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April Discovers Power in Her Voice Through Selective Mutism Program

April Merrill is a 6-year-old who loves to sing and dance. Yet, her struggle with an anxiety disorder called selective mutism hinders her ability to do the activities that showcase her vibrant and joyful personality.

“Her voice disappears, as April describes it,” said Kelly Merrill, April’s mother. “She said that she wants to talk but can’t seem to find her voice.”

As April was growing up, Merrill noticed signs in her daughter that indicated something might be wrong.

“When April started to talk, she could only verbalize 20 or so words,” said Merrill. “She was 2 years old at the time and I noticed she couldn’t expand her vocabulary.”

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When the Going Gets ‘Ruff’, Kids Find Comfort From a Four-Legged League of Heroes

In honor of National Dog Day, On the Pulse is recognizing three unique four-legged visitors who bring joy to kids at Seattle Children’s.

When a child is in need of some cheering up during a hospital stay, Seattle Children’s knows just the right MVP for the task – Most Valuable Pup that is. With their wiggling tails, wet noses and oozing charm, each of the nine volunteer therapy dogs in Seattle Children’s Animal-Assisted Activities Program harnesses their unique strengths and abilities to bring a smile to every patient they meet.

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Boy Born With Life-Threatening Condition Rises Up For a Brighter Future

In 2009, during Laurina Barker’s 20-week ultrasound, she and her husband Ryan received news that no expecting parents want to hear.

“The technician turned to me and said something looked different and that they would have my doctor call me,” said Barker.

A couple of days later, the Barkers would learn their baby had congenital diaphragmatic hernia (CDH), a rare birth defect where a baby’s diaphragm does not form completely. This leaves a hole between the abdomen and chest allowing their organs, most often their intestines and liver, to slip through the hole and up into the chest.

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Anesthesia Bag Art Lifts Spirits of Kids Undergoing Surgery

When 4-year-old Sho Hansen entered the doors of Seattle Children’s Bellevue Clinic and Surgery Center to get his tonsils removed, he clung on tightly to his mother.

“After his name was called and we sat in the exam room, all he wanted to do was sit in my lap and not acknowledge anyone that came in to talk to us,” said his mother, Lisa Hansen. “Sho is shy and tends to get nervous around people he doesn’t know well.”

One of the staff members in line to help prepare Sho for his surgery was a nurse anesthetist named Anisa Manion.

“My role at the clinic is to administer anesthesia to patients to help them fall asleep before going into surgery,” said Manion. “We’re given a short period of time to get kids as comfortable as possible. The process can be very challenging — many kids are anxious and nervous, so the friendlier we make the environment for them, the easier it is for them.”

Manion has a special trick up her sleeve when it comes to calming kids down during the pre-surgery process.

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Abdominal Pain in Kids: Anxiety-Related or Something More?

It’s not uncommon for kids to complain of abdominal pain around the start of the school year, before a big test, sports game or performance — when their stress and anxiety levels can be at an all-time high.

While this may not be a cause for immediate concern for some parents, others may feel uncertain on how to address their child’s pain, or may not know that there could be more to it than just a few ‘butterflies’ fluttering in their child’s stomach.

Dr. Nicole Sawangpont Pattamanuch, a gastroenterologist at Seattle Children’s, breaks down the symptoms of abdominal pain related to stress and anxiety, recommends coping techniques for kids to alleviate their discomfort, and shares red flags to help families determine if there is something more concerning to their child’s symptoms.

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Star Athlete Sisters Are ‘Twinning’ When It Comes to Tackling Celiac Disease

Through Seattle Children’s Celiac Disease Program, twin sisters Claire and Emma learned how to adopt a new gluten-free diet in to their active, athletic lifestyle.

Claire and Emma Brennan are 13-year-olds who are always on-the-run.

Whether it’s sprinting across the basketball court or flying to their next volleyball tournament halfway across the country, these twin sisters stop at nothing to achieve athletic excellence.

“Claire and Emma have sports practice almost every day of the week,” said their mother, Cathy Brennan. “We’re always on-the-go, so I have to make sure they have easy access to snacks they can eat to keep energized.”

The active teens burn calories at a rapid pace given their hours of intensive sports practice, and so a balanced diet is key to performing at their best.

However, food prep takes some careful planning in the Brennan household as both girls are on a strict gluten-free diet to manage celiac disease, an autoimmune disorder that they were diagnosed with in September 2017.

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Seattle Children’s Reaches Beyond Its Walls to Improve Mental Health Care for Kids in the Community and Across the Region

There is a tremendous need for improved access to mental health care and resources for children and teens nationwide.

At Seattle Children’s, its commitment to helping address this need spans not only within the Seattle community, but throughout the region.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 1 in 5 children have a mental, emotional, or behavioral disorder, such as anxiety or depression, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, disruptive behavior disorder, and Tourette syndrome.

While early intervention is key in managing mental health issues, only about 20% of children with disorders receive care from a specialized mental health care provider.

That’s why Seattle Children’s is continuously working to enhance access to mental health services, promote education and research, and advocate for families affected by mental illness.

The following describes three of the many innovative programs and initiatives that Seattle Children’s offers to help improve mental health care for all children.

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Dying Baby’s Path to Lifesaving Transplant Sheds Light on Disparities in Pediatric Organ Donation

Picturing her daughter making it to her first birthday was difficult for Rachael Rowe as she watched her baby struggle to survive each passing day waiting for a liver transplant.

Time officially took its toll on Feb. 6, 2018 — four months after 10-month-old Raylee was put on the transplant waiting list.

“I remember it was 3:00 a.m. in the morning when I heard Raylee screaming in pain,” said Rowe. “Never in my life had I heard a baby cry like that before. It was terrifying.”

After spending three hours trying to comfort her normally smiley and happy baby, Rowe took Raylee to the emergency room near their home in Portland, Oregon.

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An Interdisciplinary Team Model in Diagnosing Autism Helps Brendan Find His Voice

Brendan Bittinger, 9, was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder using a team evaluation model developed at the Seattle Children’s Autism Center.

Some say ‘it takes a village to raise a child.’ At Seattle Children’s Autism Center, this concept came to life to a certain degree through the development of a collaborative method for diagnosing autism in children that aimed to improve the diagnostic process and increase efficiency, with the potential of leading to better patient outcomes.

Linda Bittinger’s 9-year-old son Brendan found his ‘village’ at the Autism Center in June 2017 when a team made up of providers from different disciplines came together for a thoughtful diagnostic evaluation that would shape his treatment path to progress.

“When we received his diagnosis, I felt a sense of optimism,” said Bittinger. “I had less worries knowing there were opportunities for treatment. And since then, he’s made tremendous strides.”

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A Surgeon’s Legacy Advances Surgical Care in India

A decade ago, the late Seattle Children’s surgeon, Dr. Richard Grady, began traveling to India for a special mission — to provide urgent surgical care to children born with a rare and complex disorder called bladder exstrophy (BE).

Grady’s dedication to helping under-resourced children in India led to the development of a unique international collaborative that aimed to alleviate the global burden of this surgically treatable disease, as documented in a recent article published in JAMA Surgery.

Dr. Paul Merguerian, division chief of urology at Seattle Children’s, who is helping to carry on Grady’s inspirational work, recalls his colleague’s passionate commitment to care for children not only in the Pacific Northwest region, but in a country located more than 7,000 miles across the globe.

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