Pediatric Reunion Draws Bone Marrow Transplant Survivors

By Phyllis Brown, UCSF News Services | June 26, 2006

When Cheryl Scharf's son Nick was 6 months old, she repeatedly told her pediatrician he was always sick.

The physician dismissed her concerns, but luckily, her cousin, who was a liver transplant nurse, knew that something was terribly wrong. She told Cheryl to take her son to UCSF Children's Hospital. He was admitted the same day.

Diagnosed with severe combined immunodeficiency syndrome (SCID), Nick received a bone marrow transplant that saved his life in July 1988. Today, he's a healthy teen. Sporting a San Francisco Giants baseball cap, the 19-year-old is a student at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles and plans to major in fine arts.

"I'm very grateful," Cheryl Scharf said. "The experience and care at UCSF was fabulous and, of course, my son is alive."

On June 17, the Sharfs shared a picnic lunch - and stories of how the UCSF Pediatric Bone Marrow Transplant Program changed their lives -- at the first Pediatric Bone Marrow Transplant Reunion and Picnic, held at the Marinwood Community Center in San Rafael.

Mary Gavette, 20, of Petaluma, Lorriane Leber and her son, Vincent Seckman, 3, of San Francisco, and Nick Scharf, 20, of San Carlos, share a moment together at the UCSF Children's Hospital Pediatric Bone Marrow Transplant Reunion on June 17. Gavette, Seckman and Scharf received bone marrow transplants at UCSF Children's Hospital. The event was attended by more than 100 people, including bone marrow transplant recipients and their families. It was the first such major reunion in more than 20 years.

"Every one of those patients would not have been there [at the picnic] if they hadn't had a transplant," said Mort Cowan, MD, professor of pediatrics and chief of the Bone Marrow Transplant Division at UCSF Children's Hospital. "They all had fatal diseases. To see all of the successes like that in one location is a pretty emotional experience. What could be any more heartwarming than that?"

Read more at Phyllis Brown, UCSF News Services