On the Pulse

Let’s Talk About What Most People Avoid: Poop

Poop Emoji Pose

Dr. Ambartsumyan poses with items from her wall of memorabilia.

Everyone poops. Now that that’s out of the way, let’s talk about it.

Dr. Lusine Ambartsumyan, director of Seattle Children’s Gastrointestinal Motility program, is on a mission to open up a dialogue about poop.

According to Ambartsumyan, people tend to shy away from conversations related to bowel movements. She says many people feel uncomfortable or shameful talking about it, but these are vital conversations for parents and children to have together.

Millions of children around the world have problems with constipation and fecal incontinence, or the ability to control bowel movements. However, these issues can be difficult to diagnose if children and parents aren’t willing to speak up.

“There’s a stigma, and sometimes parents don’t know their child is suffering from constipation or incontinence because they feel ashamed to talk about it,” said Ambartsumyan. “We have to desensitize and demystify shame around poop. I talk about poop all day long, every single day, and I love talking about it. I want people to feel comfortable talking about it too because it’s critical for their health.” Read full post »

Microcephaly: Neurologists Answer Questions in Light of Zika Outbreak

The World Health Organization has declared the Zika virus and its potential link to birth defects a global health emergency. Zika virus is carried mainly by a species of mosquito called Aedes aegypti.

The World Health Organization has declared the Zika virus and its potential link to birth defects a global health emergency. Scientists are studying if the spread of Zika in Latin America is linked to the increased rates of microcephaly, a condition in which babies are born with unusually small heads. Zika virus is transmitted mainly through the bite of an infected Aedes aegypti or Aedes albopictus mosquito.

Dr. William Dobyns and Dr. Ghayda Mirzaa are pediatric neurogeneticists and researchers at the Center for Integrative Brain Research at Seattle Children’s Research Institute who treat and study microcephaly. On the Pulse sat down with them to discuss microcephaly.

Q: What is microcephaly?

Mirzaa: Microcephaly is a condition in which a fetus or baby’s head size is abnormally small, defined as more than two standard deviations below average. The smaller head size reflects abnormal or decreased brain growth. Microcephaly affects about 2% of newborns, while severe microcephaly, defined as a head size more than three standard deviations below average, is seen in less than 0.1% of newborns.

Microcephaly occurs as the only birth defect in many children, but it can also occur with a wide range of additional abnormalities including other brain defects. When a baby has microcephaly, a neurologist or geneticist will order tests to determine the cause. Read full post »

Blood Donation: Eight Things to Know

January marks National Blood Donor Month, a time to encourage people to become blood donors and celebrate those who already give the gift of life through blood donation.

In the U.S., someone needs donated blood about every two seconds. The need for new donations is constant as blood is only usable for a limited amount of time – donated red blood cells must be used within 42 days of collection, platelets within 5 days, and plasma can be frozen for up to one year. Our nation’s blood supply is often dangerously low during the winter months due to donors’ busy holiday schedules, seasonal illnesses and bad weather. Children and adults being treated for cancer, surgery patients, victims of accidents and other ill people all rely on donated blood. In fact, blood transfusions are the most frequently performed medical procedure people have during hospital stays. Read full post »

Chronic Migraines in Kids: A Family Works Past the Pain With Seattle Children’s Researcher

Tyler Stewart has struggled with chronic migraines all his life. With Dr. Emily Law’s behavioral treatment, he has new tools to reduce the migraines.

Tyler Stewart was 5 when he had his first migraine. He stepped out of class to get a drink of water, got a headache and vomited. His mom, Kelly Stewart, got a call from the school. The nurse suspected Tyler had a migraine.

Tyler, now 15, says chronic pediatric migraines affected his entire childhood experience, from school to sports.

“The day I had my test to qualify for my black belt in tae kwon do, I had a migraine,” he said. “I got the black belt, but I had to push through a migraine to do it.”

This past summer, Tyler began to see Dr. Emily Law, a psychologist in Seattle Children’s Pain Medicine program and a researcher at Seattle Children’s Research Institute. She studies the use of behavioral interventions and screening tools in treating pediatric migraines, and recently received a grant from the National Institutes of Health to support her research. Read full post »

New Year, Fresh Start For a Little Girl With a Song of Her Own

Gabby and KimMilestones deserve a celebration. At least that’s what Seattle Children’s Pediatric Advanced Care Team thought when 9-year-old Gabby Krueger, a longtime patient at Seattle Children’s, received some good news the week before Christmas. After 14 weeks in the hospital, doctors gave the family the green light to go home.

“We’ve been here a really long time,” said Kim Sistek, Gabby’s mother. “We were really excited to go home.”

The news came after Gabby showed improvement in motility. For three years, Gabby has needed assistance going to the bathroom. She’s needed to use enemas to pass stool on her own. Her parents were beginning to have conversations with doctors about what Gabby’s life would look like if she lost motility. Her outcome was looking bleak. But just a couple weeks ago, Gabby made an improvement. Read full post »

Discovery Portal Invites Visitors to Explore Extraordinary Pediatric Research

Seattle Children’s Research Institute is hosting an open house for its new visitor center showcasing research for life-saving cures and advances in pediatrics.

Seattle Children’s Research Institute is home to some of the world’s most inventive and successful pediatric researchers, who work every day to find lifesaving cures and address health issues that affect children around the world.

This institute has opened its Discovery Portal visitor center, a place for the community, patients and donors to experience how researchers are making a difference for children in Seattle and around the globe. The new visitor center showcases research for life-saving cures and advances in pediatric research.
Read full post »

NIH funds $2 million obesity treatment study at Seattle Children’s Research Institute

The SHIFT study is a great opportunity for families starting the New Year thinking about weight loss and healthy habits.

Many people begin the New Year with a commitment to better health and weight loss. At Seattle Children’s Research Institute, we’re doing the same by launching an obesity treatment study using long-term interventions that provide children and parents with focused guidance and education to help them reach and sustain weight loss goals.

The study, known as the SHIFT study (Success in Health: Impacting Families Together) takes place over a five-month period in which children ages 7-11 and their parents meet weekly for intensive sessions at regional clinics.

“This study is a great opportunity for one-on-one attention and group support for families who are starting this New Year thinking about weight loss and healthy habits,” said Dr. Brian Saelens, Principal Investigator and director of the study. “Past results using this intensive method showed promise, and we are excited to expand this research with NIH support.” Read full post »

Seattle Children’s Named One of the Greenest Hospitals in America

Building HopeSeattle Children’s has been caring for children for more than a hundred years, founded on the promise to care for every child in the region and provide the safest most effective care possible. That vision still guides the hospital today, but for Colleen Groll, manager of sustainability programs at Seattle Children’s, she interprets it in a unique way – from an environmental perspective.

“Environmental stewardship is perfectly aligned with our mission and vision,” said Groll. “If we want to positively affect the health of as many children as possible, we have to take responsibility for our environmental impacts. When we take responsibility for our impacts, we take responsibility for the health of the people around us, including the children and families we serve.” Read full post »

Positive Changes for the New Year: Resolutions for Families

The New Year is a time when many people reflect on what’s been going well, and also think about small changes they might like to make to improve their health and wellness. You’ve likely got a thing or two in mind for your own self-care goals. Along with these, think about picking an item that your family can work on together as well. It’s more fun to work as a team, and you can encourage each other along the way to creating healthier habits.

Last year, Dr. Mollie Grow told us about making SMART resolutions (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and timely). This year, she’s offering more ideas for families to consider as they take steps for better health, safety and wellness in 2016.

“The New Year is a great time to reflect on our values and priorities as a family and look for ways to act these out in daily life,” Grow said. Read full post »

Young Philanthropists Help Make Holidays Bright for Kids at Seattle Children’s

Toy Drive

Tonya Ward poses with hundreds of toys donated by children at Cedarhurst Elementary.

Sometimes the littlest of hearts can be the most generous. Children at The Bear Creek School and Cedarhurst Elementary School are proving just that. They are helping make the holiday a little brighter, and warmer for kids at Seattle Children’s this holiday.

Spreading holiday cheer

Spending the holidays away from home and in a hospital bed can be a difficult reality for some children. They may wonder what the holidays will bring, or if Santa will be able to find them. For children who are ill, a toy or a comfort item, like a blanket, can mean the world.

“I couldn’t imagine having to spend Christmas in the hospital,” said Tonya Ward, a teacher’s aid at Cedarhurst Elementary. “It’s an incredible feeling to know we’re making a difference in a child’s life.” Read full post »