DALLAS -- In a quiet Medical City Hospital Room, 59-year-old Brenda Coplin is being reborn.

It's my new birthday, said Coplin, with a gentle smile.

But there is no drama -- just the silent drip of what looks like blood from a bag.

Just hang it up, and in 20 minutes it was run in, Coplin said of the rather anticlimactic event. Just like an IV transfusion.

Coplin was diagnosed with breast cancer about the same time as Robin Roberts. Coincidentally, complications from their cancers resulted in the need for a bone marrow transplant on the very same day. Roberts developed MDA, a disorder caused by chemotherapy where the bone marrow fails to produce enough healthy blood cells. Coplin developed leukemia.

Both women underwent a week of grueling chemotherapy designed to wipe out their immune system.

For Robin Roberts, her sister, Sally Ann, likely donated stem cells in a procedure that's mostly painless. Blood is removed from one arm, passed through a machine that separates the special cells, and returns the remaining blood through the other arm.

In olden days, they used to go in the tibia bone and inject the marrow there, but now we know if you inject the cells in the blood, they find their way, explained Medical City Dallas bone marrow transplant specialist Dr. Vikas Bhushan.

Dr. Bhushan said unlike solid organ transplants, where patients often feel better almost immediately, it can take up to a year for patients to fully recover from a blood stem cell transplant. In some cases, it takes months for new cells to rebuild the recipients damaged immune system.

Stem cells from a family member often work faster than ones from a stranger.

Brenda Coplin has a sister who was not a match. She is very thankful to the mother who donated her baby's umbilical cord blood.

Thank you for my life, she said through tears. So I can see all [nine of] those grand kids over there grow up.

She also has a message for Robin Roberts; sharing a remarkably similar experience, 1,500 miles north.

Way to go, we can do it, Coplin said with a thumbs up. We'll make it. We made it through the first battle, we'll make it through this one.


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