BUFFALO, NY (WKBW) - We first brought you the story a few weeks ago of A.M. Buffalo producer Frank Pacella and his brother who has leukemia. Much like Good Morning America's Robin Roberts, Frank's brother Sam needed a bone marrow transplant and Frank volunteered to be his donor.
We went back to Roswell Park Cancer Institute to check back in with Sam Pacella after the transplant. We found cards and pictures filling Sam's hospital room. He's feeling a few side effects from the transplant. That's to be expected, but one particular side effect has him concerned. "I just told the doctor I said, 'you tell me I'm losing my taste buds, I just hope I don't lose my taste buds for Buffalo pizza'," Sam laughs. He's in good spirits. Most of his side effects are subsiding.
Also in Sam's room is a balloon signifying his new birthday -- that's the day, about a month ago now, that he received donor cells from his brother Frank -- a life-saving procedure. "If we had done nothing his life expectancy would be very short, probably on the order of less than a year, maybe even less than six months," explains Dr. Elizabeth Griffiths of Roswell Park Cancer Institute.
With the transplant, Sam has a great chance at many more years, but the first 100 days after his new birthday are critical as his new immune system starts working. Doctors are monitoring Sam for any signs of trouble.
Sam is allowed visitors, and his youngest brother Frank visited while we were there. Frank and Sam were born 20 years apart under very different circumstances. When their mother was pregnant with Sam, her first child, she was hiding from the Nazis in Italy. By the time Frank came along the family had found a new home in Buffalo.
Frank is now also part of the Channel 7 WKBW family. He's the producer of AM Buffalo with Linda Pellegrino. He sees the parallels between his and Sam's story and that of Good Morning America's Robin Roberts and her sister.
"When you called me over that night and told me you had this there was just no doubt in my mind I was just ready to do this," says Frank to Sam as they visit in his hospital room.
Both Frank and Sam suffered through the loss of another brother a few years ago to Lou Gehrig's disease. "I think he wanted to prevent that, prevent the loss of another brother," says Sam, "I would have done the same for him. There's no greater gift than life."
The day we visited Sam at Roswell he was up walking the halls, getting stronger. And, we're happy to report, a few days after our visit his doctors decided he was ready to go home to continue his recovery there.
Not everyone who needs a donor has a sibling who is a match, and that's why there is a national bone marrow donor registry. You can read more about that here: http://marrow.org/Home.aspx