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Remembering Sara LeBien

January 22, 2018

It is with great sadness that the Immune Deficiency Foundation (IDF) shares the news that Sara LeBien died January 14, 2018.

Sara and her husband Bob were integral in the founding of IDF. They, like the other families and physicians involved in the early days, saw the need for a national organization dedicated to improving the diagnosis and treatment of people with primary immunodeficiency diseases (PI) after their son Mike was diagnosed.

Sara wrote IDF’s popular illustrated book, Our Immune System. She was inspired to write the publication in the mid 1980’s when she accompanied her husband Bob from California to the IDF Board of Trustees meeting in Baltimore. The first edition of the Patient and Family Handbook on Primary Immunodeficiency Diseases was presented, and the board members were thrilled with finally having a comprehensive resource book for the PI community. Although Sara was delighted with the Handbook, as a mother of a son with PI and a primary school teacher, she couldn’t help but think, “What about the children?” It was a long flight from Baltimore to southern California, and Sara is not the kind of person to waste time. She started writing a story about how the immune system works and what happens when there is a PI.


“I wanted a story for very small children and didn’t want it to be too medical or scary. I wanted to create a story that children could easily understand and relate to.” Sara laughed, “While on the plane, I even started sketching little medical pictures and the woman sitting next to me wanted to know if I was a doctor!”

Sara’s beginning efforts resulted in the first edition of Our Immune System in 1990, and in 2008 she helped update the second edition. Our Immune System is a simple story of how the immune system works and the treatments necessary for children with PI. Through delightful illustrations, the story is told by friendly characters in the immune system — B-cells, T-cells, and even phagocytes. Reviewed by physicians, teachers, nurses, psychologists, and parents, hundreds of thousands of copies have been distributed; in fact, it continues to be the most requested publication from IDF. In demand worldwide, IDF has given permission to have it translated into more than a dozen languages.

Sara leaves a legacy that has forever changed how people learn about PI, and she will be fondly remembered for her tremendous dedication and kind spirit. IDF extends our deepest sympathy to Bob and all of Sara’s family and friends. 

Official Obituary

After a long battle with a rare neurological disease, Sara LeBien died peacefully in her home Sunday night (Jan. 14). Her husband, Bob, son Mark and daughter-in-law Lori were at her side.

Born Sara Jane Spradling on November 21, 1933, she was the daughter of George Carroll Spradling and Dorothy Jenkins Spradling. Her older brother was the late George “Sprad” Spradling of Indianapolis.

Sara was born in Marion, Indiana, and grew up in Indianapolis. She was a graduate of Howe High School and Butler University, and was a member of Kappa Alpha Theta. She remained active in Theta alumni activities for many years, volunteering as an advisor and archivist.

She married Robert Frank LeBien of Indianapolis in 1957. She was the mother of Mark Darrell LeBien of Atlanta, Georgia, and Michael Robert LeBien of Carlsbad, California, who died in 2015.

Sara was a primary school teacher in Indianapolis; in Killeen, Texas while her husband served in the U.S. Army; and in the Bloomington area while her husband attended graduate school at Indiana University. The latter teaching job was at a two-room schoolhouse that later became Marlin Elementary School.

Bob and Sara moved to the Los Angeles area in the early 1960s. For 30 years she did volunteer work at schools, museums, churches, Meals on Wheels, the 1984 Summer Olympics and the Los Angeles Native American Center.

She was a docent at Los Angeles County art and history museums and the UCLA Museum of Cultural History. She wrote a guidebook, Museums of Southern California, which was published in 1988.

In the early 1990s Bob and Sara moved back to Indiana, settling in Bloomington. Sara was a docent at the Indiana University Art Museum and served on its national advisory board. She tutored in America Reads programs at Bloomington elementary schools, and did volunteer work at the Bloomington Hospital Children’s Therapy Clinic and at Middle Way House, including its Rise! project. She also was involved in P.E.O. International and the Nineteenth Century Club.

Bob and Sara were involved in the founding of the Immune Deficiency Foundation (IDF), based in Towson, Maryland. They saw the need for a national organization dedicated to improving the diagnosis and treatment of persons with primary immunodeficiency diseases after their son Mike was diagnosed. Sara wrote an illustrated booklet, Our Immune System, which was published by the IDF and has been translated into more than a dozen languages and distributed around the world.

Preparing books for her family members was one of Sara’s delights. She assembled three volumes of family history, and she enjoyed making scrapbooks and picture books for her grandchildren.

Sara is survived by her husband, Bob, her son Mark, two daughters in law and five grandchildren.

Private family services are being conducted by Allen Funeral Home and Crematory 4155 South Old State Road 37. A public Gathering to Celebrate Sara’s Life will be held at a later date.

Memorial contributions may be made in Sara's honor to the Immune Deficiency Foundation 110 West Road Suite 300 Towson, MD 21204

Online condolences, photos and memories may be shared with family and friends at To send flowers or a memorial gift to the family of Sara Jane LeBien please visit our Sympathy Store.

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