Dad rides to raise awareness of organ transplants

Savannah, Robert and Ana Anselmo, from left, are together now, but not long ago they were separated because of Savannah’s illness. She was diagnosed with a rare liver disease and received a transplant four months ago.

SKIP O\u2019ROURKE | Times

Savannah, Robert and Ana Anselmo, from left, are together now, but not long ago they were separated because of Savannah’s illness. She was diagnosed with a rare liver disease and received a transplant four months ago.

RIVERVIEW — As her mom talks on the phone, Savannah Anselmo giggles and blurts out one of her favorite words.

To the nearly 18-month-old toddler, "everybody on the phone is Da-da," her mother, Ana Anselmo, says.

Last year, phone conversations held their family together. For weeks, Robert Anselmo remained in Florida, working while his wife and daughter stayed near Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. Together they prayed for the only thing that could save Savannah's life: a new liver.

On Dec. 29, their agonizing wait ended, nine months after doctors diagnosed her with the rare liver disease biliary atresia.

Now, more than four months after Savannah's successful liver transplant, the family has returned to their Riverview home.

But they'll be making long distance phone calls again soon.

On Thursday, Robert Anselmo will hit the road for a 4,000-mile motorcycle trek — from Riverview to Fargo, N.D., and back — to raise money for Savannah's care and spread the word about the importance of organ donation.

"We need to really raise the awareness. It's affecting everybody," said Ozzie Peraza, Savannah's uncle. The 39-year-old North Dakota resident started planning the ride and rally last year, hoping to help his family from afar.

Since her transplant, Savannah's health has improved dramatically. But caring for her remains costly. And the family's reserves are running out.

Riders can register by contributing at least $20, he said.

In addition to a rally at Riverview's East Coast Pizza the night before his departure, Robert Anselmo will stop to speak about organ donation in Missouri and participate in a fundraising ride from Moorhead, Minn., to Fargo.

He plans to ride his Honda VTX Cruiser back to Riverview around June 12.

"Gotta be back in town for Father's Day," he said.

Catherine E. Shoichet can be reached at

cshoichet@sptimes.com or 661-2454.

. IF YOU GO

Show your support

Motorcycle enthusiasts and other supporters will have a chance to kick off Robert Anselmo's cross-country ride at 5 p.m. Wednesday at East Coast Pizza, 13340 Lincoln Road in Riverview.

On the Web

To donate money or find out more about Savannah Anselmo, go to

www.cotaforsavannaha.com

Dad rides to raise awareness of organ transplants 05/22/08 [Last modified: Tuesday, May 27, 2008 2:24pm]

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