On the Pulse

“You Don’t Have to Know Yourself Right Away”: Iris Shares Her Journey of Self Discovery As a Transgender Woman

In honor of LGBTQ+ Pride Month, Seattle Children’s patient Iris shares her story as a self-identified transgender woman and offers advice on how you can support the mental health and well-being of other transgender youth.

In July, Lisa picked up her 17-year-old, who had been identifying as gender non-binary, from summer camp. When her teen got into the car, they had news.

“I want to change my name to Iris and I am going to use feminine pronouns from this point forward.”

Lisa remembers her light-hearted response. “I just said, ‘Okay. But you may have to give me a minute to adjust.’”

For Lisa, this was not a tremendous, earth-shifting announcement. It was just another opportunity to support her daughter’s journey of self-discovery.

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Dr. John McGuire Shares His Son’s Challenges with Mental Health

I have worked at Seattle Children’s for 16 years and have been the Chief of Critical Care Medicine since 2013. My son Peter just turned 17. He recently “celebrated” his birthday at a therapeutic boarding school where he is in residential treatment for anxiety and depression. Although he was in and out of outpatient therapy for several years and was hospitalized at the Seattle Children’s Psychiatry and Behavioral Medicine Unit (PBMU) for severe depression at age 13, I rarely discussed his mental health with my colleagues. Most of the people I worked with regularly were unaware that coping with Peter’s anxiety and depression was part of my daily life. I used to think it was something private to keep to myself. However, I now realize it was my inability to address my own fear that kept me silent. I retreated into my job, and, at work, I could be the confident physician and ICU leader rather than the uncertain, anxious parent who didn’t know how to help his struggling son.

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New Discovery Paves Way for Next-Generation Malaria Vaccine

Drs. Debashree Goswami (front) and Nana Minkah are working with their Kappe Lab colleagues to develop a vaccine for malaria. New research published by Goswami and her teammates paves the way for a novel, next generation vaccine against Plasmodium falciparum, the parasite that causes the deadliest form of malaria in humans.

In an unprecedented first, scientists at Seattle Children’s Research Institute have developed a genetically attenuated parasite (GAP) that arrests late in the liver stage of human malaria. Their findings published in JCI Insight pave the way for a novel, next-generation GAP vaccine against Plasmodium falciparum, the parasite that causes the deadliest form of malaria in humans.

According to Dr. Debashree Goswami, a fellow in the Kappe Lab at the research institute’s Center for Global Infectious Disease Research and lead author of the paper, a vaccine candidate based on their findings has the potential to offer protection to those living in regions where the transmission of malaria is widespread throughout the population. Read full post »


Providing a Safe Environment for Routine Care During the COVID-19 Pandemic

My teenage son, Jonathan, and I recently visited Seattle Children’s in April for an ophthalmology appointment.

As a parent, I was feeling very concerned about going to the hospital during this time, as my son has an ongoing health issue. When the scheduler called to reschedule his appointment, she told us that they were doing this for safety measures. I proceeded to ask her a lot of questions about safety protocols and she took the time to answer all of my questions. She didn’t rush me. I felt better after talking to her.

When we arrived at the entrance, there was a nurse that stopped us outside and asked us some questions. We got our temperature taken and were given the go ahead to go into the building.

Once inside, many people we saw were wearing masks. I immediately felt better about being in the hospital.

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Engineered T Cells for Type 1 Diabetes Move Closer to Clinic

Dr. Jane Buckner of the Benaroya Research Institute at Virginia Mason and Dr. David Rawlings of Seattle Children’s Research Institute are leading gene editing research to develop new therapies for autoimmune conditions like type 1 diabetes.

For much of the last decade, Dr. David Rawlings, director of Seattle Children’s Research Institute’s Center for Immunity and Immunotherapies, has dreamed of developing a therapy for children with type 1 diabetes that doesn’t involve insulin injections but uses a person’s own immune cells to target and treat the disease.

Now, new research and a fresh infusion of funding bring this dream closer to reality, and nearer to opening a first-in-human clinical trial of an experimental therapy at Seattle Children’s in collaboration with research partner Benaroya Research Institute at Virginia Mason (BRI).

“What started as a dream is now within reach,” Rawlings said. “My hope is that our research will lead to a new treatment that turns off the destructive immune response leading to development of type 1 diabetes in children.” Read full post »


June 1, 2020: Seattle Children’s Statement on Acts of Racism Across the U.S.

We are writing to acknowledge the tragic acts of violence and racism happening across our country.

The senseless killings of Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia, Breonna Taylor in Kentucky, and George Floyd in Minnesota leave us sickened and heartbroken. While we share our grief with these families and their communities, we must also acknowledge with sorrow our region’s own history of racially motivated violence, discrimination, and marginalization.

These recent events are set against the backdrop and acute pain of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has disproportionately impacted communities of color in the United States. Added to the burden of this crisis are the magnifying health and economic disparities, which are due to systemic racism and social injustices that have existed for far too long across generations.

These are the moments we cannot be silent—and Seattle Children’s will speak out, oppose racism, and advance our commitment to equity, diversity and inclusion. We are all affected negatively when one part of our community is burdened by racism and violence, and we are all part of the solution.

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Get Care When Your Child Needs It

My two-year-old son Malachi is a medically-complex Seattle Children’s kiddo and a “frequent flyer” here at the hospital. We visit the hospital often—for clinic appointments, routine procedures, sicknesses and medical emergencies. Malachi was diagnosed with Spina Bifida before he was born. He had several lifesaving operations in his first few months with us including spine and brain surgeries on his first two days of life.

Moving to get the care we needed

Malachi, his dad, and I currently live in Auburn, Wash., however we didn’t always live in Auburn. We moved from Yakima to be closer to the care Malachi needs. After two emergency air flights in two weeks just after Malachi’s first birthday, we made the decision to relocate to Auburn.

Like most parents who have medically complex kids, we were kind of pros at social distancing even before COVID-19.

As the parent of a medically complex kiddo, the current pandemic is especially concerning. We were especially cautious early this spring as news of the impact of the virus began to spread. We went into complete isolation—no one in or out of our home—on March 12. Like many parents in our situation, my husband and I were intent on doing everything possible to avoid a hospital admission. We both began working from home. We cancelled all clinic appointments and, instead, opted for telemedicine appointments with my son’s providers. Telemedicine has been so incredibly helpful for us but some things demand in-person care.

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Using Your Words to Support Those with Mental Health Conditions

As a teenager, Javi Barria struggled with anxiety, depression and thoughts of suicide, and spent time at Seattle Children’s Psychiatry and Behavioral Medicine Unit. Barria thinks being mindful of language is one simple thing others can do to support those with mental health conditions.

In recognition of Mental Health Month, On the Pulse will be sharing valuable resources and inspiring patient stories each week to guide individuals and families struggling with mental health issues and help destigmatize the topic of mental health in our society.

Talking about mental health can be a challenge for anyone. Though terms like obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), depression, and bipolar disorder have made their way into our vocabularies, they’re often used as adjectives to describe behavior, like, “I keep changing my mind about what to wear, I’m so bipolar,” reflecting a lack of understanding of the complexities and challenges facing those living with the condition. Read full post »


Are Children Making Antibodies That Will Protect Against Future COVID-19 Infections?

More than 50 research studies to understand, detect, treat and prevent the novel coronavirus in children and families have launched at Seattle Children’s since the virus emerged in late 2019. The following post is part of the “Quest(ion) for Discovery” series highlighting this research in progress and the search for answers that could result in major scientific breakthroughs that save lives and slow the spread of the virus.

When Dr. Janet Englund, a member of the Center for Clinical Translational Research at Seattle Children’s Research Institute, received news in late February that a Seattle Children’s patient had tested positive for the novel coronavirus and represented the first example of community transmission in Washington state, she knew things as we knew them were never going to be the same.

Englund, who has long studied respiratory viruses and their transmission in children and frequently provides her expertise as part of national scientific advisory panels, believed we were facing something very different from any pandemic Seattle – or the world for that matter – had ever seen before.

She and her collaborators quickly proposed supplements to their existing studies primarily focused on seasonal influenza, so they could begin to learn about how the new coronavirus impacts children. One study, which she discusses in greater detail here, asks: Are children making antibodies that will protect against future COVID-19 infections? Read full post »


New Program Helps Families with Mental Health Crises

In recognition of Mental Health Month, On the Pulse will be sharing valuable resources and inspiring patient stories each week to guide individuals and families struggling with mental health issues and help destigmatize the topic of mental health in our society.

One late afternoon in April, Jessie Early noticed something was wrong her with 7-year-old son, Rohan.

He stopped eating, was withdrawing, and exhibiting suicidal thoughts.

Extremely concerned, Early rushed her son to Seattle Children’s Emergency Department (ED), as recommended by Rohan’s psychiatrist at the time.

Within just a few minutes in the waiting room, Rohan was sent directly to one of the patient rooms for evaluation.

What could have been a stressful and trauma inducing experience for Rohan, Early was pleasantly surprised with the attentiveness and support that the staff provided her son.

“There was always someone there to answer our questions,” Early said. “It made it so we were relaxed and informed. Staff would ask him questions in a respectful and polite way, even though some of questions were difficult for him answer. They were there for us every step of the way.”

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