Driscoll patient, his mother consider transplant team family
April 23, 2012
Ryan Sepulveda, 17, has had two kidney transplants, the most recent in June 2011 at Driscoll Children's Hospital.
CORPUS CHRISTI - A gleam comes to Ryan Sepulveda's eyes and a smile to his face when he recalls a three-legged race he ran with Driscoll Children's Hospital physician Samhar Al-Akash, MD at the hospital's Transplant Reunion a couple of years ago.
"I fell down and he had to carry me," Ryan, 17, said as he began laughing. "It was fun. I want to do it again this year."
Ryan is referring to Driscoll's Transplant Reunion that will be held April 28 at West Guth Park - his third to attend. The annual event, a celebration for Driscoll's 55 kidney transplant patients and their families, will include moon bounces, games of all sorts, prizes and food. Most importantly, it will be a chance for the patients and families to visit, share their experiences and have fun. Between 150-175 people are expected to attend.
"This is our way of saying 'thank you' to the families for their trust and for sharing their kids with us not only in sickness but also in health," said Dr. Al-Akash, head of nephrology and medical director of Driscoll's Kidney Center.
Ryan's kidney transplant at Driscoll in June 2011 was his second. He had been sick for a year, said his mother, Amy Sepulveda, because the kidney he received 12 years ago at a hospital in Galveston was failing.
"His body was rejecting the first kidney. We were lucky it lasted 12 years."
Sepulveda said she was relieved when Driscoll began performing kidney transplants in 2007, not least because her family no longer had to travel to Galveston for Ryan's treatment. Her appreciation for Driscoll's transplant team is deep and emotional.
"The whole team is awesome, from the girls at the front desk to the social workers and the doctors," Sepulveda said, her eyes welling up. "They make you feel like family. Dr. Al-Akash cared about Ryan like he was his own child. Oh my God, I can't say anything better...we couldn't do without this hospital."
Ryan, a high school sophomore, said he feels fine these days. He hopes to become a catcher in major league baseball. Asked if he's been scared during the surgeries he's endured, including gall bladder removal by Driscoll pediatric surgeon Stephen Almond, MD, he put on a carefree face.
"I wasn't scared because of the way (the doctors) talked to me. They told me everything was going to be OK. I believed them."
Dr. Al-Akash is looking forward to the April 28 Transplant Reunion and, as he said, "... blending together as humans, friends and families, not patients and doctors. The reunion celebrates these kids and their families and reminds us what is important in life."
What: Driscoll Children's Hospital's annual Transplant Reunion
When: Noon Saturday, April 28
Where: West Guth Park, 9725 Up River Rd.