On the Pulse

pagetitle_full_corners

Doctor Explains the Truth about Drowning: “It’s a Silent Killer”

lifejacket imageTemperatures are on the rise, which has families flocking to pools, lakes, rivers and oceans to beat the sweltering heat.

While a cool dip may sound like the perfect summertime activity for a family, it can also be a dangerous one. More than 1,500 children and teens die every year in the U.S. from drowning. In Washington state alone, an average of 25 children and teens drown every year, higher than the national average.

Fortunately, most water related injuries and deaths are preventable, if proper safety measures are taken. One important hurdle to overcome, however, is deciphering the difference between drowning fact and myth. Read full post »

The Fault in “The Fault in Our Stars”

I loved “The Fault in Our Stars.” Both the book and the movie. I read the book a few years ago during a flight. I cried so hard that I’m sure the other passengers were alarmed, if not downright uncomfortable sitting near me. This summer, I saw the movie with a girlfriend. Same thing – I went through a whole pack of tissues and left red-faced, swollen and physically dehydrated.

As we walked out of the theater, my girlfriend (also a pediatrician) turned to me and said skeptically, “I don’t get it, Abby. Why are you so emotional? Isn’t this what you DO for a living?”

The answer is yes. Taking care of teens and young adults with cancer is what I do. And, perhaps, that is why this book/movie hit me so hard. For one thing, we oncologists are often so busy thinking about chemotherapy and side effects, we don’t see the other side of cancer. We get to know our patients and families, but we see them in the contrived settings of clinic and the hospital – not at home, amongst their friends or on a trip to Amsterdam. We aren’t always privy to their witty internal monologues or their poignant observations about the injustices of life, the things that really matter to them, or the life lessons they’ve learned during their arduous journey with cancer.

Read full post »

Study Helps Teens Cope with Stress of Cancer, Diabetes

blogpic1The teen years can be difficult– you’re fighting for your independence but still trying to develop an identity. And your 20s come with their own obstacles, like going to college, starting a career and living on your own. Can you imagine facing those developmental milestones while injecting yourself with insulin or enduring chemotherapy?

Dr. Abby Rosenberg, medical leader for Seattle Children’s Hospital’s Adolescent and Young Adult Cancer program, and Dr. Joyce Yi-Frazier, research health psychologist at Seattle Children’s Research Institute, have seen teens with cancer and type 1 diabetes struggle physically and psychosocially. Adolescents and young adults with cancer are less likely to achieve social milestones like college, marriage, and employment and more likely to suffer from anxiety and post-traumatic stress. Likewise, teens with type 1 diabetes struggle to control their blood sugar levels and are more likely to be depressed.

“The teen and young adult years are a critical time of transition for anyone,” Rosenberg said. “When you add a serious illness to the mix, you are asking patients to do extraordinarily hard things. We want to help them integrate the experience into their identity so they are not only surviving, but thriving.”

An intervention model

To help patients, Rosenberg and Yi-Frazier worked together on the Promoting Resilience in Stress Management (PRISM) study. PRISM is an intervention model designed to teach patients resilience – the ability to maintain psychological and physical well-being in the face of stress – to buffer the impact of serious illness. Read full post »

New AYA Cancer Leader Helps Teens and Young Adults Balance Life with Cancer

Dr. Abby Rosenberg recently assumed a leadership role in the Adolescent and Young Adult (AYA) Cancer Program at Seattle Children’s Hospital. Dr. Rosenberg also happens to love to write, so she’ll be contributing to On the Pulse from time to time. Below, she talks about her own experiences as a teen, and what it’s like for teens with cancer to balance those struggles while battling a serious illness.

Dr. Abby Rosenberg is the new medical leader of Seattle Children's Adolescent and Young Adult (AYA) Cancer Program

Dr. Abby Rosenberg is the new medical leader of Seattle Children’s Adolescent and Young Adult (AYA) Cancer Program

It is with excitement and some nervousness that I begin my role as the new medical leader of our Adolescent and Young Adult (AYA) Cancer Program at Seattle Children’s Hospital. Why am I nervous? I love working with teens and young adults. But, I also remember my own adolescence and young adulthood. It wasn’t easy. I was socially awkward. Painfully insecure. A little bit lonely. I was a good student, a decent soccer player, and (unfortunately) an inconsistent friend. I wanted desperately to fit in, but never quite did. I believed that each boyfriend was “the one”…until suddenly he wasn’t. I fought with my mother constantly; I wanted her to be my friend and never would have admitted that I really needed her to be my mom. I couldn’t wait to move out, to be independent, to prove to the world that I was somebody.

Adolescence and young adulthood is a period of life that is supposed to be characterized by struggle. Maybe that sounds melodramatic, but I think it’s true. It is the time when we develop our self-identities. Our independence. We navigate peer relationships. Romantic relationships. Family and community roles. We begin to set our educational, vocational, and other life goals. We take on real responsibilities. Put bluntly, we grow up.

Read full post »

Seattle Children’s to Host Conference on Social Media and Teen Health

SMAHRTAs new technologies have emerged, Seattle Children’s Research Institute has kept pace, studying various social media channels and considering how these impact adolescent health.

To share their exciting work with the community, the research institute’s Social Media & Adolescent Health Research Team (SMAHRT) is hosting its first annual conference July 31 through Aug. 2. The conference, titled “Using Social Media To Improve Health, Catalyze Research and Empower Communities,” will address how social media can lead to both problematic behaviors – like overuse of the internet – or positive actions, like increased fitness.

“We know social media has some risk but we also know there are some benefits to using these tools,” said Dr. Megan Moreno, principal investigator of SMAHRT within the Center for Child Health, Behavior and Development at Seattle Children’s. “We want to figure out how to make online experiences more positive.”

The conference will include panel discussions as well as an “Appy Hour” in which attendees will have a chance to use Fitbit activity trackers, experience iPad health screenings and try an app used to help patients decide on birth control methods. It is intended for teachers, educators, families, health care providers, researchers, child health advocates, public health practitioners, and members of the legal, business, technology, and journalism communities. Read full post »

Never Leave a Child Alone in the Car, Physician Warns

Child Passenger SafetyLeaving a child alone in the car can have deadly consequences, even on just a warm day and only for a few minutes. It’s a preventable scenario that can happen to anyone – after a busy morning getting ready for work a parent could easily forget their baby in the backseat of a car, or while running a few quick errands it may seem easier to leave a restless 5-year-old in the backseat, or a sleeping toddler in their car seat.

However, a child should never be left alone in a car, not even for a couple of minutes, says Dr. Tony Woodward, medical director of emergency medicine at Seattle Children’s Hospital. On average in the U.S., 38 children die each year from heatstroke in hot cars, according to KidsAndCars.org. Some of the children are forgotten, some are intentionally left there, and others gain access accidentally. Read full post »

Bioethics Conference Asks Researchers ‘What Would You Do?’

The Treuman Katz Center for Pediatric Bioethics was the first of its kind in the United States, created 10 years ago along with an annual conference. The tenth annual Pediatric Bioethics Conference will be held later this month, and will bring together renowned leaders in the field of pediatric bioethics to discuss various ethical issues faced by researchers daily.

“Our conferences expose attendees to new perspectives and new ways of thinking,” said Dr. Douglas Diekema, director of education at the Treuman Katz Center.

Some of the topics that will be discussed at this year’s conference include:

  • Parents of seriously ill children are often desperate for new therapies, even if in early phase trials. Is truly voluntary consent possible in such a situation?
  • Social media allows researchers to “eavesdrop” on adolescent behavior. Should there be constraints on this type of investigation?
  • Is it ever acceptable to conduct research in developing countries that would be considered inappropriate in the United States?
  • If hospitals set up biobanks for research, what is needed to ensure public trust?

Read full post »

Seattle Children’s Researcher Finds Genetic Identifier for Autism

Dr. Raphael Bernier

Dr. Raphael Bernier

A researcher at Seattle Children’s Hospital and Research Institute, in collaboration with researchers from 13 institutions worldwide, has found a genetic identifier for autism that includes physical features and a pattern of symptoms that may eventually allow clinicians to develop targeted treatments or ultimately potentially identify babies who are at risk for autism before they are born.

Dr. Raphael Bernier, clinical director of Seattle Children’s Autism Center and Associate Professor at the University of Washington, discovered that a mutation of the CHD8 gene, in addition to significantly increasing a child’s risk of developing a specific subtype of autism, also causes several unique physical traits.

We had the opportunity to chat with Bernier and ask him how this discovery will impact children and families.

Read full post »

Unique Protocol for Flesh-Eating Bacteria Helps Trey Get Back to Life

TreyLaurenBaseballOn a Saturday in March, 13-year-old Trey Lauren was playing with his friends at a birthday party when he fell and cut his knee on a nail. It was a typical injury for a kid his age, but what resulted was anything but typical.

Trey was taken to a local emergency room that night, and by Sunday morning his wound had been closed with six stitches. But when Monday morning came, he was too sick with a fever to go to school, and his knee had begun to swell. Trey’s parents, Mark and Randi Lauren, decided to take him to urgent care, where his stitches were removed and he was started on antibiotics. However, later that night, Trey’s fever persisted, and the swelling in his knee had only gotten worse.

One trip to the emergency room later, Trey received an additional dose of broad spectrum antibiotics, and the decision was made to transfer him to Seattle Children’s Hospital. Read full post »

Mason’s Half-Heart Diagnosis Doesn’t Squash His Independence

Mason Garka, 6, holds a photo of himself as a baby, just before his surgery on July 4, 2008

Independence Day has a unique meaning for Greg and Kelsey Garka. It was on July 4, 2008, that their brand new baby boy, Mason, had his chest closed after the first of three life-saving heart operations at Seattle Children’s Hospital.

“His recovery from that day forward went text book well,” Kelsey Garka said. “It was the first step toward the spunky, independent boy he is today.”

Mason, who just celebrated his sixth birthday, was born with Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome (HLHS), a congenital birth defect that affects the left side of the heart, which pumps oxygen-rich blood to the body.

Read full post »