National Taiwan University Hospital announced yesterday the country's first successful cross-ethnic bone marrow transplant, from a Taiwanese donor to a Vietnamese recipient.
Doctors lauded the procedure by calling it a“miracle” due to the minimal chance of finding a compatible match for people who are not blood related, and an even lower chance if they are not of the same race.
Huynhn Thanh Thuan, 27, was a doctor in Vietnam's Cho Ray Hospital before he fell ill in January this year. Huynhn said he experienced symptoms of constant high fever, headache, back pain, and extreme fatigue.
When the doctors at the Blood Transfusion Hospital in Ho Chi Minh City diagnosed him with acute myelogenous leukemia (AML) and advised that he needed a bone marrow transplant, Huynhn and his girlfriend, with the assistance of the Buddhist Compassionate Relief Tzu-Chi Foundation, came to Taiwan in April to seek a possible match.
Chen Nai-yu of the Tzu-Chi Foundation said Huynhn found a match in less than two weeks. Although the tissue type of the donor's marrow was only partially compatible with Huynhn's, after a period of contemplation Huynhn insisted on having the transplant.
Yao Ming, the attending physician, said that during the last four months, his patient had not demonstrated any signs of rejection of the new bone marrow, and is therefore expected to return to his homeland in February and receive all follow-up treatment at Vietnamese hospitals.
As the chance of finding a match in the Tzu-Chi bone marrow registry for non-Chinese Southeast Asians was less than 10 percent, Yao said, the success of Huynhn's transplant was truly miraculous.
“I do not fear death,”said Huynhn with the help of an interpreter. “However, I do wish to live so I can use my medical knowledge and skills to save more lives.”
Huynhn expressed his heartfelt appreciation to the medical team and the Tzu-Chi Foundation for granting him a “rebirth.”
In Vietnam, Huynhn often made news headlines for saving the lives of many people injured in vehicle accidents and by other means. When his illness was made public, the Vietnamese public raised funds and donated money to help pay for the bone-marrow transplant, said Huynhn, vowing to hone his skills as a doctor so he can make a greater contribution to his country after he recovers.
“If I get a chance, I would like to return to NTUH as an exchange doctor to learn from the doctors there,” Huynhn said.