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Robin Roberts inspires bone marrow donations in Southern California

June 13, 2012 12:00:00 AM PDT
"Good Morning America" anchor Robin Roberts' blood and bone marrow disorder is bringing much attention to the need for bone marrow donors. Her battle against the disease is just beginning, as is Southern California resident Steve Robbins' fight against acute myeloid leukemia.

"The treatment for this is much rougher than the first time," Robbins said. "I am finding out this is a little tougher. We'll get through it."

Unlike Roberts, whose sister is a match for a bone marrow transplant, Robbins' brother was not. So Robbins is turning to Be the Match, the National Bone Marrow Donor Program's registry, and his community for help.

At the Coachella Valley Water District office in Coachella where Robbins is an employee, more than 100 people turned out in the hopes of being his match.

"It would be great if it is somebody that he knows or someone local here, but from wherever the donor may be, we just hope there is a donor," said Alan Levin, Robbins' friends.

There are more than 10 million potential donors on Be the Match. Registering is as simple as a swab to the inside of a potential donor's cheek.

Joyce Valdez, a Be the Match registry specialist at City of Hope National Medical Center in Duarte, said being a match can take time, and time is not what patients in need of a bone marrow transplant have a lot of.

"The reason why there isn't too many African Americans, Hispanics, Asians or mix raced is they're under represented, there is not enough on the registry," Valdez said.

Valdez said fear about the donation process has a lot to do with it.

"If you look at it on the end of the patient that needs it, what's a little soreness for a couple days or sitting on a machine to donate stem cells for about 4 hours versus what the patient is going through," Valdez said.