Volkmar Gaussmann and Peishan Chen
Volkmar Gaussmann and Peishan Chen
Volkmar Gaussmann and Peishan Chen have both enjoyed considerable educational and career success. Peishan, 39, graduated with honors as a Western medical doctor from a prestigious university in China. She worked there as an obstetrician and gynecologist before moving to the United States, where she earned a Masters Degree in Acupuncture and board certifications in Acupuncture and Chinese Herbal Medicine.
Volkmar, 35, was born in Germany and received his degree in Business Administration from the University of Washington. He thrived as a software test manager for an e-commerce company before becoming a real estate investor. He and Peishan met in Seattle in 1998 through a Yahoo personals ad. Volkmar jokes, "We had a 10-hour date and have been a couple ever since." After getting married, Volkmar founded Chen's Acupuncture, which consists of clinics in Seattle and Bellevue.
Collin was born in October 2003. In December of the following year, Volkmar and Peishan were giving their 14-month old son a bath. They noticed a large, hard distension on the left side of his stomach. After an X-ray, their pediatrician immediately referred Collin to Children's for an MRI. "One of the techs at Children's said, ‘I can't see the kidney,'" recalls Volkmar. It was an ominous indication of the density of the mass in Collin's tiny body. A biopsy confirmed that Collin had Wilms' tumor, a cancerous tumor of the kidney that occurs in children. "I was shocked that the tumor was so huge," says Peishan. "I didn't think it would be cancer." Volkmar recalls hearing his son's diagnosis. "My first thought was that he was going to die," he says.
A seven-hour operation at Children's removed a two-pound tumor and one of Collin's kidneys. When he was strong enough, Collin started chemotherapy. When a complication arose, doctors caught it in time to prevent liver damage from taking Collin's life. "Children's saved Collin's life not once but twice," say his parents. Less than a year after surgery, Volkmar reports that Collin is doing very well. "The prognosis is pretty good—over 90 percent—so it's not as bad as some others have it," he says.
Both parents appreciate Children's supportive and family-centered approach. "Obviously nobody wants to be in the hospital," Volkmar observes, "but they really work at creating a strong sense of community." As a physician, Peishan recognizes the uniqueness of Children's. "I've worked in hospitals," she says. "Children's is the best there is."
Collin's illness and recovery coincided with his parents working on their will. During that process, they decided to include a bequest for Children's. "We have enough, we're very fortunate," says Volkmar. "It's our duty to give back." Peishan agrees. "I want to support them any way I can," she says. "They are true healers."
Collin's cancer and treatment have deepened the dedication of two already committed individuals. "Before, of course I'd have said that my family comes first," says Volkmar. "But now I'm really acting on it, making sure I'm there for Collin." Peishan is similarly reflective. "When you face death, it makes you rethink life and its purpose," she says. "All that matters is to be happy, and happiness does not come from material things. It comes from inside. My job is to enjoy every day that comes along." Not surprisingly, the experience has further emphasized to Peishan her role as a healer. "I want to keep my hands outstretched to people," she says, "helping them become happy, healthy and strong."« Back
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