March Donor: Anna Gomez

Anna Gomez recently donated her 44th pint with us, and proudly sports her 4 gallon club license plate frame around Orange County, where she is now working a job she loves in quality control with a food company.  She has donated with the blood bank where she lives now, but always donates with us when she is visiting her parents. “It feels like community” with us she says.

Anna did share that she enjoyed the online appointment scheduling at her OC blood bank, and was pleased to hear Houchin would be adding features like that soon. She felt the change would increase enrollment in donation with processes at people’s fingertips in her hometown.

Anna is a graduate of Cal State Northridge and Bakersfield College, and began donating at Ridgeview High, “lured by the free food”, she laughs.  She knows her O+ blood is always needed and she likes to “make a change in the world with her donations.  Her interest in donating increased when a friend was diagnosed with leukemia about 3 years ago.  He is in remission right now, but had a very tough one and a half years of treatments.  Anna says “It’s good to know I can help others with terrible illnesses”. She adds: You don’t see where your blood goes, but you know it is used to save lives”.

We look forward to seeing Anna on her next visit home!

January Donor: Frank Buoni

Frank Buoni had been trying to reach his next gallon milestone for a few weeks but his iron was always just a tad bit low. Finally on December 21st, Frank celebrated his 10th gallon donation at our Bolthouse Donor Center! Donating 10 gallons of blood is no small feat. It takes years of commitment and perseverance.

Frank has many friends here at Houchin, both old and new. Three members of our staff went to Bakersfield High School with Frank, and it  was one of his old classmates that encouraged him to start donating years back. Since then, Frank has devoted time to donating regularly.

Frank encourages others to step up to the plate and save lives. Frank says he wants people to know that donating blood is important because  “It feels good to help people in need!” During his free time, Frank enjoys farming, hunting, making wine, and spending time with his family. We appreciate Frank’s commitment to saving lives and giving back to his community!

December Donor: Ramon Hendrix

Ramon Hendrix recently received his 21 gallon license plate frame from Nurse Carlena. He was thrilled to be seated next to a former student and first time donor, Kristina Florez at the time. Mr. Hendrix was the principal of Stockdale High School for 13 years, just recently becoming the new Superintendent of the Greenfield Union School District.  Kristina is a junior at Stockdale High, so it was a great reunion for them both.  Kristina says she was encouraged to donate not only to save lives, but to be part of the annual Give it Up High School Blood Drive Challenge.  The high school challenge was always supported by Mr. Hendrix during his tenure at Stockdale.

Mr. Hendrix’s own blood donation career was shaped when he worked at Mercy Hospital in the pharmacy and saw how many patients were in need of transfusions.  Both of his parents needed transfusions during their lives, so he says he just wants to help other people out by being a donor. Thank you Mr. Hendrix for all those lives you have impacted with your 21 lifesaving gallons!


November Donor: Sabrina Valadez

Sabrina was first introduced to Houchin Community Blood Bank as a child. She used to wait in the canteen at our old G Street donor center while her grandmother donated blood. She recalls her grandmother telling her,  “When you get old enough you need to do this, you could help a lot of people.” When she was sixteen, she finally had the opportunity to donate blood when one of Houchin’s mobile buses came to her high school.

Sabrina’s grandmother was recently diagnosed with breast cancer. This is why Sabrina has recently converted to donating platelets, she understands the incredible need for platelets in the life of people undergoing cancer treatments. Sabrina says, “I am donating platelets in her honor, she is not able to donate blood anymore so I do it for her.”

Sabrina is happy she is able to help people even if they are strangers to her. She describes her time on the Trima machines as enjoyable. She likes talking to the Houchin staff, other donors, or watching TV while she is donating platelets. Sabrina’s daughter often accompanies her during her blood donation. She  waits patiently in the canteen as Sabrina once did. Sabrina teaches her daughter the value of blood donation and encourages her to donate as soon as she is sixteen.

October Donor – Michael Ortiz

Michael Ortiz made sure to keep his platelet donation appointment when he heard how low the supplies were.  He was pretty much all by himself in the Bolthouse Donor Center sadly enough.  Michael has given platelets 4 times now, and knows he can give those along with a unit of O+ blood every two months, then he can also give platelets and plasma the month in between.  He wants to keep getting the gallon club license plate frames, but also wants to help the most people with his donation.  That’s why he gave automated donation a try when Houchin staff explained the great need.

Michael suggests that young people such as himself give platelet donation a try, since donors are needed every day to keep up with the demand for something with only a five day life.  He says, “More younger people should come out and try it.  Help others out if you can”.

Michael likes heading to Iron Arms Gym after work and hanging with his girl in his spare time.  He also likes helping the community through blood and platelet donation.

September Donor Lewis Gunsolus

Our September Donor of the Month, Lewis Gunsolus, has a very special story to share. He had donated blood a few times in high school, when he suddenly needed it himself.

It was New Year’s Eve in 2010, when Lewis was driving a friend home and pulled out at a blind intersection not realising an approaching car was going 75 miles a hour and gaining on him too fast. The car t-boned his, hitting the driver side door. His vehicle was thrown to the other side of the road with Lewis’s head bouncing against the door. It was his senior year of high school, and he was 17.

Lewis was unconscious and his skull was fractured and his spleen ruptured, so he needed six units of blood fast to save his life and survive surgery to pin his skull and remove his spleen. He was placed in a medically induced coma for 6 weeks at Kern Medical to heal. When he finally woke from the coma, he had turned 18.  Fortunately, since the injuries occurred when he was 17, Lewis was transferred to Valley

Children’s Hospital for further treatment.  He doesn’t recall much about this period except for his dad bringing his dog to see him.  He was able to walk out of the hospital two and a half months later, and returned to half days at Frontier High School.  His classmates had sold candy and colorful wristbands with his name on them to help with expenses. He remembers well being able to walk across the stage to graduate with his class in 2011.

Except for a trachea scar, barely noticeable skull scar, and a pin in his head, the accident is behind Lewis. He works for HSI which provides fire sprinklers, and has an 18 month old son.  Lewis is one of our platelet donors who can “do a triple”, the most possible, when he’s on the automated donation machine.  He switched from whole blood donations to platelets when he had to wait for his dad, also Lewis, who is also a platelet donor.

Lewis just says thank you to all blood donors for saving his life.  The accident really made him think “That if someone could help me, I could help others”. He suggests that donors just give platelet donation a try. He likes that platelets replace faster in the body than red cells as they are returned to the donor after platelets are removed. Lewis assures potential donors “that the needle is really the same”.

August Donor: Elijah Fernandez

Elijah Fernandez is an incoming senior at Centennial High School. Although he has only had two opportunities to donate at school, he has gone above and beyond and made sure to donate outside of school as well. Elijah is 17-years-old and and he has already donated four times, at this pace he will graduate from high school having reached his first gallon milestone and be a Gallon Grad!

Elijah plans on applying to college this fall. He is excited for his senior year where he will be involved in sports all year long with cross country in the fall, wrestling in the winter, and tennis in the spring! Elijah not only donates blood but he also donates his time to his community by staying an active member of his High School’s Interact Club!

Elijah donates blood because it gives him an opportunity to help others in a short amount of time. He likes knowing that his donation helps another person directly, and that he is able to make a difference. We wish Elijah the best of luck in his final year of high school and hope that his story will inspire other young people to become donors!

July 2017 Donor – Sheila Ross

Sheila Ross got started donating with her husband Robert, and was on the verge of making her 10th gallon in June.  She was sad that Bob was unable to achieve his goal of the 10 gallon club as illness made him unable to give the last 6 pints.  Even though he died 12 years ago, Sheila wanted to find a way for him to achieve that goal, so she invited friends and family to help.

On Saturday, June 17, 2017 Sheila organized the Bob Ross Memorial Blood Drive and 14 people signed up to donate in Bob’s honor.  Nine were successful, so this was our latest group to make a gallon donation at one time,  so her group is now the latest member of our Gr8 Giver Gallon Club.

Sheila will have a photograph of she and Bob as a couple added to our 10 Gallon Walls at the Truxtun Donor Center. Sheila says, “If it wasn’t for my husband, I probably wouldn’t be a regular blood donor. He got me started at Houchin and encouraged me to donate often.”

Bob and Sheila met when she was hired by his public accounting firm of Ryan & Ross. Bob’s partner, Nancy Ryan, made Sheila an offer she couldn’t refuse when she was offere the position as a partner in the firm. The CPA partnership didn’t last long but it was just the beginning of the partnership for Bob and Sheila, who were married in July 1993.

When she is not donating blood, Sheila enjoys volunteering. As a CPA, she has often served as Treasurer for many non-profits. She is a 30 year, and first female, member of the Exchange Club of Bakersfield and also a Past President. Sheila has also served as Treasurer for the Funeral Consumers of Kern County and the Model T Ford Club of Kern County.
Besides volunteering, Sheila enjoys traveling. To her dismay, many of her travels put her on the deferred donor list for 12 months or she would have reached 10 gallons a few years earlier. Sheila always came back to donating though and her 10 gallon achievement, and the boost she gave Bob so he could join her in the 10 Gallon Club, are greatly appreciated.

June Donor: Leroy Orozco

Leroy Orozco is a three gallon donor. He is also a hard working dad who loves spending time with his family. His dedication towards his work and to his family is what makes him such an inspiration to his kids. Leroy likes to give because he knows that at any moment a friend or a loved one may need it.  He gives because it’s the right thing to do.

His children, Miranda and Nickolas, remember that one day while going through some old boxes, they found a Houchin license plate frame. This discovery prompted them to ask their dad how he had earned his plate. Leroy explained to them what blood donation was and that he and his family donated together to help other people’s lives. His kids were excited to one day be able to continue the family tradition and donate with their dad. Both of his kids are now dedicated blood donors, and mom Monica, makes sure they keep to their appointments every eight weeks!

Aside from donating blood, Leroy is a man of many interests. He enjoys working on his car and making his garden beautiful. Leroy’s favorite hangout spot with his kids and wife is Knott’s Berry Farm. He also loves baseball, especially the Los Angeles Dodgers. Thank you Leroy for being such an inspiring dad to your kids and for teaching them the importance of saving lives here in Bakersfield. Happy Father’s Day and we look forward to seeing  you and your family at one of our donor centers soon!


May Donor – Lori Jauch

We have a great mother-daughter donor story for Mother’s Day Month. Donor Lori Jauch feels very fortunate to be able to hold grandchildren she almost didn’t have.  Her 21-year-old daughter, Ashley App McConn, was practicing on her quad going over a huge table top jump eight years ago, when an unfortunate accident occurred.

The quad broke on take-off causing it to send her over the handlebars, eventually landing on her head.  She was medevaced out on life support and in a coma for 14 days.  She spent 30 days in the hospital, then needed rehab.  She needed several pints of blood while hospitalized. Read more about Ashley’s road to recovery here. Lori was thrilled to be able to show Ashley the foal born when she was in a coma once she got better.

After Ashley was fully recovered, Lori decided to start giving back to others in need.  She reports “We are truly blessed.  She’s now married with two kids. Donating is very important to all of us. The staff is so friendly. Thanks for all you do!!”

Lori enjoys travel, horseback riding, gardening and photography, but her greatest joy is spending time with family, especially her grandchildren.

We thank you for being a blood donor Lori!