Funeral held for Garden Grove mom whose family fought US gov't for life-saving transplant

GARDEN GROVE, Calif. (KABC) -- A funeral was held Saturday for beloved Garden Grove mother Helen Huynh, who died of leukemia after her family fought the U.S. government to get her a life-saving transplant from her sister.

Members of the Huynh family spoke at the ceremony at Garden Grove Friends Church, including husband Vien Huynh and the victim's oldest daughter, Yvonne Murray.

"My mom was one of the most generous persons that I know. As a mother, she gave up her life, her friends, her successful paint business and, most importantly, her family to come to the U.S. so that my sister and I can have a life better than she had," Murray said at the service, as she stood alongside her father.

Helen died Jan. 26. despite so many rallying to her side in the hopes of saving her after hearing her story.

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Helen Huynh, a Garden Grove mother who battled leukemia and the U.S. government, lost her battle with cancer even after receiving the life-saving treatment from her sister.

Eyewitness News introduced people to Helen's story in September. She was barely clinging to life in intensive care. What made her story maddening was that she could have been saved with a timely stem cell transplant.

Her sister, Thuy, in Vietnam was a 100 percent match, giving Helen an exceptional chance of survival. But the U.S. government would not grant Thuy a visa - even to help save her sister.

"When we were faced with challenges last year, when the door was shut in our faces, my sister and I didn't give up. We weren't going to sit around and watch my mom suffer," Murray said.

Tourists from certain countries are allowed in, but it varies for other countries - and entry can be denied even to save an American citizen's life, which Helen was.

Helen made headlines around the world. Sen. Kamala Harris and others joined the fight. Eventually, Thuy was granted entry to the U.S. to provide the life-saving stem cells.

On Oct. 27, the world watched as Helen received the stem cell transplant at City of Hope Hospital in Duarte.

At the hospital, Helen was even given a birthday party to signify her rebirth - her second chance at life. But it was too late - valuable months had been lost trying to get Thuy here.

Helen was too weak and lost the battle with the aggressive form of leukemia.

Helen Huynh's daughter, Tiffany Huynh, holds a photo of her mother at the Garden Grove woman's burial in Orange County on Saturday, Feb. 10, 2018.

Helen Huynh's daughter, Tiffany Huynh, holds a photo of her mother at the Garden Grove woman's burial in Orange County on Saturday, Feb. 10, 2018.

"I think what's most heartbreaking for me is to have to watch my dad go through it," Murray said in a previous interview.

Vien Huynh fought alongside the U.S. in the Vietnam War. He came to America with Helen to live the American dream: becoming citizens and raising a family. Next month would have been their 35th anniversary.

"He just wept," Murray said. "I mean, I've never seen my dad - I've never seen anybody cry like that before. It was just heartbreaking to see my dad going through that."

Murray said at the funeral service that the time and effort spent to help save her mom's life was not wasted because her mother's story will continue as the family strives to help others in similar situations.

Karin Wang is with Asian Americans for Advancing Justice, a civil rights organization, and is working with Helen's family to raise awareness.

A spokesperson from Kamala's office released a statement on Helen's passing, which read in part: "Just as she fought for Helen to ensure she received the care she needed, the Senator will continue to fight for all Californians and be a voice for the voiceless. Her thoughts and prayers are with Helen's family through this grieving period."

A GoFundMe page has been set up to help with the family's expenses. If you would like to help, you may visit
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