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Nederland employee 1st to donate stem cells next month under city program

NEDERLAND — In 2019, the city of Nederland adopted a program encouraging employees to donate vital organs, bone marrow or life saving blood stem cells.

The “Leave for Employees Donating an Organ or Bone Marrow” policy grants full-time city personnel the necessary time off to serve as a bone marrow or organ donor.

City Manager Chris Duque said the program originated from the city council’s desire to encourage employee involvement in the community.

“We have always valued being engaged and involved in the community beyond our regular shifts at work, and our employees have ever ceased to amaze me in giving back to this community,” Duque said.

A year after the implementation of the leave policy, the first employee is preparing to make a contribution to help a leukemia patient via blood stem cells.

The donor, who did not wish to be named, matched with a female patient five years after the city of Nederland’s first Be The Match drive.

Be The Match is a non-profit that collects blood samples from volunteers to be used in potential life-saving procedures.

Next month, Nederland’s first donor will give blood stem cells, the alternative to a bone marrow donation, in a five- to six-hour transfusion process.

“Being able to help someone, it doesn’t matter who the person is — they need what you can provide,” the donor said. “Too many of my family members, friends and coworkers have been impacted by cancer like leukemia. I’m not a doctor, but I get to try and help.

“If (the city) hadn’t organized the Be The Match drive at work, then I wouldn’t have this opportunity to help. I also appreciate the city having a policy that allows me time off to do this.”

Duque said the city went through several steps to get to this momentous occasion.

“The Human Resources department organizing the Be The Match event in the fall of 2015 was an important first step,” he said. “Then last September getting the city council’s support to adopt a leave policy for an employee wanting to offer that help, was a major win. Now we have an employee stepping up to make a difference, all of it just makes you feel positive about the people who work here.”

Duque said he is hoping this scenario will inspire others to follow in the donor’s footsteps.

“This is similar to employees doing Meals on Wheels,” he said. “It started small and grew to six or eight employees wanting to do it. We are hoping to see the same change, whether it’s employees donating in the same city, pushing different organizations to join the match program or seeing cities adopt a similar leave policy — we just want this to be a catalyst.”

The donor also hopes sharing the story would inspire other acts of selflessness.

“I hope that sharing this with the newspaper, and the community, results in more people, more businesses and more organizations reaching out to Be The Match, and possibly more people in need will find their perfect match,” the donor said.

The “Leave for Employees Donating an Organ or Bone Marrow” policy states all full-time employees are entitled to a leave of absence without a deduction in salary for the time necessary to permit the employee to serve as a bone marrow or organ donor.

Five working days in a calendar are granted to serve as a bone marrow donor, 30 days are granted to serve as an organ donor and 12 hours of leave is granted in addition for any medical testing or lab work associated with the donation process.