Good Morning America: Bone Marrow Donation & Be The Match Registry

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Good Morning America: Bone Marrow Transplants

In the case of needing a bone marrow transplant, many people think they can turn to a family member. Unfortunately, a family member is only the match 30% of the time, meaning that 70% of people have to seek a donor, as was the case for Erika Turner.

Turner, a happily married mother of two, received shocking news from her doctor.

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“He said Mrs. Turner, we believe you have Leukemia,” Turner said. “I immediately looked at him and said ‘The cancer of the blood?’ It felt like somebody just hit me with a low blow.”

Erika Turner Needed a Bone Marrow Transplant to Live

Be The Match: Bone Marrow Donation

Patient Erika Turner met her bone marrow donor, Christopher Magoon, after surviving Leukemia. Be The Match hopes to recruit more donors.

Turner shared her journey with Good Morning America’s Robin Roberts on August 22 2012. Her condition, a very aggressive form of Leukemia, was spiraling, and Turner was getting sicker.

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“I had to have a bone marrow transplant,” Turner said. “That was my only option to survive.”

GMA: Race & Bone Marrow Matches

Turner was an inspiration to those around her.

“She was filled with hope, she was filled with joy she was filled with love,” Karen Sovern,  transplant nurse, said. “And it helped carry everyone who was taking care of her through.”

For African Americans and other minorities, it is more difficult to find a bone marrow match.

“The likelihood of finding an African American donor is about 60%,” Dr. Miguel Islas-Ohlmayer said. “A little higher for Hispanics, it’s about 70%, and for Caucasians it’s in the realm of 90%.”

Bone Marrow Donation: A Perfect Match

A match was finally found for Erika–and it was an absolutely perfect match. Tests for Turner and her match showed that their blood proteins were no different–called a 10 for 10.

“It was a male, and he was a senior in college,” Turner said. “That’s all I knew.”

GMA: Hope For Bone Marrow Recipients

When it came time for her bone marrow transplant, Turner was ready to quit.

“I was burned out, I was tired, I didn’t want to go,” Turner said. “I fussed, I fought, I cried,  and my husband said ‘Fine, get back in bed and we’ll watch you die.’ I jumped up and I said I’m going to die? Ha! I’m going to show you.”

Erika Turner: Bone Marrow Recipient Meets Donor

The transplant was a success and soon Turner was in remission. However, she wanted to do one last thing: meet and thank the young man who saved her life.

“I’ve never met him, I’ve never seen him, but I’m just so excited to look into his eyes, to look into his soul, and tell him thank you,” Turner said. “I just want him to know that he is my hero.”

Then it was time to meet her donor, her hero, Christopher Magoon.

“I’m ready to meet the man who saved my life,” Turner said.

There were hugs and tears shared by Turner and Magoon, who Roberts referred to as an angel.

“It’s good to meet you, finally!” Magoon said. “You look great.”

Christopher Magoon: Bone Marrow Donor

Recipients are supposed to wait a year before contacting their donors, and Turner and Magoon have been emailing. Now that they were face-to-face, Turner had a message for Magoon.

“Christopher, I just want to say thank you, from the bottom of my heart, with my whole soul and my whole being,” Turner told her donor. “Thank you for giving me back to my parents, thank you for giving me back to my kids and to my husband. I love you and there’s nothing in this world that I would not do for you, because you did it for me, and I love you, I love you, I love you.”

Though Turner thinks of Magoon as her hero, he says she is the real hero.

“You’re the one who fought for your family, I had the easy job,” Magoon said. “I was asleep for the whole thing, I got to watch TV for two days, that was it. You’re the one who was sick, and always believed you were going to get better, and you did. Now you can drive hope for people that are in similar situations across the country.”

Be the Match Bone Marrow Donor Registry

Turner was overwhelmed that someone who didn’t even know her from “a can of paint” was willing to help save her life. Magoon recommends that everyone join the donor registry.

“I would do it again in a second,” Magoon said. “Even if you don’t know anyone that’s sick, you might later on down the line. It’s really not that painful of a procedure, that’s one of the huge myths, trust me it’s not bad. It’s like getting your wisdom teeth out. You’re under, you wake up, people take really good care of you because they know  you’re doing a good thing. So get in that registry, go to bethematch.com and get the cheek swab, it’s just a simple painless procedure to get in the registry and that’s step one – that’s the most important step.”

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