Sunday, March 1, 2015



Marci Hayes and Judith O’Brien are buddies. Before retiring, they taught school together at Walter Stiern Middle School. Leonard Zasoski and Daniel Reed work together at Colombo Construction. Florn Core and Gary Leary are neighbors.

They were among the many men and women sitting together at tables jammed into a banquet room at Hodel’s Restaurant on Knudsen Drive recently. They all were being honored for giving generously and compassionately of themselves. They were platelet donors being recognized by Houchin Community Blood Bank.

Many were buddies, coworkers, neighbors and classmates. Most became platelet donors after donating whole blood for years. And many became the backbone of Houchin’s donor network after a family member or friend experienced a medical crisis requiring a lifesaving transfusion.

Leonard Zasoski began donating blood two decades ago to help his father. Eventually he was urged to donate platelets, a more time-consuming procedure requiring donors to have well-structured blood veins and no limiting medical factors.

Zasoski has donated 169 units of platelets. The blood-clotting attributes of platelets help fight many diseases. Transfusions of platelets often are required in the treatment of cancer patients.

“Think about it. How would you feel if you had a loved one who needed a transfusion and no one would donate?” Zasoski said, explaining why he continued to donate long after his family’s immediate needs were met. “And you feel good about donating. You are helping someone out.”

Leary began donating blood when he served in the Marine Corps. In the years that followed, family and friends needed transfusions, and Leary generously stepped forward. Joking about his large, healthy veins, Leary eventually was asked to donate platelets. Leary, whose wife, Deborah, is active in the American Cancer Society, knows about the increasing local need for platelets and has donated 93 units, so far.

Platelets are among the several components found in blood donated at Houchin, explained charge nurse Bronny Mullen. Plasma also is a common component retrieved from donors.

An automated system draws blood from donors at Houchin’s Truxtun Avenue center. With whole blood donations, the procedure is basically a “gravity flow” and relatively quick. However, harvesting components can take about 90 minutes to process and separate blood though the automated system. This includes the time required to interview and screen donors before blood is taken.

The need for donations of whole blood, platelets and plasma continues to grow as the area’s population increases and advanced medical procedures, such as those for cancer treatment, become available in the community, said Mullen.

As an example, she noted that the opening of a burn center at San Joaquin Hospital increased the need for plasma, which is critical to healing therapies.

Information about donating whole blood, or components, such as platelets, can be obtained from Houchin Community Blood Bank’s website or by calling 323-4222.

This article written by Dianne Hardisty appeared first in The Bakersfield Californian on Feb. 14, 2010.

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