Blood 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.
Ally 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.