Donor of the Month: Debbie Hallum

debbie-hallum-2Debbie Hallum is a dedicated donor with over 10 gallons of blood donated here at Houchin.  Debbie’s journey as a donor began in 1997 when she and her husband first came in to donate in hopes of getting a cool themed T-shirt. Since then, Debbie has donated consistently along with her husband Charlie, who is a 6 galloneer – what a terrific duo!

Last year Debbie lost her father. He was short of reaching his 12 gallon milestone before he developed cancer. As a tribute to her father, Debbie appealed to debbies-collagefriends and family to make up the last 6 pints her father needed to hit the 12 gallon donation mark. She had each donor send her a selfie of their wrapped arm, which she made into a great collage shown here. To honor this effort, we presented Debbie with the 12 gallon license plate frame her father wanted to earn.

Debbie recalls how before she began donating blood she used to be scared of needles but she got over her fear because she knew how much of a difference she could make, as her own mother once required 13 pints of blood in one go. She says, “Only 3% of the population give blood but 100% could one day use it.”

During her free time, Debbie enjoys spending time with friends, celebrating birthdays, and going on wine tours. Debbie is truly an example to follow and this is why she is October’s Donor of the Month! Congratulations, Debbie, see you at our donor center, soon!


Donor Of The Month: Leonard Zasoski

Leonard-Zasoski photo from CalifornianLeonard Zasoski, is a dedicated blood and trima donor, with more than 11 gallons of whole blood and 215 units of platelets in his history. Leonard’s father was a faithful blood donor, who encouraged his son to do so as well, yet Leonard did not get around to it until he learned his father would be undergoing treatment for prostate cancer and would need platelets in 1992. Leonard continued to donate after his father’s passing as a way to feel close to the memory of his father.

In 2011, Leonard found out he had prostate cancer himself.  Leonard was saddened not only by his diagnosis, but also because he could no longer do the one thing that allowed him to continue to honor his late father—donate blood products.

Thankfully, since Leonard’s cancer was caught early, it could be fully removed and Leonard was declared cancer free. Although he no longer had cancer, Leonard was not able to donate blood or platelets until he was five years past treatment in accordance with FDA regulations. During those years, Leonard became very active in work supporting prostate cancer survivors and urging early diagnosis of the disease.

Leonard-Zasoski photo from first day backOn July 25th, with a great smile on his face and a spring in his step, Leonard walked into our donor center to resume his community service by donating platelets. Since that day he has donated platelets 5 times. Leonard hopes to continue donating for as long as he possibly can and encourages others to join him in saving lives. On the occasion of his return to donating, he wrote a letter to The Bakersfield Californian detailing his story and urging others to give. It was selected as a Community Voice piece, and is available to read here.

Welcome back Leonard. Congratulations on beating cancer, and we look forward to seeing you often in our Gold Club chairs!



Donor of the Month: Elisa Hylton

Elisa HyltonDuring the time the Erskine Fire tore through the community of the Kern River Valley, Houchin Community Blood Bank cancelled a previously scheduled blood drive in Lake Isabella. This caused the number of blood units typically collected to be absent from our inventory. During this shortage we asked members of the local Bakersfield community to come out and donate blood at the County Administrative and Courts Buildings. One person we did not expect to show up was Elisa Hylton.

Elisa Hylton lives in Lake Isabella, an area of the Kern River Valley that was hit hard by the Erskine Fire. Although she definitely had more than enough to worry about, with her son and grandson’s homes in the direct path of the fire, she was caring enough to drive all the way to our Bolthouse location to donate blood. Elisa explains that she figured there was not going to be a blood drive in Lake Isabella so she decided to make the long drive to Bakersfield. “Donating blood means a lot to me. It makes me sad to think that two people perished in the fire. Donating blood is the least I could do during this time,” Elisa says.

Elisa first became a donor at the old G Street location. She recalls stopping by during her lunch breaks or on her way home from work. Today Elisa has donated  more than 4 gallons of blood. Remaining a frequent donor is in her plans. She says, “If I could help other people, that’s a good thing to do. My blood may make a difference to someone and I want to make sure they have it.”

During her free time Elisa enjoys spending time outdoors walking, hiking, and swimming in the lake with her son – a retired firefighter. Elisa is our Donor of the Month because she is an outstanding example of a truly altruistic individual who even in a time of personal stress did not think twice about helping others. Thank you, Elisa!

July Donor of the Month

10408149_10152876843014582_4605045091304227272_nLike most military men, Randy Greenlee donated his first pint of blood while serving in the 82nd Airborne Infantry. He never realized the kind of impact his blood donation had on patients in need until his father got sick. In 1985, Randy’s father was rushed to the hospital, because his kidneys were failing. For the next few months, Randy would go from Bakersfield to Santa Barbara everyday to watch his father go through over 300 units of red cells. Looking for a way to help, Randy turned to platelet donations. Randy gave his first platelet in a small room in Santa Barbra with both arms hooked up to a machine for a three hour procedure. This was just the beginning.

13533311_10153871118734582_315832057664970457_nThat same year, Randy was invited to work for Houchin Community Blood Bank as a part-time employee in the manufacturing and distribution department. He quickly became a full time employee and a dedicated donor.

Thirty years later, Randy continues to work for Houchin as the Facilities Manager with over 600 platelets and 6 gallons of blood donations under his belt. As one of the few employees who can recall the days before the Truxtun and Bolthouse Donor Center, Randy has adopted the Houchin mission statement and continues to live by it till this day. When asked what he looks forward to as a donor, Randy shares that he is looking forward to reaching higher milestones and being a part of one of the only independent blood banks in the nation that continues to stand on its own.

To encourage donors to give Trima, our automated donation system, a try, Randy says: It shouldn’t take a close family member in need to fuel your donation. People are in need of blood products all the time. Sitting in a comfortable chair for up to two hours is a cakewalk in comparison to what our local patients go through. Donating allows regular people who aren’t firefighters, police officers, or soldiers to be the hero and save someone’s life.”

In his free time, Randy enjoys spending time with his grandson and traveling. If you ever see Randy at a mobile drive or donor center, be sure to say hello. He would love to thank you for your donation.

June Donor of the Month

IMG_5123As soon as Bob Kimble enters the building, he is greeted by smiles and hugs by the Houchin Staff. With 263 platelet donations and counting, Bob has become a familiar face at our donor centers. Bob first started donating blood when he was 28, while working as an intern for a local piping union. As a part of the internship, interns were required to go to school three times a week, but if they donated with Houchin they would be able to miss a day of school. From then on, Bob missed class every 8 weeks to donate.

Donating became a habit for Bob and it was during a regular visit to G street that he spotted Dan Kimm donating platelets. Bob learned from Dan the importance of donating platelets and quickly made the switch. It wasn’t until a friend’s son was diagnosed with lukemia that he realized the impact of his donation. Before the current trima machines, donors would have to sit in the chair for long hours with both arms hooked up to donate platelets. To Bob, the occasional discomfort and longer procedures were a cakewalk in comparison to what our local patients experienced.

IMG_5122Bob’s passion for donating has moved to the next generation of his family. Of his three lovely children, his son, Jason Kimble, followed in his father’s foot steps and became a trima donor in just this last year. Bob encourages others to donate and new donors to give trima donation a try. Although Bob loves the feeling of knowing he is helping our local patients, he says that the best part of the donation process is the staff, like Lori Fernandez Lopez and Erika Rios.  At 70 years old, Bob hopes to continue donating for as long as possible and looks forward to visiting his second family every two weeks.

.In his free time, Bob enjoys spending time with his granddaughter and wife, working with his hands, fishing, and staying busy.

April Donor of the Month

Since only 4% of the population has AB blood, and AB patients can take any blood type safely, hospitals seldom call for AB red cells.  While AB donors are discouraged from donating whole blood,  AB plasma and platelets are universally accepted by all blood types. One donor who has gotten that message is Jessica Dickson.

12661973_10153510335829582_2539855513839343329_nJessica has been donating for as long as she can remember. She was first recruited as a blood donor, but after reaching her one gallon milestone, she learned that patients rarely needed her blood type. So, in an effort to find a different way to help, Jessica converted to donating platelets and plasma. At first, her trima donations were a way to help people she would never meet, but when a close friend was diagnosed with leukemia, her donations took on a different meaning. Jessica became a strong advocate for trima donations, and when friends and family members asked for ways they could help, Jessica’s answer was always, “Have you considered a platelet or plasma donation?” Although her friend passed away 15 years ago, Jessica donated her 100th platelet on January, 2016 and continues to keep up with her lifesaving donations.

IMG_0468Jessica often jokes that her blood may not be O-, but her donations are the “Gold Standard”. Her platelets and plasma donations can help burn victims, as well as cancer, and trauma patients. Every donation is not only an opportunity to help patients in need, but to chat with the Houchin staff she has become familiar with over the years. Jessica looks forward to reaching her next milestone and always displays her license plate as a badge of honor. The longer donation time makes trima less attractive to many donors, but Jessica encourages new and seasoned blood donors to just give it a try, because you never know, your platelets or plasma could be exactly what a patient needs. To her fellow AB donors, Jessica wants to remind them that a plasma only donation could take less than 30  minutes and make the world of difference.

Jessica works for the Bakersfield City School District and part time as a delivery driver for Pizza Hut. She loves to stay busy and when she isn’t working, Jessica enjoys going to the movies, reading, traveling, and scrapbooking.

March Donor of the Month

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Joan Clark, Sandy Young, Tonie Siedschlag and Mary Ann

Stallion Springs is a close-knit community where everyone cares about each other. So it’s no surprise that their blood drives average 30 or more donors. The success of the blood drives is due to the unquestionably hard work of the Stallion Springs CERT (Community Emergency Response Team). They have helped organized the Stallion Springs community blood drives since 2012. The CERT program is designed to alleviate some of the pressure on first responders during a major disaster such as fire, flood or even a major spill on the highway. Just like blood donors, CERT is comprised of volunteers working together to help make communities safer, stronger, and better prepared to respond to any disaster situation.

Stallion Springs CERT has a great commitment to their community. Sandy Young, team leader of Stallion Springs CERT says: ” we always find any kind of opportunity to help, and being part of the blood drives allows us to be a part of this life-changing moment.” The Stallion Springs blood drive began in 2011 when Marybeth Garrison, former General Manager of the Stallion Springs Community District, offered to host mobile blood drives in the Stallion Springs area. Marybeth is a dedicated donor and a strong advocate for blood donations, who got the program off the ground in Stallion Springs then passed organization on to the Stallion Springs CERT.

We recognize Stallion Springs CERT as our donors for the month of March in recognition of their ongoing work to support our joint mission to make sure the blood bank has a safe and reliable blood supply before and after an emergency.

February Donor of the Month

102_0556Blood donation has been truly life changing for JR Nielsen. JR started donating in the late 1980’s when he was working at the Bakersfield Californian and his supervisor encouraged him to donate. After learning he was A-, JR became a dedicated donor and a regular face at blood drives and donor centers. On one of his visits, JR asked if Houchin was hiring, and was excited to learn there was a registrar position open. He told his wife about it, and Allyson Nielsen was hired soon after. Eight years later Ally still greets donors at our donor centers. Unfortunately, it has been a few months since Ally has welcomed JR as a donor.

IMG_0318Ally had always urged JR to consider joining Houchin’s Gold Club since she knew how hard it is to find enough platelet and plasma donors to meet patient needs. He finally agreed to give it a try after reaching his ten gallon milestone in May 2015. In August of the same year, JR gave his first platelet donation. Helping patients in a different way motivated him even more and he began to visit more regularly to meet his new goal of six donations before the end of the year.  This would allow him to join his wife at Houchin’s annual Gold Club Dinner for dedicated platelet and plasma donors.

On November 23rd JR came in to make his sixth donation, but then his world changed. During the usual mini physical, the screener was shocked to find that JR’s heart sounded very different. She called a nurse over to review her finding, and the nurse too found his pulse irregular. JR was deferred from donating with a recommendation to see a doctor as soon as he could. JR followed this advice immediately, and he was diagnosed with Mitral Valve Prolapse, or MVP, which occurs when there is an improper closure of the heart’s upper and lower left chamber. JR is currently undergoing tests to learn more about his prognosis and treatment, but he realizes that without Houchin, he might not have caught this early on. His wife Ally says,” It is important that we are now doing something about it thanks to the discovery the blood bank made.” JR is not permanently deferred from donating, but must meet pulse criteria before being accepted to donate.

In his spare time, JR enjoys reading, watching Dodger baseball, and, most importantly, spending time with his children and grandchildren. He hopes that one day he can return to donating and saving lives, just like Houchin Community Blood Bank saved his.

Donor of the Month

2015-12-18 08.25.39On Friday December 18, 2015 at 92 years old, Jack Hood achieved two large milestones: 22 gallons and 200 platelet donations. For Jack, this was just another day of saving lives. Helping others has always been in his nature. While serving in the Navy as a first-class radioman in his early 20s, Jack had his first opportunity to donate blood. He was not ordered or asked, Jack just jumped at the chance to help others, because in his heart he knew it was the right thing to do. At 22 gallons and 200 platelets, Jack is likely one of the oldest World War II veterans still donating today.

2015-12-18 08.02.42Upon returning to Bakersfield after serving, Jack continued giving and still remembers the days at our downtown location. It was there where he was first asked to give platelets. There was no need to convince Jack, because a way to help more people made him more than happy to roll up his sleeve.

His spirit of giving has been a great influence to those around him. Jack’s son was an avid 11 gallon donor before his passing and his wife of 66 years, Sharon, is a strong supporter of his mission to save lives. “To be married to a man that gives and gives, does and does for other people is wonderful,” says Sharon. Jack knows he will never meet the people his blood products help, but he finds comfort in knowing that he is making a difference. He wants new donors to understand that they should give now, not when a loved one or someone close to them is in need. It is best to act then react.

Jack enjoys traveling with his wife in their RV and looks forward to donating as long as he is healthy. ” I think that’s a testament to a man that believes in giving back to his community and truly participating in a selfless act of donation, ” said President and CEO Greg Gallion. Click here to watch Jack’s segment on KGET-17.

Featured December Donor of the Month

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Cristian Angel Camou (back) Maylis Olivia Camou (right) Giselle Analise Camou (left) Adrian Joaquin Camou (chair)

On August 4th 2006, Dominique Camou became a first-time father to a beautiful baby boy, Cristian Angel Camou. A month later, with a heavy heart, Dominque found himself on the third floor in Bakersfield Memorial Hospital; Cristian had been diagnosed with Sepsis. Sepsis occurs when chemicals released in the bloodstream to fight infection trigger inflammation throughout the body, and if not treated properly could be fatal. Dominique was overcome with a feeling of helplessness as his baby boy fought for life. Eight days later,with the help of staff at Memorial Hospital and antibiotics, Cristian was going home. The struggle to help his son stayed with Dominique, and in an effort to help those who cannot help themselves, he started donating blood at Houchin Community Blood Bank. Dominique became a faithful every 56 day donor.

Two years later, his daughter, Maylis Olivia Camou, was born and Giselle Analise Camou was not far behind. His family was growing and the memories of Christian’s time in the hospital had faded, but his family was not out of the woods. Eighteen days after being born, his son, Adrian Joaquin Camou, was diagnosed with Sepsis and Meningitis. Dominique was back on the third floor. Much like Cristian, Adrian was treated with antibiotics, but if his condition had worsened, a blood transfusion would have been the next step. Dominique’s motivation to donate grew stronger.

IMG_3637With the support of those around him and as his family’s health returned to normal, Dominique is now on his way to 5 gallons. Blood donation is close to his heart and he continues to be a positive influence on those around him by encouraging friends and family to follow his lead. Every time he looks at his two boys, Dominique is reminded of the importance of donating. Although blood transfusions were not needed to save his sons’ lives, he wants to help people in the same way that the doctors at Memorial Hospital helped them. “I’m not a doctor,so I can’t save lives but if my blood does, let it be,” says Dominique.

In his spare time, Dominique loves spending time with his kids and on Friday nights, he teaches handball at the local basque club. Dominique encourages new donors to overcome their fear and take a moment to save someone’s life, because you never know when someone close to you might need a transfusion.