GMA: 3 Kids in One Family Diagnosed with MDS: Myelodysplastic Syndrome

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GMA: Robin Roberts MDS

Good Morning America anchor Robin Roberts will be taking a medical leave at the end of the week in order to receive a bone marrow transplant. Roberts suffers from Myelodysplastic Syndrome (MDS), which is a blood disorder that affects her bone marrow.

On Tuesday, GMA profiled the Durkins, a family that had not one, not two but three children diagnosed with MDS.

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Good Morning America: Myelodysplastic Syndrome (MDS)

GMA: 3 Kids in One Family Diagnosed with MDS: Myelodysplastic Syndrome

Three children from one family were diagnosed with Myelodysplastic Syndrome. They shared messages of support for fellow MDS patient & GMA anchor Robin Roberts. (Debby Wong / Shutterstock.com)

York, Maine, residents Jason, Chris and Lauren Durkin loved sports, especially ice hockey. When Jason was 18, his hockey coach noticed that he didn’t seem like he was keeping up at their hockey tryouts. The drama intensified after Jason had blood work done.

“They called my parents and were like take Jason to Boston Children’s Hospital now,” Lauren said. “Not tomorrow, not tonight, don’t wait, get him out of school and take him right now.”

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Jason’s case of MDS has progressed, and he needed a bone marrow transplant right away. The family thought they had good news when it was discovered that Chris would be a match for Jason, but one last blood test showed that Chris also had MDS.

“We were just devastated to go from one to two,” Sharon Durkin, mother of the three kids, said.

GMA: Durkin Family MDS Transplants

Now instead of one transplant, the Durkins were in need of two.

“It just was like ‘Why?’” Transplant nurse Julie Waitt said. “Why is this happening, how is this happening to this poor family?”

The boys had back to back transplants but not without major complications. Because they were children, they needed to be quarantined for a full year.

GMA: Lauren Durkin MDS Diagnosis

The Durkin family’s problems weren’t over yet. After previously testing negative for MDS, Lauren was diagnosed with the disease.

“Here we go again,” Mike Durkin, Lauren’s father, said. “We were just heartbroken.”

Waitt said at first she was in disbelief, and thought there must be some sort of mistake.

Because they couldn’t find a donor match for Lauren, she had a blood cord transplant of stem cells. Lauren’s battle included a very high fever and an out of control infection.

“I remember us literally running out of ideas to help bring down her fever,” Waitt said. “She was quite nervous as were her parents, and it was a difficult time.”

Lauren said in the back of her head she worried she wouldn’t make it, but she tried not to think about it.

“They all lost their hair,” Mike said. “For the boys it was one thing to lose their hair, for a girl it’s even worse.”

National Institute of Health: MDS Research

The Durkins are helping the National Institute of Health, and scientists in Boston have learned more about MDS as a result of the family’s struggle.

“There’s a lot the Durkin children have taught us about MDS in families and MDS in general,” Dr. Michelle Lee said.

GMA: Durkin Kids’ Message for Robin Roberts

The Durkin kids had a special message for Robin:

“Robin you are so strong and so great that you’re going to do amazing,” Lauren said. “I just want you to know that we’re all here for you and we’re all rooting for you.”

“You’ve already beaten breast cancer, not you’ll beat this too,” Chris said.

“I remember that you were a basketball player, keep that strong athlete mentality, you’ll be find going through this and we’re with you the whole way,” Jason said.

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