On the Pulse

Cigarettes are gateway to marijuana, study suggests

A team of our (smart) researchers from SMAHRT descended on Washington, D.C. last weekend for the Pediatric Academic Societies annual meeting. SMAHRT = Social Media and Adolescent Health Research Team, which is based at Seattle Children’s Research Institute. This week, we’ll feature some of their new research. Megan Moreno, MD, leads the group and is a senior author on all of the research studies. Some of the researchers are based at other academic institutions, demonstrating the collaborative spirit of SMAHRT.

Cigarette

Teen smokers who rationalize the use of cigarettes by saying, “At least I’m not doing drugs,” may not always be able to use that line. New research presented Sunday, May 5, supports the theory that cigarettes are a gateway drug to marijuana.

“Contrary to what we would expect, we also found that students who smoked both tobacco and marijuana were more likely to smoke more tobacco than those who smoked only tobacco,” said study author Megan Moreno, MD, investigator at Seattle Children’s Research Institute and associate professor of pediatrics at the University of Washington.

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Lawyers team with doctors to help patients navigate legal system and get the care they need

Medical Legal PartnershipWhen 14-year-old Ryan Hribernick of Shoreline, Wash., started having trouble propelling his manual wheelchair, his healthcare team at Seattle Children’s recommended he add power-assist devices to give his wheels an extra boost.

But instead of approving the modification, Washington state – which pays for a portion of Ryan’s medical equipment through Medicaid – offered him a motorized wheelchair.

Not a good solution, says Susan Apkon, MD, chief of rehabilitation medicine at Children’s.

“Pushing a manual wheelchair helps Ryan maintain upper body strength and overall health,” says Apkon. “He needs power-assist wheels to safely go up and down ramps and keep pace with his friends, but he doesn’t need a motorized wheelchair to do this.”

Ryan’s mom, Kristina Ray, was concerned about the social and emotional impact on her son, who has cerebral palsy and is successfully navigating life – and middle school – with a disability. “More than anything, Ryan wants to fit in,” she says. “Putting him in a power chair would make him stick out.”

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Liver transplant unlocks new life for girl with propionic acidemia

Kaitlin Burns_liver transplantIn a northern California suburb in 1999, Kaitlin Burns was born very sick, that much was certain. She was extremely lethargic, vomited non-stop and soon wouldn’t eat anything. When her family finally received a diagnosis two weeks after her birth, the news was devastating.

Kaitlin was diagnosed with propionic acidemia, a rare, inherited metabolic disorder that affects about one in 100,000 in the United States. Propionic acidemia prevents the body from processing protein properly, leading to an abnormal buildup of a group of acids known as organic acids. Abnormal levels of organic acids in the blood, urine and tissues can be toxic and can cause serious health problems.

Michelle Burns, Kaitlin’s mother, recalls how the local hospital at the time was their second home. “During the first year of her life, I can’t even count on my fingers and toes how many trips we made,” she explains.

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Researchers uncover more genetic clues to help understand what triggers Type 1 diabetes

white blood cell

Last year, researchers from Seattle Children’s Research Institute and Benaroya Research Institute at Virginia Mason identified new clues about how a common genetic change in a gene called PTPN22 may predispose children and adults to develop autoimmune conditions, including type 1 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis and systemic lupus.

Now, this group—in conjunction with researchers from the University of Washington—has taken the research one step further and determined more precisely how PTPN22 alters lymphocyte function, using animal models that very closely model human diabetes. Understanding this process could be crucial for both predicting which individuals are at risk to develop diseases like diabetes and also for designing new therapies.

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Doctor offers spring safety tips for parents and kids

Kids on trampoline

The days are getting longer, the weather is getting warmer and kids are spending more time outdoors. It is spring time – a season for hiking, grilling, gardening and outdoor fun. But with spring also comes the occasional bump, bruise, bite, rash and fall. How can parents help their kids avoid injury?

Tony Woodward, MD, MBA, medical director of the division of emergency medicine at Seattle Children’s Hospital, offers advice for keeping kids healthy and out of the emergency room.

 

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Patients move into Building Hope expansion

Russell Wilson Building Hope

On Sunday, April 21, care teams moved patients into new cancer and critical care units in the Building Hope expansion, including the country’s first teen and young adult inpatient cancer unit. Patients, hospital leadership and staff, and Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson helped celebrate the opening with a ribbon-cutting ceremony.

The expanded emergency department opened to patients Tuesday, April 23. The new ED has 38 exam rooms and features a new model of care that will reduce wait times and allow patients to be seen by a nurse right away.

The video below offers a behind-the-scenes look at the first patients moving into Building Hope.

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Building Hope, Part 5: Meet the people behind the design

Building HopeMore heads are better than one—especially when it comes to designing Seattle Children’s new expansion, Building Hope. Children’s brought together a unique advisory board made up of patients, families and hospital staff to provide feedback throughout the design process.

With Building Hope, Children’s wanted to create an environment that would support the physical, emotional and psychological aspects of healing. Who better to understand the subtleties of the patient experience than actual patients and their families?

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Mom and Children’s bring boy back to life after near-drowning

Travis AndersonFriday, July 13, 2012 was the day 9-year-old Travis Anderson drowned in the Pilchuck River near Snohomish, Wash. It was also the day that his mother, Kim, and the emergency team at Seattle Children’s saved his life.

Travis, a wiry redhead, was wading in a shallow portion of the river, near his mom, his brother and sister, and his best friend. He lost his footing. The current swept him downstream and beneath a log, where he became trapped under water. Kim and Travis’s older brother Jacob couldn’t free him. After a few minutes, a bystander helped shift the log, and Kim pulled her youngest child to the river bank.

Travis was a ghostly pale gray, his eyes half open. Blue lips and purple circles around his eyes indicated cyanosis, a lack of oxygen in the blood. He was unresponsive, with no pulse. Kim began CPR while her daughter called 911.

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Laser ablation surgery for epilepsy offers safer and more precise treatment

Dana Lockwood, 24, has had epilepsy, a disorder of the brain that involves repeated seizures, for as long as he can remember. Seizures were just a way of life and the frequency ranged from having one every one to two weeks, to having several throughout a week, all while on several medications.

Dana LockwoodDana most commonly experienced simple seizures, which he describes as brief and disorienting surges of mental energy. Occasionally he also had complex partial seizures, which impair consciousness, and very rarely he had grand mal seizures  that involved his entire body and required a trip to the emergency room. There was no telling when these would occur.

“Living with epilepsy has been quite difficult,” said Dana. “I couldn’t drive, which was hard because there is little public transportation where I live. I had to be heavily medicated and it made it hard for me to be independent. In general, it was just very disruptive to my life.”

Dana had nearly given up on his dream of living abroad and teaching English as a second language. His seizures made that an impossible option.

Now, after undergoing a cutting-edge treatment in February, Dana is seizure free. He hasn’t had a seizure in more than a month and will finally be able to learn to drive and start living a more independent life.

So how did he get rid of his seizures?

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Researchers uncover clues to Trypanosoma cruzi, parasite that causes Chagas Disease

Triatomine bug

An international team of scientists in Seattle and Argentina has uncovered a surprising new role for one type of immune cell in controlling Trypanosoma cruzi, a parasite that causes an infection known as Chagas disease. The disease, classified as a Neglected Tropical Disease by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is found mainly in Latin American countries and is a potentially life-threatening illness that can lead to heart and other health issues. There is no cure for Chagas disease, and an estimated eight million people are infected worldwide, according to the World Health Organization.

The study was published April 7 in Nature Immunology.

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