On the Pulse

What to Know About New Guidelines for High Blood Pressure in Children

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Dr. Joseph Flynn served as the co-chair of the national committee responsible for developing the American Academy of Pediatrics’ new guidelines on high blood pressure.

Parents may notice a renewed focus on screening for hypertension at their child’s next well-child checkup thanks to new guidelines published by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).

While hypertension, or high blood pressure, is common in adults, many people are unaware that approximately 3.5% of all children and adolescents also have the condition. If left untreated, over time hypertension can damage many organs of the body, including the heart, brain, kidneys and eyes.

“The goal is to ensure every child receives annual screening for high blood pressure starting at age 3,” said Dr. Joseph Flynn, an expert in treating children with hypertension at Seattle Children’s and co-chair of the national committee responsible for developing the new guidelines. “Evidence shows pediatricians aren’t routinely measuring blood pressure in younger children, or may not recognize when a child’s blood pressure is high, causing high blood pressure to go undetected and untreated.” Read full post »

Serious Illness Shapes, but Does Not Define Young Doctor

Dr. Alex Kula is a resident at Seattle Children’s. As a young adult, Kula was the recipient of a life-saving living liver transplant.

As a resident at Seattle Children’s, Dr. Alex Kula brings a unique perspective to patient care: his own history as a youth with a serious illness.

Here Alex shares how his uncle gave the ultimate gift, and why the experience drives him to help sick children live healthy and fulfilling lives.

I was 15 years old and a normal teenager: living in Phoenix, hanging out with my friends at school and running with the cross-country team.

Then a mysterious autoimmune storm interrupted the normalcy of my life. It left me with type 1 diabetes, ulcerative colitis and an inflamed liver. Blood tests later revealed primary sclerosing cholangitis (PSC), a disease of the bile ducts, as the cause of my liver inflammation.

Prior to this, I had never really been sick — which was fortunate, considering how much I hated to go to the doctor. However, I quickly came to appreciate the complexity and wonder of medicine. Read full post »

Bike Trains Shown to Increase Physical Activity Among Children

Children who participated in the bike train study averaged an additional 21 minutes of exercise per day and increased cycling to school by 45%.

The path to healthier living for children could be the same one they take to school.

Children who participated in adult-supervised group bicycle rides to and from school increased their moderate-to-vigorous physical activity by 21 minutes per day and daily cycling commutes by 45%, according to a pilot study recently published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

The additional exercise study participants gained from riding in the groups, known as bike trains, accounted for 35% of the 60 minutes of physical activity recommended daily for children.

“Regular physical activity can help build muscle and bone strength, raise energy levels, and help reduce the risk of conditions like obesity and heart disease,” said Seattle Children’s researcher Dr. Jason Mendoza, who served as the principal investigator for the study. Read full post »

Surgery and Rehab Help Arabelle Lasso Life in Junior Rodeos

On Thursday nights this summer, 7-year-old Arabelle Laddusaw is saddling up alongside other children and teens to compete in the Tomorrow’s Rodeo Champions’ summer rodeo series in her hometown of Billings, Montana. As she sits up straight and grips the reins of her horse in anticipation of the chute opening, her cerebral palsy is the last thing slowing down the thrill of events such as barrel racing, pole bending and the crowd favorite, goat tail tying.

However, the prospect of being able to sit naturally on a horse wasn’t always a future possibility for Arabelle who was diagnosed at birth with cerebral palsy, a neurological condition that affects muscle movement and limits mobility.

As a toddler, the muscles in Arabelle’s legs were so tightly wound they would scissor – one leg twisting over the other – making it difficult for her to stand upright or simply straighten her legs out in front of her when sitting.

“With her, it was challenging because she required constant assistance,” said Arabelle’s mother, Christine Laddusaw. “She wasn’t just a normal child that you could put down and let play.” Read full post »

Grayson Gets His Shoes: How a Micro Preemie Beat Overwhelming Odds

Grayson, wearing his black and white “Chucks,” weighed 1 pound when he was born. He overcame several life-threatening conditions while in the Seattle Children’s NICU and is now back home with is parents in Idaho.

For Leslie and Jeremy Barnett, Grayson’s black and white Converse Chuck Taylors represent a happy ending to a tough first chapter of life for their son, who weighed just 1 pound when he was born 18 weeks premature last November.

It took eight months and overcoming tremendous adversity for Grayson to grow into the tiny shoes he received the day before his 117-day stay in the Seattle Children’s neonatal intensive care unit ended.

“We were told that Grayson had this Mt. Everest of health challenges to climb,” Leslie Barnett said, recalling a conversation with Seattle Children’s and University of Washington neonatologist Dr. Maneesh Batra when her son was a few days old.

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Boy Imprisoned by Intestinal Disease Finds Life-Changing Treatment

Brennan Henderson was born 3 months premature with a host of debilitating health issues, including necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC), a condition that affects the intestines.

It’s common for parents of young children to worry about the unexpected accident that may occur while they’re out in public.  But for the Henderson family, being prepared for the unexpected was something that lasted well beyond the early years of childhood.

Whether it was attending a family gathering or simply dropping by the grocery store, there was always a looming concern around when their youngest son, Brennan, may have his next vomiting or bowel incontinence episode.

“There were times when we would go to a restaurant and have to cover him with a blanket,” said Brennan’s mother, Gloria Henderson. “We did it to muffle the sound of him vomiting into a bag. It felt awful having to do it, but it was the only option we had.”

Brennan was born 3 months premature with a host of debilitating health conditions, including necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC).

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More Than a Cat Scratch: Baby Spencer’s Brush With Flesh-Eating Bacteria

At 7 months old, Spencer Nicholson underwent three surgeries to remove dead tissue from a rare disease he contracted due to a cat scratch.

You’ve probably seen it before: something falls, a loud noise ensues, and a cat with an arched back and poofy tail sprints away.

Unfortunately for 7-month-old Spencer Nicholson, when he loudly pulled a bin off a pantry shelf, the family cat was spooked right in his direction. Spencer fell on the floor and the cat, claws out, ran him over. Spencer was left with a deep scratch on his right cheek.

His mom, Kelsey Nicholson, took Spencer to urgent care near their home in Arlington, Washington, where she received a prescription for antibiotics. But hours later, Spencer’s face started to swell. By that evening, Nicholson was so concerned that she took her baby to the emergency room at her local hospital.

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A Life Saved Leads to Dream Job: One Biostatistician’s Journey from Kenya to Seattle Children’s

Frankline Onchiri with his daughters (left to right) Nicole and Joey and his wife Everline.

It seems impossible for Dr. Frankline Onchiri to talk about Seattle Children’s without smiling.

When Onchiri joined Seattle Children’s Research Institute as senior biostatistician and epidemiologist in 2015, his role assisting investigators at the Center for Clinical and Translational Research was so much more than a professional dream come true. It also started the next chapter of a personal journey that brought his family from Kenya to Seattle – not once, but twice – and offered him the rare opportunity to work at the hospital responsible for saving his daughter’s life. Read full post »

Born Into Drug Addiction, Boy Overcomes Hepatitis C and Finds a Forever Home

Talon, 11, contracted hepatitis C from his birth mother’s drug addiction. After enrolling into a clinical drug trial offered at Seattle Children’s, Talon is now free of both the virus and social stigma.

Behind his dimpled smile and comical laugh, Talon Hendrickson-Zimmerman has the kind of carefree spirit that could be hard for anyone to forget.

However, life wasn’t always as easy for the 11-year-old. Talon began his life as one of the forgotten children affected by the “opioid epidemic”, leaving him without a mother or home to call his own.

When he was born, Talon suffered the consequences from his birth mother’s drug addiction, which included the contraction of hepatitis C, a contagious virus affecting 23,000 to 46,000 children in the United States that can cause fatal liver damage if untreated.

“Hepatitis C is a virus that causes inflammation of the liver,” said Dr. Karen Murray, division chief of pediatric gastroenterology and hepatology at Seattle Children’s, who has treated Talon since he was 2 years old. “It can be acquired when the blood or other bodily fluids of an infected person enter the bloodstream of a non-infected person. In children, the most common way that hepatitis C is acquired is when a mother passes the virus to the baby during delivery.”

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Twin Breathes Easier After Throat Surgery

Emmett Seymer taking steps toward a diagnosis

Life did not start out easily for Emmett Seymer. He and his twin brother, Dashiell, were born at 29 weeks in Allentown, Pennsylvania. Emmett spent the first 30 days of his life on a ventilator because his lungs were underdeveloped. Doctors at the hospital had little optimism for Emmett and told his mother to prepare herself for him to pass away.

After 180 days in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), Emmett was able to join his brother at home. Though he had significant difficulty breathing and an inability to swallow normally, he was finally stable enough to get out of the hospital.

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