Blood is often a resource that is taken for granted. We all have it in our bodies, and yet less than 15% of the American population donates. It’s a simple procedure, but truly a gift to the patient in desperate need. Scott Zechiel was one of those patients many years ago. When he was 16, he was raced to the hospital for an emergency appendectomy. During the procedure, he lost so much blood that he needed six transfusions.
"There’s always that knowledge that there were six mystery people out there who had stopped by somewhere and made those donations,” Zechiel said. "And I’ve had all this lifetime since to enjoy the results of it."
Now a 55-year-old software engineer, he is a passionate platelet donor. For the last 14 years, he’s been commuting by train from Orange County to Duarte every two weeks to donate at the Michael Amini Transfusion Medicine Center. Zechiel is a longtime friend of the staff at the donor center and City of Hope's most prolific donor, at 345 units of platelets to date -- that’s 345 patient lives supported, almost enough to save one patient per day for an entire year. Scott has single-handedly saved City of Hope almost a quarter of a million dollars by donating platelets City of Hope would have otherwise had to buy.
He’s also registered with the “Be the Match” bone marrow registry.
Most City of Hope patients are being treated for cancer and rely on frequent transfusions of blood and platelets. Approximately 35,000 blood components are transfused to our patients each year. Unlike blood, platelets are not type-specific and can be transfused to any City of Hope patient in need.
“I always tell everybody, I live for my donation days. I enjoy them so much,” Zechiel said. “It's an act you’re doing to help people, and I absolutely love everyone who works there. These are awesome people.”
The feeling is mutual. His dedication and enthusiasm bring something special to the donor center, and in December 2016 he was a guest rider on the City of Hope Rose Parade float. This year, the staff in the blood donor center nominated Zechiel for the national Fresenius Kabi Donation Hall of Fame, which recognizes individuals nationwide who have demonstrated an extraordinary commitment to blood donation. Blood centers across the country submit nominations from which only 12 inductees are chosen annually based on their demonstrated commitment and passion to donating blood and/or encouraging blood donation.
Zechiel was officially inducted into the Hall of Fame at a ceremony held by the Wishing Trees near the front of campus. He recalls meeting someone once at another donor appreciation event whose life his donation had helped save.
Pictured, left to right: Carolyn Brown, account manager, Fresenius Kabi; Melissa Stuckey, director, City of Hope Transfusion Medicine; Gene Zechiel (Scott’s father); Lois Zechiel (Scott’s mother); Honoree Scott Zechiel; Joel Helmke, senior vice president, Operations; Lefan Zhuang, M.D., assistant medical director, Transfusion Medicine; Terry Cooper, executive director, Clinical Laboratories; Shan Yuan, M.D., associate medical director, Transfusion Medicine
“It’s so nice to see someone you helped who survived, who was just full of life and happy to be there,” he said. “It was one of those ‘warm fuzzy’ moments for me.”
Platelets can be donated every two weeks, up to 24 times a year. When you donate, you make the journey from sickness to health possible, putting our patients back on the road to recovery. To schedule an appointment to donate or to host a blood drive, please call 626-218-7171 or visit
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Thanks to a new blood donor digital recruitment strategy targeting millennials, donation appointments have increased 81% over last year. Although it’s a huge improvement, there are still not enough donors to provide City of Hope with all of the blood and platelets it needs.