Robin Roberts co-anchor of “Good Morning America” underwent a bone marrow transplant Thursday to treat MDS, a bone marrow disorder that affects blood cells production. Shortly before her transplant, the co-host delivered a powerful message offering a heartfelt thanks to “GMA” viewers saying, “This journey is as much about the mind as it is the body,” sitting on a hospital bed and wearing a bright pink baseball cap, Roberts added: “Your thoughts are so powerful. You’ve got to change the way you think in order to change the way you feel. And let me just say this lastly, I feel the love and I thank you for it.”
Following her surgery, Roberts moved into the recovery phase of the procedure.
The transplant was a five-minute procedure in which the donor cells from Robin’s sister, Sally-Ann, were injected into Robin’s system through a syringe.
“Nobody can believe it,” Dr. Gail Roboz, the New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center oncologist who is treating Robin, said today on “GMA” of the short procedure.
“People have in their mind all kinds of images of what can happen in a transplant but it’s still an incredibly powerful moment,” she said. “Inside of that syringe are millions and millions of stem cells that are now circulating around and trying to find their home and start growing which is what we’re going to be looking for over the next couple of weeks.”
As she underwent the transplant Robin was surrounded by her siblings and other loved ones, including “World News” anchor Diane Sawyer and “GMA”‘s weather anchor, Sam Champion.
“It was an emotional, scary and yet exhilarating moment, one that I’ll never forget,” Champion said.
Robin faced the procedure with grace, strength and humor. For 10 days prior to the transplant, she endured rigorous chemotherapy treatments to prepare her system to accept her sister’s cells.
Prior to the procedure, the Rev. A.R. Bernard prayed. Then, slowly and steadily, Dr. Sergio Giralt injected the millions of donor stem cells. After the procedure, Robin and her family and friends broke out in one of her favorite songs, “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough.”
“I will now wait and anxiously watch and see what happens,” Robin said after the procedure. “In the next seven to 10 days my counts will continue to go up and we’ll be on to phase three, which will be get out of here. Get out of here. Go home. It’s a journey.”
In two weeks or so, Robin should begin to feel better. Once the transplanted cells start to do their job, there is generally significant improvement in how patients feel, Roboz said. The primary goal of the transplant is to get Robin’s system to correctly produce white blood cells and platelets.
Even though Robin’s sister was a perfect match, Robin’s system will still try to attack the donor cells. Doctors will work to prevent any symptoms of graft vs. host disease – a rejection of the bone marrow transplant.
Robin’s time in the hospital will be determined by how well her body adapts to the transplant. The markers for recovery typically come at 30 days and then 100 days post-transplant.
Roberts’ mom, Lucimarian Tolliver Roberts, died Aug. 30 — the day after Robin started her leave from “GMA.”
Roboz said that even reading a few emails and sitting up in bed is exhausting for Roberts, whose 11-day hospital stay has left her weak.
Roberts underwent chemotherapy for 10 days prior to the transplant, ABC reports.
Diane Sawyer shared an update about her colleague on “ABC World News.” Sawyer shared some footage from the hospital room on Thursday.
“GMA” weatherman Sam Champion, who visited his pal in the hospital earlier this week, said, “She is in remarkable spirits.”
Roberts is suffering from myelodysplastic syndrome, a disorder spurred by her treatment for breast cancer last year.
According to the National Institutes of Health, approximately 18,000 people develop MDS each year — with several hundred of those cases resulting from cancer treatment.
The 51-year-old T.V. personality will probably not be able to have visitors every day. It’s a day to day thing. Well-wishers have to understand that the patient drives what’s best for them. Sometimes it’s best to let someone sleep.
If all goes well, Robin will go home after 30 days.
When she goes home she won’t be feeling like herself, but we hope she’ll be able to do some exercises, read and focus. It’s important not to put a time stamp on anything. People are variable. Especially the way people are micromanaged in this process. You can’t be worried if you’re slower than others.
Doctors say that transplants affect each patient differently and based on individual experience she will gradually get back to her original self.
Sawyer told ABC News’ Dr. Richard Besser Thursday, “We’ve being saying to each other, she is amazing.”