When Yvonne AiVan Murray’s mother was diagnosed with cancer on Valentine’s Day, she was devastated.
Her mom, Vietnam native Helen Huynh, was told she had myeloid leukemia, a cancer that affects a person’s bone marrow. According to The Washington Post, however, her doctors at the University of California, Irvine Medical Center remained positive they could effectively treat Huynh’s disease.
After months of grueling chemotherapy and days-long stints in the hospital, she was then told her treatment would require a stem cell transplant. The operation called for a match within 70 percent of Huynh’s genetics.Helping Helen Huynh/GoFundMe
The family turned to her sisters.
After testing their genetic compatibility, the family received the first bout of good news in a while: Huynh’s youngest sister, Thuy Nguyen, who still lives in Vietnam, turned out to be a 100 percent match.
Murray told The Washington Post:
“We were all like, ‘Hallelujah! All we have to do is fly her here.'”
She continued, warning:
“And that’s when everything fell apart.”
According to Murray, her aunt has now applied for a travel visa to undergo the procedure in the U.S., but so far, every application has been denied by the U.S. government.
Her family — who are all U.S. citizens — has maintained it’s a matter of life and death, but still, they’ve had no luck getting a visa approval. Murray said:
“We feel betrayed. We feel like we’re doing everything we can, we can show that we are Americans, yet there is only one thing preventing us from getting the stem cell transplant, and that’s the U.S. government.”
When describing her mother, Murray told The Washington Post she’s the most generous woman, even when she doesn’t necessarily have anything to give:
“She is such a generous person. She would always make sure everyone was fed, even when we didn’t have a lot. There was no question.”
She shared that up until her mom’s diagnosis and aggressive treatment, she’s taken care of her youngest sister, Tiffany, who was born with Down syndrome.
Despite her giving nature, she might not be able to continue if she isn’t given one thing herself: a stem cell transplant. Judging by her sister’s luck with a visa approval thus far, she may not ever receive it.
Murray told The Washington Post the government’s main reason for repeatedly declining her aunt’s request for a travel visa was because she’s never left Vietnam, reportedly leaving them with insufficient evidence that Nguyen would leave the U.S. upon her visa’s expiration.
Basically, because she’s never been to another country in order to then return to Vietnam, the U.S. government views that as a sign she would not return to Vietnam if she ever did leave.GoFundMe
Murray, on the other hand, says otherwise:
“It’s stupid. They are looking at you and want to see you went out of your country and came back. But in my aunt’s case, she’s had no interest in visiting other countries.”
She continued, explaining that her aunt not only owned businesses in Vietnam, but she also had a family there:
“She’s not poor, but that’s the mentality that these interviewers have: If you are from a less developed country, you won’t leave.”
The Washington Post obtained one of Nguyen’s denial letters from the U.S. consulate in Vietnam. It read, in part:
Regrettably, Ms. Nguyen was unable to establish to the satisfaction of the interviewing officer that her employment, financial and family situation in Vietnam constituted sufficient ties to compel her to depart the United States.
Even Huynh’s medical team has reached out and urged the U.S. government to reconsider. Per The Washington Post, in August, a physician from the University of California, Irvine Medical Center wrote:
This patient will benefit from a life-saving procedure utilizing stem cells. For humanitarian reasons, we are requesting the patient’s sister … be granted a Temporary Visa to enter the United States so that she can assist in donating her stem cells to save our patient’s life.
While similarly, another doctor from the City of Hope Medical Center wrote:
“This is a very urgent matter. Time is of the essence.”
Now, the family has hired an immigration lawyer to file what The Washington Post described as “a Hail Mary petition for emergency entry into the country,” but Murray said the damage has already been done:
“Honestly, at this point, we’re so frustrated. If my aunt was approved the first time, my mom would be well.”
The family has since created a GoFundMe page to cover legal and medical fees for Huynh, however, sadly, it also asks for donations to cover a “funeral arrangement for Helen Huynh.”