Today’s news:

B’way star from Bellerose undergoes blood transplant

An 11-year-old Bellerose girl who starred in the Broadway hit “The Lion King” as the young Nala underwent a successful umbilical cord blood transplant last week to treat her leukemia, a family friend said.

Shannon Tavarez was a cast member of the Broadway musical before she was stricken with the disease and had the operation last week at the Steven and Alexandra Cohen Children’s Medical Center in New Hyde Park, L.I.

The hospital was formerly known as Schneider Children’s Hospital.

“Shannon’s procedure went well,” said Nahdi Mukomana, a family friend of the girl. “Her spirits are very high and we are faithful the transplant will cure her leukemia.”

A spokeswoman for Disney, which made “The Lion King” movie and brought the film to Broadway, said Shannon’s family denied interview requests.

Mukomana said the transplant took 15 minutes and is similar to a blood transfusion.

Doctors at the hospital are keeping a “very watchful eye” on Shannon because she could develop complications from the transplant, although there are no indications of any problems, Mukomana said.

In Shannon’s procedure, umbilical cord blood was used because it is rich in embryonic-like stem cells that are capable of transforming into any type of cell in the body, including the healthy blood cells that she needs.

The umbilical cord blood operation was performed because Shannon’s family has had difficulty in finding a bone marrow match for her.

Christina Santucci contributed to this story.

Reach reporter Howard Koplowitz by e-mail at hkoplowitz@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4573.

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