Idahoans can now donate bone marrow in state

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BOISE — St. Luke’s Mountain States Tumor Institute in Boise announced this week it is the first site in Idaho registered to collect blood stem cells or bone marrow donations for the national Be The Match Registry.

More than 14,000 people a year need a stem cell or bone marrow transplant to survive, according to St. Luke's. Certain cancers prevent cells from developing normally, and patients rely on donors who sign up with the National Marrow Donor Program's Be The Match Registry.

Within the registry, 13.5 million volunteers are on standby waiting for a match to be identified. Now that St. Luke's is a designated donation center, local donors can stay in Boise rather than traveling out of state, said St. Luke's representative Jody Acheson in a press release. The cells will then be shipped out of state to where the patient is being treated.

According to the National Marrow Donor Program, nearly 40 percent of donors — or up to 2,000 people — have to travel outside of their region to donate because they don’t have a collection site nearby.

John Philpott, the organization’s community engagement representative, said having one in Boise is significant because it decreases costs and increases speed and efficiency.

Donating in Boise requires at least a day off work and potentially four to five hours at the clinic, St. Luke's spokeswoman Anita Kissee said.

The process of donating stem cells or bone marrow is call apheresis, according to St. Luke's. Blood is removed from a healthy donor’s vein and collected by a machine, which then separates the blood into individual components that can be removed. The parts of blood that aren’t needed are then returned to the bloodstream of the donor.

St. Luke's is not yet performing stem cell or bone marrow transplants in Boise, though in April it will offer this service between relatives. The hospital does offer, and has for 25 years, autologous transplants, in which a person's own cells are used.

It took more than a year for St. Luke's to meet the requirements to be designated a donor site for Be The Match. Two donations have already been processed so far, several more are scheduled this month.

"It's amazing to be able to offer this and be a part of it," Acheson said. "What these donors are doing is so selfless. They’re giving a gift of life to someone they don't know who has cancer. To be able to collect, process and send a lifesaving treatment to someone is a real honor."

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