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L.I. Woman Dies After Marrow Donors Refuse To Show

Family Upset After DNA Matches Decline Chance To Save Life
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Hospital Bed (credit: CBS 2)

Hospital Bed (credit: CBS 2)

Tony Aiello thumbnail Tony Aiello
Tony Aiello serves as a CBS 2 general assignment reporter. After...
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SMITHTOWN, N.Y. (CBS 2/ WCBS 880) — There is heartbreak for a Long Island father. His wife died after four bone marrow “matches” declined to donate.

As CBS 2’s Tony Aiello reports, the man now wonders if they were more interested in helping a young girl than helping his wife.

It’s a hopeful scene whenever people turn out for a DNA swabbing to see if they qualify to donate bone marrow.

But as Brian Lindenberg learned, hope can be crushed when DNA matches decline to donate.

“Now I have two girls at home without a mother, and lots of lives are ruined,” Lindenberg said.

Listen: WCBS 880′s Mike Xirinachs reports.


Lindenberg said it’s hard not to be bitter after his wife Penny’s battle with leukemia ended three weeks ago. The bone marrow donor program matched her with four possible donors. Some of them were identified through drives held to support Shannon Tavarez, a young Broadway actress.

But all four of Lindenberg’s matches said “no” to actual donation, and she died without receiving a bone marrow transplant.

“That was a big concern, that if someone wasn’t going to be able to help the little girl, they might not want to get involved,” Lindenberg said.

Lindenberg said he also fears matches were turned off by bone marrow donation’s reputation for being painful. It used to, but new techniques make it much less so.

Nationwide, 47 percent who are matched as bone marrow donors eventually decide not to donate. A few cite medical concerns, but 15 percent said they’re simply “not interested” in donating any longer.

The national registry said it’s working to better educate potential matches.

“We emphasize and stress the commitment that when they join the registry they are joining for any patient that might need a match,” the registry’s Mary Halet said.

“I want them to know, they’re signing up to help anyone, someone in need,” Lindenberg said.

Lindenberg said he’s going public to spread that message and honor Penny’s memory.

More than 10,000 people were screened in bone marrow drives for Tavarez, but no match for her turned up. She died last week and was buried Monday.

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