Back in the late 1970s, when I first learned I had a fatal bone marrow disease called aplastic anemia, I had no idea that CBRI would play an essential role in my cure. My bone marrow had stopped producing sufficient quantities of red, white, and platelet cells. Short of breath, I avoided climbing stairs. I suffered a deep tiredness and isolated myself at home to circumvent infections.

During this time I learned that Edwin J. Cohn, who founded CBRI in 1953, had contributed to the discovery of blood groupings and advancements in blood transfusion. As I sat in my doctor's office, I realized how the pursuit of ideas had turned into clinical products that now gave me comfort and hope.

Still, I had few options for surviving. I could wait for a spontaneous recovery, a 15 percent chance at best, or I could opt for a bone marrow transplant--a highly experimental procedure at the time with its 50/50 chance for success.

As it turned out, I had miraculous good fortune: in the winter of 1979, my 17-year old brother Frank donated his bone marrow and gave me back my life. I received numerous transfusions the first week following my transplant. Those bags of blood products enabled me to taste the future again.

A year later, I went to graduate school. Soon I met my husband and eventually we adopted our son. In the past two decades I've traveled across Europe, lived a year in Hungary, and published a book. None of this would have been possible without the inventive drive of basic research.

Medicine has undergone great change. Twenty-three years since my transplant, patients today benefit from treatments that had not been available to me - new chemotherapies, enhanced supportive care, and improved antibiotics. Every one of these advances had been borne out of the nesting grounds of research labs.

When I look back, I am grateful to CBRI, to the whole process of investigative research and discovery which--let's face it--enabled me to write this story. During one visit to CBRI's labs, I watched a video of cells moving through a network of capillaries. I might as well have been looking at a picture of Earth from a hovering space ship. And though I know there are many more questions to answer, I also saw how very far, indeed, we have come.

Jessica Brilliant Keener is the co-author of "Time to Make the Donuts" and a frequent contributor to the Boston Globe Magazine. She is a board member of the Aplastic Anemia and MDS International Fdn, New England Chapter.