Volleyball: Remy giving back

The inaugural Heart 2 Heart Volleyball Tournament is an event with an amazing story. Remy Wilson, an incoming Newport Harbor High freshman, has organized the tournament as a vehicle to support a cause that is very important to her: the UCLA Pediatric Cancer Research Center.

On Dec. 16, 2011, Wilson went to the Newport Harbor-Corona del Mar girls' water polo game to support her good friend, Presley Pender. It was the day before her 14th birthday party. The Carden Hall eighth-grader whose school volleyball team had just won its league championship, started to suffer from intense pain in her lower back, coupled with intense sweating and chills.

Remy's parents, Darren and Kelly, took her to the emergency room at Hoag Hospital where a CT scan revealed a 21-centimeter mass in her abdomen as well as several liver lesions. She was transferred immediately to CHOC in Orange.

At CHOC, Remy had exploratory surgery with the hope of doing a biopsy. The doctor discovered a vascular mass (enclosed in blood vessels) that created a great risk of bleeding.

While the anxiety was intense, all those close to the Remys tried to move forward. The birthday party moved to CHOC with many of Remy's teammates at both Carden Hall and with her Orange County Volleyball Club team present.

Remy was discharged from CHOC with doctors fearing that removal of the mass would be very dangerous due to excessive bleeding.

Darren Wilson went to work with a mission to find a solution. He consulted with doctors from many places such as the Mayo Clinic, Cedars and Rady's Children One of those highly recommended was Dr. Amin Mirhadi who strongly recommended UCLA Ronald Reagan Medical Center. Mirhadi is a former Newport Harbor volleyball and football player who is now a renowned pediatric oncologist at UCLA.

At UCLA, Remy found her Godsend in Dr. Ronald Busuttil, a liver transplant surgeon who felt confident that he could remove the mass without complications. On Jan. 6, Dr. Busuttil, with assistance from Dr. Noah Federman, removed the mass (weighing 10 pounds) with miraculous results. There were no blood transfusions, no grafts, and only 75% of the Psoas muscle removed. A Miracle!

One week later, the results of the pathology were benign and the mass was labeled as a hemangloma (a vascular malformation). The doctors warned that Remy may walk with a limp and might never play volleyball again.

Typically, Remy went to work with therapy to prepare to play again. By late February, she had actually joined her Orange County Volleyball Club 14s practices. Under the careful direction of Coach Matt Skolnik, Remy played in a tournament for her club team in March and concluded her club season at the Volleyball Festival in June.

While continuing her rehab with Steve Uchytil, Remy completed the Newport Harbor girls' summer program in July and is ready to play as a freshman with no glaring signs of the surgery.

This brings me to the tournament. With tremendous appreciation for the doctors and research team at UCLA, coupled with her love for beach volleyball, Remy has organized the Heart 2 Heart tournament to raise funds for the pediatric oncologists and their research.

The tournament is Sept. 1 at Grant Street in Newport Beach. A number of people have donated to the cause with T-shirts, food, and tournament support. For information on entering the tournament, please contact Remy at wilsonremy@yahoo.com or contact her website: http://jccf.convio.net/goto/heart2heart.

Remy has survived a miracle. Dr. Federman and Dr. Busuttil saved her life and she is so thankful to them. She is passionate about helping others who may find themselves in a similar life-threatening situation.

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