'Be the Match' Bone Marrow Donors, Recipients Reunite

Ron Oppedisano meets the woman whose bone marrow donation saved his life.
7:38 | 04/22/14

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Transcript for 'Be the Match' Bone Marrow Donors, Recipients Reunite
"Everybody's got something." That phrase, my mother inspired me to write my book, which I'm excited to say, is out today. My something was a rare blood disorder known as mds. I needed a bone marrow transplant. And thank goodness, my sister, sally-ann, was a perfect match for me. But 70% of people who need a bone marrow transplant was not as blessed as I was, to have a match in the family. They rely on donors, who are the match by signing up for donor registry. This has ended up with so many happy endings. Here's one of them. These photographs are much more than the moments that make up a lifetime. They are a testament to a man that never gave up. Every day, I wake up. I thank god that I'm here. Reporter: It was winter of 2010 when Ron, mayor of Norwich, was diagnosed with acute leukemia. I was at a standstill. It was probably one of the worst days that we had as a family. Reporter: After grueling rounds of chemotherapy, Ron went into remission. We thought he was home-free. And his cancer would not return. Reporter: But two years later, he had to put re-election plans on hold when he relapsed. Ron now needed a bone marrow transplant. Without it, he wouldn't live six months. With no siblings, the be the match donor registry was his only hope. That was tough, waiting. Knowing this was probably my only option. But waiting to see if I had someone who would have stepped up. Reporter: Someone sure did. Texas native Samantha Nielsen, just 21 at the time, answered the call. Samantha was a perfect match for Ron. Definitely, a ten out of ten, perfect match. I felt like I would help somebody. And it could save somebody's life. Reporter: The transplant was a success. And one year later, on December 4th, 2013, though technically 58, Ron celebrated his new first birthday. No amount of thank yous could express what I owe her. Because of her, he's still with us. He's such a great grandfather. And to see him every time with Liam, is just amazing because I know that it was a possibility that he would never get to meet her. Reporter: Only recently were Ron and Samantha allowed to exchange contact information. And our cameras were there when they met for the first time. Hi. Hi, Sam. Oh. You are a real hero. You really are. Thank you. I couldn't do it without you. You've done so much for our family. And for me, especially. I don't feel like a hero. I mean, I just feel like -- I know you don't. But believe me -- I made a small sacrifice. Reporter: Ron and Samantha decided to celebrate their reunion, by giving back to the organization that brought them together. Side-by-side, along with family and friends, Ron and Sam's marrow mob walked. And ran to raise money and awareness for be the match. Once strangers, now forever bound, fighting the good fight together. Good job. Such an amazing story. Glad that Ron is doing so well. Way to go, Sam. Joining me now, Dr. Sergio giralta. And Dr. Gayle robos. And my two doctors. Thank you. As always great to spend time with you. We saw Ron and Sam. And it's just -- it's heartwarming when you see something like that. And people need to realize that there are 70 diseases, including leukemia and mds. But 70 diseases where a bone marrow transplant is a possible cure. Correct. And you said access to prance plant is one of the first ones. The first bare owe is not having a marrow donor. You were lucky you had sally-ann. 20 years ago, the federal government had the -- I would say the inspiration to make the marrow registry. African-americans and minorities are still underrepresented in that registry. And we need more and more. For people who don't have donors there, there's core blood transplants. It doesn't have to be a perfect match. People need to know that. It's great if it is. But there's a way. I know people are watching. Saying I want to do what Sam did. I want to do what she did. 21 years old. It's swabbing the cheek to be tested. And people want to know what's the process after that? The two ways of harvesting healthy blood cells. I think there's still a lot of misconceptions out there. You've done so much to change that, that people actually know more. But they still think it's surgery. They still think it's painful. They think if they're going to be a donor they will be out of commission for a while. But it's as easy as you said. It's a swab on the q-tip on the cheek. What you've seen in the clip and what we see every day, is the unbelievable process and gift that you are giving, as a donor. You're giving life. And I think that people just can't believe how easy it turned out to be. I have to admit. I didn't know you could donate your bone marrow. I had no clue until all of this happened. And we're really trying to change the face of it because your patients are of all ages, all walks of life, aren't they? Medicare actually changed the law. And it's now covering transplants for mds. And since that happened, the number of transplants for medicare recipients have gone up three-fold. These are people who before had to wait until their disease transformed to acute leukemia before getting this procedure. Everyone who has mds doesn't mean they have the transplant. And I know you want to talk about that. Absolutely. In 2014, mds can only be cured with a transplant. But most parents with mds never get a transplant. And the reason for that is not what you think. It's not because we can't find a donor. A lot of times, we can find a donor. But there are aspects of the patient or aspects of the mds that make transplant not the right decision, not the right treatment. We need nontransplant treatments that work for those patients. Thank you both so very much. Crush mds the new website you launched. Crushmds.org. We want to get information out to patients and their families. Gail, Sergio, I'll be seeing you soon for the checkup. Approaching the two-year anniversary. Two-year anniversary. You can read an excerpt of my book on our website at goodmorningamerica.com on Yahoo! I've dedicated my book to my sister and other donors. Selfless, selfless act.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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