'Go Sally, Go!' Robin Roberts' emotional friends and family watch as sister's stem cells are injected in bone marrow transplant
The GMA anchor, 51, was joined by ABC News co-workers Diane Sawyer and Sam Champion during the five-minute procedure
17:39 GMT, 21 September 2012
Good Morning America co-anchor Robin Roberts underwent her bone marrow transplant yesterday, surrounded by her closest friends and family.
The procedure, which saw donor stem cells from her sister Sally Ann injected into her body, took just five minutes, after which the group broke into a rendition of Ain’t No Mountain High Enough.
Ms Roberts, 51, who was diagnosed with myelodysplastic syndrome, or MDS, earlier this year – a disease which attacks blood cells and bone – told GMA afterwards: 'I will now wait and anxiously watch and
see what happens.
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Positive atmosphere: GMA host Robin Roberts grins at the camera by her hospital bed as her closest friends and family sing before her bone marrow transplant
Go Sally, go! Surgeon Sergio Giralt was seen injecting the stem cells into Ms Roberts through an IV
'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
The atmosphere beforehand was informal, with her sister by her side and a visit from her pastor to lead the group in prayer.
On arrival, surgeon Sergio Giralt was greeted with applause. He acknowledged the volume of people in the small room, joking: 'What part of “Let's not have crowds did we not understand”'
He was seen injecting the stem cells into Ms Roberts through an IV, and on completing the procedure, said: 'Go Sally, go!'
ABC News co-workers Diane Sawyer and Sam Champion were among the intimate group present.
High-five! Ms Roberts greets her doctor as he arrives to inject the new stem cells into her body
Aint No Mountain High Enough: Ms Roberts sings with sisters Sally-Ann, her donor, and Dorothy
Mr Champion told GMA this morning: 'It was emotional, scary but at the same time it was exhilarating. I don't think I'll ever forget the power and the love that was in that room.'
'It was an emotional, scary and yet exhilarating moment, one that I’ll never forget'
Though it is expected to be at least ten
days before Ms Roberts starts to feel any improvement, her doctors say
that she is in good spirits and recovering well.
Oncologist Dr Gail Roboz revealed: 'This morning [Robin] sounds energized and she wants to be out of bed and the end of
the email was “I want to go home” with an exclamation point.'
GMA host will be closely monitored by doctors over the next few days,
as they wait to see if the new donor stem cells will take hold.
Support: ABC News co-workers Diane Sawyer and Sam Champion were among the intimate group present
It is also crucial that they protect Ms
Roberts from any possible germs or infection, as her immune system has
been wiped out in preparation for the new cells, and she is vulnerable
until they take hold.
'We actually check blood sometimes several times a day,' Dr Roboz said.
'You can start seeing normal blood cells recover and usually what I tell
people is when you get three days in a row of the white blood cells
coming up, then you’re starting to get excited that the graf is taking
The short procedure is a far cry from what many people expect a transplant to be, the oncologist added.
can believe it. 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.
Staying strong: GMA anchor Robin Roberts looked frail as she addressed fans in a video update from her hospital bed. Today she will undergo her bone marrow transplant
Cast of support: Ms Roberts gets a visit from GMA co-worker Sam Champion, who wore a mask to protect her from germs from the outside world
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.'
Ms Roberts released a video to fans early yesterday morning, in which she thanked them for their love.
'In the next seven
to ten days my counts will continue to go up and we’ll be on to phase
three, which will be get out of here'
She looked frail in the film, most likely recorded the day prior, after eight days of intensive chemotherapy.
treatment appeared to have taken its toll and Ms Roberts had clearly
lost a significant amount of weight as she addressed the camera.
Wearing a pink baseball cap and navy top and pants, clutching a cold drink, she said in the video on her GMA blog: 'This journey is as much about the mind as it is the body.
'Thoughts. Thoughts are so powerful. You've got to change the way you think in order to change the way you feel,' she continued.
Robin's room: In another clip, she showed off her 'disco pole', which had been dressed with tinsel
Then, repeating the words, almost as
if to remind herself: 'You've got to change the way you think in order
to change the way you feel.'
She also thanked fans for their love and
support, adding: 'And let me just say this lastly, I feel the love and I
thank you for it. Thank you.'
Ms Roberts, her doctors and her 'ABC
Family' have been keeping fans up-to-date on her progress and yesterday Dr Roboz, joined George Stephanopoulos on GMA to
explain her progress so far.
On form: The TV host pictured on GMA in August, before her admission to hospital
Explaining the difference between the
therapy that Ms Roberts was having over the summer, compared with the
the last week, Dr Roboz said: 'We could see in watching Robin over the summer that she looked
fantastic, she was having an easy time with it.
really MDS-directed treatment. That was to mow the lawn, get rid of as
many MDS cells as possible, boost the bone marrow and get ready for the
For the past eight days, though, Ms Roberts has been having two-and-a-half hour chemotherapy every six hours, followed by a staggering continuous 18 hours on Tuesday.
'This type of therapy over the last week has been much more
intensive,' Dr Roboz said. 'This isn't just mowing the lawn and not getting
rids of the weeds on top, it's digging down deeper and really trying to
empty out the bone marrow cells and get rid of the immune system cells
so that the new ones from Sally-Ann can come on in.'
Unsurprisingly, the aggressive treatment, which has wiped out the television presenter's entire immune system, has left her feeling wiped-out.
Dr Roboz continued: '[Robin is] a powerhouse but she feels
crummy. Her mouth hurts. She's got a headache that won't quit. Nothing
tastes right. It's hard to get up and even move around in the room.
is someone who's used to 50 hours a day and an athlete with tremendous
stamina. It's powerful to hear her say that reading a few emails or
sitting up in bed is a lot of work.'
The next few months will mark the 'rebuilding phase', Dr Roboz explained. 'Rebuilding is not immediate. It takes weeks to months… Sally Ann's cells will be trying to set up shop to set up an immune system and marrow to fight off infection.'
The GMA family: Ms Roberts tweeted a photo from her send off, before her admission to hospital. She is seen between her co-host Josh Elliot (left) and ABC's senior executive producer Tom Cibrowski (right)
Ms Roberts wrote a touching message on her blog on Tuesday to let people know that she's staying positive.
'Last Sunday to lift my spirits I threw a
little party at my apartment for my GMA family,' she wrote. 'The next morning I
walked through the hospital doors, with my guardian angels – mom &
dad – back together and blazing a trail ahead of me.'
She also described how her body was responding to the daily doses of chemotherapy.
WHAT IS MDS
Myelodysplastic syndromes are a group of diseases in which the bone marrow does not make enough healthy blood cells.
It affects about 18,000 people each year – but only several hundred of those are as a result of cancer treatment.
Symptoms can include shortness of breath, weakness or feeling tired,
skin that is paler than usual, easy bruising or bleeding and fever or
The primary approach to treating MDS is a bone marrow transplant.
The more closely matched the donor and recipient are, the more likely
the immune system will not reject the new marrow and treatment will be
start of last week went well but the daily chemo/treatment caught up to
me by the weekend,' it read.
'My body is so weak but not my mind. YOU
give me the courage to keep going.'
'So today is my last day of chemo…
Wednesday is called a day of rest, yay, right! The transplant is
scheduled for Thursday morning.'
The star's bone marrow transplant is to treat a rare blood disorder called myelodysplastic syndrome or MDS – her sister Sally-Ann is the donor.
Ms Roberts will now stay in a room designed to keep the air as clean as possible in order to protect her from any germs or infections, though friends and family will still be welcome to visit.
The disease has damaged the GMA host's bone marrow, and likely arose as a result of the chemotherapy Roberts' underwent in 2007 to successfully treat her breast cancer, according to GMA's chief health and medical editor, Richard Besser.
Ms Roberts isn't expected to reclaim her seat on GMA for several months, to allow her time to recover.
The TV anchor suffered another emotional blow on August 30 when her beloved mother, Lucimarian, passed away at home in Mississippi at the age of 88 – her father, Lawrence, died in 2004.
'I think she misses her mom a lot and I think it's been really hard to
go through this,' Dr Roboz revealed.
'She said yesterday this is the first hard
thing that she's had to go through without her mom. So I think that's
been a real challenge but she is a trooper and fighting through it and
doing very, very well.'
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