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On The Front Lines: Duchess Adjei

Posted by: Hannah Thomas
Posted: March 26, 2020
Categories: Civic Engagement, IndyHub

In such uncertain times, we’re all looking for answers – or even clarity on how to do our part in society right now. And while for some of us our hustling lives have taken a pause, others that are on the frontlines of battling the global pandemic due to COVID 19 are doubling down, exhibiting leadership and courage that we can all learn from – and be thankful for. Over the next several weeks we’ll take a look at our frontline leaders, from our community servants to service workers to healthcare professionals and more because we know People Make the City – even more so in a time like this. 
If you’d like to nominate one of Indy’s 20-and 30-something’s story of courage please email Hannah Thomas, hannah@indyhub.org for more information. We’re here for you, let us share your story.

Duchess directs communications for American Red Cross in multiple states in the region and is an IndyHub 1828 Project alumni out on the frontlines during the COVID-19 crisis

This week we took a quick moment to catch up with Duchess Adjei, Regional Communication Director at American Red Cross and IndyHub 1828 Project alumni. She wasn’t easy to track down but hey at least some things never change – Duchess is always flying in many directions, but even through her demanding job she remains focused on the overall support and impact to Hoosier families during disasters. 


Here’s her take on what’s going on in our world and state right now…

We’re in the midst of a global health pandemic, and we know that your job calls on you to manage crises throughout our state. Can you tell us what your day looks like and what your team is doing right now to help our fellow Hoosiers?  

Our work at the American Red Cross has been monumental in scope. My team’s focus has been a strategic approach across a multi-region territory (Indiana, Illinois and Kentucky) to provide marketing and communication leadership around the need for organizations and businesses to consider hosting blood drives and stressing the importance of donating blood during this time. Each day since the heightened activity around COVID-19, my day has been actionpacked. 

I’ve stayed busy by: 

  • Interviewing with media across our region to share the severity of not having blood drives
  • Crafting PSAs
  • Creating graphic design work
  • Drafting Elected Official Communication
  • Producing videos
  • Producing and disseminating media reports
  • Hosting United Way, social service agency and board of director calls
  • Social Media creation, curation and monitoring
  • Pitching our Regional CEO for media interviews
  • Coordinating interviews for Executive Directors across the region
  • Connecting with our partners to provide messaging
  • Volunteer Management

In the most recent days the U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams (Former Health Commissioner of Indiana) has called upon Millennials and Gen Z generations to step up and donate blood. So tell us how important is this, and specifically right now? 

Donating blood is hugely important year-round, and specifically right now. The American Red Cross faces a severe blood shortage due to an unprecedented number of blood drive cancellations during this coronavirus outbreak. As of March 23, about 7,000 Red Cross blood drives have been canceled across the country due to coronavirus concerns, resulting in more than 200,000 fewer blood donations. Given these drive cancellations, donors may see fewer opportunities to give. Organizationally, we are working around the clock to identify new hosts and are adding new blood drives each day. We are encouraging those who are considering donating blood, not to feel discouraged if there is not an immediate appointment available – patients still need you. As experts have emphasized, this outbreak is not limited to days and the Red Cross will continue to face blood collection challenges for weeks and even months during this crisis.

I understand why people may be hesitant to come out for a blood drive, but want to reassure the public that we have implemented additional precautions to ensure the safety of our donors and staff in response to the coronavirus concerns, including:

  • Checking the temperature of staff and donors before entering a drive to make sure they are healthy
  • Providing hand sanitizer for use before the drive, as well as throughout the donation process
  • Spacing beds, where possible, to follow social distancing practices between blood donors, and
  • Increasing enhanced disinfecting of surfaces and equipment.

The Governor declared a “Stay-at-home” order beginning March 25, is it still okay if I leave my house to donate blood? 

Donating blood is absolutely considered essential travel. In fact, it has been categorized as an essential activity at the national level by the FDA, CDC and the U.S. Surgeon General. Essential activity is activity that must continue for the well-being of the community. As such, it is vital that blood donations continue to occur even during a pandemic, so that hospital patients can receive the blood they need.

Like a hospital, grocery store, or pharmacy, a blood drive is essential to ensuring the health of the community. We are continuing to hold blood drives during this challenging time to help meet patient needs. In fact, the U.S. surgeon general has said, “(Y)ou can still go out and give blood. We’re worried about potential blood shortages in the future. Social distancing does not have to mean social disengagement.” The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Food and Drug Administration have also issued statements encouraging blood donation for those who are well.

If I give blood, is my one donation really going to help? 

Absolutely! Every two seconds someone in the United States needs blood. The need for blood is constant and the blood supply must be regularly replenished. That is why it is so important that generous donors like you give regularly. Donating blood is a vital way to help save lives. Along with helping save lives, there are a number of reasons why your donation is truly going to help. A single donation can save three lives. One blood donation provides different blood components that can help up to three different people.

You deal with crises every day in your career, are we – our government, city leaders and citizens doing the right thing to slow the spread of COVID 19? 

Locally, I believe our leadership has been implementing the right tactics to support and prepare Hoosiers. Especially the Stay-At-Home Order taking into effect Tuesday, March 24 at 11:59 p.m. ET. This mandatory order is critical to reducing the spread of COVID-19 across our communities. We’ve had blueprints from across the nation and around the world, so we will all have the opportunity to see in real-time the impact.

Okay, so for those of us sitting at home, what can we do? 

I’m so glad you asked, because there’s a lot we can all be doing right now. Bare with me but I’m going to give you the top 3 things I’ve been telling everyone!

  1. Donate blood. Right now we’ve had to postpone our large blood drives due to physical distancing so if you feel healthy please donate blood: RedCrossBlood.org or download the Free Blood Donor mobile app. You can also call to schedule an appointment 1-888-684-1441.  
  2. Volunteer. During the rapidly spreading coronavirus and daily changes to our routines, there are vital services that we urgently need volunteers to heroically step-up and fill key roles. We have immediate needs now for volunteers to support the Indiana Region of the American Red Cross. Specifically, we are actively seeking support in our disaster response efforts and at local blood drives.
    1. Disaster Action Team (DAT) – Volunteers who respond day and night to the immediate needs of those impacted by disasters in your local community. (*virtual*)
    2. Blood Donor Ambassador – Volunteers who provide reception and hospitality at local blood drives.
    3. Blood Transportation Specialist – Volunteers who transport blood products from collection sites to processing centers.
  3. Donate. If you’re able you can provide a financial contribution by visiting redcross.org or texting the word CORONAVIRUS TO 90999.

And leave us with something positive – what is giving you optimism throughout the current health crisis? 

The network of our communities across Indiana and throughout the nation is incredible! We are coming together in ways we have never before. People are using social media in the way in which we should have always used it – to support and encourage and show compassion for one another. 

During this time, where many people feel isolated and disconnected, social media is providing a lifeline to keep us interconnected. It is abundantly clear that hopefulness is a critical factor in how people are choosing to navigate this crisis.

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