On the Pulse

How Seattle Children’s Turned One Family’s Devastation Into Hope

When Cassie Fannin was 19-weeks pregnant with her first baby, she couldn’t wait for the ultrasound that would reveal her child’s gender. During the appointment, she and her husband, Michael, were delighted as they watched their beautiful baby wiggling around on the ultrasound screen.

Fannin asked the technician, “Is it a boy or girl?”

But the technician’s previously cheerful expression now suggested something was wrong. “I’ll need to check with the doctor,” the technician said while hurrying out of the room.

Moments later, a doctor gave Fannin and her husband the devastating news that changed their lives.

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Responding to Our State’s Youth Mental Health Emergency

Dr. Alysha Thompson is the clinical director of the Psychiatry and Behavioral Medicine Unit (PBMU) at Seattle Children’s. She’s seen first-hand the impact the pandemic has had on youth mental health. She shares how dire the situation has become and provides advice for parents.

We are a year into an unprecedented pandemic that has taken a toll on all our lives. Children and adolescents are feeling this acutely – over the past year we’ve seen a significant increase in mental health-related visits to the emergency room and an increase in youth suicide.

Even before the pandemic, children and adolescents had the most significant rise in suicides over the past two decades compared to other age groups. However, as schools have moved to virtual learning, as people have been isolated from their friends and family, and all the normal structures that bring joy to our lives and give us things to look forward to have altered dramatically, we have seen an even further increase in suicide and suicidal ideation in youth. Read full post »


Study Shows Youth Seeking Gender-Affirming Care Were Satisfied with Telemedicine Appointments During COVID-19

This past year, as many individuals sought health care through telemedicine, a question formed in Dr. Gina Sequeira’s mind. As the co-director of the Gender Clinic at Seattle Children’s, her mission is to make gender-affirming care accessible for all youth, and so the capabilities of telehealth are rightfully an exciting new territory to explore. With the growth of telemedicine and its potential to improve access to care, Sequeira wanted to better understand gender diverse youths’ experiences with and satisfaction receiving virtual care during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Published in Transgender Health, Sequeira, the lead author, found the majority of youth who participated in the study were satisfied with telemedicine and would be willing to use it again in the future. Although many said they preferred in-person visits, about 88% of gender diverse adolescents were satisfied with conducting gender clinic visits using telemedicine.

“Telemedicine has been a great way for us to support gender diverse youth and their families during the pandemic. Because of the limited number of pediatric gender-affirming care providers in the region, prior to the pandemic, many families experienced geographic and cost related barriers to receiving this care. We are hopeful that by continuing to offer gender clinic visits over telemedicine we will be able to overcome some of those barriers.” Sequeira said. Read full post »


“I Chose to Get Vaccinated, But I Understand Why Others Hesitate”

Dr. Monique Burton, medical director of Sports Medicine at Seattle Children’s, will be sharing her vaccination experience with the athletes she cares for and the community at large.

Dr. Monique Burton is the medical director of Sports Medicine at Seattle Children’s, Chair of the USA Track and Field Sports Medicine Science Committee, and a physician for the U.S. Track and Field team who will travel with the team to the upcoming Tokyo Olympics.

Burton received a COVID-19 vaccine and documented her experience to share with athletes and the community at large. Here, she shares her understanding of vaccine hesitancy among people of color, and how she wants to provide the community with information and tools so they can make informed decisions for themselves.

Last year, when I learned a COVID-19 vaccine would soon be available, I wanted to learn more. I was inquisitive and perhaps even a little hesitant. This vaccine was different from the longstanding vaccines my children and I had previously received. If I was prescribed a new medication I wouldn’t hesitate to ask questions, and I approached this new vaccine the same way.

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How Two Seattle Children’s Nurses’ Personal and Professional Experiences Motivate Them to Tackle Inequity

Nurses Genevieve Aguilar (left) and Mari Moore (right) serve as facilitators for Seattle Children’s equity, diversity and inclusion training for nurses.

Seattle Children’s nurses Genevieve Aguilar and Mari Moore share their perspective on equity and inclusion in the workplace, why they’re engaged with Seattle Children’s journey toward anti-racism, and about their roles as facilitators for Seattle Children’s equity, diversity and inclusion training.

Seattle Children’s nurses Genevieve Aguilar, a Medical Unit team member, and Mari Moore, a unit based educator in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), have lived and witnessed firsthand the experiences of Seattle Children’s patients and workforce members who are Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC).

Here, Aguilar and Moore share their perspectives on equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) in the workplace, why they’re engaged with Seattle Children’s journey toward becoming an anti-racist organization, and about their roles as facilitators for Seattle Children’s EDI training for nurses. Read full post »


Seattle Children’s and Educational Leaders Launch the Washington State School-Based COVID-19 Rapid Testing Program

Dr. Amanda Jones, senior director of education initiatives at Seattle Children’s Research Institute, and her team held a training at Auburn Senior High School to teach school personnel to use point-of-care rapid antigen test cards technology. In one day, the team trained more than 40 school personnel. Pictured above are Sarah Garcia, Alex Chang, Amanda Jones, Billy Roden and Rebecca Carter.

A year ago, many schools shuttered due to COVID-19, forcing schools and families to transition into unknown territory: remote learning. Today, thanks to a partnership between Seattle Children’s and school districts in Washington, schools are one step closer to transitioning back to in-person learning.

Seattle Children’s and educational leaders recently launched the Washington State School-Based COVID-19 Rapid Testing Program. The program, which started with Auburn School District, will eventually expand to more districts across the state.

The pilot program is currently working with 10 school districts across the western Puget Sound region. Each district has the opportunity to create weekly a COVID-19 testing program tailored for its own schools, staff and students.

“The collaboration between the school districts and the local, state and federal government has been truly remarkable. It’s taken the concerted effort of people across organizations to launch this program,” said Dr. Eric Tham, interim senior vice president of Seattle Children’s Research Institute. “I’m incredibly proud of our teams at Seattle Children’s who have worked tirelessly to support this important work and have gone above and beyond to help get kids back to school safely.” Read full post »


Community Gathers to Cheer for Mercy on Her Way to Seattle Children’s for Last Round of Chemo

At 16 years old, Mercy Haub, was diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma. She just finished her last round of chemotherapy at Seattle Children’s.

Mercy chronicles her journey through Instagram.

Mercy Haub has wanted to cure cancer since she was 7 years old.

“The irony of it all is unbelievable,” she said.

Today, at 16 years old, that mission still drives her, but now it hits closer to home, more so than she could have ever imagined.

A week before the statewide lockdown went into effect in Washington, Mercy began to feel sick. An assortment of unusual symptoms compounded on one another. She felt weak and fatigued, experienced chest pain and rashes. The symptoms persisted and eventually doctors were able to determine the insidious cause: cancer. Read full post »


When Your Child’s Life Is in Someone Else’s Hands: The Williamses Put Their Trust in Seattle Children’s Surgical Team

Kelli Williams gives her son, Isaac, who has been in remission for two years after undergoing treatment for stage 4 high-risk neuroblastoma, a piggyback ride in the rain.

Kelli Williams holds her son, Isaac, who has been in remission for two years after undergoing treatment for stage 4 high-risk neuroblastoma.

On July 19, 2017, Kelli and Dennis Williams sat in a pre-op room at Seattle Children’s with their 22-month-old son, Isaac. Kelli hugged her little boy close. He was dressed in a yellow hospital gown, happily playing with the iPad Child Life had loaned him. Kelli and Dennis did their best to appear calm in front of their son, but inside they were terrified.

Isaac had stage 4 high-risk neuroblastoma. He’d already been through four months of chemotherapy and now Dr. John Waldhausen, a surgeon specializing in neuroblastoma cases, was going to remove a tumor the size of a navel orange from his abdomen.

“I had been so focused on managing Isaac’s treatment plan that it didn’t hit me until that morning that my son was about to be lying on an operating table,” remembered Kelli. “I just held him and tried not to cry.”

The day before Isaac’s surgery, the Williamses invited their family members and their church pastor into their home.

“We all circled around Isaac,” said Kelli. “Our pastor prayed over him, he prayed for Dr. Waldhausen, that his hands and his team would get out exactly what needed to come out, and nothing more.”

As they waited in the pre-op room, Kelli and Dennis realized it would be the last time they would see Isaac’s smooth, flawless belly. After surgery, he would have a large scar, stretching from hip to hip and up to his chest, a permanent reminder of his illness.

“I lifted up his shirt and tickled his stomach before he went in, knowing it would never look the same,” remembered Dennis. “It made me pretty sad.”

When a nurse came to get Isaac, Kelli reluctantly handed over her child.

“We’re going to take good care of him,” the nurse kindly reassured her.

Isaac happily waved goodbye to his mom and dad, and they kept up their smiles until he was out of sight. Then Kelli broke down, letting out all the tears she’d been holding back. Read full post »


Leaving “No Stone Unturned” for Children with High-Risk Leukemia

Henry Lawrence (left) with nurse coordinator, Shauna Sinclair. Henry received care for aggressive acute myeloid leukemia as part of Seattle Children’s High-Risk Leukemia Program.

There are two fateful phone calls Robin Lawrence will always remember.

The first, an unexpected late-night call from her son’s pediatrician. He had just reviewed the results from his recent blood work, and something was off. The doctor instructed Robin to immediately take then 13-month-old Henry to the nearest children’s hospital to get it checked out. He said that they had to consider it could be cancer.

She remembered thinking in the moment, “That’s ridiculous. Of course, he doesn’t have cancer.”

Days later, Henry was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia (AML), an aggressive childhood cancer.

The second call occurred not long after Henry’s leukemia returned for a third time. At the time, Henry was in between treatments. Another round of chemotherapy had temporarily put the cancer into remission, but the Lawrences knew the statistics were not in their favor. The likelihood the leukemia would come back was high.

Their conversation was the first of many with Dr. Todd Cooper, co-interim division chief of Seattle Children’s Cancer and Blood Disorders Center and director of Seattle Children’s High-Risk Leukemia Program, as part of a second opinion service the program offers.

By the end of the call, Robin and her husband, David, knew Seattle Children’s was the best place for Henry should the cancer ever come back. In the coming weeks, they decided to move from their home in Southern California to Seattle for Henry’s medical care.

“When we talked to Dr. Cooper, it was very clear to us that Seattle Children’s is on the forefront of cutting-edge research and treatments for pediatric high-risk leukemia,” Robin said. “Our son’s cancer was in remission, but we understood that it was very likely to recur. We wanted to be in Seattle, ready to get whatever the best care for Henry would be when that time came.” Read full post »


Before EMTALA, There Were Black Women With Hidden Histories

Dr. Sabreen Akhter (left) and Susie Revels Cayton (right)

Dr. Sabreen Akhter (left) reflects on how Susie Revels Cayton (right, courtesy of the University of Washington) and the Dorcas Charity Club partnered with Seattle Children’s to establish an ongoing policy of admitting and treating sick or malnourished children regardless of their race, religion or the ability to pay.

One of the things I take great pride in, as a pediatric emergency physician, is that the Emergency Department (ED) is a place where the doors are always wide open.

The ED is a place that takes all patients, no matter how minor or major the concern; no matter the time of day; no matter the ability to pay; no matter the language, race, religion, or identity — our unifying goal is that all will be seen and be given compassionate care.

As an ED provider, I see my work as a kind of care that is more rudimentary even than primary care. It is a place of hope and sanctuary to the patients and families that we see, for the worried parents bringing their child in at all hours of the day or night, and for those who have no access to their own pediatricians.

This “open door” policy of the ED was not always the norm at pediatric hospitals. Prior to the passage of the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act (EMTALA) in 1986, private hospitals commonly “dumped” patients, mostly those who were poor and minority status, into county hospital systems where they would fare much worse. This was often done without the patient’s consent. After review, it was determined that this practice of denying care to certain patients was primarily due to financial reasons and was unethical. Monetary penalties were introduced for hospitals found to be in violation of this law, and soon the landscape of emergency and hospital care changed permanently. Read full post »