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.

Featured November Donor of the Month

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Michael’s ten gallon donor photo can be found on display at the Truxtun Donor Center.

In 1978, Michael Ardis donated blood for the first time with Houchin Community Blood Bank. His wife’s grandfather was going in for surgery and donating blood was the best way he could help. After his first donation Micheal learned he was O negative, the universal blood donor. From then on, his visits to Houchin became more frequent and Michael will be celebrating 17 gallons on his next donation.

Every time Michael comes in to donate, he credits the Vietnam Vets of America. Although Michael did not serve in Vietnam, he wants to honor those who lost their lives with every donation. Several of his friends in high school were drafted and his future step-brother lost his life serving our country. Michael witnessed first hand the losses of those around around him, and found that blood donation was the best way to serve his community. As a retired nurse, he understands the importance of having a safe and adequate blood supply. Michael’s time at Kern Medical Center, showed him how big of an impact a simple blood donation could make on a patient’s life.

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Michael Ardis sporting his Houchin T-Shirt in front of Old Jerusalem and the Mount of Olives.

Michael enjoys motorcycles, traveling, and most importantly spending time with his six grandchildren. Learning from his example, Michael’s daughter is also an avid donor, who started donating at her high school. Michael has been a  proud supporter of Houchin Community Blood Bank from the start, and can be found wearing his Houchin t-shirt on his many travels. Michael wants new donors to understand: “You can help extend someone’s life by donating blood. It doesn’t cost you anything. Even if you aren’t a first responder, you can make a difference in your own way.”

Featured October Donor of the Month

1-IMG_0102Claire Frisch is well-known for her upbeat personality and selflessness. No matter how small the task maybe, Claire never skips a beat when it comes to her philanthropic responsibilities in our community. Although turning 85 this October, Claire is an active volunteer in our community. Claire has been an avid blood donor and volunteer for many years, but at one point, she needed to put a pause on donating because she was diagnosed with breast cancer.

Even at a young age, Claire always had compassion to help others. She started donating in the 1970s during nurse’s training, “I knew first-hand how it’s important to donate especially, because my blood type is O-,” explains Claire. When Claire moved to Bakersfield from Whitter, CA she started donating at Houchin every 8 weeks. When her husband passed away in 2006, Claire noticed we were seeking a volunteer to assist with our high school mobiles and thought it would be a good opportunity to provide a bit of happiness back into her life. “I always look forward to chatting with the eager students and it’s an honor giving them their badge of courage for donating.” Claire believes that volunteering in your community is a necessity, “I have done lots of things in my life, but making a difference is a fulfillment in itself.”

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Claire giving a first time donor their “badge of courage” at West High School.

As everything was returning to normal in her life, Claire found out she had breast cancer during a regular self-exam in 2009. Claire was relieved that she discovered her cancer when it was just at stage one. “Not many people are as fortunate as I was, the only thing that changed in my life is that I had to stop donating for 5 years,” said Claire. On February 23, 2015, Claire donated her first pint after being cancer free for a little over 5 years. Now, Claire is working towards her 12 gallon milestone!

Besides being a dedicated donor and volunteer at Houchin, Claire keeps busy volunteering with numerous organizations, including the Guild House, St. Philip the Apostle Church, and putting meals together for the homeless. She also enjoys knitting and catching up with her children and grandchildren. Claire encourages others to donate saying, “donated blood products are used for numerous purposes and of course save lives!”

Featured September Donor of the Month

FullSizeRenderAlan Pippert is not your average 18 year old. Besides being an avid volunteer at the CALM zoo, and maintaining a part-time job, he is working towards obtaining his pilot’s license, and aspiring to be an aerospace engineer.  Alan is also a dedicated blood donor.

On May 29, 2013, the day of Alan’s 16th birthday, he walked into the blood bank with his family to donate blood, “because of my mom, I grew up with the idea of the importance of donating, that it’s just a small sacrifice of time and mild pain, which is not comparable to a patient in the hospital,” explained Alan. Alan’s mom, Josie, is the Director of Donor Services at Houchin and had instilled in Alan the importance of being a blood donor. Alan is also a huge advocate for our high school’s Give it Up and Gallon Grad programs. “Once you are at an age to donate, people should give it a shot. Friends and other activities will be there tomorrow, but the person in the hospital might not be, and so this program helps instill the importance of the need for donors,” said Alan.

IMG_9685After reaching his 1 gallon milestone on August 14, 2014, Alan wanted to maximize his donation and so he started donating platelets,“ I always wanted to try it out and I know that platelets only have a 5 day shelf life.” Even, when he went through his first unsuccessful TRIMA donation, Alan want’s to keep trying, “ the process is easy and it’s a great act of kindness possible for you to do.”

Besides being a dedicated donor, Alan enjoys playing video games, hanging out with his girlfriend and his family. He encourages others to donate, “why not just try? If you’re healthy and able, what is your excuse for not donating? What is so important that you can’t spare 30 minutes of your time to donate?”.

Featured August Donor of the Month

FullSizeRender (7)Blood products are a lifeline for many people needing long-term treatments and in emergencies. Hubert Rabanal can relate to this statement. Blood products helped his son, Zachary, beat cancer. That day would not have been possible without the aid of selfless donors according to Hubert.

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Hubert, his wife, Janet, daughter, Taylor and son, Zachary.

Hubert and his family moved from Hawaii to Delano in the 1960s.  He met his wife, Janet, in Delano, and they raised their son, Zachary, and ,daughter Taylor there. Twenty years ago, Hubert and Janet received the news no parents ever want to hear. They were told 8 year old Zachary had Leukemia. Upon hearing the devastating news, Hubert’s first reaction was complete shock, “so many emotions were going through my mind, but I knew I had to stay strong for my family.” Hubert and his family were in and out of Valley Children’s Hospital in Fresno. “When I was working at the Delano Community Correctional Facility, my coworkers donated time for me so I could be with my family.  This act of kindness, made me want to pay it forward as well,” Hubert expressed. So, he started donating blood with us.

He wanted to give back to the community in hopes to save lives, like others had done for his son. Three and half years after his Leukemia diagnosis, Zachary beat cancer! Hubert continues to be an avid donor and donates at our community blood drives at Delano Regional Medical Center. On July 23rd, Hubert hit his 7 gallon milestone!

11014907_10153147514599582_8183303519186336590_oBesides donating blood, Hubert enjoys traveling and spending time with his family. One of his favorite family pastimes is going to Disneyland. Hubert encourages others to donate: “this simple act of kindness makes a huge difference in someone’s life. You never know who might need it, so give the gift of life that keeps on giving.”

Featured July Donor of the Month

photo (69)Humble, philanthropic and kind-hearted are a few words that sum up dedicated donor Duane Spickler. Duane has achieved 16 gallons and is also our blood drive chairperson for First United Methodist Church. Growing up, Duane always wanted to make a difference in someone’s life and every 8 weeks he gets to fulfill this mission.

Duane began donating in 1992 while in the Sheriff’s Academy because his trainer encouraged the students to find out their blood type, “I always wanted to donate but I had a fear of needles, but since I was in the process of becoming a Sheriff I thought it would be another great way to serve the community,” said Duane. He continues to donate because it makes him feel good knowing that he is keeping hope alive for someone. But Duane always wanted to do more, so when one of the members of the church he attends fell ill and needed blood, Duane decided to host a blood drive. “I always wondered why I couldn’t have done this years ago, because my stepdad, who was a long time donor, was the chairperson for Stockdale Moose Lodge and he inspired me to dedicate myself to this cause,” explained Duane.

It’s not an easy task to be a chairperson for a blood drive, but Duane works hard to make sure his blood drives run smoothly. Even juggling his full time job as a sheriff, other volunteer work, and his family, Duane manages to find time to organize a successful blood drive at First United Methodist Church. “You just have to prioritize and organize your life and anything is possible,” Duane explains. Duane is passionate and driven to meet his blood drive goal. If he falls short, he figures out a way to improve his next blood drive.

Besides being a dedicated donor and chairperson, Duane enjoys hunting, traveling and spending time with his family. Duane encourages others to donate, “the tagline, people live when people give truly exemplifies the importance of donating blood. Don’t wait until someone you know needs it, there will always be a need.”

June 2015 Featured Donor of the Month

photo (3)This Father’s Day will be an extra special one for Stephan Maxwell because his family will be complete.It’s a moment Stephan thought wouldn’t be possible. On May 2014, Stephan’s son Brandyn, who was 12 at the time, was diagnosed with Rhabdomyosarcoma, or RMS. RMS is a very rare type of cancer that affects children more often than adults. Even though this life-changing moment meant there was a chance Stephan would lose Brandyn, Stephan did not succumb to this possibility and instead, he was by Brandyn’s side fighting his cancer.

Stephan became a regular donor after Brandyn’s diagnosis. Stephan and his family were receiving so much help and support from the community, he thought the only way he could show how his thanks, was through donating. “Even though my son received his treatments in Los Angeles, the best way I could support him was through donating blood products. I wanted to start my own mission to help other people– to give them a lifesaving chance of winning their battles,” explained Stephan.

Then one day, Stephan learned he could do more than donate blood, “Phlebotomist Heather, noticed I would fill up my donation bag quickly. She convinced me to donate platelets and explained to me how platelets are used for cancer patients, which gave me a deeper connection to this cause,” said Stephan. Now, donating platelets has become a part of Stephan’s Wednesday routine, and he has donated 41 platelets.

photo (4)Stephan is the essence of a great father and selfless person. Even with a full-time job, being a dedicated platelet donor and a referee at local soccer games, he was with Brandyn every step of the way. Through the support of his fiancé, Stephan is able to find time to donate platelets. “She’s been my big support system; without her taking care of Brandyn, this might not have happened,” explained Stephan. Every day they never lost hope because they knew Brandyn is strong and a fighter. Just seven days before Stephan and his family were going to celebrate Brandyn’s 13th birthday, they learned he was cancer free on April 22, 2015.

Stephan MaxwellSo, this Father’s day will be a special one for the Maxwell household, “I am looking forward to spending time with my three kids on Father’s Day; a moment that I will cherish forever.” Stephan encourages others to donate, “what if a member in your family needed blood products, what would you do if we didn’t have it? It’s just a small sacrifice of time.”

May Featured Donor of the Month

photo 2 (15)Mothers play a significant role in their child’s life whether it may be providing unconditional love through their successes and failures and even support through their struggles. Gail Ramos practices this notion with her family, friends and co-workers. When someone is in need, Gail doesn’t hesitate to help other people and she is willing to go that extra mile for the people she cares about.

Gail was inspired by her mother, Geraldine Adams to donate blood, “my mom is a regular donor and she would always tell me it’s a simple way to make a positive impact in someone’s life,” explained Gail. In December 1996, Gail donated her first pint at the Kern County Superintendent of School’s mobile blood drive. Unexpectedly the following year, donating blood would have a different meaning to Gail. Gail’s best friend’s brother who was only in 8th grade at the time, was diagnose with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. In a heartbeat, Gail wanted to help out in any way possible. Then, Gail found out she was an exact match to donate blood for him. “When my best friend’s mom told me she saw the doctor hang my unit for her son, that was a life changing moment for the both of us. It’s an amazing feeling knowing that I saved someone’s life. Because every time I see my best friend’s brother, it makes me realize donating blood was one of the best decisions I have ever made in my life,” expressed Gail.

Gail is proud of her 7 gallon license plate!

You will find Gail at one of our east Bakersfield mobiles where she has donated 7 gallons of her O+ blood. When Gail donates she always tries to include her daughter and son so they can get in the habit of donating and understand the importance of community service. Even though Gail’s son is autistic, she is proud that her son hopes to donate one day because he understands the importance of being someone’s lifesaver.

Besides being an avid blood donor, Gail is a huge NASCAR fan and she enjoys gardening and spending time with her family. She encourages others to donate, “people should not wait for another tragedy before they donate, they need to act now because you never know who will need it in the moment.”