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Study Could Help Predict Aneurysm Risk for Kids with Kawasaki Disease

In honor of National Kawasaki Disease Awareness Day on January 26, we are sharing the story of Olivia, a 9-year-old who lives with the disease. Research at Seattle Children’s aims to improve life for children with this condition who are at risk for aneurysms.

When Olivia Nelson was 3 years old, her parents noticed that she had a fever that wouldn’t get better. They brought her to a nearby hospital, where she spent about two weeks being screened for diseases. As doctors tried to find a diagnosis, a lymph node on Olivia’s neck became swollen. Alarmed and wanting an answer, the Nelsons asked to transfer to Seattle Children’s.

“It was very frustrating,” said Olivia’s father, Trevor Nelson. “She was in the hospital for two weeks in and out, and they still couldn’t figure out what was happening.”

Soon after the family arrived at the hospital, Olivia was diagnosed with Kawasaki disease, a serious inflammatory condition affecting the eyes, lips, hands and coronary arteries. The disease affects about 7,000 children in the U.S. each year. Though the family was relieved to have a correct diagnosis, they learned Olivia had developed coronary aneurysms, the enlargement of her coronary arteries due to the persistent inflammation.

A new study funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) could improve the quality of life for children with Kawasaki disease at risk of developing coronary artery aneurysms like Olivia did. Dr. Michael Portman, a cardiologist at Seattle Children’s Heart Center Kawasaki Disease Clinic and researcher at Seattle Children’s Research Institute, hopes to find genetic biomarkers that will predict which patients will not respond to the standard treatment and thus have a higher risk of developing coronary artery problems.

“Olivia will have lifelong issues related to her heart and coronary arteries,” said Portman. “It’s a shame that a 9-year-old has severe heart disease that might have been prevented had we had ways to quickly diagnose and treat her disease effectively.” Read full post »

After Life-Saving Surgery, Summer Overcomes the Odds

When Cassie Fannin and her husband arrived at her 19-week ultrasound, the newly married couple was excited to learn more about their child.  However, the first-time parents’ joy quickly turned to uncertainty when the ultrasound showed their baby’s stomach in her chest due to a life-threatening condition.

Fannin learned that her daughter, Summer, would be born with a congenital diaphragmatic hernia (CDH). Summer had a hole in the left side of her diaphragm that allowed her stomach, intestines and a portion of her liver to slip through into her chest cavity. This prevented her left lung from developing normally.

“To say it was a shock is an understatement,” said Fannin. “We went from being ecstatic about finding out we were having a girl to absolutely devastated in a matter of seconds. I left that day a completely different person. My sadness slowly turned into anger and resentment as I thought, ‘Why us? Why our baby?’”

Doctors referred the family to Seattle Children’s Prenatal Diagnosis and Treatment Program since Fannin’s baby would need surgery after birth, if she survived. The couple met Dr. Kimberly Riehle, an attending surgeon at Seattle Children’s, when Fannin was about 22 weeks along.

“My husband and I were completely lost and overwhelmed,” said Fannin. “Dr. Riehle helped ease our troubled minds during a really uncertain time. My feelings of bitterness and sorrow slowly started to melt away as I came to terms with the diagnosis and the realization that we were no different than anyone else getting a life-changing diagnosis, and I just focused on my excitement to meet her.” Read full post »

Teen With Melanoma Gets Back to Doing What She Loves

Ruth Garcia, 17, received treatment from Seattle Children’s for her melanoma.

During seventh-grade gym class, Ruth Garcia remembers a friend pointing out a black mole she had on her left knee. Ruth didn’t think much about it until two years ago, when she began to feel pain in her knee and noticed that the mole had grown and changed colors to gray and red.

“That’s when I started to worry more,” said Ruth, now 17.

In spring 2016, Ruth’s mother took her to see her primary care provider near the family’s home in Walla Walla, Washington. They did a biopsy on the mole, and she was diagnosed with spitzoid melanoma. Ruth was referred to Seattle Children’s Cancer and Blood Disorders Center.

A child born in the U.S. has about a one in 40 chance of developing melanoma during their lifetime. Seattle Children’s sees about six children a year who were either misclassified with melanoma or have spitzoid melanoma. The cause of spitzoid melanoma is unknown.

“I was surprised,” said Ruth. “I never thought something like that would happen to me.” Read full post »

Patients Share Their Top Resolutions to Ring in the New Year

With the countdown to the New Year almost here, On the Pulse caught up with a few of the patients who inspired our readers with their stories throughout 2018. Below, they offer their hopes, dreams and goals for the year to come.

A shoulder above his cancer, Miguel sets sights on giving back

Miguel Navarro, 19, is focused on the road ahead after treatment for a rare bone cancer.

In 2018, doctors built a right shoulder for Miguel Navarro, 19, after surgically removing an aggressive type of bone cancer known as osteosarcoma that threatened his life. Miguel spent most of the last semester of his senior year of high school in the hospital going through chemotherapy and intensive rehabilitation to regain the use of his right arm. Now, he’s solely focused on the road ahead – one that includes getting back to a hobby he’s passionate about – driving his stick shift car – and giving back to others.

“My goal for 2019 is to give back to the community that took care of me and supported me during my time of need,” Miguel said. “I’m blessed to be alive. Now, I want to be hope for someone else.” Read full post »

After a Long Journey of Nose Reconstruction, Tristan is Smiling Again

Tristan, 9, recently underwent a three-stage nose reconstruction.

For most of the past year, 9-year-old Tristan Beck has been on a long, challenging journey toward nose reconstruction after a traumatic accident left him with a missing nose.

December 20, 2017 was a normal day of winter break for the Beck family. Tristan and his older sister were visiting their mother’s office to drop off food for a party. When they returned to the car, a dog was in the parking lot, showing no signs of aggression. However, when Tristan began to throw the dog a piece of food, it lunged at Tristan’s face and pulled him down. Tristan’s sister pulled him back, and the dog ran away.

All Tina Beck, Tristan’s mother, remembers is the blood on his face when his sister brought him back into her office.

“There was so much blood it was hard to see exactly what was wrong,” said Beck. “It was very hard for me to look at my son at first. My heart hurt and I was blaming myself for what had happened, but I wanted to be strong for him.”

The family called 911, and Tristan was transported to Seattle Children’s Emergency Department. Read full post »

Baby With Heart Defects Makes a Dramatic Recovery

Carolina Castañeda and Jesus Farias were driving home from a family outing with Olivia, their newborn daughter, when they heard her making a strange noise. As first-time parents, they thought it might be normal. However, when Olivia continued making the sound, the couple began to worry. They stopped the car, took Olivia out of the car seat, and noticed that her body had gone limp.

“Her hands and legs just stopped moving,” said Castañeda. “I didn’t know what was normal, but it did not look normal at all.”

Castañeda was startled to see Olivia’s blue lips and her eyes rolling back. The couple rushed their daughter to the nearest hospital in Yakima, trying to keep her awake. When they arrived, Olivia’s eyes were closed.

“Nurses ran around the desk and took her out of my arms – they didn’t even ask questions,” said Castañeda. “It all happened so fast.”

Doctors told the family that Olivia’s body had worked so hard to stay alive that her vessels were shutting down. When Olivia finally opened her eyes and looked around, Castañeda said she remembers feeling at peace, like everything was going to be okay.

The hospital flew Olivia to Seattle Children’s from the Yakima airport. The family was told that a helicopter would have been too slow for Olivia, in her condition.

The new parents were shocked to learn that their 2-week-old baby was in cardiogenic shock due to critical congenital heart defects and she would need surgery from Seattle Children’s Heart Center.

“Everything was scary,” said Castañeda. “She was my baby, she was my firstborn.”

Read full post »

Toddler’s Heart Rebounds After ‘Frankenstein’ Heart Procedure

Katja, now 3, was the youngest patient at Seattle Children’s to undergo the Ozaki procedure.

Although Katarina Anja, or “Katja,” De Groot was born with a rare heart defect called truncus arteriosus, the active toddler never let her condition stop her from running, playing and going to the park.

However, when she was 2 years old, Katja began sleeping for most of the day and withdrawing from the activities she usually enjoyed. That was when her mother knew something was wrong.

“She wasn’t herself anymore,” said Jennifer De Groot. “My daughter is usually a happy-go-lucky child who loves to live life to the fullest. I didn’t know how much longer we could see her like that. It’s like we had reached the point of no return.”

De Groot’s concerns grew, and she knew she needed to seek help for her daughter. Dr. Maggie Likes, Katja’s cardiologist at Seattle Children’s, noticed a difference in her echocardiogram. It showed her aortic valve was not functioning properly.

“We had hit a tipping point,” Likes said. “Between the concerning changes on her echocardiogram and what her mom was seeing at home, it was time to do something about her aortic valve.”

De Groot knew her daughter wouldn’t be able to lead an active lifestyle with a mechanical valve because it would mean that Katja would have to undergo a lifelong regimen of anti-coagulants, commonly known as blood thinners. She made a bold move and asked the Seattle Children’s Heart Center team if they could perform an innovative surgical technique that would repair her daughter’s aortic valve – an unexpected suggestion that led to a collaborative decision.

At 2 years old, Katja would become the youngest child at Seattle Children’s to undergo the Ozaki procedure.

Read full post »

Facial Surgery Helps Emma’s Confidence Soar

At Seattle Children’s, Emma received the correct diagnosis and treatment for her hemangioma.

Donna West remembers her daughter, Emma, being born with a mark on her face. Part of her right cheek was raised and dark purple, like a bruise. A dermatologist diagnosed the mark as a benign extravascular hemangioma, a term that is no longer used, and said not to be concerned. A hemangioma is a collection of extra blood vessels in the skin.

However, as years passed, the hemangioma grew larger and began to hurt. When Emma, now 11, would hang upside down in the playground, it would throb. If she coughed, the mark would get inflamed and shiny.

“When she would have a coughing spell from her asthma or a cold, the pain was like clockwork,” West said. “We were told it could go away, but that wasn’t happening.”

Until receiving care from Dr. Jonathan Perkins, clinic chief of vascular anomalies at Seattle Children’s, who performed surgery on Emma with the help of a new technique called facial nerve mapping, the family didn’t have an accurate diagnosis for the hemangioma or knowledge of treatment options. Read full post »

Reconstructive Pelvic Medicine Program Changes Brothers’ Lives

Brothers Zeke (left) and Isaiah (right) were both born with a rare condition. They received care from Seattle Children’s Reconstructive Pelvic Medicine Program.

Ezekiel, or “Zeke,” 7, and Isaiah, 5, had a life-threatening medical condition at birth. They were both adopted from China with anorectal malformations, which affect about 1 in every 5,000 babies. Babies born with these malformations have no opening at the end of the digestive tract where the anus normally is, requiring complex surgery.

After receiving emergency surgery in China, both received individualized follow-up treatments from Seattle Children’s Reconstructive Pelvic Medicine Program, which is the most comprehensive and experienced program of its kind in the Western U.S. The program brings together the knowledge and skills of experts from General Surgery, Gastroenterology, Motility, Gynecology, Urology, Radiology and Pathology.

“Seattle Children’s has been fantastic, and everyone that we have come across has been great,” said mother Robyn Ross. “Everyone even knew us by name, and they made the whole experience very easy to navigate.” Read full post »

Wilderness Safety Tips for Families

Dr. Douglas Diekema is passionate about the outdoors and wilderness safety. Here he is photographed with his son Nathan on top of Glacier Peak in the Cascade Range.

Like many Pacific Northwest residents, Dr. Douglas Diekema is an avid hiker, camper, climber and skier. His favorite trails near Seattle include Snow Lake, Mount Dickerman, Lake Serene, Perry Creek and Goat Lake.

But Diekema, an emergency medicine physician and director of education in the Treuman Katz Center for Pediatric Bioethics at Seattle Children’s, not only enjoys the great outdoors – he helps people learn how to stay safe while in the wilderness. His emergency medicine expertise, appreciation for the outdoors and interest in environmental exposure-related conditions intersect in his passion for wilderness safety. Read full post »