Families Celebrate Life at UCSF Pediatric Transplant Picnic

August 08, 2008
News Office: Kate Schoen (415) 502-6397

To the casual observer, it looked like a typical summer picnic at McNear's Beach in San Rafael. However, the families at this picnic were celebrating more than a sunny Saturday in August. They were there to honor the kids who have received liver, kidney and intestinal transplants at UCSF Children's Hospital.

Pediatric nurse practitioner Chris Mudge has organized the picnic for the past 13 years. She says that every year, she has to fight back tears when she sees her former patients looking strong, healthy and happy.

"It's magic for me to see you and your children," Mudge said as she welcomed the crowd to the event. "It really is a miracle."

One of those "miracles" is 17-year-old Windsor resident Vincent Mendez, who had a liver transplant when he was only 23 days old. Now in his final year of high school, he is gearing up to attend culinary school after he graduates.

Families participated in a slew of fun activities at the picnic, including kayaking, face painting, hula dancing and pinata-breaking.

"It's a blast," said Jessica Lowe Brennan, a nurse practitioner at UCSF Children's Hospital who works with kidney transplant patients. "It's just great to bring all the families together in a fun, nonmedical atmosphere."

Antioch resident Tanya Awuku sat on a beach blanket with her 5-year-old son, Julian, who received a liver transplant when he was 2 months old. Awuku said she has come to the picnic for the last five years because she loves the sense of community it inspires, and she enjoys reuniting with the doctors and nurses who played an integral role in her son's life.

It was also the fifth picnic for Suisun Valley resident Annelisa Schaufel, who came with her two sons, 7-year-old Harrison and 8-year-old Hunter. Schaufel gave Harrison one of her kidneys when he was 20 months old.

"I just think it's great to see all the kids so healthy and happy," Schaufel said. "And everyone at UCSF makes it so fun for everyone."

Pediatric liver and kidney transplant services at UCSF Children's Hospital are among the oldest children's transplant services in the country. UCSF pediatric specialists and transplant surgeons offer leading-edge therapies and care for children with failing organs throughout their lives.

Looking around at all of the children laughing and playing, Mudge summed up the significance of the day with a simple metaphor.

"It's like gardening. You pull out the weeds that don't work and then you put in something new that does."

This news release modified for the Web