Patient Care

All Articles in the Category ‘Patient Care’

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.

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Tumor Paint Brings Light to Toddler’s Brain Tumor

Hunter Coffman, 2, with his family.

Hunter Coffman, 2, with his family.

In December of last year, Laura Coffman began to notice that something wasn’t quite right with her 2-year-old son, Hunter. He was leaning to one side and seemed to lose his balance easily. When he became lethargic and started vomiting a few days later on Dec. 28, she knew it was time to see the pediatrician.

After all standard tests came back normal, they were sent to Seattle Children’s for further testing and to find an answer. Unfortunately, it was far worse than anything Coffman could have imagined.

“What I thought was probably just Hunter being a wobbly toddler with a virus turned out to be a brain tumor,” said Coffman. “I will never forget that day. It was the most traumatic six hours of our lives.” Read full post »

Stamm Camp Celebrates 50 Years of Bringing Camp to Medically Complex Children

Going to summer camp can be perceived as a childhood rite of passage. It’s a place for kids to cut loose and embrace their independence for a few special days. Whether it’s participating in new activities like fishing or archery, or bonding with fellow campers — camp can be a magical place that creates memories that last a lifetime.

Unfortunately for some kids who have medically complex conditions, the idea of going to summer camp doesn’t seem like an option. It can be especially true for children who require a wheelchair or rely on ventilators or feeding tubes to keep their health stable.

It wasn’t an option until a doctor from Seattle Children’s, Dr. Stanley Stamm, came up with a remarkable idea 50 years ago — create a summer camp catered specifically for kids who face serious medical challenges.

Every August since 1967, Seattle Children’s Stanley Stamm Summer Camp has given children with complex medical conditions the chance to step out of their diagnoses to “just be kids.”

Funded exclusively by generous donors so kids can attend for free, the week-long sleepover camp has become a powerful opportunity for campers to connect with peers, as well as former campers turned volunteers who understand what it’s like to live with a chronic illness.

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A Day in the Life of Hank the Therapy Dog

Ever wonder what it’s like to walk in the ‘shoes’, or rather the ‘paw prints’, of a furry friend? In honor of National Dog Day, On the Pulse is featuring one of the incredible canine and human companion pairs that bring joy and comfort to the hospital each week through Seattle Children’s Visiting Dog Program.

Hank, the 5-year-old, 78-pound Old English sheepdog, may seem like an unlikely visitor strolling through the colorful halls of Seattle Children’s, but he’s there for one important reason — to put as many smiles on the faces of young patients as possible.

The shaggy canine with a slow strut makes his rounds visiting patients in different units of the hospital every other Thursday of the month alongside his trusty human companion, Tom Whalen.

During their visits, the “Tom Hanks” duo carry a celebrity-like status, frequently being stopped in the hallways by patients, parents and staff for a quick pet on the head or simple greeting.

From his calm demeanor, soulful stare and wag of the tail each time he encounters someone, it’s clear that Hank, a registered therapy dog who has been visiting the hospital for two years, is skilled in comforting those that he meets.

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From 35 Percent Chance of Survival to Five Years Cancer-Free, Double Stem-Cell Transplant Improves Outcomes for Kids With High-Risk Neuroblastoma

Katie Belle, now 10 years old, was diagnosed with high-risk neuroblastoma when she was 3.

Katie Belle, now 10 years old, was diagnosed with high-risk neuroblastoma when she was 3.

In August of 2009, when Katie Belle was just 3 1/2 years old, a persistent fever led her to Seattle Children’s Emergency Department where doctors discovered a baseball-sized tumor in her abdomen. She was diagnosed with high-risk neuroblastoma, a cancer that starts in immature nerve cells and develops into tumors. Her chance of survival: 35%.

“I felt like someone stuck a dagger in my stomach,” said Katie’s mother, Jennifer Belle. “I couldn’t breathe. However, I had to put on a brave face for Katie.”

For children with high-risk neuroblastoma, which according to the National Cancer Institute occurs in approximately one out of 100,000 children, Katie’s prognosis was not uncommon. On average, less than 50% of children with this disease live five or more years after diagnosis.

However, a Phase 3 trial performed by the Children’s Oncology Group (COG), and led by Seattle Children’s oncologist Dr. Julie Park, has found that adding a second autologous stem-cell transplant, which is a transplant that uses the patient’s own stem cells, to standard therapy improves outcomes for patients with high-risk neuroblastoma. Read full post »

Doughnut Shop Tip in Texas Leads Family to Immunotherapy Cancer Trial, Zane Becomes Cancer-Free

“As a parent, you never want to hear that your child has cancer,” said Paul Esposito, of Plano, Texas. “It creates an emotion that starts at your feet and takes hold. It’s devastating.”

This was the terrible news Paul and his family received in 2010 when his son, Zane Esposito, was only 7 years old. Zane, now 12, was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) in June 2010. Zane underwent three grueling years of cancer treatment, including 365 days of chemotherapy, before reaching remission. Two years later, Zane relapsed in January of this year. Their only option: another three years of aggressive chemotherapy.

“I really don’t like chemo, it’s the worst,” said Zane. “My back hurt super bad due to tiny fractures from the chemo. I couldn’t even bend over to tie my shoes. And here I was having to start another three years all over again.”

Not only was the thought of starting over daunting, but Zane faced a major hurdle as he began chemotherapy – his cancer was not responding to the treatment. He had refractory ALL. Zane and his family were desperate for another treatment option.

About 2,000 miles away in Seattle, Wash., they would find that other option. But first, they would learn about it in the most unlikely place: a doughnut shop. Read full post »

Seattle Children’s Ranked #10 on Forbes “America’s Best Employers” List for 2016

Seattle Children’s is proud to announce that this week, Forbes ranked the hospital #10 on its list of “America’s Best Employers” for 2016. Seattle Children’s is also the third highest ranked company in the “Healthcare & Social” category.

Other top-ten companies include Google, Costco Wholesale, SAS and JetBlue Airways.

To create the list, Forbes surveyed more than 30,000 U.S. workers employed by companies with more than 5,000 staff members to determine how likely they were to recommend their employer to someone else, and how they felt about other employers in their industry. To view the full list visit,”America’s Best Employers.”

To better understand what makes Seattle Children’s such a special place to work, watch the video above to hear it firsthand from the faculty and staff members who work here.

Researchers Work Toward New Type 1 Diabetes Therapies For Patients Like Juliana

Juliana Graceffo, 11, has type 1 diabetes. She must test her blood sugar throughout the day and take carefully calculated doses of insulin.

Children with type 1 diabetes and their families have to do several calculations throughout the day to stay healthy. Did my daughter check her blood sugar before breakfast? Does she need an extra snack because she has gym class? Is there someone at school to help my child check her blood sugar?

Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease that injures the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas and leads to a lifelong requirement of daily insulin injections. It is a considerable burden of care on patients and parents, who effectively never get a rest from the demands of staying healthy and safe.

According to the American Diabetes Association, about 1.25 million Americans have type 1 diabetes. A new $1 million grant from The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust will get doctors and scientists at Seattle Children’s Research Institute one step closer to better treatment for type 1 diabetes by studying the use of immunotherapy to treat the condition. The work is in collaboration with researchers at Benaroya Research Institute at Virginia Mason (BRI)Read full post »

Madeline’s Mom Finds Beauty in Tragedy Through Journaling Program

Madeline Holt with her mother, Meagan

Madeline Holt is a bubbly, positive 3-year-old who likes to cuddle, listen to music, play with blocks and cars, and, in typical toddler fashion, do what she wants to do when she wants to do it. She is also strong and determined to beat all odds stacked against her.

At age 1, Madeline was diagnosed with Zellweger syndrome, a rare genetic condition that destroys the white matter in her brain. The condition leads to a number of other complications, including seizures, respiratory problems, liver failure and even brain hemorrhages. Most children with Zellweger syndrome do not live past 1.

There’s no treatment for Zellweger syndrome. Instead, caregivers at Seattle Children’s treat Madeline’s symptoms as they occur. Madeline is blind, has very limited mobility now and has a feeding tube. Despite these obstacles, she has mastered 50 different sign language signs.

“You learn to accept the disease for what it is,” said Meagan Holt, Madeline’s mother. “It’s terrible, but for today, she’s here and that’s all we care about.” Read full post »

Amie Lusk: Full-Time Child Life Specialist, Part-Time Elf

Child Life specialist Amie Lusk blows some distracting bubbles for Christian Lybbert on a difficult day while his sister, Izabella, watches.

Child Life specialist Amie Lusk blows some distracting bubbles for patient Christian Lybbert on a difficult day while his sister, Izabella, watches.

Amie Lusk couldn’t have known it at the time, but she started on her career path the day she got caught sleeping in the book nook of her fourth grade classroom.

For weeks, she had been hiding her fatigue and sneaking naps in the nook. But that day a classmate found her, woke her up and marched her to the school nurse, who sent her home with a fever.

Lusk’s doctor ordered a blood test, and her mom got an alarming message when the results came in: “Take Amie to the Hematology/Oncology Clinic at Seattle Children’s.”

On March 26, 1992, Lusk, then 10, was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL). After two years of treatment at Seattle Children’s and a complete recovery, she had two important pieces of self-knowledge: First, she was resilient — if she could bounce back from cancer, she could stare down all manner of other challenges. Second, she wanted to work at Seattle Children’s when she grew up.

“For some people, cancer is the worst thing in the world — it’s horrible and even life-ending,” she said. “For me, it shaped the course of my life.” Read full post »