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Phlebotomist fights cancer

A phlebotomist at the Blood Center East Texas currently battling cancer, Fernando Ibarra is a hero in more ways than one. He’s worked for Gulf Coast Regional Blood Center just half a year, but his passion for our mission goes deeper than any typical job.

He was a blood donor long before he was an employee. Giving blood hit home for Fernando’s family when his mom needed it eight years ago as she gave birth to his brother. It was while donating with the Blood Center East Texas that he learned of the job opening.  

“It was a perfect fit,” Fernando said.  

In March, Fernando was diagnosed with bladder cancer after he began experiencing back pains while working at the center in Lufkin. A CAT scan revealed several kidney stones, one measuring 8 millimeters (anything over 5 is considered large). Two days later, Fernando’s urologist found and removed a tumor, and he began six weeks of treatment.  

Truly dedicated, Fernando missed just four days of work when he was diagnosed.  

“I’ve been blessed not to be struggling like a lot of the other patients do,” Fernando said. “I needed to come back. I love coming to work.” 

His social media accounts are filled with photos of blood donors and posts about giving blood sandwiched between updates on his treatment. The young phlebotomist remains positive through all of them, and his spirit is infectious.  

In mid-July, Fernando will go back to the doctor to make sure his treatment is working. In the meantime, he’s still helping The Blood Center save lives in East Texas.  

And at a recent blood drive to honor a local teenager with cancer, a donor recognized and praised Fernando for fighting his own battle while “still giving it your all” at the drive. Fernando considers himself blessed to have an impact on his community. 

“You never know what somebody’s going through, and you never know when you’ll need blood,” he said. 

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About the Author

Julie’s work at Gulf Coast Regional Blood Center has given her the opportunity to meet amazing people in our community who are inspiring a new generation with their powerful stories of hope.

She previously spent more than a dozen years as a journalist in Laredo, the Rio Grande Valley, Corpus Christi, and the Houston suburbs. Currently, she and her husband, Dennis, reside in Katy.

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