Robin Roberts' Personal Story Highlights Need for More Bone Marrow Donors in the United States

Posted: June 14, 2012 at 6:14 am

BOCA RATON, Fla., June 13, 2012 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Good Morning America co-host Robin Roberts' decision to go public with the fact that she has a rare blood disorder was courageous and sheds light on the need for more bone marrow donors in the United States.

"In Robin's case, her sister turned out to be a perfect match, but the fact is, about two out of every three patients who need a transplant won't find a match in their family and will need to reach out to strangers to help save their lives," said Jay Feinberg, CEO of Gift of Life Bone Marrow Foundation, an international bone marrow registry based in Boca Raton, FL.

Approximately 10,000 people are diagnosed each year with a blood disease in which a bone marrow transplant could save their life, yet only half receive one. That is why the more people who are willing to donate, the better the chance of saving a life.

Feinberg knows that all too well. He was diagnosed with Leukemia in the early 1990s. He found his match in 1995 after more than 50,000 people were tested worldwide. He turned that grassroots movement into the not-for-profit Gift of Life Bone Marrow Foundation to get more donors into the worldwide registry and educate the public on the importance of donating. For its part, Gift of Life has facilitated more than 2,500 matches in its history and entered more than 200,000 people into the registry.

"It only takes one match to save a life, and that's what keeps us passionate and focused every day," said Feinberg, who found his match from a young woman who registered at the very last marrow drive organized for him. "The fact that someone as high profile as Robin Roberts is willing to share her personal story with the world will create a lot of new interest in people willing to become donors and to that end, that's a very positive thing. We wish her well in her upcoming treatments."

Gift of Life Bone Marrow Foundation, through its network of life-saving volunteers, organizes dozens of bone marrow drives per year around the world. Feinberg said becoming a donor is easy. A cotton swab is rubbed on the inside of the mouth to collect cells used for tissue typing. That information is then entered into the registry where anyone needing a transplant can turn to see if they find someone compatible. If a match is made, the donor is notified by phone and then undergoes one more test to confirm he or she is a perfect match. If so, the donor then undergoes a complete physical exam, and then the donation procedure, which involves either the taking of blood stem cells from the arms, or bone marrow from the hip. Those life-saving cells are then transplanted into the sick patient. The donor's marrow will eventually replenish itself. On average, one in 1,000 of Gift of Life donors is asked to donate every year.

For more information on bone marrow and blood stem cell transplants, and to see answers to frequently asked questions, please log onto http://www.giftoflife.org.

About the Gift of Life Bone Marrow Foundation

Gift of Life helps children and adults suffering from leukemia, lymphoma, other cancers and genetic disorders find donors for blood and marrow transplants. Headquartered in Boca Raton, Florida, Gift of Life is an internationally recognized bone marrow, blood stem cell, and umbilical cord blood registry. Through its life-saving work, Gift of Life is a world leader helping children and adults find the matches they need when they need them. For more information log on to http://www.giftoflife.org.

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Robin Roberts' Personal Story Highlights Need for More Bone Marrow Donors in the United States

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