Ruston woman to share her story of survival with Congress

When Hillary Husband was just 14-years-old, a freshman in high school, she was diagnosed with leukemia. Her battle with cancer would continue with three relapses over seven years.

“At that point, my only chance for survival was a bone marrow transplant,” Hillary Husband said. “I didn’t have a family member as a match, so we hoped and prayed to find a donor.”

Thanks to the National Marrow Donor Program (NMDP)/Be The Match, Husband found her match and the bone marrow transplant saved her life. Seven years later, she got to meet her anonymous donor in person, on one of the most special times of her life, her wedding weekend.

“We first met right before our rehearsal dinner. But the highlight and a moment I will always cherish was getting to dance at my wedding, with the person who saved my life,” Husband recalled. 

There was also a sweet coincidence.

“I couldn’t believe it, but we share the same wedding day. He was also married on Feb. 13,” she said. “It felt meant to be.”

Husband is preparing to share her story with Congress as part of a virtual fly-in hosted by NMDP/Be The Match on May 17-18. The goal is to advocate for legislation to create a national job protection for bone marrow donors. It would allow people, in any U.S. state, to take up to 40 non-consecutive hours of unpaid leave to donate, without risking their jobs.

“I can’t imagine if my donor had to say ‘no’ because he couldn’t get off work. This would have ended my life,” Husband said. 

This legislation would have minimal to no cost to employers. It would not require employees to take their established paid time off or sick leave, and it would not require employers to pay for leave to donate. It would merely ensure the donor’s job would be protected while they are involved in the donation process.

“Donor leave just makes common sense and it’s a great thing to get done. There is no fiscal impact or funding requirement. We are simply asking employers to give a person time off, just 40 hours, so they can save a life,” said NMDP/Be The Match Chief Policy Officer Brian Lindberg. 

Donor leave time may include meetings with a donation coordinator, providing blood samples, a physical exam, injections of a pre-donation medication administered over five days for most donors, travel to the donation site, completing the donation, and a short recovery period. Forty percent of donors will travel during the donation process.

National donor leave legislation would also help close the donor gap for under-represented populations on the registry, including ethnic and racial minorities. Patients are matched by their genetic background, which means patients and donors usually share the same race and ethnicity. Unfortunately, the likelihood a patient has a fully matched donor on the registry varies from 79% for white patients to just 29% for Black patients. 

“We must change this reality,” Husband said. “I am taking a stand so that others can be as fortunate as me to find their life-saving match who can say yes.”

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