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Michael Brecker in Need of Stem Cell Transplant

Saxophonist Michael Brecker, 56, was diagnosed with MDS (myelodysplastic syndrome) and is in critical need of a stem cell transplant and his wife, Susan, has sent out an open plea for help.

After an initial search for a donor, which included Brecker’s siblings and children and resulted in no matches, his doctors advised him and his family to explore all possible options. As a result, they are encouraging as many people with a similar genetic background (Eastern European Jewish descent) to get tested for compatibility in hopes that someone will be able to donate bone marrow for a transplant.

The following is an excerpt from Susan Brecker’s letter:

There are some important points to understand concerning this process:

  1. The screening involves a blood test only. It can be done very quickly either at a marrow donation center or at a local lab. The cost is anywhere from $40 to $75 and your insurance may cover it. (In New York City, you can call Frazier, at the NY Blood Bank, at (212) 570-3441, and make an appointment for HLA typing. It costs $40.) Check with your local blood bank, or go to to find the donor center nearest you.
  2. Your blood typing information can be posted on the international registry, if you choose, where it would also be available to others in need of a transplant. Being on the registry doesn’t mean you have to donate, it just means that you may be asked to do so. You can take your name off the registry at any time.
  3. Should you be selected as a potential donor for Michael, please understand that there have been tremendous advances in bone marrow transplants and the term itself can be misleading. Bone marrow donation is no more invasive than giving blood. Stem cells are simply harvested from your blood and then transplanted to Michael.
  4. A match for Michael would be most likely to come from those of Eastern European Jewish descent. If you or anyone you know are in this category please make a special effort to immediately get tested. Ultimately, you would be doing something not just for Michael, but for so many more who are in a similar situation as my husband.
  5. You are now part of our internet-based drive for donor testing. If everyone who receives this can motivate a bunch of their friends to get tested, and those friends then forward this email to get their friends to get tested, we will have rapidly expanded the pool of potential donors. I urge all of you to get tested as soon as possible.

Any local blood center/Red Cross center can assist in organizing a drive for Michael, although it would be desirable if you can get a large group, e.g. a synagogue, to sponsor it. Should you have any questions about this, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with Michael’s management office at (212) 302.9200 or [email protected]

Originally Published