Webster, N.Y. - Good Morning America
co-host Robin Robert’s announcement Monday has brought a new, public focus on a blood disorder called Myelodysplastic Syndrome or MDS.
Yet many families in the Rochester
region know all about the treatment she is about to go through.
“Medical expertise has come so far in the last few years,” says Al Bushnell, who underwent a bone marrow transplant to treat MDS nearly one year ago. “This is still a serious event but not what it used to be.”
Bushnell has had more adventures than most. Photographs detail the 100 mile pack pack trek around Mt. Rainier with his wife Kim. Another photo shows them both running the “Wine Glass Marathon” in 2010. The following month – a biopsy would change both their lives.
“It’s scary. You don’t know what’s going to happen or what this means,” says Kim Bushnell.
Al was diagnosed with MDS- his red and white blood cells were not working properly. “He (the doctor) says your only option is a transplant – I said I feel fine,” recalls Al. “He says based on our experience you won’t very soon.”
Without a transplant Bushnell was told he could expect to be diagnosed with acute leukemia within six months.
The University of Rochester Medical Center is one of the top hospitals for diagnosis and treatment of MDS. Dr. John Bennett says critical research and drug development has occurred over the last five years allowing MDS patients to lead healthy lives when that would not have been possible before.
Of the 120 bone marrow transplants done here every year – about 10 percent or one a month treat MDS.
“Roughly 40 percent of patients who have a family donor will have a perfect match,” explains URMC Oncologist Dr. John Bennett.
Yet Al Bushnell’s only sister was not a match. Instead he turned to the world wide donor registry. “Somehow I had the feeling that my match was out there.”
Still – the wait to find out was an excruciating exercise in patience. Weeks later he learned of three potential matches including a man from Germany who would become his donor.
“I cried like a baby!” Al says of that news. “Just to hear that you’ve got a chance!”
The month before the transplant the couple ran the Flower City half marathon together. Now Al prepares to hit the critical one year mark. The couple wears red and white rubber bracelets to symbolize the healthy blood cells they hope have taken root.
The bracelets are stamped with the word “bravery”, which says much about this last year.
“It’s been a celebration for us personally,” says Kim Bushnell. “But also for what we have here locally; everyone who’s helped us from the medical field and how far they’ve come.”