Image of Allen Radford
Allen Radford

Allen Radford: Red Cross Instructor
by Lusi Radford

From the Editor: The following article is taken from JOB Recorded Bulletin 180, produced by the Job Opportunities for the Blind Program, which is jointly conducted by the United States Department of Labor and the National Federation of the Blind. Those interested in learning more about becoming Red Cross volunteers should call Miss Rovig, Director of the JOB Program. She can be reached between 12:30 and 5:00 p.m. Eastern time at (800) 638-7518. Here is the story:

During the week of April 13, 1997, channel 17, the NBC affiliate in Goldsboro, North Carolina, aired a series of short stories on outstanding volunteers. My husband Allen Radford was chosen out of more than 1,600 volunteers to represent the Triangle Chapter of the Red Cross on the program. On April 17 he was presented with his third Exceptional Volunteer Award at a luncheon honoring Red Cross volunteers in the Raleigh area.

Allen Radford, age forty-two, grew up on a tobacco farm near Kinley, North Carolina. Although he was legally blind at birth, he had usable vision. He enjoyed working with his father— especially driving the tractor.

Allen began his education in public school, then transferred in second grade to the Governor Morehead School for the Blind in Raleigh. After graduation he earned an associate degree in horticulture from Central Piedmont Community College and later a Bachelor of Arts degree in psychology from Barton College.

In 1988 Allen was a senior at Barton College, getting ready to graduate. One Sunday afternoon a neighbor knocked on his door and asked him for help. Her husband had just attempted to commit suicide.

When Allen went next door, he found the victim unconscious on the floor. Allen began talking to him—asking him if he was okay. Then he rolled the neighbor onto his back. The man got sick, so Allen turned his head to the side. When the Emergency Medical Service (EMS) team arrived,they said that Allen had done all the right things. Allen turned off the lights, locked the apartment door, went home, and cried.

From his psychology courses Allen had learned all the characteristics of a person considering suicide. However, no course had told him what to do when working with a suicide victim. Allen decided to learn what to do so that, if he were ever faced with such an emergency again, he would know how to help.

That spring Allen enrolled in a community first aid and safety class conducted by the local Red Cross. He got the book a week before the class began and read it using his closed-circuit TV. The class instructors were impressed with his knowledge of the material and how thoroughly he mastered the skills. They encouraged him to become an instructor.

When the news spread that a blind man was going to become an instructor, some Red Cross personnel did not believe that it should be allowed. Allen's instructors put their Red Cross credentials on the line. They said that, if he was not allowed to become an instructor, they would no longer teach. Allen took the courses, earned his certification, and was given his credentials as a Red Cross instructor.

Allen became totally blind in 1991. Today Allen teaches community first aid and safety classes for the Red Cross. He also works first aid stations. Allen relies on his hearing as well as his sense of touch when teaching skills or when actually working with an injured victim. He enjoys helping people.

Another reason Allen volunteers with the Red Cross is that it is a way for him to give back to his community in appreciation for the things that have been done for him. In 1979 Allen was hit by a car. His left leg was broken, and he was in a cast for two years. He was unable to take care of his most basic needs by himself. In 1991 Allen almost died from an allergic reaction to codeine following neurosurgery. The surgery, which was an attempt to restore some of Allen's vision, failed.

Currently Allen is working on becoming an instructor trainer. Although Allen is a good Braille reader, he is a highly auditory learner. There is a great deal of material to read, for which he depends upon our scanner. This course is an exciting opportunity for him. He will be teaching the people who want to become instructors for the Red Cross. One of his instructor friends says that Allen is already an instructor's instructor.

Allen and I were married on August 3, 1996. When I married him, I also married the Red Cross. I have taken Allen's community first aid and safety course. I was amazed at how he has internalized the material. He does little or no preparation before class but is well prepared and thorough when teaching. It has been fun working first aid stations with him and getting to know other Red Cross volunteers.

Last summer my husband and I were getting haircuts at the local hair salon when a woman in the chair next to me fainted and dropped onto the floor. I yelled for Allen, and he took charge. No one else knew what to do. (It turned out that she was having a problem with her blood pressure medicine.)

Along with volunteering for the Red Cross, Allen works hard at a number of other activities. He and I are members of the Triangle Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of North Carolina. We generally help out with whatever comes up.

We're both very involved as volunteers in our church. Allen serves on the Hospitality Committee,which puts on two big events each year, plus receptions and other smaller events, and he helps with the children's ministry.

To support his family, he works full-time as a teacher assistant in the home economics department at Governor Morehead School for the Blind in Raleigh, and he runs his own bakery and catering service out of our home. Allen says his Braille skills are of great use to him in his bakery business. He thermoforms all of his recipes before using them so that he doesn't need to worry about getting batter-covered fingers on the dots. He writes down and carries shopping lists to the store in his Braille n' Speak. He uses Braille to keep track of his orders, and he labels the finished products in Braille and print for delivery to the right customers.

Sweets are his specialty. Allen makes lots of cakes, mints, cookies, and cheese wafers. The majority of his business comes from individuals buying refreshments for local parties. As usual, he was very busy between Thanksgiving and New Year's.

We don't presently have children, but we are in the process of adopting a young girl from Russia who is blind. As soon as officials make final arrangements, we are going over to Siberia to meet her. The Russian agency sent two officials to meet with us and some other parents who are adopting Russian orphans. After meeting us, they were very warm and friendly to Allen and me. We are both guide dog users, but they advised us to leave the dogs home because of problems in Siberia with packs of wild dogs and because the severe weather might lead to frostbite on their paws. That sounded like good advice, so our dogs will have a little vacation when we fly over there.

To get back to the Red Cross a moment, as you can guess from the facts in this story, Allen would be glad to share his techniques with any other blind person who would like to learn first aid or become a Red Cross instructor. He encourages everyone, blind or sighted, to learn to handle first-aid emergencies.