March Donor: Patrick Clary

Patrick Clary’s first time donating was on the day he applied for a job at Houchin Community Blood Bank. Patrick was hired in the distribution department shortly after and he has been saving lives ever since. Today he is the Manager of Materials and Blood Inventory here at Houchin.

Patrick gets on the trima machine to donate platelets frequently, especially on days when platelet appointments are low and the demand by hospitals is high. Patrick has donated 835 units of platelets and one gallon of whole blood. Patrick says, “I strongly believe that we must practice what we preach, this is one of the reasons I donate.  It doesn’t feel right for me to ask others to donate if I don’t do it myself.”

Patrick remembers a day when he noticed that the bag of platelets he was about to deliver to a local hospital was the very bag he donated just a couple of days earlier. When he delivered the bag he found out the recipient was a four year old boy battling cancer. Ten years later he found out that the boy survived! His donated platelets played a role in this little boy’s recovery.

Patrick urges people to remember that these donations save the lives of real people of all ages. He says, “If you wait, it may be too late.  It’s the blood that is on the shelves now that can save a life today. Don’t wait until a tragedy strikes to be compelled to donate, because by then it may be too late.” He wishes those able to donate would become regular donors. Those able to donate include people with controlled diabetes, high cholesterol, and hypertension, and other non-blood borne illnesses. As Patrick says, “In this world, we are all family, so let’s help each other out.”

February Donor: Brooke Hanson

Pregnant with twins at 39 weeks, Brooke Hanson was eager to meet her new babies and hold them in her arms. Little did she know her world was about to be turned upside down, and her life almost ended.

Brooke delivered two beautiful 8 pound baby boys, which she got to hold only briefly before a wave of pain shot through her. She handed the babies over to the nearest nurse and rapidly became unresponsive as her blood pressure plummeted. Brooke had suffered a ruptured aneurysm in her splenic artery. Fortunately for Brooke, she was immediately taken into surgery where seven units of blood helped save her life. Brooke says, “I thank the donors who saved my life and allowed me to be a mother to my children and a wife to my husband.”

Brooke encourages everyone that is able to donate to do so, because everyday lives like her’s can be saved but only if the blood products that can only come from volunteer donors are available. Today, she is committed to donating blood regularly, and to bringing in new donors. Thank you Brooke, for telling your story and inspiring others to donate and save lives.

January Donor: Leann Meek

Leann Meek’s first times donating blood were filled with fun and a little healthy competition! She used to donate blood regularly with her sister and every time they would race to see who’s pint would draw fastest! Who knew donating blood could be so much fun?!

Leann recently became an AB blood type platelet and plasma donor and is now part of the life-saving gold club. She
converted when she received a phone call from our telerecruiting department asking her to please come in and donate for a premature baby who was in the hospital at the time.  Leann did not hesitate to make an appointment as she says, “I donated because I knew this child needed me to live and I hope that if my grandchildren were ever in this kind of situation someone would help them.” Many don’t know that the AB blood type is the universal blood type for platelets and plasma. This means that in the case of an emergency or a very sick baby, AB platelets and plasma are used. This is why it is so important that people like Leann, AB donors, come in regularly.

Leann enjoys spending time in her garden and spending time outdoors in the summer. She is a committed donor and encourages others to donate! Leann says, “Try it at least once. Honestly, it’s like a break from your day where you can just chill and watch TV or go on the computer. Don’t be scared of it it’s not painful. ” Thank you, Leann, for selflessly giving the best gift anyone could give, life! See you back at our donor center soon!

December Donor: Christina Mercado

img_0231Christina Mercado recently celebrated the one year mark since her last blood transfusion by donating blood! After months of feeling under the weather and countless visits to several doctors, Christina was told time after time that there was nothing wrong with her. This was until one night when she was rushed to Kern Medical for severe hemorrhaging. At the hospital, her life was saved thanks to three blood transfusions totaling 6 units of O positive blood.

12711100_1024757630903816_9079283590512511051_oChristina is very thankful to the people whose blood donations she received. Since recuperating, Christina has gone back to school and is studying to be a paramedic, while also being devoted to raising her three boys! She is grateful for the possibility of a future made possible by selfless strangers that decided to walk into Houchin and just donate.

Christina plans on being a regular donor and an advocate for blood donation. She urges everyone: “You have to put yourself in the shoes of someone who needs your blood. Think, what would I want a stranger to do for me? Try donating at least one time because even one time is one gift that is priceless.”

November Donor of The Month: Albert Bravo

albert-bravoLet us congratulate Albert Bravo, November’s Donor of the Month. Albert recently reached his 1 gallon milestone at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic Church!

Albert was inspired to donate by his daughter Brianna, because she was born with a heart defect and a rare condition called dextrocardia, a birth defect in which organs are reversed. Albert’s daughter’s life was saved after many complicated surgeries and blood transfusions.

Thankfully, Brianna is well and thriving! She is about to graduate from college and she recently celebrated her 21st birthday! As a thank you to blood donors, Albert started his mission of saving lives and continues to donate because he understands first-hand how critical it is to have blood products on our shelves. Thank you for saving lives Albert. See you in our donation chairs soon!

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.