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Lung transplant debate highlights need for more organ donors

Organ transplantWith two high-profile pediatric transplant cases making headlines recently, many people are paying closer attention to organ donation. Simon Horslen, MB ChB, medical director for liver and intestinal transplantation at Seattle Children’s Hospital, hopes the current debate will be a good boost for organ donation. The real issue, he says, is that there are not enough donors for everyone who needs an organ.

Horslen has cared for transplant patients for years, and he sympathizes with parents who are fighting for their kids to have a chance at life. But he notes that organ donation guidelines exist for a reason.

“It’s right that the families of these kids do everything they can to advocate for their children,” says Horslen. “But it’s a bad precedent if every time someone gets to the bottom of the list or is going to struggle to get transplanted, that they go to the courts to challenge it.” Read full post »

More kids accidentally poisoned by legal marijuana, study finds

Medical marijuana

A Colorado study finds that more of the state’s children have accidentally ingested marijuana since medical marijuana was legalized. Suzan Mazor, MD, a pediatric emergency medicine physician at Seattle Children’s and a medical toxicologist at Children’s and the Washington Poison Center, says parents and doctors can expect to see similar effects in Washington state.

The study, published May 27 in JAMA Pediatrics, was conducted at a children’s hospital in Colorado, where medical marijuana was legalized in June 2001 and recreational use of marijuana was decriminalized in November 2012. The researchers saw a sharp increase in emergency department visits for marijuana ingestion after October 2009, when the federal government stopped prosecuting medical marijuana users who were conforming to their state’s laws.

Fourteen children between 8 months and 12 years old were evaluated and treated for accidental ingestions between October 2009 and December 2011. By comparison, there were no accidental marijuana ingestions between January 2005 and September 2009.

Mazor says it makes sense that as marijuana became more available in the community, children’s exposures to the drug increased. She suspects that researchers would see the same results in Washington state, which has similar laws. “More availability of any poison usually translates to more unintentional poisonings in kids.”

The emergency team at Children’s has already seen several cases of unintentional marijuana ingestion. “One child in particular was quite sedated, and was admitted to the pediatric intensive care unit after eating a homemade product containing marijuana,” says Mazor.

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Building Hope expansion full, getting rave reviews one month after opening

Building Hope patient roomIt’s been one month since Seattle Children’s new cancer, critical and emergency care expansion opened to patients and the inpatient units are already full. The new Emergency Department (ED) on the ground floor of the building has also seen higher-than-normal patient volumes. Patients and staff are giving Building Hope high marks.

“It’s unbelievable to see it as a real building. It’s amazing that it’s so similar to the cardboard mockup we built three years ago,” says Mandy Hansen, Building Hope project manager. “There’s a great sense of pride about all the hard work that went into building a space that really supports our patients and families.”

New inpatient rooms already full

The new critical care and cancer care units in Building Hope filled up almost immediately after the building opened. Twenty patients moved into the new cancer unit on April 21, but volumes quickly grew. At times since the opening, all 48 beds in the unit have been full (up from 33 beds in the previous unit). Read full post »

Water safety tips for kids

Life jacketIf you’ve ever spent time with a toddler, you know how quickly they can move. One minute they’re standing next to you, the next they’re sampling from the dog’s bowl, drawing on the wall or crawling up the stairs. Elizabeth Bennett, drowning prevention expert with Seattle Children’s, says toddlers’ speed and curiosity can be especially dangerous when it comes to water.

“Water is a magnet for kids,” says Bennett. “The one- to four-year-old age group is at very high risk around the water.” Over 1,500 children and teens die every year in the U.S. from drowning. In Washington state, an average of 20 children and teens drown every year.

Bennett says families’ Memorial Day preparations should include a water safety refresher, because this is an especially dangerous time of year for drowning.

“People underestimate the power of the water, especially in the spring,” she says. “The water’s really cold right now, and the rivers are running high. The minute you go in the water, you’ll feel the effects of cold water shock. It’s critical that you are already wearing a life jacket, because your limbs will start to stiffen right away.”

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Patients move into Building Hope expansion

Russell Wilson Building Hope

On Sunday, April 21, care teams moved patients into new cancer and critical care units in the Building Hope expansion, including the country’s first teen and young adult inpatient cancer unit. Patients, hospital leadership and staff, and Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson helped celebrate the opening with a ribbon-cutting ceremony.

The expanded emergency department opened to patients Tuesday, April 23. The new ED has 38 exam rooms and features a new model of care that will reduce wait times and allow patients to be seen by a nurse right away.

The video below offers a behind-the-scenes look at the first patients moving into Building Hope.

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Dad’s gift to his daughter – Evelyn’s transplant story

Evelyn Sherman had a kidney transplant this past Halloween, just 10 days before she turned three years old. Her dad, Keith, was her donor. In honor of Donate Life Month, Evelyn’s mom, Julianne, reflects on their journey as they near the six-month anniversary of the transplant.

Getting the diagnosis

Evelyn was nine months old when she started falling off the chart. I thought my milk supply had dropped off so we were just sort of waiting it out, but she was still falling off the curve. Then we tried to beef up her diet and that wasn’t working.

Evelyn_dialysis By the time we got the diagnosis when she was 15 months old, we had made a tour of Children’s. She had some other physical manifestations of something being wrong. She had a sixth toe. She had wine stains on her skin. So we’d been to orthopedics to have her toe removed. And we’d been to dermatology. We felt like we were ending our tour when we got to nephrology. It was our last stop.

Evelyn was diagnosed with renal dysplasia, meaning that the kidney developed incorrectly in the beginning. She also has kidney reflux and that means that the urine is going back up into the kidneys from the bladder. It often causes a kidney infection, but for whatever reason, she didn’t really manifest that.

When the doctor delivered the news that there was something wrong with her kidney, I remember thinking, “I feel like you’re saying something really important to me and it’s just not registering because you have got to be talking about somebody else.” I couldn’t comprehend what he was saying, that I had a critically ill child.

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The Steubenville rape case – How to talk to your teen about sexual assault

Teen girl talking As coverage of the Steubenville rape case and trial continues, parents may worry about their own teens. Are they safe? How can they best protect themselves from sexual assault? It’s a topic  parents should be prepared to talk about with their teens – both girls and boys, says Jen Brown, a nurse with Seattle Children’s adolescent medicine team. In a 7-part series on Children’s Teenology 101 blog, Brown offers straightforward, practical reminders for teens and their parents, and suggests ways to start the conversation and to keep it going. She also addresses special situations and issues, such as developmentally delayed teens and sexual assault within relationships. Read full post »

Family connection, one-on-one intervention help prevent teen pregnancy

Teen pregnancy test

While the rate of teen pregnancy in the United States has declined in recent years, it remains the highest among industrialized nations. More than 750,000 high-school-age girls become pregnant every year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Now, a new study suggests that intervention approaches that combine contraception and condom education with leadership training, one-on-one coaching, and peer engagement can help reduce the risk of pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections in teen girls.

The study, published Feb. 25 in JAMA Pediatrics, followed more than 200 high-risk 13- to 17-year-old girls for two years. The girls were coached in everything from choosing the right birth control to developing better relationships with their parents to asking a partner to use a condom.

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Two kids, two heart defects – One family’s journey

For the Millers of Silverdale, Wash., Valentine’s Day is extra special this year. For the first time in five years, their calendar is free of surgeries and hospital stays for siblings Tessa and Gabriel, who were both born with heart defects.

A complicated, changing diagnosis

The Millers’ complicated journey began in 2008, before Tessa was even born. Ariana and Chris learned that she had Down Syndrome and an atrioventricular septal defect (also known as an AV canal defect). The defect occurs when the heart doesn’t form properly before birth, leaving a hole in the middle of the upper and lower chambers.

Tessa 7.14.12

Even while she was still pregnant, Ariana began seeing Seattle Children’s Heart Center team. Soon after Tessa’s birth, she met Terry Chun, MD, who has cared for Tessa since she was just a few days old.

“This family has been incredibly resilient,” Chun says. “Even before Tessa was born they’d gotten the news that she had heart disease, but then after she was born, it turned out that she had more complicated heart disease than was initially thought.”

Most babies with Tessa’s defect will need just one surgery when they’re between four and six months old. Instead, she has had five surgeries in less than four years – the first when she was just five months old.

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5 tips for raising heart-healthy kids and teens

For National Heart Month, five Seattle Children’s providers share their tips for helping kids and teens build strong, healthy hearts.

Make a heart-healthy resolution for your family this February:

1. Protect young athletes with pre-sport heart screenings

“We’ve all heard stories in the news – the sudden death of a young, competitive athlete due to undetected cardiovascular disease,” says Jack Salerno, MD, director of electrophysiology and pacing services at Seattle Children’s. “It’s every parent’s worst nightmare. One minute your seemingly healthy child is on top of the world competing in a sport they love. The next minute their heart suddenly stops.”

Listening to patientSalerno says parents can help protect their young athletes from sudden cardiac arrest by learning about potential “red flags” before their kids begin competing in sports. “It’s important for student athletes and their parents to work hand-in-hand with physicians to detect any potential risks before the sports season begins.”

The American Heart Association recommends that kids and teens be screened against a 12-point checklist that includes a review of the athlete’s personal and family medical history, and a physical exam by a doctor. The medical history review looks for risk factors like chest pain, elevated blood pressure and unexplained fainting, as well as any family history of heart disease. “A positive response to one or more items on the checklist could trigger further testing, including an electrocardiogram,” Salerno says.

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