Houchin Responds to the Zika Virus

As the mosquito-borne Zika outbreak continues to gain momentum, we are taking extra precautions with our blood supply based on recommendations from the American Association of Blood Banks, AABB.

The Zika virus has spread in the western hemisphere in the past several months.  The mosquito that spreads the disease is the same one that spreads the Dengue and Chikungunya viruses.  Countries affected by Zika include Mexico and other countries in Central and South America, all the Caribbean, including Puerto Rico, and a few Atlantic and Pacific islands (Cape Verde and Samoa). Donors who have traveled to affected areas are at risk of developing the Zika virus illness.  It appears the Zika virus can be passed to patients through a blood transfusion and also through sexual activity.  Donors must not donate for 28 days following their return from Zika affected countries.  

There is no additional screening test for the Zika virus, but standard operating procedures require that donors must feel well on the day of the donation and report any recent out-of-country travel.  As always, donors are encouraged to report any illness occurring in the days after a donation, so that it can be quarantined if there is a possibility they had an asymptomatic infection of any kind on the day of donation. For a complete list of travel destinations affected by the Zika virus in English click here. The Spanish version is available here.

The most up-to-date information on the Zika virus is available from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention here. We will continue to update our donors as more information becomes available and appreciate your cooperation in ensuring a safe and adequate blood supply.

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.

Hearts United Blood Drive

Nothing beats a healthy heart, so the American Heart Association – Kern County Chapter (AHA) is joining with us for our third annual Hearts United Blood Drive in celebration of American Heart Month. One out of every four deaths is heart related, and the surgeries which prevent those deaths often require blood products. You can help by donating blood, platelets or plasma this month!Go Red Logo

Blood, platelet and plasma donors help save the lives of cardiac patients before, during, sometimes after surgery. The Hearts United Blood Drive partnership between the two nonprofits highlights the need for blood every day to serve heart patients.  In addition, one lucky blood donor will win a GO RED Basket. The basket will feature two tickets to the Go Red for Women Luncheon, Fashion Show and Conference on Friday, February 27 organized by our local AHA chapter, tote bag, GO RED Cookbook, and a bottle of red wine.

CharlieKick off heart month with a blood donation on Saturday, February 6, 2016 at the Bolthouse Donor Center from 8 am to 2 pm. Representatives from the AHA as well as featured survivor of the month, little Charlie Skelton, will be attending to greet and meet blood donors. Charlie was a featured heart surgery survivor during our Hearts United Blood Drive in 2015, and her progress can be tracked at https://www.facebook.com/heartsforcharlie/

The American Heart Association is the largest voluntary health organization dedicated to defeating heart disease, stroke and other cardiovascular diseases. Their  mission is to build healthier lives, free of cardiovascular diseases and stroke the nation’s No.1 and No.4 killers. Transfusion of red blood cells is required in 40%-90% of patients undergoing cardiac surgery, depending on the surgery type. On average, a heart surgery patient needs up to 6 units of red blood cells and 1 platelet transfusion.

EAKC Sweetheart Prize Package

With Valentine’s Day this month, love is in the air. February’s Executives’ Association of Kern County Monthly Donor Prize is a Sweetheart Package, sponsored by Tim Kounter, Placement Service Director with Bakersfield Senior Placement. This exciting donor prize is a complete gift from the heart for someone special featuring gift certificates for the following:

  • $100 for dinner out at Cafe Med
  • $100 with Massage by Karen
  • $100 with Log Cabin Florist
  •  $200 gift card to Stockdale Jewelers

Wouldn’t that make for a great date with that special someone? All February donors will automatically be entered to win.  The winner will be chosen in early March, so the gift could brighten an anniversary, birthday or other special occasion in the months ahead.

seniorplacementlogoBakersfield Senior Placement is a division of Interim HealthCare, a leading provider of home health, assisted care, and nurse staffing services in Kern County since 1994. Tim Kounter guides families through the maze of senior living options for Bakersfield and surrounding communities at no charge. Tim is also a dedicated donor who says, ” I see all Tim Kounterthe reasons that prohibit people from donating, and am thankful I am not disqualified for one reason or another. On rare occasion, when I see the pictures of near empty shelves of blood that Houchin posts, I pray no one is in need until that type is replenished.” Blood donation is a family affair at the Kounter house and it brings Tim a lot of joy to see his own children doing their part. Thank you for your dedication to our mission Tim and for the generous sponsorship for February.

One of the personal touches Tim brings to those he places is a red rose delivered to their new home.  Below you will find photgraphs of many of these seniors enjoying Tim’s gift.


4th Annual Jessica Ann Cooper Memorial Blood Drive

cooperjaWallace & Smith General Contractors are inviting their employees, subcontractors, suppliers and all who knew Jessica Ann Cooper to participate in the fourth annual Jessica Ann Cooper Memorial Blood Drive by donating blood at either donor center February, 25 and 26 and credit group code 970.

According to her father, Paul R. Cooper, Vice President, Wallace & Smith: “Jessica was a vibrant, talented and beautiful person both inside and out.  With her kind heart and infectious smile she could lift anyone when they were feeling low.  Sadly on February 28, 2002 her life was cut short and her vibrancy was dimmed too early.  Although she is not with us, her memory lives on today through many stories from those whose life she touched.   We have decided to honor her memory with the gift of life through a blood drive in her name. We ask that if she touched your life in one way or another, that you join us in giving the true gift of life at Houchin Community Blood Bank. Who knows whose life you may have an impact on, but we know that Jessica would be proud to see the good that is generated in her memory.”

Walk-ins are welcome at either donor center during the drive, but for an appointment call 661-616-2505 or click here.