Actress gets transplant to help save her life

By Queens Courier Staff |

Eleven-year-old actress Shannon Tavarez from Bellerose, who starred in Broadway’s “The Lion King,” got a much needed, life-saving blood transplant.

On Tuesday, August 17, her doctors performed an umbilical-cord blood transplant at Cohen Children’s Medical Center in New Hyde Park, L.I. The 15-minute procedure is similar to a blood transfusion.

“She is in good spirits and is doing well,” said Nahdi Mukomana, a close friend of Shannon’s mom Odiney Brown. “The doctors are monitoring her closely and feel positive that the new cells will engraft and will be accepted by her body. Rejection of the new cells could cause very serious complications.”

Tavarez played the part of the lion cub Young Nala for just over six months until she got sick in March and was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia. Since then, the focus was to find a bone marrow match for Tavarez. But that has proven to be difficult task even with all the donor drives because her mom is African-American and her dad is Hispanic. Both groups are underrepresented in donor registries and finding donors from Tavarez’ race and ethnicity are key factors in finding a match.

“Her Mom is staying focused on her daughter and is taking some private time to devote as much attention to her as possible,” Mukomana said.

The doctors will likely know how successful the transplant was in a few weeks.

Umbilical cord blood transplants are far easier to match than bone marrow, but there are fewer cells available since people don’t realize that cord blood can be donated.

For more information about how to donate cord blood, please visit: