Robin Roberts’ Journey and How You Can Become a Bone Marrow Donor

By ABC News

Aug 27, 2012 6:07pm

Robin Roberts announced today that Friday, Aug. 31, will be her last day on “Good Morning America” before she begins an extended medical leave to treat MDS.  Short for myelodysplastic syndrome, MDS is a rare blood disorder that affects the bone marrow.

As Robin prepares for her bone marrow transplant, her doctor will appear live on “GMA” this week to discuss her treatment, procedure and recovery process.

Since Robin announced she had MDS in June, Be the Match, an organization that helps match marrow donors to recipients and works to encourage others to volunteer, has received tremendous support.

But many people still don’t know how easy and rewarding it is to become a bone marrow donor, Be the Match CEO Dr. Jeffrey Chell explained.

“This is truly an amazing gift,” not only for the recipient but to the donor, Chell said. “Donors say their lives have been transformed by this altruistic act. They think of themselves differently. Their family thinks of them differently. How many people can say they’ve saved someone’s life?”

Click HERE to find out more about blood marrow donation and sign up for a registration kit from the Be the Match Registry.

Seventy  percent of patients don’t have matching donors in their families and need to find an unrelated adult donor, or cells from donated umbilical cord blood, according to Be the Match. The program has more than 9.5 million potential donors and nearly 165,000 available cord blood units.

“This is a need for more donors,” Chell said. “The type of matching we do is very complex and precise. … It’s so important that people join the registry [and] be committed to being on that registry.”

To join, a person needs to be between the ages of 18 and 60, willing to donate and meet health guidelines. To register, a health history form needs to be filled out and a swab of cheek cells needs to be performed. To find out more about donating and sign up for a registration kit from the Be the Match Registry, click here.

 ABC News’ Enjoli Francis contributed to this report.

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