BOISE - Each year more than 14,000 people need a bone marrow transplant to live and now here in Idaho it's easier for donors to make that potentially life-saving gift.
St. Luke's now has a program to collect stem cells or marrow and blood, and it’s the first place in the state that can do so.
Advocates for the donations are hoping people will be more willing to be donors now that this procedure is more accessible.
"A Boise firefighter’s daughter had leukemia. All of the Boise Fire and Boise Police got on the registry to be a match for her,” said Boise Fire Chief Dennis Doan. “Then 20 years later I got a call that I was a match."
The only match for a little boy who was only a year old, suffering from an immune deficiency disorder. A call that came more than two decades after Doan got on the "Be the Match" registry for the National Marrow Donor Program.
"They needed me in Salt Lake that week," he said.
Doan said there was no question that he'd donate. While it was an easy decision for him to make getting the procedure wasn't. There wasn't a place in Idaho to get it done.
"I had to travel to Salt Lake twice,” he said. “Once for a physical and a meeting with the doctors and then back again for the donation, and had to go in the day before and stay at a hotel."
But that's all changing now that St. Luke’s in Boise is the first place in the state that can collect donations. Something Dr. William Kreisle, an oncologist and the director of the bone marrow transplant program, said is much needed.
"Now that we're making it more accessible I think donors will be more willing to do it,” Dr. Kreisle said.
In the past, donors had to travel to cities like Seattle, Salt Lake, Portland and even Denver to have the procedure done. Trips that can be costly: think about airfare and a hotel. That’s why Kreisle said having the procedure available just across town is a game changer.
“Most of the people that require a stem cell transplant have a cancer like acute leukemia and that’s the only potential curative treatment,” he said. “If they were not to get this transplant they would die of their cancers."
Something Chief Doan recognized and because his donation the little boy he helped is now five years old.
"It was an easy answer when they tell me a one-year-old little boy needs help and just a little discomfort on my part can save his life,” Doan said. “I was the only, the only person in the world that was on the registry that was match for him. Of course, I’m going to do it."
You can find more information on how to become a donor here.