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Luis Silveira Goncalves

Marian Regional Medical Center employee makes life-changing donation

Luis Silveira Goncalves took a trip from California to Idaho to donate stem cells

Luis Silveira Goncalves doesn’t take no for an answer.

When Goncalves, a supervisor in the Clinical Laboratory Services Department at Marian Regional Medical Center in Santa Maria, was initially denied in his quest to donate blood, he found another way to impact someone’s life. 

His determination brought him all the way to Boise, Idaho, where he found himself donating blood stem cells with the goal of helping a leukemia patient.

The story of how he ended up in Boise goes back more than 10 years, when Goncalves attended a blood drive at his son’s school with the hopes of making a donation.

However, Goncalves discovered he would not be able to donate because he, a native of Portugal, had previously resided in Europe, making him ineligible. (The FDA has since updated its eligibility guidance for those who spent time in various European countries). 

Though Goncalves, an Orcutt resident, wasn’t able to donate at the time, workers there informed him that he could sign up with Be The Match, a program that links donors with those in need of bone marrow or blood stem cell donations to help treat blood cancers. 

He signed up, then he waited about 10 years.

“I got the kit, sent my test in and didn’t hear anything until August of 2022 and they informed me they matched me with a patient,” Goncalves said.

Once Goncalves heard he was a viable candidate, he jumped at the opportunity to provide a peripheral blood stem cell (PBSC) donation. PBSC is a nonsurgical procedure to collect blood-forming cells for bone marrow transplants. 

“I went through an extensive background questionnaire, a series of blood draws and then had to wait 90 days,” Goncalves said. “They contacted me and confirmed I was the best match for the patient.”

All Goncalves knew about the recipient of the donation was they were a leukemia patient in their mid-20s. 

“They set me up with a home-health nurse and, five days before the donation, you start these stimulant injections,” Goncalves said. 

Goncalves underwent injections of Filgrastim, a drug that increases the number of blood-forming cells in the bloodstream. 

Then, on Nov. 6, 2022, Goncalves and his wife flew to Boise, Idaho, to complete the donation.

“It took about seven hours – basically you’re donating stem cells,” Goncalves said. “It’s a lengthy process, but we completed the donation and then we flew home.”

The month of January is designated as National Blood Donor Month in the United States.

Goncalves said the most difficult part of the process was undergoing the Filgrastim injections.

“Your body is overproducing bone marrow and all your bones ache,” he said. 

Though the process wasn’t easy, Goncalves said he’d do it all again.

“The feeling of helping somebody – feeling that you could help someone who really needs it – made it all worth it,” he said. 

Goncalves added that his donation actually helped a couple colleagues sign up for the Be The Match registry 

“The feeling of giving back to somebody and doing something that could possibly save their life is really rewarding,” he said. “I would do it all over again.”

To learn more about the laboratory services offered by Dignity Health’s Central Coast locations, visit: 

For more information on signing up to donate bone marrow or blood stem cells, visit