CHICAGO (CBS) — A Barrington woman’s son was inspired to pay it forward after she was given the gift of life

WBBM Newsradio’s Regine Schlesinger reports Joanne Sullivan received a life-saving stem cell transplant from an anonymous donor in Germany two-and-a-half years ago, after she was diagnosed with myelofibrosis, a form of bone marrow cancer.

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“I just feel terrific,” she said.

The gift motivated her three sons to sign up with a registry for potential bone marrow and stem cell donors.

On Joanne’s birthday, her youngest son, Bryant, donated his stem cells to someone else.

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“It was the best birthday gift, I think, to have given her,” he said.

Joanne’s transplant surgeon, Dr. Mrinal Patnaik, said 24 million people worldwide have registered for the transplant list, but he said that’s only a drop in the bucket.

“If you’re a Caucasian, there’s a good 60, 70 percent chance you’ll find a match; but if you are African origin, Asian, it becomes really, really challenging,” he said.

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The Sullivans have teamed up with the Mayo Clinic for a donor registration drive at Navy Pier during the Chicago Air & Water Show later this month.