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Pediatric liver transplant recipient returns to UCLA to donate toys to young patients
Date: 09/26/2013
Contact: Kim Irwin
WHAT:
Nick Wallace, 14, of San Diego, received a liver transplant at UCLA one year ago after being sick and hospitalized for most of his young life, the result of being born with biliary atresia, a congenital defect in which the bile duct between the liver and the small intestine is absent or blocked.
 
He returns to UCLA Saturday to celebrate two major milestones — his first liver "birthday" (the anniversary of his transplant) and the awarding a year ago of 501(c)(3) status to Nick's Picks, his nonprofit organization. Nick will deliver toy-filled backpacks he created to pediatric patients at Mattel Children's Hospital UCLA.
 
WHEN:
Saturday, Sept. 28
 
1 p.m.
Celebration of Nick's first liver "birthday" and the anniversary of Nick's Picks with family, friends, faculty and staff.
 
2 p.m.
Nick distributes his Nick's Picks backpacks to current pediatric patients.
 
WHERE:
Mattel Children's Hospital UCLA (map)
757 Westwood Blvd., Los Angeles      
 
PARKING:
Media in standard cars should use valet parking in front of Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center on Westwood Plaza. Marked station news vehicles should park along the curb in the traffic turnaround for 100, 200 and 300 Medical Plaza, south of the hospital. Please R.S.V.P.
 
WHO:
Participants at the event will include:
 
Dr. Ronald Busuttil (Nick's surgeon)
Busuttil is a distinguished professor who holds the William P. Longmire Jr. Chair in Surgery at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA; executive chairman of the UCLA Department of Surgery; chief of the UCLA Division of Liver and Pancreas Transplantation; director of the Dumont–UCLA Transplant and Liver Cancer Centers; and director of the UCLA Pfleger Liver Institute. He will talk about liver transplantation and his desire to build a transplant institute at UCLA.
 
Nick Wallace
The 14-year-old transplant recipient will share his thoughts about helping other children.
 
Deb Atkin (Nick's mother)
Atkin is a physician and an alumna of the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. She will share her mother's tale, with the unique perspective being a doctor.
 
Also attending:
 
Dr. Robert Venick (Nick's doctor)
Venick is an assistant clinical professor of pediatric gastroenterology, hepatology and nutrition at Mattel Children's Hospital UCLA.
 
Dr. Sherin U. Devaskar
Devaskar is a distinguished professor of pediatrics who holds the Mattel Executive Endowed Chair in the department of pediatrics at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA; physician-in-chief of Mattel Children's Hospital UCLA; and UCLA assistant vice chancellor for children's health.
 
Dr. David Feinberg
Feinberg is president of the UCLA Health System and associate vice chancellor for health sciences at UCLA.
 
Shannon O'Kelley
O'Kelley is chief operating officer of the UCLA Hospital System.
 
 
BACKGROUND:
Before Nick received his lifesaving liver transplant, he formed his own nonprofit organization to give hospitalized kids backpacks filled with his favorite games, including Mattel's UNO, as well as toys, clothes and his personal favorite, a stuffed harp seal.
 
"I'm healing from my liver transplant, and I want to do something for kids in the hospital. That's why I started Nick's Picks — a backpack full of fun things that I have loved when I was in the hospital," Nick writes on his website. "The stuffed harp seal is one of my favorites, as it symbolizes peace and comfort to me, something I hope for other kids to feel."
 
Nick regularly participates in fundraising events such as the Liver Life Walk in San Diego, and has written a song, "Second Chance," about the organ donor who gave him a new life. He also traveled to Pittsburgh to meet with his hero, Dr. Thomas Starzl, who performed the first successful liver transplant and developed many of the anti-rejection drugs still in use today.
 
In addition to being a young entrepreneur, Nick is active in political initiatives, having written to President Obama to lobby to change the organ-donor designation on drivers licenses from an "opt in" format to an "opt out" format.
 
Dr. Ronald Busuttil founded the UCLA Liver Transplant Program in 1984. Nearly 30 years later, it is the most active program in the world, having performed more than 5,400 liver transplants in adult and pediatric patients.
 
MEDIA CONTACT:
Kim Irwin | 310-435-9457 | kirwin@mednet.ucla.edu