UPDATE: After searching for more than two months for a bone marrow donor, Montreal leukemia patient Mai Duong has found a compatible cord blood donor. It’s not the perfect solution, but doctors say it’s the next best thing.
It is not being released where the donor came from.
“A woman has given birth to her child and has donated her baby’s umbilical cord to save another life,” said Duong in a statement.
“Thank you dear mommy, we cannot fathom the importance of your gesture. I am very moved and I profoundly thank you for what you’ve done.”
VANCOUVER — Mai Duong, 34, only has six weeks left to get a life-saving stem cell or bone marrow transplant — and she’s pleading with the Lower Mainland’s Asian population to save her.
The mother of one was born and raised in Montreal. She’s had good health for most of her life, until she was diagnosed with leukemia in January 2013, while pregnant with her second child. Doctors told her she had to terminate the pregnancy — she was at 15 weeks — and start chemotherapy immediately.
Duong went into remission, but ten months later the cancer was back. And this time it was more aggressive and chemotherapy wouldn’t work, she was told. Instead, she needed stem cells or a bone marrow transplant.
“Even though I’m on the international registry list for donors, I did not have a match for the bone marrow. I was devastated when they told me that,” she told Global News.
It turns out the problem of finding a match, and a perfect one at that, is more common among those of Asian descent. In 2012, 2-year-old Jeremy Kong of San Francisco was diagnosed with leukemia and couldn’t find a match until he went public. After doing so, he found a nine out of ten bone marrow donor match and underwent a transplant, but died a year later. Experts say Vietnamese, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Filipino and other South Asian populations are behind Caucasians when it comes to donating blood and organs.
“We’re severely underrepresented in the international list. So it’s not even a local or a national problem; it’s a global problem,” said Duong.
Duong is turning to Vancouver because of its large Asian population, and urging people to get tested. She needs a donor of Vietnamese or Filipino descent for a perfect match, and she needs to find them within six weeks or it’s unlikely she’ll survive.
–With files from Darlene Heidemann.