California Congresswoman Fighting For Legislation That Could Have Prevented Husband's Death

A California Congressman is fighting for research that could have prevented her husband's death.

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Doris Matsui

Throughout the long political career of her husband, who served 14 consecutive terms as a California congressman, Doris Matsui donned increasingly more important hats: housewife, socialite, Clinton campaign volunteer, then public liason in the White House.

And when Bob Matsui died in 2005 just days after he entered the hospital with pneumonia, Doris took on that role too—replacing her husband as the representative for California's 5th congressional district.

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Bob Matsui's pneumonia was a complication from Myelodysplastic syndrome, a stem cell disorder that is rare, not very well understood and affects 12,000-15,000 people a year, according to the MDS-focused foundation AAMDS.

Rep. Matsui tells Whispers she thinks she can work with Congress to change that, and that she is renewing her push for legislation around increased MDS research. In 2010, Matsui co-authored the reauthorization of the Stem Cell Research and Therapeutic Act, which extended funding for programs that provide through 2015.

With new attention on MDS— ABC anchor Robin Roberts recently announced she has the disease, and filmmaker Nora Ephron suffered from it, too—Matsui's renewed efforts may be well-received.

On Wednesday, the congresswoman is meeting in Washington with a group of people suffering from the disease to hear their stories.

"We don't have a handle on how many people are affected by the disease, or what exactly causes it," Matsui told Whispers. "There must be something we can do."

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  • Elizabeth Flock is a staff writer for U.S. News & World Report. You can contact her at or follow her on Twitter and Facebook.