Refugee Dies Despite Efforts of Doctors, Brother and 2 Nations

Times Staff Writer

Vietnamese refugee Vo Tien Duc died Thursday despite the efforts and charity of doctors who barely knew him, a brother who traveled half way around the world to save him, and the cooperation of two hostile governments in his behalf.

Duc, 33, suffered from aplastic anemia, a disease in which the bone marrow stops producing vital blood cells. He was the father of four small children.

Frail and riddled with infection, Duc died at the Loyola University Medical Center, west of Chicago, where he had undergone a bone marrow transplant May 13 from his 18-year-old brother, who had been brought to Chicago from a small village in Vietnam’s Mekong Delta.

Extraordinary Effort


Despite their pessimism about Duc’s chances for recovery, doctors at Loyola and at the University of Illinois Hospital in Chicago had mounted an extraordinary international effort to save him.

Duc, an unemployed truck driver who had fled his native Vietnam a few years after the communist takeover, was first admitted to the University of Illinois facility on March 26. His condition was quickly diagnosed and doctors began an unsuccessful search for a rare drug that might have helped in their treatment.

The only other possibility was a bone marrow transplant from a sibling whose body chemistry was an exact duplicate of Duc’s.

Chicago doctors turned for help to Dr. Judith L. Landinsky of Madison, Wis., chairman of the U.S Committee for Scientific Cooperation. She agreed to borrow $5,000 to fly to Vietnam in an attempt to see if any of Duc’s siblings were suitable donors. Both the United States and Vietnam agreed to cooperate with Landinsky.


Loyola Staff Mobilized

In Chicago, doctors at Loyola, one of only two hospitals in the city with facilities for the bone marrow transplant agreed to perform the operation.

The brother, Vo Hoang Van, arrived here April 25, his trip paid for by Duc’s one friend in Chicago, a mechanic who also borrowed about $5,000.

Doctors performed the transplant April 13, but gave Duc slim chances for survival. He died of complications resulting from his disease and from the massive blood transfusions he had received over the last two months.


Van will return to his village, 150 miles south of Ho Chi Minh City, sometime in June.