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Cancer-Stricken Boy Once Refused Help By N.H. Dies

January 31, 1991

SAUGUS, Mass. (AP) _ Jason Vitale, whose battle with leukemia provoked an outpouring of sympathy when New Hampshire refused to help fund a life-saving bone-marrow transplant, has died at home a week before his 12th birthday.

″He didn’t suffer,″ his mother, Martha Vitale, said after his death at home early Wednesday. ″He gave me a big hug and he tried to kiss me.″

When Vitale was diagnosed with leukemia at age 5 the White House agreed to pay half the $250,000 cost of a bone-marrow transplant.

The youth then lived in Derry, N.H., and state officials refused to pay for the rest of the transplant because he didn’t come from a broken home or qualify for Medicaid. New Hampshire since has changed its policy.

Private donations brought in $70,000 for the transplant and an anonymous businessman from Danville, N.H., offered to pay the rest.

Vitale received a second transplant in California in 1985, with his 1-year- old sister, Mary Ellen, as the donor.

Although given only a 30 percent chance of survival, he recovered his health until the cancer returned in 1987. With surgery and chemotherapy, he again beat back the disease, and was to have ended three years of chemotherapy treatments last month.

But on Dec. 17 doctors detected a new, more severe strain of leukemia in his blood. It was untreatable. Vitale left a hospital on Jan. 19.

The fifth-grader at Oaklandvale School in Saugus said recently he did not fear death.

″I feel that a job that was meant to be done has been finished,″ he said. ″I was put here to catch leukemia to strengthen these people and help them.″

To the people who helped or encouraged him, he said: ″I will never forget how much you cared. Thank you and may you have the same love for other sick children.″

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