On the Pulse

New Media Guidelines for Kids Move Beyond Screen Time Limits

New media policies from the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend creating customized plans for your family’s media use.

In our digital age, it’s not uncommon to see a toddler on an iPad at the airport or a teenager at the mall fixated on a smartphone. To help families establish healthy habits for media use, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) released new media and screen time policies for children, from infants to teenagers.

The two new policies update previous recommendations and emphasize the importance of critical health behaviors such as sleep, cognitive development and physical activity. The policies recommend those daily priorities be addressed first, followed by mindful selection and engagement with media. Read full post »

Tips for a Safe Halloween

Boo! Halloween is on a Monday this year, making it trickier to get in all of the treat-gathering fun. However, you can maximize your family’s enjoyment by planning ahead. Dr. Tony Woodward, chief of Emergency Medicine at Seattle Children’s, offers tips for how to safely celebrate what many kids consider to be the best holiday of the year.

“Halloween is a holiday that kids look forward to for weeks or even months in advance,” said Woodward. “I encourage families to think about safety as they start selecting costumes and making plans to celebrate with others. Taking steps before the big night, like agreeing on ground rules and ensuring costumes will be seen in the dark, provides more time to safely enjoy Halloween.” Read full post »

Mother Donates a Piece of Her Liver to Save Her Baby

Olivia was born with a rare disease of the liver. Doctors knew she would one day need a liver transplant.

Olivia was born with a rare disease of the liver.

Patricia Alva knew, even before her baby girl was born, that something was wrong. When she was pregnant, doctors detected a cyst on the baby’s stomach during an ultrasound.

“It was heartbreaking,” said Alva.

After she was born, doctors diagnosed baby Olivia with biliary atresia, a rare disease of the liver. It occurs when a baby’s bile ducts do not form normally. It occurs in about 1 in every 15,000 babies. Read full post »

New Trial Uses MRI to Study Obesity and Brain Signaling in Children

These images show brain scans of a normal weight child (top row) and an obese child (bottom row) before and after a meal. The blue in the top right image from a normal weight child indicates reduced activity in areas of the brain associated with hunger. The bottom right image shows similar brain activity in an obese child before and after eating, an indication there may be an issue in brain signaling to indicate hunger and fullness.

Are brain signals in obese children different than brain signals in normal weight children? Researchers at Seattle Children’s hope to answer that question with a new trial that uses magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to study brain signaling in children ages 9-11.

Dr. Christian Roth, a pediatric endocrinologist and researcher at Seattle Children’s Research Institute, is overseeing a trial called the Brain Activation and Satiety in Children Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (BASIC fMRI) study to look at how the brain responds to food in children who are obese and those who are normal weight.

“Our goal is to understand why some children who are obese still feel hungry after eating a meal,” Roth said. “We want to understand this tendency to overeat in more detail and get insight into the brain signals that cause it.” Read full post »

Program Helps Eva Find Freedom From Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder


Eva, 14, has been suffering from OCD since she was a little girl.

Since Eva Tomassini was 4 years old, she remembers her life being controlled by rules. Not from her parents, or school, but rules she created in her head, like having to arrange things in a certain way or run away in order to prevent terrible things from happening. As Eva grew older, her compulsions and obsessions got worse. She thought if she didn’t follow the rules, someone close to her would be harmed or die.

Eva has Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD), a disorder that literally ruled her life throughout her childhood.

“It was like she was controlled by an evil puppet master,” said Earlyn Tomassini, Eva’s mother. “She had spontaneous rules she had to follow or she’d run away at night because her OCD would tell her something bad would happen to somebody if she didn’t. It was really difficult for her and for our family.” Read full post »

Nurse Creates Song to Give Hope, Help Find a Cure for Pediatric Cancer

0153-Cassi-War-on-Cancer-Neptune-Shoot-2016-Jerry-and-Lois-Photography (lWEB).jpg Cassi White and friends | War on Cancer | Neptune Theater, July 2016 © Jerry and Lois Photography All rights reserved http://www.jerryandlois.com

The War for the Cure was created to help raise awareness, as well as funds, in the fight against childhood cancer.

Cassandra (Cassi) White was on an airplane when the words began to flow. White was a thousand miles away from Seattle Children’s, where she works as a pediatric cancer care nurse, when she began to piece together a song for the kids who never leave her heart – kids fighting cancer.

“The words came pouring out of me,” said White. “I started thinking about the kids that I see at work every day and the words just kept coming.”

White wanted others to see inside her world. She wanted to educate people about the struggles these courageous children face each day.

“A lot of people have a connection to cancer in someway,” said White. “The song gives a real look into that world. It provides a window of what these kids go through, and gives people something they can relate to.” Read full post »

Researcher Launches Childhood Chemical Exposure Study With NIH

Dr. Sheela Sathyanarayana says there are thousands of chemicals used in products that are consumed by the public, but there is little information about how most of them impact human health.

Babies and children are exposed to chemicals when they play, eat and go outside, and a $157 million new initiative launched by the National Institutes of Health aims to create a comprehensive understanding of how chemicals and environmental factors like air pollution impact childhood development.

Dr. Sheela Sathyanarayana, a pediatric environmental health researcher at Seattle Children’s Research Institute, was selected as one of the principle investigators whose focus is chemical exposures.

“We have very little data about how most chemicals impact fetal and childhood development,” Sathyanarayana said. “This national study will give us a clearer understanding of how chemical exposures impact child health and what researchers, policymakers and parents should be most concerned about.” Read full post »

Bioethicist Studies Native American Attitudes Toward Genetic Research

Dr. Nanibaa' Garrison is a bioethicist who studies attitudes and perspectives towards genetic research among Native American populations.

Dr. Nanibaa’ Garrison is a bioethicist who studies attitudes and perspectives towards genetic research among Native American populations.

Dr. Nanibaa’ A. Garrison, a faculty member in the Treuman Katz Center for Pediatric Bioethics, studies ethical issues surrounding genetic research with Native American communities. She is also a member of the Navajo Nation, so her professional field of research is closely linked to her personal background.

She sat down with On the Pulse for a Q&A about her bioethics research and clinical interests.

How did you get interested in this type of research?

I became interested in bioethical issues in genetics when I saw that tribes were hesitant to participate in this type of research. I’m a member of the Navajo Nation, where I was born and raised. I was aware of the cultural issues and history surrounding Native Americans and medical research, and I wanted to bridge both worlds using my scientific training. Read full post »

Preventing Obesity with Mindful Eating

Traditional advice for helping families ensure their children and teens maintain a healthy weight begins with a focus on balancing calories consumed from food and beverages with calories used through physical activity and growth. Dr. Lenna Liu, a pediatrician at Seattle Children’s Odessa Brown Children’s Clinic and Child Wellness Clinic, uses a slightly different approach to support families with the complex issue of weight management. She starts by encouraging families to adopt a mindful approach to eating. Read full post »

A Miracle in the Making

Greta Oberhofer’s leukemia is in remission thanks to T-cell immunotherapy developed at Seattle Children’s.

Greta Oberhofer survived a bone marrow transplant for leukemia when she was just 8 months old — but the side effects nearly killed her. Then, six months later, her family’s worst fears came to life.

“My husband put the doctor on speaker phone — he told me Greta relapsed and that her prognosis was bad,” remembers her mother, Maggie Oberhofer. “She had already suffered so much with the chemotherapy and transplant, and we didn’t want to put her through that again. We didn’t know what to do.”

The Oberhofers — who live in Portland — were considering hospice for Greta. Then they heard that Seattle Children’s Dr. Rebecca Gardner was testing a therapy that uses reprogrammed immune cells to attack certain kinds of leukemia.

“Dr. Gardner said not to give up because her therapy was putting kids like Greta in remission, and that the side effects were often a lot easier to tolerate,” Oberhofer says. “We suddenly had a way forward.”

A few months later, the Oberhofers watched Greta’s reprogrammed cells drip into her body. Two weeks after that, her cancer was in remission.

Read full post »