Thursday marks the 58th Annual Children’s Hospital Free Care Friends Benefit Show which helps to ensure that no child in need will go without medical care. Last year’s event raised more than $1.5 million for the Free Care Fund.

Dave Crawley talked with one family who says Children’s Hospital is a pretty awesome place.


PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – Nine-year-old Ryan Samuelson would like nothing better than to return to the family farm in western New York.

In the meantime, Children’s Hospital is doing what it can to help the multiple-transplant patient feel right at home.

A visit from Elmo coaxed a smile from Samuelson. The boy has a rare genetic disease which damaged his kidneys and liver.

“He’s received two kidney transplants and one liver transplant,” Dawn Samuelson said.

Ryan is back at Children’s Hospital with complications from surgery. Why children’s?

“This is the best place in the world for children’s liver transplants. It’s a lifesaver. It’s everything to us. If it weren’t for Children’s we wouldn’t be here,” Dawn Samuelson said.

Dr. George Mazariegos performed Ryan’s liver transplant two years ago.

“He’s been very active since his liver transplant, and with a functioning liver and kidneys have been able to enjoy al the activities a kid his age should be enjoying,” Dr. Mazariegos said.

“I like to play hockey on my Xbox,” Ryan said.

Until then, visits from Steelers and Penguins help pass the time.

The visit from Elmo was a bright moment, a brief respite, but also a reminder to Ryan of where he hopes to be soon.

“We like to be home on the farm. He loves to drive his tractors, and be with his animals. But, we know we have to be here to get better, and we prefer to be home. But, once we are here it’s a pretty awesome place,” Dawn Samuelson said.

Tune in to the Free Care Friends Telethon this Thursday at 7 p.m. on KDKA-TV


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