Even with all the remarkable medical advances  available today, some diseases still have few treatment options.

For certain forms of leukemia and other blood diseases, for example, a bone marrow transplant may be the patient’s only hope.

Sometimes, the patient has a family member who is a matching bone marrow donor. That was the case for Good Morning America coanchor Robin Roberts, whose sister was a match for a bone marrow transplant. Roberts recently celebrated the fifth anniversary of the bone marrow transplant she needed to treat a rare blood disorder she developed after being treated for breast cancer. But about 70% of patients who need a bone marrow transplant don’t have a suitable donor in their families.

Jimmy Roberson, a native of Talladega, Alabama, who was diagnosed with aplastic anemia, a serious disorder in which the body’s bone marrow doesn’t produce enough new blood cells, was one of the lucky ones. When he desperately needed a bone marrow transplant, his doctors at the University of Alabama at Birmingham—with the help of Be The Match (see below)—reviewed 24 million stem cell samples to find the person whose bone marrow matched.

The match was Alina Franke, a 27-year-old native of Hamburg, Germany, who provided stem cells to Be The Match back in 2009. They turned out to be the right match for Roberson, who finally got his chance at survival after two unsuccessful chemotherapy treatments, 50 blood transfusions and more than 25 platelet transfusions.

“I would not be here today without her kindness, her selflessness and her willingness to give of herself, all in the name of helping a total stranger,” Roberson said.

When you join the Be The Match Registry, you provide a sample of your cells via a cheek swab. The cells are used to find a match to patients who need a bone marrow transplant. If a patient is identified, you will be contacted as a potential donor. If you are the best match for that patient, you can move forward with the donation.

Volunteers aren’t paid but may get the biggest gift of all—knowing that they helped save a life. To join the Registry as a potential donor, visit the Be The Match website.

“Many people don’t realize how simple and easy it is to join the Be The Match Registry as a potential bone marrow donor,” explains Mary Halet, director of community engagement. “There is a great need for more committed bone marrow donors, and anyone on the Registry could be the one to save a life. That experience of donating is life-changing—not just for the patient, but also for the donor.”

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