Gannon was diagnosed with advanced state leukemia just over two years ago and received an adult stem cell transplant with blood from a donated umbilical cord. She says it saved her life.
"We are extremely grateful for this technology and the medical community that administers it," she told the State House Health and Human Services Committee. "I often think about the moms that graciously donate their umbilical cord blood. There is no doubt that without this, I would not be here today."
She testified in favor of House Bill 1372, which would create the Adult Stem Cells Cure Fund, a voluntary income tax checkoff on the state tax form. It would advance and promote umbilical cord blood collection throughout Colorado. The measure passed the committee unanimously.
Politicians have recently sparred over taxpayer dollars going to embryonic stem cell research. Those cells come from human embryos. The adult counterparts come from umbilical cord blood. Rep. Dianne Primavera (D-Broomfield) says those umbilical cords can go from being a "lifeline for a baby to a lifeline" for someone with a disease like cancer or cerebral palsy.
Doctors testified there are roughly 80,000 births each year in the state and less than one percent of those results in a cord blood donation. The hope is the money raised by the income tax checkoff could be spent on both promoting the topic as well as the cryogenic storage of the blood for as long as 20 years.
"It is my belief that this bill offers a tremendous opportunity to improve the health of Coloradans for a relatively small expense," said Dr. Chris Carey, who runs the OB-Gyn department at Denver Health Medical Center.
Currently, only three hospitals in Colorado collect umbilical cord blood from new mothers. When it's not collected, it's discarded.
"It's an opportunity to turn medical waste into a medical miracle," Primavera said.
Gannon says she's living proof of that.
"I cannot think of a better way to pay it forward," she said, "than to give all women the opportunity to donate the baby's umbilical cord blood."
The measure now goes to the House Appropriations Committee.
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