Lifestyle

Nephew of broadcaster Robin Roberts gets 2nd chance to save stranger’s life as a stem cell donor

Jeremiah Craft’s mother suggested he join the National Marrow Donor Program (NMDP) registry as a stem cell donor when he was a teenager.

His mother, Sally-Ann Roberts, had given her younger sister, popular “Good Morning America” co-anchor Robin Roberts, a bone marrow transplant after she was diagnosed with MDS in 2012. Craft had his first experience with stem cell donation at the time.

Sally-Ann persuaded her son to send in a simple swab from his inner cheek, which can help match a donor to present or future patients. According to NMDP, 70% of patients in need of a bone marrow transplant do not have a fully matched donor in their family, meaning that most patients must rely on donations from strangers on the list to find a perfect match.

Now 29, Craft recalled to GMA what his mom told him that time, “Basically, my mom ‘voluntold’ me to sign up, kind of like a mandatory suggestion.” 

Several years later, the call came that he was a match for a stranger, however, he declined to participate. He explained, “Unfortunately, at the time, I just was thinking about me. It was acting selfishly, and I didn’t heed the call.”

He was later remorseful about the choice he had made, saying, “Until this point, I was very, very sure that was going to be the biggest mistake of my life.”

For several reasons, the NMDP observed that less than half of prospective donors consent to donate when they are determined to be a match.

But when a second call came through telling Craft he was a match again, he had his chance to redeem himself. He consented this time and allowed the process to take place. He received five days of injections to boost his blood stem cells in preparation for donation day.

He then flew from New York City to Houston in March on an NMDP-funded trip to make his donation. According to its website, the group reimburses all contributions for travel and non-medical expenditures, as well as any medical expenses not covered by insurance.

As per NMDP, Craft donated through peripheral blood stem cell donation, also known as PBSC donation, a non-surgical process that involves drawing blood from one arm, processing it through a machine to extract the blood-forming cells, and then transferring the leftover blood back to the other arm.

Craft confessed that he was “grateful to God” to have a second opportunity to save a life.

“I’m a regular guy trying to do the right thing for the second time. I’m just grateful to God that I can go from pretending to be a hero to growing older, learning what is important, and actually saving a life,” he remarked.

Dollita Okine

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