Father honors son’s memory by advocating for bone marrow donation bill

Life Saving Leave Act 10 p.m.

The day's local, regional and national news, detailed events and late-breaking stories are presented by the ABC 6 News Team, along with the latest sports, weather updates including the extended forecast.

(ABC 6 News) – A bill affecting transplant donors is making its way through the U.S. House of Representatives.

If passed, the Life Saving Leave Act would guarantee bone marrow and blood stem cell donors up to 40 hours of time off work to donate.

This bill would grant the same protections kidney and organ donors already have.

Advocates for the bill say this legislation will make it easier for people who want to donate, but more importantly, it will save lives.

Steve Dickes is a grieving father on a mission.

“Gonna save a life, that’s the main thing. I’m working hard to save lives,” said Dickes.

15-year-old Will was a beloved son, brother and friend, whose life was cut short after being diagnosed with Leukemia in 2008.

“It was hard, obviously. In some ways it brought us closer together, all of us,” said Dickes. “We made the most of it, we had a lot of fun when we could.”

Though Will eventually lost his battle with cancer, it was a life-saving transplant that gave him more time with those he loved.

Will’s passing gave Steve’s life a new purpose; making sure bone marrow transplants are more accessible for donors.

“Not every donor can say ‘yes’ to save a life,” said Dickes. “A lot of that comes down to getting time off of work.”

It’s a different story for Rodney Barth, a patient at Gift of Life Transplant House in Rochester, who found his perfect donor match after just one month.

“I’m very fortunate, it was [a] big surprise and answered a lot of prayers,” said Barth.

For many, finding that perfect match can be a hard and lengthy process, but even more so when the right donor doesn’t have time to spare for the transplant.

“They mentioned that I would be responsible for all the costs of the donor if something happened to where they didn’t have the time to, or they’re gonna miss days of work,” said Barth.

This issue took Dickes’ mission straight to the nation’s capitol, asking lawmakers for a change that would save lives.

While it’s an uphill battle, Dickes knows exactly who he fights for.

“I hope he would be happy, I would hope he would support me,” said Dickes about Will.

U.S. Representative Brad Finstad (R-MN), a co-sponsor of the legislation, provided a statement saying:

“Right here in Minnesota, we have the world’s best cutting-edge research going on in the field of blood and marrow transplant. But unfortunately, there’s no artificial alternatives for those in need of these procedures, which means recipients depend on the generosity of donors.

“As someone with relatives in need of these life-saving transplants, I know firsthand how important it is that we make it easier for individuals to donate. The Life Saving Leave Act provides job-protected medical leave for blood marrow or blood stem cell donations, opening the door for more individuals to make these donations. As this legislation makes its way through the committee process, I’m urging my colleagues to strongly support it, and I will be proud to vote for it when it comes to the House Floor.”

You can join the bone marrow donor registry here.