Katie Trebing, 6, bounced around the playroom at Schneider Children's Hospital in New Hyde Park yesterday practicing her "Surprise!" for the imminent arrival of the Bell family -- and the crew of ABC-TV's " Extreme Makeover: Home Edition."
The Trebings of Nesconset had met the Bells of Tucson, Ariz., only twice before. But theirs is something of a blood bond.
Lizzie Bell, 14, is among only about 1,000 people in the United States and Canada with the rare blood disorder Diamond Blackfan anemia. People with the condition can't make red blood cells that carry oxygen to the body's organs. Monthly blood transfusions keep them alive.
Katie was born with the condition but was cured after the Trebings had another child, Christopher, who was able to donate the bone marrow that cured Katie.
The Trebings and Bells were among about 40 families affected by DBA to attend Camp Sunshine in Maine in 2004. For Stacy Trebing, Katie's mother, the meeting provided a glimpse of what could have been. "I was able to look at Lizzie and understand what life would be like for my daughter," she said.
Lizzie Bell's condition -- and her efforts advocating for blood donations -- were among the reasons the family was chosen for "Extreme Makeover." While the show's crew rebuilds the family's home, the Bells were sent on a New York City vacation.
They visited New York before but slept at the Ronald McDonald House and spent most of the time at Schneider, where Dr. Jeffrey Lipton, chief of pediatric hematology/oncology and stem cell transplantation, keeps a DBA registry. In contrast, the "Extreme Makeover" trip included Broadway shows and a trip to the top of the Empire State Building. Nights were spent at the Waldorf- Astoria.
And unknown to Lizzie, ABC set up 10 simultaneous blood drives across the country in her honor and arranged yesterday's reunion at Schneider of about 10 families with children affected by the disorder. "We weren't expecting that!" she said.
Among the visiting families were Patrick Ottati, 40, of Hampton Bays, and his daughter, Elizabeth, 10, whose DBA is in remission. He said he hoped the excitement of the show provided the Bells a respite from the sometimes "depressing" condition. "For them to forget about everything," Ottati said, "it's awesome."
Lizzie's mother, Kathleen Bell, called the group of about 30 people "our other family." She said the Trebings, with whom she kept in touch in the years between camp, were "pioneers."
"They had to tackle a very specific aspect of the disease," she said.
The Trebings were the subject in 2007 of a five-day Newsday series chronicling their quest to cure Katie, who no longer needs monthly blood transfusions.
Yesterday, Katie said she was happy for Lizzie. "We have lots of fun," Katie said. "I was excited that she was going to get a new house."