Congressman Young leaves bone marrow legacy - WFLA News Channel 8

Congressman Young leaves bone marrow legacy

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A potential donor talks to BeTheMatch representative A potential donor talks to BeTheMatch representative
ST PETERSBURG, FL -

Clearwater mother Jessica Acosta says her young son is alive thanks to a program created by Congressman Bill Young nearly three decades ago.

Doctors diagnosed her 16-month-old son Ryan with a rare form of cancer called Juvenile Myelomonocytic Leukemia. They placed him on the National Bone Marrow Registry and a month later they found a match.

"I can't wait until the day we can meet his donor. It's like he's part of our family and he doesn't know it," Acosta explained.

Congressman Young pushed for a registry to be created in 1986 after a visit to All Children's Hospital in St. Petersburg.

Related: Planning underway for Rep. Young's funeral

"He was visiting a family member in the hospital and he saw a young patient die, who they had become friends with, and he didn't want anyone else to have to go through that," explained Marc Silver with Be the Match.

Young talked about the success of the National Marrow Donor Program last year on a video created about All Children's history.

"At one point we were told, you're wasting your time. You'd be lucky to get 50,000 people willing to donate bone marrow. Well we have over 10 million in our registry today," Young explained on the video.

All Children's Senior Vice President Bill Horton says the ability to find a donor is a critical issue for many of their patients.

"He's directly responsible for having contributed to saving many lives," Horton explained. "We're the largest transplant program in the state of Florida and we've performed over 600 since the programs inception."

Be the Match hosted a free registry event Tuesday at Southeastern College. The organization regularly holds fundraisers to cover the $100 fee it costs each person to join the registry.

Potential donors are asked to fill out an application and give a tissue sample by swabbing their cheek with cotton.

"It's kind of amazing to know that just swabbing your cheek could make you potentially save someone's life," Acosta said.

Silver said donors are asked to keep their contact information updated through the registry, in case they are matched with someone in need.

"There are over 55,000 people who have had unrelated transplants thanks to Congressman Young. If he didn't go out and do what he did, 55,000 people would have had no chance," said Silver.

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