Patient Donates Gifts To Other Kids

January 20, 2006
Contact: UCSF Bone Marrow Transplant Program, (415) 353-2896

David Leon, a former bone marrow transplant (BMT) patient at UCSF's Children's Hospital, recently donated $300 worth of toys, games, video games and art supplies to patients at the UCSF Pediatric BMT Unit. For David's thirteenth birthday, he requested that family and friends give him money, rather than presents, to buy gifts for other sick kids preparing or recovering for a BMT.

In the summer of 2004, David underwent a bone marrow transplant (BMT) at UCSF to treat myelodysplastic syndrome, a group of disorders in which the bone marrow stem cells are defective, causing an inadequate production of blood cells.

While in the hospital for two months, David says that the video games, books and toys brought a smile to his face and helped with his recovery, so he wanted to donate toys to other kids facing a similar situation. While shopping with his mother, David took special care to select particular toys that would suit all of the kids in the BMT Unit, ranging from infants to teenagers. He also asked that the toys be given to patients on special occasions, such as birthdays or holidays.

"It is particularly thrilling for me to see this young man who has experienced the stress of having a life-threatening disease and has undergone a successful bone marrow transplant, return to the hospital carrying gifts for other kids, to make their lives a little less stressful," says Dr. Mort Cowan, director of the Pediatric Bone Marrow Transplant Program at UCSF's Children's Hospital. "And to buy these gifts with his own birthday money is truly amazing and heartwarming. David is certainly a special person!"

David's parents, Ellen Speiser and Julio Leon, teachers at the Marin Day School in Mill Valley, Ca., recently held a toy collection at their school for BMT patients at UCSF. Speiser, who is a member of the BMT Parent Advisory Group at UCSF, is currently planning a soccer fundraiser for this summer.

David, an avid soccer and tennis player, is doing great now and back at school. He's also a budding gourmet chef, and thrilled to be able to eat all of the delicious dishes he and his family prepares.