Sixty one days since her bone marrow transplant to treat MDS, a rare blood disorder, “Good Morning America” anchor Robin Roberts is at home again after a recent hospital stay.
After spending 30 days in the hospital for the September transplant and treatment, Robin had been home recovering when she contracted a virus and had to be re-admitted to the hospital for treatment.
Robin’s doctor, Dr. Gail Roboz explained Tuesday morning on “GMA” why heading back into the hospital was necessary.
“There are gazillions of germs out there and from the time we are little kids we are fighting them off. And sometimes we know we have an infection because we don’t feel well and sometimes the immune system takes care of it for us before we even know anything,” Roboz said.
“But those bugs hang around, and they’re inside us and there are lots of them. We monitor these sneaky germs very carefully. That’s why the post-transplant monitoring is so important. We check and sometimes we can pick up even tiny, tiny amounts of a virus before a patient knows anything. And the good part about that is if we stomp it out quickly before it turns into an infection, it’s much, much easier.”
Robin’s sister Sally-Ann, an anchor at WWL-TV in New Orleans, interviewed her sister Friday in the hospital for an interview that appeared on WWL Monday. A portion of the interview appeared on “GMA” this morning, and in it Robin talked about her progress and her doctor’s promise that she would be able to leave the protected environment of her home soon.
Sally-Ann, who donated her own stem cells for the transplant, told Robin that people were constantly asking about her health.
Robin described the hospital stay as “just a little tune-up, check under the hood, kick the tires a little bit. And uh, it’s not a journey that goes like this, it’s a journey that zig-zags and there are complications and things like that. But I feel good, I feel stronger every day, I’m past the halfway mark for the hundred days, which is the most critical portion of the time, so I am blessed.”
Robin talked about how she knew the transplant was working.
“It was brutal those first couple weeks after the transplant. And I remember the doctors telling me ‘we don’t have to tell you when it’s working, you’re going to tell us by how you feel.’ And just like that it was ten days later, woke up and was like ‘where y’all been!’” she said. “And I’m so grateful for the medical science that we have, but it was your cells in my body that made me better. That’s when I knew.”
Robin said going back to the hospital was tough.
“I was emotionally down. Physically I was still – blood pressure fine, never ran a fever, drugs working. And my doctors could sense, I was just like ‘uh, why am I back here?’ I was here for 30 days, only home a month and now I’m back. And then I just started changing the way I think – you’re here for them to check up on you,” she said.
Roboz understands how difficult it was for Robin to return to the hospital, but says she’s getting stronger every day.
“It’s so hard to go back into the hospital,” Roboz said. “When you think about the joy we all saw on TV when she left, she was so happy to be out of there. And it’s hard not to worry when you go back, ‘Is everything OK? Am I going to be OK? How long is this going to take?’ But she rallied so quickly and she’s been recovering very, very strongly.”
Robin credits her progress to the effects of people’s prayers.
“From New Orleans, to Seattle, to Hartford, all across this country I have felt these prayers, and I mean truly in my soul have felt them and I am eternally grateful for that,” she said. “So for people going through it, surround yourself with prayer warriors and people who know you will do this.”
December 29 marks 100 days since Robin’s bone marrow transplant. That’s considered a milestone.
“We don’t want to be married to a calendar,” Roboz said. “These are important milestones but they don’t necessarily mean that everything is going to be fine on a specific day. And the monitoring continues. We’ve got to be vigilant. Never let the guard down. She’s doing really, really well, but it’s not about the calendar. It’s about really watching her and making sure her systems are fully ready to fight off the whole world.”
But that won’t keep Robin from celebrating life, including her 52nd birthday on Friday.
“My great doctor, doctor Sergio told me recently I’m going to get to go to early bird specials! I’m going to get to go out! Be around people! Because you’re being reintroduced to society because you do feel like you’re in a bubble so much,” Robin said.
During the interview, Sally-Ann told Robin that she had a gift for her.
“This is a gift I gave to Mom. But Mom wasn’t able to wear it. You were so strong that Mom wanted you to have this. This is a birthday gift from Mom and me and I hope you will like it,” Sally-Ann said, handing Robin a wrapped present.
Robin unwrapped the gift to reveal a crucifix.
“Oh, Sally-Ann, this is absolutely beautiful,” Robin said.
The siblings’ mother, Lucimarian Roberts, died in August, just days before Robin was scheduled to begin her treatment, and one day after Sally-Ann donated the stem cells for her sister’s transplant.
“Mom is praying for you right now and she is with you always,” Sally-Ann added.
This is the first time Robin has gone through a traumatic experience without her mother physically present.
“And that has weighed on me. But I do believe it was her way of making sure that all of her children could be taken care of. And I’ve said this, it was, she was there when I took my first breath, and what an honor it was to be there when she took her last,” she said, becoming emotional.
Despite her challenges, Robin maintains a positive outlook.
“I look at it as a clean slate, and how many people can say at this point in their lives that they get a do over? That they get a chance to start again? And that’s how I feel.
“We are just a little bit stronger than we think we are, and that’s all we need,” she added.
To find out more about bone marrow donation and sign up for a registration kit from the Be the Match Registry, click HERE.