BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — A Birmingham woman is in Washington advocating for the Saving Lives Leave Act. It would allow bone marrow donors to not be penalized for missing work.

Advocates said the Saving Lives Leave Act will do just that: save lives. Birmingham native Dorothea Staursky is a bone marrow donor and she said because she was able to take time off work and donate, she literally saved a man’s life.

In 2017, Staursky decided to become a bone marrow donor. She said she felt compelled to sign up because she is of Greek ethnicity and can help a group of people who often struggle to find matches.

Sure enough, after some time, she was notified that she was the only match for a man battling blood cancer. She donated peripheral blood stem cells. She said the procedure went smoothly and he was able to live. In fact, she donated to that same recipient again in 2019.

Staursky said that man is alive today because she was lucky enough to have an employer that allowed her to take time off work to make those donations.

“When I think that others may not have that same flexibility, they may not have an employer that is able to do that. It’s heartbreaking,” Staursky said. “You never want to have a donor who is faced with choosing between keeping your job to provide for yourself or your family or saving someone’s life. A donor trying to save someone’s life should never cost them their job.”

If passed, the bipartisan legislation would provide up to 40 hours of non-consecutive unpaid leave for donors. Staursky said this would cover the loophole for bone marrow and blood stem cell donors. Currently the only donors protected under law nationally are organ donors.

According to the National Marrow Donor Program, about half of donors who do get matched decline. They said that is often out of fear of losing their job.