Chris Costello's Donor Returns to Rochester

Donor Ed Suslovic Instrumental in Passing Legislation to Benefit Bone Marrow Donors and Recipients in Maine

June 01, 2000

This June marks the second anniversary of 12-year-old Christopher Costello's unrelated bone marrow transplant. A year ago this week, Chris and his family met face to face with the donor who saved Chris's life - real estate broker Ed Suslovic.

Since last year, Suslovic has been rallying for legislation in his home state of Maine that would help pay for the cost of screening donors who wish to become members of the National Marrow Donor Program Registry. With the backing of Senator Marge Kilkelly (Democrat, District 16, Lincoln County, Maine), legislation allocating $100,000 was recently enacted into the state budget. Typically, non-minority potential donors are required to pay a fee to cover screening costs, thus limiting the number of potential donors within the registry.

By testifying before his state's Health and Human Services Department and using he and Chris as an example, Suslovic was able to convince legislators of how unfair placing the burden of donor recruitment and financial liability is on patients' families. Suslovic is hoping that his state will become an example for other states to follow.

In commemoration of Chris's two-year anniversary, Suslovic and his family will spend the weekend visiting at the Costello's Webster home.

Chris Costello was diagnosed with acute promyelocytic leukemia in January of 1997 and underwent his bone marrow transplant at Strong on June 2, 1998. Chris is one of only a handful of patients who underwent an investigational arsenic treatment in New York City prior to his transplant in Rochester.

URMC's Blood and Marrow Transplant Program has performed over 1,100 transplants since its inception in 1989, and currently performs over 100 transplants per year utilizing multiple sources of stem cells. The program treats patients with many types of diseases and performs transplants with stem cells from bone marrow and the bloodstream. Patients' own cells, siblings' cells, and unrelated donors' cells are all utilized. In 1998, the center also began performing umbilical cord blood transplants, a relatively new procedure available only at certain designated centers across the country. The URMC program provides services to both adults and children throughout the Finger Lakes region of Upstate New York and surrounding communities.

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