Vietnamese community rallies to help Montreal mother find bone marrow donor

WATCH ABOVE: Montreal’s Vietnamese community is rallying around one of their own who desperately needs a bone marrow transplant. The Montreal woman’s case has brought up issues across the world. Rachel Lau reports.

MONTREAL – Mai Duong is living a happy life with her loving husband and adorable four-year-old daughter.

She’s also living in isolation in a small hospital room because she has leukemia for the second time in less than two years.

“I can’t believe that this is happening again,” she said when Global News met with her in her hospital room.

“I thought this was . . . I thought this was over. I thought my cancer was over.”

Mai needs a bone marrow transplant, but of the 16 million donors around the world, only one per cent of the international donor bank is of Asian origin.

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READ MORE: The possible alternatives to bone marrow transplant

“The vast majority of donors come from European descent, so they are Caucasian,” said Silvy Lachance, the Director of the Stem Cell Program at Hôpital Maisonneuve-Rosemont.

“So there is minority of Asian or coming from other ethnic minorities.”

What many people don’t realize is the donor has to come from the same ethnicity as the recipient.

“She needs a 10 on 10 match, which is even harder because the odds are really, really low to get such a perfect match,” said Huy Duong, Mai’s cousin.

In Mai’s case, that’s nine Vietnamese cells and one Filipino cell.

“Right now she’s on the international list and everyone’s looking for a match, here, in the United States, or out in Asia and right now there’s none,” said Huy.

WATCH: Mai’s special message to everyone who is helping her

Across Montreal, the Vietnamese community has rallied, creating posters and this Facebook page to help Mai find her much needed donor.

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“We’ve given out about maybe 500 to 600 kits right now and we don’t have a match yet,” said Huy.

“We’re still searching for someone.”

The kit is available through Héma-Québec.

It allows people who think they might be compatible donors to take the DNA swab test at home.

“We get messages everyday from all sorts of countries, people from all over the world basically asking how they can help, what they can do,” said Vlad Stesin, Mai’s husband.

WATCH: Doctor Silvy Lachance explains the alternatives to bone marrow transplant

Despite her situation, Mai remains one of the most optimistic people in this hospital.

“In my little cell here, I see that everybody is trying to help,” she said.

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“I see that my community is trying to push boundaries.”

Since she’s in isolation, Mai hasn’t been able to hold her daughter, Alice, in weeks.

“We do a lot of Facetime, Skyping and things like that,” said her husband.

“We take our breakfast together, we do bath time together, she tells a story on Facetime as well, on the computer, so that’s kind of the way we cope for now.”

Mai has only one or two months left to find a donor, but she and her family aren’t quite ready to give up the fight just yet.

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