a simple gesture makes an impact

The spring of 2021 was a pivotal time in Olivia’s life: finishing her senior year at Berkeley High, delivering meals to people isolated by the pandemic, and looking forward to college in the fall.

Then Olivia got sick. At first, it seemed like a nasty stomach bug, but within days, it became clear that something was terribly wrong.

"It was appendicitis that turned into septic shock," says her mom, Jennifer. "But it didn’t present like appendicitis until it was almost too late."

Olivia was rushed to UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital Oakland. Jennifer believes that more than 50 people – firefighters, paramedics, emergency-department staff, and intensive care providers – helped keep her child alive that first night.

Olivia’s appendix was successfully removed, but she was in organ failure. For a month, Jennifer and T. Jay, Olivia’s dad, sat by their daughter’s bedside. They slowly adjusted to the tubes running through Olivia’s body to keep her alive. They watched as a unique technology – Continuous Renal Replacement Therapy (CRRT) – cleaned her blood and helped her organs recover. And they grew close to the hospital staff, who they believe contributed as much to Olivia’s emotional healing as her physical recovery.

"I didn’t expect that," says T. Jay. "They were there for us emotionally throughout the entire experience. It’s a testament to the quality of the staff and the culture of this hospital."

Their anecdotes are endless. One doctor wheeled Olivia outside for a few minutes in the sun during his lunch break. Another talked her through an overwhelming night after hours. A music therapist became her confidant. The nurses bonded with her over shared loves of movies and local cuisine.

Then there was the CRRT machine, which the family nicknamed “Phil” for its effort to fil-ter the toxins from Olivia’s blood while her kidneys healed. They learned that CRRTs perform a range of functions, from saving children who have been poisoned to treating critical cases of COVID-19.

They were there for us emotionally throughout the entire experience. It's a testament to the quality of the staff and the culture of this hospital.

 T. Jay Fowler, Grateful Parent

The family also learned that CRRTs are unique: Only a handful are available in the US and UCSF is one of the only medical centers in the country equipped to deliver this innovative therapy. But the cost of purchasing additional CRRTs is beyond the hospital’s budget.

The day Olivia was discharged, her doctors and nurses staged a belated graduation celebration to honor the milestone that she had missed during her hospital stay. Two months later, Olivia left for college. Today, she is healthy and thriving.

Jennifer and T. Jay are in awe of Olivia’s recovery and her hospital experience. In 2021, they established the Renal Replacement Therapy Fund, which will support the purchase of CRRTs and staff development for Oakland’s Pediatric Intensive Care Unit.

“We thought, if Phil could save our daughter’s life, it can probably save a lot of other kids’ lives too,” T. Jay says. “It seemed like a pretty simple gesture after everything the hospital gave our family.”

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