Robin Roberts' inspiration for bone marrow donors

Updated: Mar. 22, 2016 at 9:48 PM CDT
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LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - Just five years ago, after defeating breast cancer, Good Morning America anchor Robin Roberts announced to the world she has a rare bone marrow disorder.

Now she is using her diagnosis as a platform to encourage people to donate bone marrow.

"Every year more than ten thousand people are diagnosed with life threatening illnesses and need a marrow transplant," said Wyn Johnson, corporate committee co-chair of the Gulf Coast Regional Blood Center.

Roberts has been diagnosed with myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS), a rare blood disorder that requires a bone marrow transplant.

"She is very fortunate that her sister matched her because only 30 percent of the time does the family member match," said Johnson.

Those looking for a donor will not only have to depend on complete strangers who have registered to donate but strangers with a bone marrow match.

"It's critically important for the transplant to be successful so the more people we have in the registry, the more people we have to potentially become matches for someone else," said Alicia Bergeron, regional director of the American Cancer Society in Lufkin.

Bergeron says it's an opportunity to change someone's life.

"Just wanting to do something to help someone else I think would be really rewarding to help someone," said Bergeron.

Variation of ethnic background is also key to helping people find their match. Only five percent of the time do the ethnicities cross.

Of the match registry, 70 percent are Caucasian.

"Only seven percent are African-American, only 10 percent are Hispanic and three percent are multi-racial and the numbers just go down from there," said Johnson.

Officials say a marrow transplant is a last resort, making finding a match a must before it's too late.

"People are searching our registry for that match to save their lives," said Johnson

There's a chance for that one match to be you.

Since Roberts' announcement, registry numbers have already increased 1,000 percent, according to Good Morning Americas' host Josh Elliott.

If you are interested in becoming a potential donor, visit to register.

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