BREAKING: Cancer Patient’s Sister Granted Humanitarian Travel Visa to Donate Stem Cells | #SaveHelen

The Huynh family, including Helen Huynh (center, red shirt). (Photo credit: GoFundMe)

Last week, I wrote about the story of acute myeloid leukemia patient Helen Huynh whose sister — a rare perfect stem cell match for Huynh — was repeatedly denied a temporary travel visa by US Department of Citizenship and Immigraion Services (USCIS) to visit the United States from her home in Vietnam so that she could donate her stem cells to save her sister’s life. The Asian American community has been outraged by USCIS’ inexplicable decision to deny Thuy Nguyen permission to travel to the United States, and as the family struggled to apply for emergency humanitarian parole for Nguyen — a move described by the family’s lawyers as a “hail mary” pass — Huynh’s life hung in the balance.

In an effort to help Huynh, Advancing Justice – Los Angeles and Advancing Justice – Orange County launched a sign-on letter and petition that garnered support from 1,100 community members and over 90 organizations, demanding that USCIS intervene to save Helen Huynh’s life. In addition, the Huynh family reached out to numerous elected officials including Senator Kamala Harris, Congressman J. Luis Correa, and Congressman Alan Lowenthal.

Now, Advancing Justice-LA has announced that these and other community efforts appear to have worked: USCIS has decided to grant humanitarian parole to allow Thuy Nguyen to travel to the United States and donate her stem cells to her sister.

From the press statement:

“My family is so relieved that my aunt Thuy will now be able to enter the United States. This is half the battle — now we can finally focus on fighting the cancer,” said Ai-Van Murray, one of Helen Huynh’s daughters.

Advancing Justice-LA reminds community members that although Huynh’s family can now focus on getting Helen Huynh the stem cell transplant she needs, the vast majority of Asian American cancer patients who need stem cell donations are not fortunate enough to find a match among their family members. Instead, approximately 70% of leukemia patients must rely on unrelated donors listed in the national bone marrow registry; and because people of colour are profoundly underrepresented among registered donors, patients of colour are far less likely than White patients to be able to find a stem cell donor.

Asian Americans must continue to push for more folks from our community to register as stem cell and bone marrow donors. I’m registered; please join me in becoming a registered donor by checking out groups like Asians for Miracle Marrow Matches.

Also, please continue to donate to the Huynh family’s GoFundMe, which is still raising money to help offset attorney fees and help support caregiving costs for Helen Huynh and other family members.

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