After months of battling courts and the U.S, government, Garden Grove resident Helen Huynh recently received a stem cell treatment at City of Hope Hospital in Duarte, California. Yvonne Murray, Helen’s daughter, waited in agony for months as her mother’s condition worsened. The Huynh family knew their mother needed a stem cell transplant for any chance at survival and they had already found a 100% match, Helen’s sister Thuy who lives in Vietnam.

The Huynhs had a shot, but there they had one more problem to deal with – the US government, who wouldn’t grant a visa to Huynh’s sister to visit the country for the transplant procedure. The reason the government gave the Hunyhs is that they didn’t believe Thuy would go back to Vietnam once her visa had expired. The Huynh family are American citizens, but sister Thuy is not.

The Huynhs, City of Hope Hospital, and the UCI Medical Center all wrote letters on behalf of their cause, but their pleas were largely ignored until a local news story tipped off California junior Senator Kamala Harris. California Representative Alan Lowenthal also joined the cause after at first telling the Huynhs nothing could be done. Two weeks later after the news story was published Thuy was granted permission to come to the U.S. for the donation.

After weeks of tests and preparation, the donation took place. “I’m just so overjoyed. I’m trying hard to hold back my tears right now. We’re really, really overjoyed. I can’t believe this is happening,” Yvonne said. There is no guarantee that the stem cell donation will cure Helen’s cancer, but the reunion of the sisters and the successful donation give them hope. “When you’re fighting against time, when you’re fighting cancer, it feels like forever. So she’s very happy. She’s very excited. Now it’s really up to God,” said Yvonne on her mother.

Kenneth PettineOther Progress in Stem Cell Research

The government may have been a hindrance for the Huynh family, but the U.S. government, particularly the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is an ally in stem cell research. Kenneth Pettine MD (retired) has conducted several FDA-led studies in the use of mesenchymal stem cells for treatment in several chronic conditions. Though stem cell treatments are heavily regulated and slow-moving in their research, teams like Pettine’s are getting down to business with the help and oversight of the FDA.

Read more on Kenneth Pettine at Kenneth


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