San Francisco Giants “Donate Life” Day

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On July 30, the San Francisco Giants held their 17th Annual Organ Donor Awareness Day. Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford has been a part of this event for several years.  It’s an opportunity for community to celebrate the lives that have been saved through organ donation.

At the event, four Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford transplant patients were recognized – all were treated as VIPs, receiving tickets for their families and generous gift bags filled with special commemorative items.  The patients also had their names on the scoreboard at the end of the seventh inning.

Several members of the hospital’s transplant care teams were there to support the honourees, as well as be recognized for their lifesaving work. The hospital’s gastrointestinal and liver transplant faculty – Missy Hurwitz, MD, adult hepatologist Joanne Imperial, MD, and I, the co-founder of the event, were in attendance, as was Deb Strichartz, RN, manager of pediatric liver and intestinal transplant. Social workers Denise Alloway, Sarah Kinnier and Molly Keane helped distribute game tickets to children from their respective transplant services.

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In a pregame ceremony, Carlos Esquivel, MD, chief of the division of transplantation, was honoured. Esquivel is a pioneer in the field of transplant. Three decades ago, in the early days of liver transplant, babies with liver failure usually died. Transplants were saving the lives of adults and older children, but were not offered to patients younger than 2. For these youngsters, doctors thought, the operation was too risky and difficult. But an extraordinary surgeon named Esquivel changed that.

Two of these pioneering liver transplant patients from the early days, Kelly Olmo, 27, and Jill Nolen, 25, served as “ball dudes” for the game. (Note: For those of you who may be new to the game of baseball, ball dudes field the stray foul balls during the game.)  Both young women received liver transplants performed by Esquivel 25 years ago.

Kelly’s liver failed just after her second birthday. Now, 25 years later and living with a donated liver, she’s had many wonderful life experiences – including getting engaged recently. “I want people to know that organ donation saved my life, and it can save many people’s lives,” Olmo said.

Not only was it a wonderful event, but we were treated to a good game; the Giants beat the Pirates 7-5. The Giants’ “Donate Life” Day event is the longest-running organ donor event in all of professional sports.

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