On the Pulse

Children’s helps state catch ‘Bubble Boy’ condition in newborns

Troy Torgerson's lab helped the state prep for SCID newborn screening

As the 2013 to 2015 state budget moves toward approval this year, immunology researchers and clinicians at Seattle Children’s will be following it as closely as many of us followed last Sunday’s Super Bowl.

They will be cheering for one small line item deep inside the document: A provision to ensure every baby born in Washington is screened at birth for severe combined immunodeficiency (SCID), a rare condition that makes it impossible to fight off infection.

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Patients’ imaginations come alive in animation workshop

As part of Seattle Children’s collaboration with Children’s Film Festival Seattle, professional animators Charlotte Blacker from England and Britta Johnson from Seattle offered two days of animation workshops to hospital patients.

With short stories featuring a wide range of objects and characters from aliens, exploding stars to “banana slips”, patients’ imaginations came alive as they created their stop motion animation films.

To make the films each patient came up with a story idea, made their characters or objects that would be in their film and then moved them in small increments between individually photographed frames. Once the frames were played together as a continuous sequence, their animation was born.

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Maternal exposure to outdoor air pollution associated with low birth weights worldwide

Rush hour

Mothers who are exposed to particulate air pollution, the type produced by vehicles and power plants, are more likely to bear children of low birth weight, according to an international study published today. The study was led by the University of California, San Francisco, and the National Center for Health Statistics at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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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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Craniofacial microsomia: A young boy transformed after surgery

Mavrick before surgery

Seven-year-old Mavrick Gabriel of Kenai, Alaska could be described as being “beyond his years.” He’s compassionate in a way that you don’t often see with young children, and he wants to educate others about his birth defect, craniofacial microsomia, and to help kids in the process.

Mavrick was born without a left ear and with a very small jaw that did not have a joint on one side.  He can’t eat solid foods, has to use a feeding tube and his speech is affected. In June 2012, Gabriel and his family invited television cameras to capture a surgery—one of dozens he’s endured—that helped move him closer to having a jaw.  But he doesn’t want you to feel sorry for him. “Most kids never have to go through this and I’d like to help other people with what I’m going through,” Mavrick said.

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8 activities to get kids outdoors in cold weather

Winter weather can make getting outdoors seem like an ordeal – cold temperatures, snow and ice and a lack of summer sunshine can make even the most outdoorsy family want to stay inside. Pooja Tandon, MD, a childhood health researcher with Seattle Children’s Research Institute and a pediatrician, encourages children and families to get out, no matter the weather.

Outdoor winter playA recent study led by Tandon found that nearly half of U.S. preschoolers did not have even one parent-supervised outdoor play opportunity per day. The study also found that girls are less likely to play outside than boys and that mothers took their children outside to play more often than fathers. Fifteen percent of mothers and 30 percent of fathers did not take their child outside to walk or play even a few times per week.

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Breaking the silence after stillbirth – One family’s story

This Thursday, Jan. 31, is our daughter Emily’s 10th birthday, a time that should be filled playfully gathering with friends and giddily unwrapping presents. But Emily will never experience any of those things – she was born still.

Stillbirth is an all-too-common tragedy. In the U.S., 26,000 babies are stillborn every year – that is one baby, one family, every 21 minutes.

We were so excited to be pregnant with our first child, we never considered the possibility of a stillbirth—it was the only chapter in our pregnancy book that we skipped.

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Christian Bale makes special call to young Batman fan battling leukemia

Jan. 30, 2013: Zach received a care package full of Batman goodies from Christian Bale this week, and his reaction was priceless:

Jan. 25, 2013: A young Seattle Children’s patient – and avid Batman fan – got a special surprise last week, when actor Christian Bale called him in his hospital room. 8-year-old Zach Guillot, of Dallas, Texas, is battling acute myeloid leukemia. He is currently a patient in the hospital’s Cancer and Blood Disorders Center, where he is recovering from chemotherapy in hopes of later receiving a bone marrow transplant. It will be his third transplant since he was first diagnosed in February 2010.

“Everyone knows Zach is a big Batman fan,” said Jeff, his father.  “One of our friends called Christian Bale’s agent, cold-called-him from what I understand, and told him Zach’s story.”

On Jan. 18, Bale called Zach to talk about costumes, little brothers who moonlight as trusty sidekick “Robin,”and Zach’s homemade Batmobile. Zach’s parents, Julie and Jeff caught the conversation on video and shared it on YouTube.

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Seattle Children’s Patients Star in the Children’s Film Festival Seattle

TheatreNorthwest Film Forum’s 8th annual Children’s Film Festival Seattle will be rolling out the red carpet to children and their families today through Feb. 3. It has become the largest film festival on the West Coast dedicated to this young audience, reaching more than 10,000 people during festival screenings in Seattle and a subsequent festival tour of 15 to 20 U.S. cities.

New this year, current and former patients at Seattle Children’s Hospital will have a few very special starring roles in the festival.

Lights, camera, action!

The festival will showcase more than 120 innovative, inspiring and fun films from 38 countries. Children’s is excited that five short films created by patients or featuring patients’ creative works have been selected to be shown at the festival.

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Seattle Children’s New Directional Wayfinding System: Art Design

Mountain Zone Mural - Bears

Mountain Zone Mural – Bears

We’re a mere three months away from opening Building Hope, our cancer, critical and emergency care expansion. Building Hope will create positive change for our hospital campus: the addition of spaces that are physically and functionally flexible; design that promotes a safe and healing environment; and spaces that improve flow and efficiency.

It’s a great milestone for Seattle Children’s – but the added space will substantially alter our hospital footprint.To seamlessly weave Building Hope into the hospital layout, Children’s today unveiled a new directional wayfinding system to help patients, families, staff and visitors easily navigate the expanding campus. “Wayfinding” includes signage, maps, colors, floor numbers, room numbers, design schemes and visual cues – anything that helps people identify where they are and gets them to where they want to go. Children’s has been preparing for wayfinding changes for more than two years.

We’ve replaced our six-zone wayfinding system, which consisted of zones like Giraffe, Whale and Train, with four Pacific Northwest-themed zones – Forest, River, Mountain and Ocean. The Forest zone exclusively includes the new Building Hope location and will be accessible in April, while the other zones encompass the space currently in use.

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