Hillary Husband to share her story with Congress, asking for National Donor Job Protection

RUSTON, La. (NMDP/KTVE/KARD) — 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.”

Hillary Husband dances with her donor at her wedding.

“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 February 13th,” 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 and 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. 

“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. 

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 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 (which varies by donation type and donor). 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. I am taking a stand so that others can be as fortunate as me to find their life-saving match who can say yes,” Husband said.

National Marrow Donor Program (NMDP)/Be The Match Logo

About National Marrow Donor Program (NMDP)/Be The Match®

For people with life-threatening blood cancers such as leukemia and lymphoma, a cure exists. National Marrow Donor Program (NMDP)/Be The Match connects patients with their donor match for a life-saving marrow or cord blood transplant and works to identify and eliminate financial and other barriers faced by these patients. NMDP also provides patients and their families one-on-one support, education, and guidance before, during, and after transplant.