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Life-saving program celebrates anniversary, seeks more donors

Intermountain Primary Children's Hospital in Salt Lake City is seeking out more people to register as marrow donors. (PHOTO: John Wojcik, KSL Newsradio)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah — A program at a Salt Lake City hospital has been saving lives for twenty-five years, but now it needs the public’s help to continue that work.

Intermountain Primary Children’s Hospital celebrated the anniversary of their bone marrow transplant program on Thursday.

According to the hospital, they have performed more than 700 transplants and 16 CAR-T infusions to patients coming from 13 different states.

One of the very first patients that received a life-saving donation was Ian Dahl.

At seven-years-old, he was diagnosed with AML, a form of blood cancer.

“Being a seven-year-old I didn’t know a lot, I knew I felt sick, but for my parents I know they felt like it was almost a death sentence because the survival rate was so low and even with that there were a lot of complications that came with it for the rest of your life,” says Dahl.

At that time, doctors gave him around a 30-percent chance of surviving.

Eventually, Dahl received a donation from his father, who was a five-sixths match.

Health officials say this is the exception to the rule since 70-percent of patients needing a marrow transplant do not have a matching donor in their family.

In fact, if someone registers to become a donor it doesn’t necessarily guarantee that they will be needed.

“You will be on the registry, your DNA will be on the registry,” explains nurse practitioner Hilary Saunders. “Then as patients come through the system we put their DNA into the computer and find matches.”

She says anyone who signs up to donate will be making a huge impact.

Giving that child a chance,” she explains. “This is sometimes the last ditch for them and this is giving that child a chance.”

According to Primary Children’s Hospital, every three minutes someone is diagnosed with a blood cancer.

Because of that, the issue isn’t going away anytime soon.

“We often hear of people saying I need a bone marrow transplant and we need a donor,” says Saunders. “That’s when we need people on this registry.”

More information on how to become a donor can be found here.