Bone marrow donors back out, woman dies

November 16, 2010 2:23:51 PM PST
A Long Island woman died waiting for a bone marrow transplant as several of her matches backed out of the process.

Brian Lindenberg is trying to hold it together, as he goes about his business in a car dealer's parts department.

But, beneath the surface, he's in so much pain.

"It was terrible in the end knowing that help was out there. This didn't have to happen. Someone didn't do their part and follow through," Lindenberg said.

He didn't have to lose his wife, Penny.

His two daughters didn't have to lose their mom.

But, over the past 15 months, as she fought Leukemia, four would-be donors turned their backs and denied her the bone marrow transplant that could have saved her life.

"Nobody gave her a chance to see her daughters graduate, to be with her husband for 50 years, just to grow old together. Nobody gave her that chance," Sherry Herrick said.

Sherry and Chris Herrick are the Lindenberg's best friends.

They watched Penny suffer through Chemotherapy and the agonizing wait for word.

One after another, Penny got the good news there was a match from an anonymous donor, somewhere in the country.

But each time, that person backed out.

"To walk away? To close the door and forget about it? You better hope it doesn't happen to you. Because something's going to come back. Everything comes around," Chris Herrick said.

In a video from the Mayo Clinic, you can see donors don't actually give bone marrow anymore, rather stem cells, which are harvested by a special machine, which draws blood.

Nationwide, almost 50% of donors who register, and swab their cheeks at bone marrow drives, wind up changing their minds if they have a match.

Experts say there's a perception that the process hurts too much.

"We're trying to change that by getting the word out how important it is not only to get on the registry, but how simple it is to be a donor and how important it is to go through if you get that call," Lindenberg said.

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