On the Pulse

Chris Pratt and Makenna Form a ‘Dino-Mite’ Team to Help Kids at Seattle Children’s

My name is Makenna Schwab and I’m 14 years old. Over the course of my life, I have been treated at Seattle Children’s Hospital where an amazing team of doctors have performed over 15 life-changing and life-saving surgeries for me.

I was born with a rare connective tissue disorder called Larsen syndrome, which causes dislocations in my joints, instability in my spine and trouble with my breathing. I’ve had to face a lot of challenges, but rather than let my disability hinder me from what I love to do, I decided to embrace it and try to use my experience to create something positive.

When I was 8 years old, I asked my mom if I could sell cookies and lemonade and donate all of the proceeds to Seattle Children’s as a way to give back. Since then, I’ve worked on a variety of projects — from bake sales and toy drives to making packs of food for inpatient families. The money I’ve raised has helped to provide uncompensated care to families at Seattle Children’s. It has also allowed me to provide red wagons for patients in the hospital and purchase new medical equipment to help treat kids like me.

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What You Should Know About Teen Suicide

Recent conversations with friends and colleagues have been abuzz with discussions about “13 Reasons Why,” a new Netflix series about a teen who died by suicide that has sparked debate across the country. While they all have reservations about some of the graphic content and appropriateness for teen viewers, they also feel the issue of teen suicide is an important one to discuss.

I completely agree.

Suicide is one of the top three leading causes of death for youth under age 24. As healthcare providers, parents, friends, and loved ones, it’s vital we understand what we can do to support those who may be considering ending their life. Read full post »

Prescription Opioids and Pain Relief in Teens

With increasing frequency, stories of opioid overdoses are making headlines, with tragedies striking people from all walks of life. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention declares that the United States is in the midst of an opioid overdose epidemic, and says that every day, over 1,000 people are treated in emergency departments for misusing prescription opioids.

Amid the growing epidemic of opioid abuse among adults, parents are increasingly showing concern when their teens are prescribed opioids after procedures such as wisdom tooth removal or surgery for a sports injury. Dr. Gary Walco, director of Pain Medicine at Seattle Children’s, helps parents and teens understand the important role that opioids can play in managing pain, and also teaches healthcare providers in training about the importance of safe prescribing practices. Read full post »

The Unwavering Dedication of Seattle Children’s Volunteers


Adorned in pastel blue smocks with smiles from ear-to-ear, it can be easy to spot a Seattle Children’s volunteer.

From the volunteers that do arts and crafts with patients in the playroom to those who deliver key items to patient rooms and refill coffee pots for medical staff, every volunteer at Seattle Children’s is significant in helping to keep the hospital running smoothly each day.

Just last year, volunteers donated over 120,000 hours of service, which highlights the commitment of the more than 500 individuals who serve Seattle Children’s every month.

In honor of National Volunteer Week, Seattle Children’s is showing gratitude to its volunteers by sharing the stories of six individuals who have generously donated their time to strengthen the organization’s mission to provide hope, care and cures to help every child live the healthiest and most fulfilling life possible.

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Finding Strength for the Long Haul

Kim Arthur, clinical research scientist at Seattle Children’s, holds both of her preemie daughters for the first time in May 2013.

My daughter pushes my hand away abruptly and the spoonful of food goes flying. I turn to her twin to coax her to eat a spoonful of puréed lentil soup, and she promptly gags on the tiniest lump and spits it out.

Typical case of the terrible twos? No, they are 3 and a half, and they are not just your average picky eaters. They were born prematurely at 26 weeks, and after five months in the hospital they had to get surgically placed feeding tubes in their stomachs because they weren’t able to breastfeed or bottle-feed.

And here I am, three years later, doing everything in my power to coax them to eat enough food by mouth to get rid of those tubes.

I turn away and say out loud, “I can’t do this.”

It’s not the first time I’m saying these words. I either say them or think them every time I sit down for practice meals with my girls. We are supposed to practice eating four times a day in order to get them to eat enough that we can get rid of those tubes.

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Bringing the Benefits of Books to Patients at Seattle Children’s

Max Agnew and his mom, Brianna Agnew, eagerly read the book he received from Dr. Lisa Herzig as part of the Neurodevelopmental Clinic’s Reach Out and Read program.

From story time at preschool to reading bedtime stories, books play an important role during childhood.

“Reading together is a critical part of early childhood brain development,” said Dr. Emily Myers, a pediatrician in Seattle Children’s Neurodevelopmental Clinic. “Reading helps children build language and social skills. When stories are a shared experience between kids and their families, it helps build positive, healthy relationships.”

During her residency at the University of Chicago, Myers learned about Reach Out and Read, a national program where primary care providers give new books to children ages 6 months to 6 years during well-child visits. Providers use the books to talk with families about child development and parent/child relationships, and to observe developmental milestones and actions during clinic visits.

Seeing the benefits of Reach Out and Read inspired Myers to bring the program to the hospital.

“I started the program in the Neurodevelopmental Clinic because I was struck by how many families didn’t have books at home,” she said. “I found that there were a variety of reasons why they didn’t have books or read with their children. Reach Out and Read breaks down many of these perceived barriers, and families get a book that’s theirs to take home and keep.”

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Seattle Children’s Becomes Nation’s First Salmon-Safe Certified Hospital Campus

Seattle Children’s recently became the nation’s first hospital campus to earn Salmon-Safe certification. The planning and work from staff like groundskeeper Meghan Fuller aims to reduce the campus’s impact on the surrounding land and aquatic plant and animal life.

Seattle Children’s philosophy on sustainability is centered around its mission to help every child live the healthiest and most fulfilling life possible.

“When we do good things for the planet, we help take care of our patients and all children,” said Colleen Groll, Seattle Children’s manager of sustainability programs. “Children are one of the most affected populations by climate change and pollution, so it’s really important that we are a leader in reducing our impact on the environment.”

That organizational mindset and Seattle Children’s longstanding commitment to the environment recently inspired it to achieve certification as the nation’s first Salmon-Safe hospital campus. The distinction is attained by meeting peer-reviewed criteria and performance standards that demonstrate environmental stewardship in areas that directly impact the urban watershed. This includes minimizing impacts of development on sensitive aquatic and land resources; and protecting downstream water quality through landscape management practices, habitat restoration and facility performance—like waste reduction and responsible water use.

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A Mother’s Pain Motivates a Movement to Prevent Child Abuse

In recognition of National Child Abuse Prevention Month, On the Pulse shares a heart-wrenching story about a mother whose son suffered debilitating injuries at the hands of a babysitter. Through the pain and daily struggle of caring for a fully disabled child, she has become a driving force for advocacy and awareness for child abuse prevention.

What began as a normal day for Jamie Thompson, ended in a tragedy that would forever change her life.

On May 20, 2010, Thompson received an unexpected call at work. It was her 8-month-old son’s babysitter.

“I was told he wasn’t breathing and paramedics had arrived to the babysitter’s home to help resuscitate him,” said Thompson. “As I frantically left work, I received a second call — this time from my husband.”

With news from her husband that her son, Colby, was not responding, Jamie drove straight to Seattle Children’s where he was urgently transported to by helicopter.

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Researchers Aim to Put an Agonizing Problem for Adolescents With Chronic Pain to Rest

Nicole Reeder and her mother, Susan, both participated in the I-SPY study to address Nicole’s migraine and sleep issues. Nicole is now benefiting from extended quality sleep and diminished headache pain following the study.

Days filled with pain, followed by restless nights, are more than nightmare scenarios for adolescents with chronic pain. Approximately half of all adolescents who suffer from chronic pain also have insomnia, a disorder characterized by difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep and experiencing poor quality sleep.

While there is ample research studying effective methods to treat adults who experience chronic pain and insomnia, there is very little as it pertains to adolescents. Seattle Children’s Research Institute is leading the way in changing this with an approach that focuses on empowering patients to improve their sleep to help treat their pain.

Dr. Tonya Palermo, an international expert in pediatric pain management at Seattle Children’s Research Institute, led a study recently published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine. The study showed four brief sessions of cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia (CBT-I) led to sustained improvement in sleep quality, psychological symptoms, and quality of life for adolescents experiencing insomnia and a co-occurring physical or mental health condition such as chronic pain, anxiety or depression. Read full post »

From Transplant Patient to Aspiring Transplant Surgeon

Wade Washington underwent a kidney transplant at Seattle Children’s in 2013 and is now a student at the University of Washington with career aspirations of working in healthcare.

Growing up, 19-year-old Wade Washington knew he’d one day need a kidney transplant. The question was never if, but when.

“I never really knew what normal was,” said Washington. “I was born with chronic kidney disease, and so it was what I was used to.”

As a child, Washington’s condition was manageable, but as he grew up his condition worsened. As Washington hit puberty, his kidneys began to fail.

“Wade was born with renal dysplasia, a congenital malformation of his kidneys,” said Dr. Andre Dick, surgical director of the Kidney Transplant Program at Seattle Children’s. “Once he entered puberty, his kidneys couldn’t meet his body’s metabolic demand. We knew he’d need a transplant.” Read full post »