Dodgers treat young patient to day at the ballpark through Blue Wishes Program

Kellen McGovern, who was born with a rare intestinal disorder, got a chance to spend time with his favorite players.

A few years after Kellen McGovern was born, he was diagnosed with chronic intestinal pseudo-obstruction syndrome (CIPO). It’s a rare disorder in which the nerves or nerve cells, the muscles, or the chemicals that produce and coordinate the interaction between those, are improperly developed or have defects that prevent normal movement of the stomach and bowels. This, in turn, prevents the main function of digestion and absorption of nutrients.

Treatment involves a combination of nutritional, pharmacological and surgical methods.

Kellen and his family, who live in Bishop, sought care at UCLA Mattel Children’s Hospital, where a team led by Jorge Vargas, MD, pediatric gastroenterologist, could keep Kellen’s nutrition and quality of life on track.

In order to meet his unique needs and allow him to grow and develop, Kellen receives his feedings intravenously, delivered by a long catheter, or line, that is placed in the neck, chest or the groin and goes all the way to a vein close to his heart.

These feeding solutions, which require several hours for delivery, contain all the basic nutrients, proteins, sugar and fats, as well as vitamins, minerals and water. They may sometimes involve or cause complications including infections or metabolic problems that frequently require hospitalization. 

Kellen McGovern gets an autograph from Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw. (Photo by Catherine Boyer/UCLA Health)
Kellen McGovern chats with the Dodgers Justin Turner before a recent game at Dodger Stadium. (Photo by Catherine Boyer/UCLA Health)

“Just trying to characterize the cause of the abnormal, or lack of, motility of the GI tract is a major challenge still today, and for certain forms of the disorder we foresee the possibility of replacing some of the nerve cells or inducing the production of certain chemicals that may be lacking,” Dr. Vargas said. “But in general, no other cures are on the horizon for this disorder and some cases have come to be handled by replacing the intestines and stomach with transplanted organs.”

Kellen, now age 12, is doing well. He loves sports, especially baseball.

With the help of UCLA Health’s partnership with the Dodgers Blue Wishes Program, Kellen got to meet some of his favorite players, including Clayton Kershaw and Trea Turner, and throw out the first pitch at a recent game.

Evelyn Tokuyama is the author of this article.


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