Incredible Team Effort Brings Life-Saving Donor From Other Side of The World

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Bob Hallinan

Executive Producer

Office: (913) 588-7284

Cell: (913)-481-7329


            Laaw Naing fled his home in Burma 10 years ago after a rebel military invasion of his village. He hid in Malaysia for three years, waiting to be approved as a refugee in The United States. He eventually made it to the Kansas City area looking for a better life, and found a job.

            After several years, he developed an illness, which was diagnosed as leukemia. Doctors at The University of Kansas Cancer Center determined he needed a life-saving blood/marrow transplant, which requires a donor with an almost identical match. That usually means a close relative, but all of Naing’s relatives, and his wife, were still back in a remote Burmese village, working the rice paddies.   

            Dr. Joseph McGuirk, director of the Blood and Marrow Transplant program at the University of Kansas Cancer Center gathered his team and told them, “We’re going to help this patient, no matter what!” So transplant coordinators and social workers went to work, and decided that one of Naing’s sisters, 21-year-old Hning Bu, was most likely to be a match. The biggest problem was reaching her in her small village, where the nearest phone is a day and a half journey away. They finally made contact, and sent her a test kit, which she used to send a cheek cell sample back to Kansas for testing. It was a match! Now the real work began, getting the sister to America.

            Again, social workers had to cut through all kinds of red tape with embassies and the U.S. State department to arrange a passport and a visa, then travel and lodging. The whole process took nearly two months, all the while Naing’s health was deteriorating. But she finally arrived, and doctors, transplant coordinators, social workers and translators went to work with Naing receiving the life-saving blood/marrow transplant. It takes 100 days before they know for sure if the transplant was a success, but so far, all the signs are positive.

            In the video, Dr. Joseph McGuirk, director of the Blood and Marrow Transplant program at The University of Kansas Cancer Center, describes Naing’s condition and the incredible team effort to help him. He also talks about the urgency of the situation, how it was a race against time to save the patient’s life, and Naing’s prognosis.

            Since both Naing and his sister spoke only Burmese, accurate translation was vital. Cecilia Abbey, Interpretive Services Manager, explains how they helped at every step of the process, including using a new video translation service.

            Laaw Naing is interviewed, with the help of the translator, explaining how he feels since his transplant, and how he’s grateful for his sister’s donation. For editing purposes, his answer in Burmese is shown, followed by audio only of the translator. Naing’s sister, is also interviewed, and says how she feels about saving her brother’s life and how much thanks she has for the team who helped get her to America. Her answers are also shown in Burmese, followed by audio only of the translation.

            Mindy Allen is the transplant coordinator, and explains the challenge of getting the sister tested and how she feels about getting it all to work.

            Haylie Colby is the social worker who explains the incredible effort that went on behind the scenes, and how Naing still has a wife back in Burma with no immediate hope of being reunited with her.

            The video also shows Naing receiving his transfusion and a follow-up clinic visit with Dr. McGuirk and the blood/marrow staff.