In 2014 Melissa Bonniksen lay critical in the hospital with an infection. Without a life-saving blood plasma transfusion she wouldn’t survive. Hundreds of miles away, and five years later she would have the opportunity to meet four of the five donors who saved her life.
One of those donors was Vestal Hutchens, 69, of Waldron. Hutchens and three others across Arkansas, Oklahoma and Texas were contacted by Tamika Hudgens with the Oklahoma Blood Institute. “On July 30, I got the call by Tamika,” shared Hutchens. “She said your blood plasma saved my sister-in-law’s life…I said lady, I am about to cry. She said don’t start, I’ll cry too!”
Hudgens would extend an invitation to attend the surprise reunion with Bonniksen and pay for the family’s stay and fuel costs.
On Sunday, September 22, 2019 at 6 p.m., the tear-filled, emotional Bonniksen came face-to-face with each of her donors. “I was blessed beyond measure,” Hutchens added. “It was an honor to be a part of this wonderful event.”
Both Hutchens and his wife Judy have routinely donated blood for over thirty years. Whether a patient receives whole blood, red cells, platelets or plasma, this lifesaving care starts with one person making a generous donation.
The banquet was an honor for both gift giver and receiver, and was an evening that both will always cherish.