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Leukemia Patient Looks for Donors at Religious Celebration

Thousands of Vietnamese Roman Catholics will gather in Carthage, Missouri this week to honor the Virgin Mary at a celebration called Marian Days. But one Vietnamese doctor is attending Marian Days to try and find a bone marrow donor to help her survive a rare blood cancer. KSMU’s Kristian Kriner reports.

Dr. Anh Reiss is an OB/GYN and mother of two from Houston, Texas, who was diagnosed with Myelodysplastic Syndrome, or MDS, in February.

MDS is a rare form of Leukemia that can only be helped with stem cell or bone marrow donations.

Reiss says she needs a stem cell donation from someone who is Vietnamese, because it’s easier to find a match with someone who is of the same ethnicity.

She says her friends and family created “Team Anh” to recruit Vietnamese people at Marian Days to donate their bone marrow.

“We are also taking this opportunity with anticipation of 50 to 60,000 Vietnamese people congregating in one small localized area to do a large bone marrow drive to help patients with blood cancers find a match for potentially a cure to their disease,” Reiss said.

Reiss says there are seven million donors around the world and only 15,000 of them are Vietnamese, so it makes it hard to find an exact match.She says there are very few Vietnamese registered donors, partly because most members of the community are unaware that the program exists, and partly because they just don't know that there is a need for donors.

Reiss says most people are scared to donate, because they think it will hurt.

But she adds that the registry process is completely painless, and the donation process is only slightly painful.

“The donation process is most of the time just like a blood draw. It’s practically painless and is an opportunity to save someone’s life. Saving one person’s life is saving a family. Saving a brother, a sister, a mom, a daughter, I mean it’s an amazing opportunity to do something good for your community and fellow man,” Reiss said.

Reiss and members of “Team Anh” will be at Marian Days during the celebration August 5th-9th.

Marian Days not only focuses on religious traditions, but also Vietnamese culture.

For more information on “Team Anh,” click on the below link:

For KSMU News, I’m Kristian Kriner.