On the Pulse

Dr. Gina Sequeira Discusses Gender Identity and Explains How Caregivers Can Support Gender-Diverse Children

This week, JAMA Pediatrics published an article by Dr. Gina Sequeira, co-director of Seattle Children’s Gender Clinic, about gender identity. In the article, Sequeira discusses what gender identity is, explains gender related terms, and offers recommendations to caregivers to help them support gender-diverse children.

Gender identity is unique to each person and is used to describe a person’s internal sense of being male, female, some of both or neither, Sequeira says. Terms like transgender and gender-diverse, may be used to describe individuals whose gender identity differs from the sex they were assigned at birth. Recent estimates suggest as many as 10% of high school aged youth have a gender identity that differs from their sex assigned at birth. Read full post »


Greyson’s Heart Condition Inspires Family to Give Back

It was during a 20-week ultrasound that Sarah Ouellette got life-changing news: Her baby would be born with a serious heart defect.

“They didn’t know if my baby would survive,” Ouellette said. “But I knew deep down that I wanted to fight for my child’s life.”

Feeling lost, Ouellette sought out a second opinion.

“I contacted Seattle Children’s, and it was there that I learned a lot more about my baby’s diagnosis. They made me feel more at ease.”

Ouellette connected with the Seattle Children’s Prenatal Diagnosis and Treatment Program, where she was introduced to Dr. Bhawna Arya, director of fetal cardiology, who guided her every step of the way.

Greyson had a diagnosis of pulmonary atresia with intact ventricular septum, a heart condition where only half of the heart has formed.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, congenital heart defects (CHDs) are the most common types of birth defects, and babies born with these conditions are living longer and healthier lives. CHDs affect nearly 1% of, or about 40,000, births per year in the United States.

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Seattle Children’s Team Takes a Resilient Approach to Science Education Amid the Pandemic

When the COVID-19 pandemic first led to a pivot to online instruction in the spring of 2020, the Science Education Department at Seattle Children’s Research Institute was forced to hit pause on in-person programming.

However, thanks to an investment in high-quality equipment and the creativity and adaptability of the Science Education team, the programs have been able to thrive in a virtual format.

Transition to virtual

To pivot to a virtual format, the team purchased a video camera and lighting equipment to make the lessons feel professional, says Dr. Amanda Jones, senior director of education initiatives at Seattle Children’s Research Institute. Read full post »


Seattle Children’s Researchers Discover That Functional COVID-19 Antibodies Are Lost Quickly After Mild Cases

Seattle Children’s researchers have published a study that has uncovered a deeper understanding of why people who have had mild cases of the novel coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19) lose functional antibodies within a few months.

Last year, while seeing the bulk of research analysis focused on severe cases of COVID-19, a team of researchers led by Seattle Children’s Research Institute’s Center for Global Infectious Disease Research, the largest pediatric infectious disease research center in the country, sought to evaluate the immune responses that occur after people recover from more mild cases of COVID-19. Mild cases, researchers say, are the most common type of cases. Published in Cell Reports Medicine, a team of researchers found that while antibodies did persist over time, they were not the functional antibodies needed to protect someone from reinfection.

The study evaluated a cohort of 34 adults, ranging in age from 24-74 for up to six months. It characterizes antibody responses to infection and does not investigate T cell or vaccine responses. Antibody responses to vaccination are likely to behave very differently and have different longevity.

At first, researchers found a sustained and maturing presence of an antibody called Immunoglobulin G (IgG) among participants, which should normally mean protection from infection of a virus would improve, says Dr. Noah Sather, a principal investigator at  Seattle Children’s Research Institute and associate professor at the University of Washington.

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Supporting Youth Mental Wellness into Post-pandemic Life

Thanks to wider availability of vaccines and declining local rates of COVID-19, we’ve entered a new period in the pandemic. Parts of life are returning to what families were used to before coronavirus temporarily disrupted so much. As we increasingly return to obligations and pleasure outside of the home, it’s important to be aware that youth and adults alike will be learning to cope with emotions and feelings related to the experiences of the past year.

On the Pulse spoke with Dr. Yolanda Evans, an adolescent medicine physician at Seattle Children’s, about what kids and teens have experienced and how best to support them through this new period of time. Read full post »


Eight Things You Should Know About the Stress You’re Experiencing

For many of us, the past year has been uniquely stressful. Have you felt especially exhausted, struggled to focus or been more irritable than usual? Maybe you’ve found yourself wondering why you can’t cope with the stress better.

“There are very real, biological reasons why we’re finding it harder than usual to perform,” said Dr. Shannon Simmons, a psychiatrist at Seattle Children’s and medical director of the Psychiatry and Behavioral Medicine Unit. “Under today’s stressors, it’s common to feel fatigued, have a shorter attention span, have a harder time planning things or be more easily irritated and frustrated.”

On The Pulse asked Simmons and Dr. Mendy Minjarez, a psychologist and executive director of Seattle Children’s Autism Center, what parents, caregivers and other adults should know about the stress they may be experiencing and how they can best cope with it.

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Our Commitment to Anti-Racism: Listening to our patients and their families, our community and our team

Since January of this year, following concerns of systemic racism within our organization, we have accelerated our ongoing work to be an anti-racist organization and uphold our core value of equity. Though we’d made a formal commitment to anti-racism last summer, and subsequently launched our Anti-Racism Organizational Change and Accelerated Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Plan last fall, we recognize we must do more – and in greater collaboration.

The key to our transformation – and to the path ahead – lies in taking actions based on conversations and insights from our many stakeholders. We approach the gravity of this transformation and the opportunity to improve with humility in knowing we have not done enough – and our shortcomings have adversely impacted the kids and families we serve as well as our team. Upholding our commitment to anti-racism must be and will be the very fabric of Seattle Children’s future.

We have been in deep and ongoing listening mode so far this year and are grateful for the opportunity to engage in open dialogue to advance this important work. This includes connecting with Odessa Brown Children’s Clinic patients, families and supporters; our team members who identify as Black, Indigenous and people of color (BIPOC); our patient-family advisory council members; and through broader health equity, diversity and inclusion listening sessions and workforce surveys.

Here are some key themes we have heard in these conversations as well as the actions we have underway or have accelerated: Read full post »


How Reese Discovered a Life Worth Living

When Reese Patterson was in sixth grade, she experienced vicious cyberbullying from several of her peers.

“Every day I would get texts from people who would tell me to kill myself,” Reese said. “When you are told to do that every single day, you actually start to believe it.”

Reese’s mother, Val, recalls trying to work with her school to get the bullying to stop.

“We tried to work with the school, and they said it was out of their hands since it happened outside of the school day,” Val said. “We reported it to police after she overdosed, which became a big joke by some of the kids at school. From there, things got even worse.”

Reese began self-harming through cutting.

“Her school called me when they noticed her cutting,” Val said. “The school suggested I contact Mary Bridge Children’s Hospital, and we went straight there that afternoon. The social worker felt that Reese’s situation wasn’t serious enough and that she’d learn more dangerous behaviors while inpatient. All we were left with was a list of therapists to call.”

Things continued to unravel, as Reese’s cutting became more severe.

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Navigating the Digital World and Play During the Pandemic

In 2020, the TODAY Show featured Dr. Dimitri Christakis, director of the Center for Child Health, Behavior and Development at Seattle Children’s Research Institute, in a story about the evolving digital age and the effect media has on children and their developing minds. A year later, Jake Ward, NBC News correspondent, is following up to learn more about how the pandemic has impacted the use of digital devices. Watch as Ward and Christakis explore again the intersection between a child’s development and the digital world.

The below article features a family navigating the challenges of media usage during the pandemic and their participation in a study led by Christakis to better understand play-based activities.

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Five Years After Her Brain Tumor Surgery, Liesel Is Graduating From Harvard

Liesel Von Imhof at Harvard

Liesel Von Imhof will graduate from Harvard with a degree in stem cell biology in May 2021, five years after Seattle Children’s neurosurgeons removed her brain tumor.

As a high school freshman, Liesel Von Imhof had a dream of attending college at Harvard. She packed her schedule with challenging classes and participated in varsity sports such as cross-country running and cross-country skiing. She had occasional, debilitating headaches that sometimes caused her to miss school, but she blamed them on stress, dehydration or low blood sugar.

In July 2016, just before her senior year of high school, Liesel’s dream of Harvard was almost derailed when doctors found the reason for her headaches: a Ping-Pong ball-sized tumor in the middle of her brain.

At the urging of her doctors, Liesel, then age 17, and her parents traveled from their home in Anchorage, Alaska, to Seattle Children’s.

Thanks to the care she received here, the support of her family and friends, and her own determination, Liesel is graduating from Harvard this month with a degree in stem cell biology — her first step toward a career in medicine.

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