually wish I became a nurse sooner in life.
When did you join the Red Cross, and how has becoming a volunteer impacted your life?
I joined the Red Cross the summer of 2019 . So far, I have done many DHS [Disaster Health Services] local responses for fire, several virtual responses for DAT [Disaster Action Team] and Disability Integration. Before the peak of the COVID pandemic I deployed to Tennessee in response to the tornadoes that wreaked havoc in the lives of many people. I was there for three weeks, and it was the most amazing experience I have ever had. I was a little nervous at first but when I met my supervisor who trained me in multiple positions, I became more confident. What has been the most impactful is being able to work with families and providing resources to help them during disasters. There are always moments that stick with you. I remember during a response bringing a CAC card [Red Cross financial assistance on a debit card] to a woman who was really in need; she was so appreciative that she started crying the moment we arrived. Her gratitude just really solidified my commitment to the Red Cross.
The pandemic has changed the lives of many, and presented many challenges, what has it been like for you?
It has been very challenging for multiple reasons. It’s been difficult not being able to deploy. However, I‘ve had the opportunity to work with the national Red Cross and help manage agency nurses. I also got to meet Red Crossers virtually from almost every state, and I have met many DHS leaders. Virtual responses sometimes can be heartbreaking because you can’t physically comfort clients but I am able to assist them immediately with RC Care [Red Cross tracking and assistance software]. This has proven to be very efficient. I know how difficult this has all been, especially when faced with a disaster. But if there was something that I could tell clients is that they are in the arms of the Red Cross. We are here to help them with all their disaster-related needs, and we will do all that we can to get them back on the road to recovery.