On the Pulse

Dear Seattle Children’s: Thank You


The McKinney family

A hospital can be a scary place, especially for a mother or father of a sick child. Worrying about the cost of care can add a whole new layer of fear. For many families—even if they have insurance—medical bills can be financially devastating. When the postman finally delivers the bill, opening the letter can often be daunting.

But for these families, a letter from Seattle Children’s didn’t bring financial ruin; it brought relief, hope and the good kind of tears. That’s because instead of a bill, the letter contained one simple message: Your hospitals bills are taken care of.

In fiscal year 2014, Seattle Children’s covered $120 million in uncompensated care for families in the region who had little or no resources to pay their medical bills. Uncompensated care, which is made possible in part by donations from the community, helps thousands of families stay afloat when they need it most. Read full post »

Six Things to Expect in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU)

Every new mom hopes to have a healthy baby who enters the world right on time. But unfortunately, deliveries don’t always go as planned, and some babies arrive too soon. Preterm birth, which according to the CDC occurs when an infant is born before 37 weeks of pregnancy, affects about one out of every 10 infants born in the U.S. each year. Approximately 50,000 of those infants are born very premature, at less than 28 weeks of gestation.

Sarly Dickinson knew there was a chance her little boy may come early due to complications she experienced during pregnancy, but she held out hope that he would make it to term. Unfortunately, David entered the world at just 25 weeks. Requiring surgical intervention for hydrocephalus, a condition where fluid builds up in the brain, he was transferred to Seattle Children’s Level IV Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) where he received care for three months. While Dickinson said 25 weeks was much too early, she was thankful David’s birth story wasn’t any scarier.

“My water broke at just 23 weeks and I was terrified because I understood the risks of having a baby that early, including the terrible reality that we may be faced with having to let him go,” Dickinson said. “I immediately went on bed rest and luckily he held out a little longer and arrived two weeks later, weighing a tiny 1 pound, 7 ounces.” Read full post »

The Science of Gratitude and How Kids Learn to Express It

Scientists at Seattle Children’s Research Institute describe the neuroscience behind gratitude and how kids learn it.

What happens in our brains and bodies when we feel gratitude? We get a fuzzy feeling when we give thanks or receive it because we did something nice. But why does gratitude feel good? And how can families teach kids to express this sentiment?

Dr. Susan Ferguson, a neuroscientist at the Center for Integrative Brain Research at Seattle Children’s Research Institute, says the feeling of gratitude activates several parts of the brain. The ventral tegmental area is a part of the brain associated with reward and motivation. The hypothalamus is associated with basic tasks such as eating, sleeping, hormone secretion and stress. The septum is associated with bonding. When we feel and express thanks, these parts of the brain light up.

“Research shows that gratitude is linked with feelings of reward, improved sleep and decreased depression and anxiety,” Ferguson said. “There are measurable benefits to mental health and interpersonal relationships when humans feel gratitude.” Read full post »

Antibiotic Resistance: Too Much of a Good Thing

ThinkstockPhotos-103583538Antibiotics improve our lives in innumerable ways, but there is growing concern that their overuse is increasingly exposing the public to drug-resistant bacteria. Each year in the United States, at least 2 million people become infected with bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics and at least 23,000 people die as a direct result of these infections. Many more people die from other conditions that were complicated by an antibiotic-resistant infection.

“In many ways, antibiotics are victims of their own success,” said Dr. Scott Weissman, an infectious disease specialist at Seattle Children’s Hospital. “When antibiotics first came into being in the 1940’s, they were hailed as miraculous, and they were, but it is possible to have too much of a good thing.”

This week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is observing its annual Get Smart About Antibiotics Week. During this time, the CDC, along with other healthcare organizations and partners, is highlighting the importance of appropriate antibiotic use. Weissman, a nationally-known expert who is in Washington D.C. participating in some of the events for Get Smart About Antibiotics Week, took time to answer some questions about what antibiotic resistance is, and what we can do about it.

What are the current recommendations for giving antibiotics to children?

First off, there is no single solution or strategy that is right for every situation. Antibiotics should be given only when they are necessary, but I think we can all agree that the standard practice of many providers has been far less disciplined. This has led many to view receiving a prescription for antibiotics as the expectation of a doctor’s visit, rather than the exception.

Read full post »

Using Big Data to Predict and Prevent Preterm Birth

Photo for BlogWorldwide, preterm birth is the leading cause of death for all children under age 5, taking the lives of more than 1.1 million children every year. Now, new research utilizing the emerging field of systems biology aims to harness big data in an effort to reduce the global burden of preterm birth.

Seattle is well known as a technology hub, and big data has become an area of great focus and opportunity. Advances in technology now allow for analysis of data sets that would have been much more difficult to accomplish just 10 years ago.

The Global Alliance to Prevent Prematurity and Stillbirth (GAPPS), an initiative of Seattle Children’s, is announcing three new projects that will use big data to help discover the root causes of preterm birth and identify potential targets for interventions to improve pregnancy health. In this case, big data is defined as large and complex data sets generated from biological components like molecules and cells, which require computational and mathematical modeling to interpret. Read full post »

Seattle Children’s Pilots Digital Platform For Kidney Transplant Patients

Seattle Children’s is launching a pilot with Health123 for a digital program that focuses on follow-up care for transplant patients.

Transplant day is a joyous milestone for children and families who’ve been through a difficult illness. But the healing does not end when the new organ is in place—in fact, that is when the real work begins, according to Dr. Jodi Smith, Medical Director for the Kidney Transplant Program at Seattle Children’s.

“One of the biggest factors in a successful transplant is for the patient to follow a careful regimen afterwards so the new organ can do its job,” said Smith. “Patients often struggle to maintain their health after a transplant and need extensive support.”

To help with this problem, Dr. Smith’s transplant team is working with Dr. Jane Dickerson and Dr. Michael Astion from the Department of Laboratories on a pilot for a digital program from Health123 that focuses on the follow-up care for transplant patients at Seattle Children’s, which has one of the highest-ranked kidney transplant programs in the country. Read full post »

Doctor Gets Creative with Casts for Little Girl with Cerebral Palsy

Lauren Huber 004

Dr. Yandow poses with Lauren by her bedside at Seattle Children’s.

For a child, having to wear a bulky, fiberglass cast around an arm or leg might not sound like a fun treatment option, especially when they need to wear it for up to six weeks.

So doctors at Seattle Children’s are doing what they can to make the experience a little more fun.

“What color casts would you like?” Dr. Suzanne Yandow, chief of Orthopedics and Sports Medicine at Seattle Children’s, asked Lauren Huber, 4.

Lauren looked up at Yandow with her big blue eyes, holding tightly to her baby doll, Kiddo, and exclaimed, “Pink!” without hesitation. “But I’d also like a little purple for my twin sister,” Lauren added as she looked at her mom. “Her favorite color is purple, so I want purple. But just a little. I want it to be mostly pink,” she said. Read full post »

Volunteer Gives Back to a Place He Calls Home

Pinwheels for PreventionEvery Tuesday and Friday, like clockwork, you’ll find volunteer Kien Luu at Seattle Children’s – either greeting visitors in the volunteer office with a warm, friendly smile, or making children laugh and play in the outpatient sibling playroom, helping them to forget for a moment where they are. But what many may not know is that Luu has a special connection to not only the hospital, but also the patients and families because he used to be a patient himself.

It’s from that experience that he chooses to give back to the place that he is most thankful for; for the place that saved his life thirty two years ago.

“My life is a blessing,” Luu, 38, said as he reflected on his time at Seattle Children’s. Read full post »

Screen Time, Holiday Time, Family Time: Tips For Parents On Tech Toys This Holiday Season

Dr. Dimitri Christakis says not all screen time is bad for children, but it’s important to be familiar with the content and manage the time kids spend on screen toys.

The American Academy of Pediatrics announced it is revising recommended screen time guidelines for kids. Dr. Dimitri Christakis, director of the Center for Child Health, Behavior and Development at Seattle Children’s Research Institute, offers parents advice on how to manage screen time and what to consider when shopping for children this holiday season.

Q: What should parents make of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) decision to revise screen time guidelines?
A: This is an acknowledgement that for kids growing up today, screen time is a constant part of their lives: At home, at school, when visiting friends, on the airplane, in cars. Digital products have permeated every part of kids’ days, so the revised guidelines ought to help families manage digital engagement.

The good news is that not all screen time is bad. But it’s important for parents to understand that kids are going through critical cognitive, social and emotional developmental phases, and screen time influences that development. Read full post »

New Research Shows That Risky Drinking Spikes When Young Adults Study Abroad

Researchers found that drinking-related posts on Facebook increased among students studying abroad, especially for those who went to Europe.

Studying abroad is a formative educational opportunity for many young adults, myself included. My time in French Polynesia last summer as a junior in college changed my outlook on the world and made me a better student, friend and daughter. But I also know from experience that studying abroad can also be problematic for some who might take the newfound freedom a little too far.

Underage and excessive drinking was something I witnessed, and according to new data from Seattle Children’s Research Institute, where I volunteer with the Social Media and Adolescent Health Research Team (SMAHRT), underage and excessive drinking is often a key part of the study abroad experience, especially for those who went to Europe.

Researchers found that drinking-related posts on Facebook increased among students studying abroad, especially for those who went to Europe. Read full post »