Coronavirus News: Bone marrow and organ donations down due to COVID-19

NEW YORK (WABC) -- Bone marrow and organ donations are much lower since the start of the coronavirus crisis, putting the lives of those in desperate need at risk.

"I just want to raise my children," leukemia patient Jennifer Maria said. "I would love to raise my children."

It sounds simple, but Maria, a mother of three in the Bronx, says her leukemia diagnosis could cut that dream short.

"I'm very fearful on a daily basis not knowing what the future holds," she said

Medication kept her blood cancer in remission, but last year, she stopped responding to treatment.

Now, the nurse is forced to stay at home because of COVID-19 and is desperate for a bone marrow match.

"We did drives in December," she said. "We tried our best to get people of brown and black to register because we represent a very small percentage of donors, so that's been a battle. Then COVID hit and everything went silent."

James Lubanovich, of Be The Match, said social distancing has slashed their numbers.

"She would be on the front lines right now working if it weren't for this disease," he said. "Think of anything public where you can have interaction, where we are at a table and we're talking about this, and we're signing people up and they say, 'Oh yeah, I can do that.' They sign up with us in person, and now all that is gone."

It's a registry touted by ABC's own Robin Roberts, who received a transplant from her sister.

"It's vital to be on the registry, and I'm so grateful that my sister was a match," she said. "We had already gone on the registry, and had she not been a match, there was nothing there for me."

Be The Match is not the only group suffering. Other life-saving organizations are having a hard time meeting that mission.

"Organ donation has gone dramatically down," said Helen Irving, president and CEO of Live On NY.

Irving says the wait list for hearts, kidneys, and other organs have now grown longer.

"My daughter knows that mommy needs a new heart," said Lauren, a woman waiting on a transplant. "We are losing lives to COVID, and we are losing lives of those who are on the wait list for a transplant."

Now, they're calling on the public to sign up.

In Maria's case, it's as easy as an at-home swab to find out if you're her match.

"You swab, you do two swabs, and you send it in. It's very easy, and you can help save a life," she said.

You can lend your support by texting "ABC" to 61474

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