(NEW YORK) — Robin Roberts is no stranger to facing adversity. She received a breast cancer diagnosis in 2007 and then a diagnosis of myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS), a rare blood disorder that affects the bone marrow, five years later. Thankfully, her sister Sally-Ann was a virtually perfect match and she underwent a successful bone marrow transplant on Sept. 20, 2012.
When Roberts returned to her Good Morning America family on February 20, 2013, she was empowered to make her mess her message. She shared intimate details of her life-threatening disease, documented in the Peabody Award-winning ABC News special, “Robin’s Journey,” to help educate and inform millions, as well as potentially save thousands of lives.
Over the past decade, Roberts and GMA have continued to report extensively about blood stem cell transplants, which can cure or treat more than 75 different diseases and spread awareness of the importance of the Be The Match registry, a nonprofit organization operated by the National Marrow Donor Program, which manages the world’s largest bone marrow donor registry.
At least 26,812 people were added to the bone marrow registry and 140 people have gone on to receive a lifesaving bone marrow donation thanks to this reporting through the years, according to Be the Match.
While Roberts had a perfect match within her own family, approximately 70% of patients do not have a matching donor in their family and must turn to registries like Be The Match for their cure. A patient’s chance of having a matched, available donor on the Be The Match Registry ranges from 29% to 79%, depending on the patient’s ethnic background.
Now more than ever the need is urgent, and the statistics are stunning. Be The Match reports regional and national recruitment efforts decreased 36% during the height of the pandemic. Be The Match also reports only 50% of people on the registry will go on to make a donation when they’re a match for a patient in need. Be The Match has put a call out in particular for younger donors under the age of 40, as research has shown younger donors help improve overall outcomes for patients.
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