May 21, 2018
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The personal, universal reasons behind an effort to cover bone marrow testing in Maine

Contributed photo | BDN
Contributed photo | BDN
Rep. Stanley Short, D-Pittsfield
By Stanley Short Jr., Special to the BDN

Sometimes just a simple test can save a person’s life.

In 1987, Eric Hapworth, a young man, husband and father, went through a physical that was necessary so that he could work at Maine Yankee during a shutdown. He did not pass the physical and after a few tests he was informed he had leukemia.

After the treatments he received over the next three years failed to cure the leukemia, it was determined that a bone marrow transplant was necessary. The family was tested, but no match was found. The search for a match continued on for months, all over the country, but to no avail.

While attending a conference, Eric’s father met someone whose son was cancer-free after being diagnosed with leukemia and receiving a bone marrow transplant. That family, after attempting to find a match here in this country, had learned that Germany was very advanced in the fight against leukemia.

I’m telling you this story because the Maine House recently enacted a bill that would require health insurers to provide coverage for bone marrow testing. This life-saving legislation would allow a person to join the donor list by getting tested at very little cost.

Eric’s father used the information he’d learned at the conference and made contact with the appropriate places in Germany. After going through the necessary procedures, a match was found for his son and a bone marrow transplant was performed.

He was cancer-free when he passed away in 1992, just months after receiving the transplant. He was only 30 years old. Sadly, he had developed an infection that his immune system was just too weak to fight off.

Eric left behind a wife and two very young children. He also left behind loving family members, including two brothers and a sister who loved him very much. His sister happens to be my wife.

Had he received the transplant sooner, Eric’s chances of survival would have been significantly higher.

Twenty-two years later, we still have done very little to increase the number of potential bone marrow donors in our country.

That is why this bill just makes sense. If we can take even a small step to increase someone’s chances of beating cancer, we should do it.

LD 1600 would require insurance companies to cover up to $150 in costs for those eligible for testing. Once tested, the donors would be added to a database and contacted if they are ever a match. The hope is that more people will get tested and join the donor list.

It is terrible to have to watch someone you care about pass away, when one test could have made all the difference.

Given the opportunity, I’m sure many more people would step up to donate bone marrow if they knew that cost would not be a factor.

I am supporting this legislation in honor of Eric, and so many others, who lost their lives too soon. I hope that future tragedies can be prevented by passing this life-saving measure.

Rep. Stanley Short Jr., D-Pittsfield, is serving his first term in the Maine House of Representatives. He represents Clinton, Detroit and Pittsfield.


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