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Would-Be Donor Can’t Get US Visa To Save Brother’s Life

December 16, 1995

MANHASSET, N.Y. (AP) _ Mauris Astefanous is ill with cancer and needs a bone marrow transplant. His sister is a perfect tissue match, but she lives in Egypt and the U.S. Embassy in Cairo won’t give her a 15-day visa.

``This is my only hope for life,″ said Astefanous, 45, of New York City. ``I’m desperate.″

``This man will surely die without a transplant,″ said Dr. John Loscalzo of the hematology-oncology department at North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset, adding that Astefanous has only months left.

Astefanous, who immigrated from Egypt 17 years ago, is being treated for acute myelogenous leukemia.

Doctors tested his three siblings and his 14-year old daughter. His sister, Wedad Astefanous, 54, was found to be a perfect match.

``Finding a donor is like winning the lottery,″ said Loscalzo.

The Egyptian Government immediately issued Wedad Astefanous a passport. But the American Embassy denied the visa.

A State Department spokesman didn’t return calls for comment Friday.

``American embassies are skeptical of these situations because it is a common scam used to get into the United States, that `I need to go for medical reasons.′ They want proof and paperwork,″ said Jordan Goldes, a spokesman for Rep. Gary Ackerman, D-N.Y.

The offices of Ackerman and Sen. Alfonse D’Amato, R-N.Y., have asked the State Department to reconsider.

Loscalzo said he personally spoke with U.S. Embassy officials in Egypt; they confirmed that they had received his letters and medical documents, but would not discuss the matter further.

``It is so frustrating,″ said Loscalzo.

A bone marrow transplant is not a guarantee of life, but it can provide healthy blood cell-forming tissue necessary for fighting disease after a patient’s own marrow has been destroyed by chemotherapy.

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