Monday, April 16, 2012

Red Cross Volunteer Megan Mercer: From Barbies to Brain Surgery and Back Again

By Lilly Watson, American Red Cross Communications Assignments Coordinator

Rex Anne Waggoner, contributor, American Red Cross volunteer

Megan and her happy baby that we lovingly call Johnnie Mac!
Just a few years ago, Megan Mercer was a self-sufficient early intervention specialist working with special needs children in the Dallas area. A routine MRI as part of a physical she needed to join the Peace Corps suddenly changed her life dramatically. Megan discovered that day that she had tumors surrounding the stem of her brain. Over the next few years Megan would have to leave her career, undergo multiple brain surgeries and re-teach herself how to complete tasks as simple to us as walking and talking. As Megan worked to reclaim her life and confidence, she drew from her family history of volunteering and philanthropy and found the American Red Cross in Dallas, Texas.

“Helping others and self sacrifice were big deals in our family. I grew up volunteering with my family,” Megan told us. “When I was not able to work due to my recoveries from brain surgery, volunteering helped me retain my professional skills, be more social and confident, and helped pass the time.”

What do Barbie, MASH and the Red Cross have in common? Megan explained to us how many of her favorite childhood experiences came together to form a passion for helping people affected by disaster.

“When I was younger, I would take all my Barbies and pile them up like a tornado had hit and then I would take one Barbie (the prettiest, of course) who was a "nurse" who would drag the people out and lay each one on stretchers made out of toilet paper sheets,” Megan said. “I watched MASH with my siblings, so I guess that is why I did that. I have always known of the Red Cross but first had contact with them because we had to take CPR for work. I was so busy with work, that I couldn't volunteer, but that all changed in 2006 when I had my first brain surgery.”

Megan’s brain surgery impacted her physical body – she had to use a walker, had vision and hearing impairment and had weakness in the right side of her body – but her spirit for helping others and her cognitive brain function were still raring to go, so she came to the Red Cross to utilize those talents, working in our Dallas Area Chapter as a Volunteer Coordinator.

“I was impressed by how kind everyone was. The position was great for me. No heavy lifting, no movement, just talking to people on the phone. And I got to practice things like sitting in a chair, typing on a computer, walking to the coffee bar, pouring a cup and not spilling it everywhere - simple stuff that I had to relearn. It was awesome therapy!

“The Red Cross helped me feel like a normal human being! Everyone was so helpful and so respectful. In many ways, it helped me realize that although my body had changed, I was still the same old Megan. I am so thankful for my Red Cross experience.”

Hearing stories like Megan’s make all of us at the Red Cross so proud to be part of the world’s largest volunteer organization. When we asked Megan what advice she would give someone looking to volunteer at the Red Cross, she summed it up perfectly, “All you need to volunteer is a desire to give of yourself, time and an open heart and mind to learn. Just take the plunge and see where the Red Cross river leads you!”

To become an American Red Cross volunteer anywhere in the country, click on to find your local Red Cross chapter.

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