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NJ Lawmaker Asks Soviets for Help With Bone-Marrow Surgery

June 12, 1986

WASHINGTON (AP) _ A frustrated New Jersey congressman says Soviet officials won’t help an Israeli man get the same ″life or death″ bone-marrow transplant that volunteer American doctors performed on Russian nuclear accident victims.

Rep. Robert G. Torricelli, D-N.J., said Wednesday he’s angered that the Soviets have yet to grant a temporary visa to the sister of a 30-year-old leukemia victim

Michael Shirman, a Soviet emigree living in Reshon Letzion, Israel, suffers from the fatal blood disease, for which the bone-marrow surgery is the only known cure.

Dr. Kenneth Prager, an Englewood, N.J., physician who brought the case to Torricelli’s attention, said the marrow of Shirman’s sister is needed to ensure success in the tricky operation. Bone marrow from a relative is less likely to be rejected by Shirman’s body.

Prager, a pulmonary specialist, learned of Shirman’s plight on a vacation to Russia.

Torricelli said he can’t believe the Soviets will reject helping with the same life-saving technology they sought for their citizens injured by the damaged Chernobyl nuclear reactor.

Responding to Soviet calls after the April 26 accident, an international team of doctors led by Dr. Richard Gale of California performed more than 19 marrow transplants on Chernobyl victims.

″I think the world has been generous. What we ask is much more modest,″ Torricelli said.

With a successful transplant, Shirman stands a 70 percent chance of a total cure, Prager said.

″It’s a life or death situation. He could be dead next week,″ the doctor warned.

Torricelli said he has repeatedly contacted Soviet diplomats in Washington, hoping to get a temporary visa for Shirman’s sister, Flerova Inessa Josiphovma of Moscow. So far, the Soviets have not been helpful, he said.

Torricelli said he has received no reponse from his letter to Oleg Sokolov, charges d’affairs at the Soviet Embassy. In the letter, dated May 12, Torricelli warned that Shirman ″at most ... has another one or two months left″ for the operation.

Prager said the marrow transplant can only be done while Shirman’s leukemia is in remission and doctors in Israel have no way to know when Shirman will have a relapse.

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