On the Pulse

We Must Stand Together to Protect the Health of Our Nation’s Youth

I am deeply alarmed by the American Health Care Act (AHCA) that was passed in the House of Representatives because it puts the health of our nation’s children at risk. As I think about how the bill jeopardizes healthcare access for the more than 30 million children in the country and more than half of the children in our four-state region who rely on Medicaid, I can’t stand idly by.

It’s for this reason I went to Washington D.C. last week to urge our region’s elected officials, from Washington, Alaska, Montana and Idaho, to continue the tradition of fighting for the health and well-being of children irrespective of their condition, disease or parents’ financial status. And I am asking you to join me in making your voices heard.

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Treatment Helps Kids and Teens Control Anxiety

Anxiety is a natural response that alerts people to situations that they find threatening. Anxious feelings are a part of life for kids, teens and adults, but when anxiety is severe, frequent and lasts for months, it requires professional treatment. Dr. Kendra Read, attending psychologist on Seattle Children’s Psychiatry and Behavioral Medicine team, works with kids and teens with anxiety disorders, helping them identify their anxiety triggers and learn how to control their worries and fears.

“Research shows that once anxiety becomes problematic, most kids do not just grow out of it,” said Read. “In fact, left untreated, anxiety can result in problematic long-term consequences that impact academic achievement, employment, substance use, and development of additional psychological disorders, such as depression.” Read full post »

Different Cancers, Same Drug: New Trial Targets Common Genetic Pathway in Tumors

Connor Pearcy, 5, with his family. Born with a tumor that did not respond to traditional therapies, he was enrolled in a clinical trial testing a new cancer drug. After four months of treatment, scans show his tumor is gone.

Connor Pearcy, 5, was born with a tumor below his knee. A teenage boy developed a cancerous thyroid tumor in his neck. Connor and the teenager have very different tumors, but they are both on the same drug. How is that possible?

A new pediatric cancer trial at Seattle Children’s is testing a drug that targets a specific set of genetic alterations associated with soft tissue tumors in different parts of the body. Connor and the other patients in the trial have tumors that harbor one of the characteristic genetic changes the drug is designed to exploit.

Dr. Katie Albert, pediatric oncologist, and Dr. Doug Hawkins, associate division chief of Hematology and Oncology at Seattle Children’s, are overseeing the trial, which is making precision medicine possible for young cancer patients.

“It’s not easy having a child born with a tumor,” Amy Pearcy, Connor’s mom, said. “I appreciate that Dr. Hawkins never gave up looking for something new to offer, and so far it seems like we have found it.” Read full post »

Three Cheers for the Team That Helped Wesslee Overcome Pain

Through Seattle Children’s Pediatric Pain Rehabilitation Program (PReP), physical therapist Sharon Yurs challenges Wesslee Holt to a game of hoops, with some extra balance work added in.

Last spring, Wesslee Holt rolled his ankle at his middle school in Shelton, Washington. The 12-year-old is a dedicated member of his cheer team and was eager to return to the squad quickly. He followed his doctor’s instructions to immobilize the foot and wear a boot — but his pain only increased over time.

Wesslee started using a scooter to keep weight off his foot and rested it as much as possible. Nothing seemed to work. His skin became splotchy and red, and was so sensitive to touch that he couldn’t put a sock or shoe on. He felt depressed and anxious, pulled out of cheer team completely and even left school.

His mother, Steph Fyfe, knew it was time for a different approach. “People wanted to put Wesslee on supplemental security income and call him disabled, but I knew there had to be a way for him to get better,” she said.

She was referred to Seattle Children’s Pain Medicine Clinic and learned Wesslee was suffering from complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS), which sometimes accompanies a routine injury and causes the nerves to send extreme pain messages to the brain. The good news is that Seattle Children’s was able to offer Wesslee a unique treatment option: the Pediatric Pain Rehabilitation Program (PReP).

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Compassionate, Coordinated Care at Seattle Children’s Gender Clinic

Jay waits for his appointment at Seattle Children’s Gender Clinic

Sitting unassumingly on the exam table, Jay’s feet dangle above the floor and his hands are folded in his lap. He displays a warm smile when asked how he’s doing. His mother, Cynthia, looks at her son with an overt sense of pride and the type of love that needs no words to express its presence.

Jay is awaiting the arrival of the Gender Clinic care team and as his appointment draws near, he talks about what life is like as a 10th grader in the Seattle area and his hopes for his future. As his father and brother before him, Jay wants to go into the armed services. His particular branch of interest is the Air Force and he wants to go through officer training at West Point.

Assigned female at birth, Jay also talks about his desire to fully transition to the male gender that he has identified with since he was a baby and the challenges that it presents, especially at his young age.

Cynthia, a cancer survivor herself, knows all about taking on challenges. Her experience as a patient taught her about the medical system.

“I know how important it is to be your own advocate,” she said. “I am so proud of Jay for his bravery in being his own advocate and taking control of his own medical decisions.”

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Finding Hope, Life-Changing Care 2,200 Miles From Home

Alexis, a 7 year-old vascular anomalies patient from Indiana

By the time Alexis Stringer was 7 years-old, she had already undergone a lifetime’s worth of medical procedures; 47 of them to be precise.

Alexis was born with purple areas on her face and neck. At first, doctors thought it was due to birth trauma. But over time, when Alexis was 7 weeks old, doctors determined she instead had a series of blood and lymph vessels that were not developing properly, which are known as vascular anomalies.

The traditional treatment for this disfiguring condition meant that Alexis underwent a procedure called sclerotherapy where chemicals are repeatedly injected into the veins to make them shrink. The procedure can be painful and has to be performed several times under general anesthesia. In addition to the risks associated with repeated anesthesia, sclerotherapy came with additional risks as the high dose of the substance injected has the potential to destroy healthy tissue and even stop one’s heart.

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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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