Corinne Diaz, platelet donor
Corinne Diaz has taken on more than her share of hard work and tough challenges — yet she’s remained so cheerful that just chatting with her and hearing her easy laughter will lift your spirits.
Hers is the voice you might hear when you call the Department of Surgery at City of Hope, where she’s worked for 13 years and where she’s donated blood or platelets for most of her adult life.
Diaz was in her teens when she began donating at the urging of her mother, Luz, who also worked at City of Hope.
“My mother was very caring and giving,” she said, “but she couldn’t donate blood because she always had low iron levels.”
Luz, who had been orphaned at age 10, was a single mother raising five children — and she had inspired a sense of responsibility in her daughter.
“You never know what might happen,” she would say, “so if you're an adult, I need you to take care of the children. I don't want them in foster care. I want someone who will love them and care for them and make sure they're OK.”
Luz’s concern was sadly prescient. In 2005, she died of cardiomyopathy, a thickening of the heart muscle. Her oldest son, Abel, was away at college, and Diaz, then 21, became the legal guardian of her three younger siblings, Kevin, 16, Jessica, 11, and Christine, 10.
At the time, Diaz was also attending college and had a part-time job at City of Hope. But now that she had a family to care for, she began working full-time — yet continued to take classes at night or online, eventually earning her AA and AS degrees.
Then life threw the family another blow. Kevin was diagnosed with cardiomyopathy, the same disease that had killed their mother. It was not only emotionally stressful, but doctor and hospital visits were now added to her schedule.
“Taking care of them all wasn’t easy,” Diaz said, “but I thank God every day that I was able to do it.”
With so many obligations, most people would think, “I’m doing enough.” Not Diaz. Where she had once been an occasional blood donor, she now began donating platelets every two weeks.
The donations weren’t for her brother. Cardiomyopathy patients don’t need platelets — but she became keenly aware that so many other people did.
When someone you love is in the hospital and you see all the things they have to go through, it really makes you understand how important it is to do what you can to give back to people who are there,” she said.
Donating, Diaz added, isn’t quite the ordeal some people might imagine. It’s actually kind of nice.
“They’re so friendly at the center, and it’s such a warm feeling when you go in,” she said. “It takes an hour or two, but you get to lie down, watch some TV, and they always check on you to see if you need anything, like a blanket or a pillow.”
Today, Luz would be proud of the lives her siblings have made for themselves. Abel is a chef, Jessica works as a veterinarian’s aide, Christine is studying to be a forest ranger and Kevin, who must still be monitored regularly for his heart condition, works as a caregiver for disabled people.
As for Diaz, a bright new future is just beginning. In September of last year she got married. Her next goal is a bachelor’s degree from Cal Poly Pomona and a career as a dietician.
And each day at work, she’s reminded of the impact that all platelet donors are making.
“When I answer the calls, I hear how grateful people are for the treatments and the care they got. They thank me every day for being able to survive cancer.”
To make an appointment to donate blood or platelets at City of Hope’s Michael Amini Transfusion Medicine Center, go to www.idonateblood4hope.org or call 626-218-7171. If you have additional questions, email [email protected].
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