Cedar Rapids woman working to close organ donation loophole

A woman in Cedar Rapids is part of an effort to make sure people can get time off work in order to make life-saving donations.
Published: Nov. 27, 2022 at 10:57 PM CST
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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - Mary Dickinson cannot be an organ donor, but she is part of a group working to make sure people can take time off work in order to make life-saving donations.

Dickinson is an ambassador for Be the Match, a registry for bone marrow or blood stem cell donors. Right now, she and others connected with the group are fighting for Congress to pass the Life Saving Leave Act. The Family and Medical Leave Act offers job protection for donors who need to take off work to complete the process, but that protection doesn’t apply to all kinds of donations.

“It needs to be amended to cover people who donate blood cell products,” Dickinson said. She added, “They estimate about 40 hours. That’s what they’re asking for in the bill, is to have 40 hours time secured without losing their jobs.”

The donation process can be time-consuming. Catrina Ness, Dickinson’s daughter, donated stem cells to a stranger. She said it involved, among other things, testing and then a five-day course of shots. She was able to carry out her donation process locally, but she did have to take time off work.

“I had to go to the University of Iowa for a lot of my stuff as well. And so that’s drive time,” Ness said. “Thankfully, I was working for some amazing people. I was also a server.”

Ness added, “Some people actually have to be flown to different places. And that would then require a lot more time off your job.”

”It’s a horrible, horrible decision if you happen to be matched to donate and then the donor can’t take the time off,” Dickinson said. “You have to make a choice between your job, which supports your family, or saving a life. And we’re trying to close that loophole.“

The Life Saving Leave Act was introduced in the House earlier this year.