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Yale Hockey Star Seeks Marrow Donor

CBS News Medical Correspondent Dr. Jennifer Ashton shares an inspiring story of an athlete struggling to survive and a community that has come together in an effort to save her life.

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As a star hockey player Mandi Schwartz was almost unbeatable on the ice. But today she's fighting a new and much more aggressive opponent.

Hockey is and always has been almost everything to 22-year-old Mandi Schwartz. She's been skating for nearly as long as she could walk.

"We had her in figure skating first. Dance and figure skating, the things you think your daughter would be interested in," Mandi's mom said. "She's the one who suggested we put her in hockey like her brothers, so we did and she just loved it."

Mandi spent years on the ice -- and in 2006 her passion and pure talent eventually transported her to the courtyards of the Ivy League. As a forward on Yale University's hockey team, she was known for her determination and hard work. But during her junior year, teammates and coaches started to notice something was off.

"It was prior to a game that she told me the Saturday after our Friday game. 'Bray, I feel really tired, are you really tired today?'" said her friend, Bray Ketchum.

She couldn't get from one side of the ice to the other without being tired
with an unexplained lack of energy, Mandi went for tests in December of 2008.

"She called me from the doctor's office and said, 'I have leukemia.' I almost fell off my chair," her friend added.

She was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia.

"I was short of breath because my hemoglobin was really low. My bones were sore because there was so much cancer in them," Mandi said.

Mandi's cancer was so advanced she flew home the next day to start chemotherapy. Her teammates and the Yale community rallied around her.

"It's amazing that they're working so hard to spread the word," Mandi said.

More than 1,600 Yale students have had their cheeks swabbed to see if they might be a match for a bone marrow donation.

But Mandi's best chance of a match is actually in the blood from an umbilical cord. The immature blood is rich in stem cells and has a higher chance of working. So through Facebook and mass mailings, tens of thousands of people in the hockey world are spreading the word to expectant mothers to help find Mandi the perfect match.

"It's just a waiting game and hoping someone will sign up to the registry that will be a match," Mandi said.

If a perfect match isn't found soon, Mandi will undergo a transplant with an imperfect match, which could prove fatal.

Back at Yale, Mandi's uniform still hangs in her locker -- a symbol to her teammates that she has every intention of returning.

"For me I just take it one day at a time. I don't really worry too much into the future; I just hope everything will fall into place," Mandi said.

There are almost 250,000 people in the U.S. with leukemia and it's the most common cancer affecting children.

For more information on cord blood donation, visit
Be the Match, and to learn how you can help Mandi, visit her Facebook page here.