Committee advances Shelton’s bill on marrow donation

CapitolBeatOK Staff Report

Published 04-Mar-2011

State Rep. Mike Shelton this week praised a state House committee for passing legislation to facilitate bone marrow donation.

House Bill 1078 would authorize a leave of absence for employees to make a bone marrow or organ donation and allow those employees to use sick, vacation and annual leave to do so.

“I could not be more pleased to see unanimous and bipartisan support for this bill by the members of the committee,” said Shelton, an Oklahoma City Democrat. “My legislation addresses work-related barriers to an individual’s marrow donation, a donation that could save a patient’s life.”

Thomas Ryan, the recipient of a marrow transplant, said he was encouraged by the support Shelton’s bill received. Ryan was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 1989.

“In October 2009, I had a bone marrow transplant,” Ryan said. “My doctors considered that to be my last and best hope for a cure. The importance of the legislation today for me was to remove any of the barriers for potential donors to donate bone marrow. There are enough difficulties involved in being a donor or a recipient without having logistical barriers such as being able to take time off work. I think this legislation does a lot to facilitate bone marrow transplants and to save peoples’ lives like mine.”

Nick Paden, a marrow donor, was also pleased by the bill’s passage. “I donated about nine months ago,” he said. “I donated to a perfect stranger and that stranger did not survive the marrow transplant, but it was still one of the most important things I have ever done. I offered a lot of hope to that individual and their family. It’s great that the bill passed and to be a part of it.”

Marla D. Spencer, director of legislative relations for the National Marrow Donor Program, called on lawmakers to support the legislation on the House floor.

“This bill is very important for patients that are searching for a match on the registry,” Spencer said. “Hopefully the whole Legislature will pass it and all potential donors in the state will have that opportunity to make a life-saving donation.”

Earlier this year, Shelton donated to give a 31-year-old Arizona woman suffering from Hodgkin’s lymphoma the marrow she desperately needed to recover. Subsequently, he made his office a site for marrow donors to register.

According to the bone marrow donation organization, Be The Match, more than 10,000 patients are diagnosed with life-threatening diseases such as leukemia or lymphoma in the U.S. each year. Approximately 70 percent of those patients do not have a matching donor in their family.

In a press release sent to CapitolBeatOK in January, Rep. Shelton said the statistics are even grimmer for African-Americans, Hispanics, Native Americans, and Asian Americans. For example, while there are more than 6 million white bone marrow donors, there are only 600,000 African-American donors available.

The situation has intensified Shelton’s interest in the issue, he told CapitolBeatOK.

H.B. 1078 cleared the House Economic Development, Tourism and Financial Services Committee and awaits consideration on the House floor.