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Helping Kids Cope With Anxiety Over Distressing News

In an episode of the popular TV show Big Little Lies, a character’s young daughter has an anxiety attack, prompted by worries about climate change. Though this may seem drastic, Dr. Kendra Read, attending psychologist and director of anxiety programs with Seattle Children’s Psychiatry and Behavioral Medicine team, is having many conversations with families about how to cope with distressing news, such as mass shootings, crime, global politics and natural disasters.

“It’s common for kids to be worried about events that might potentially harm them or their loved ones,” Read said. “Worrying is normal and a typical part of life, but I tend to talk to children whose anxiety over current events impacts their daily functioning. They exaggerate the likelihood of bad things happening and underestimate their ability to cope with things.”

The key is helping kids cope with the worry about these events happening, even though the likelihood is small. With school back in session, Read offers advice to families whose children might experience heightened anxiety after a frightening news event.

“We want to bolster kids’ coping abilities and teach them how they can help themselves,” Read said. Read full post »

A 2019-20 Update on Flu and Other Vaccines

With school back in session, families are juggling classes, homework and after-school activities. Making sure kids are up-to-date on vaccinations and prepared for the upcoming flu season is also important.

“Immunizations are our chance to prevent infections before they happen and keep our children healthy,” said Dr. Matthew Kronman, a pediatrician and associate professor of pediatric infectious diseases at Seattle Children’s. “Because children are around so many other kids at school, there is a high chance for passing infectious diseases from one child to the next.”

To make it easier for busy families, On the Pulse asked Kronman what parents should know about back-to-school vaccines, including recommendations for the 2019-20 flu season and information about the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine, which he noted is especially important after this year’s measles outbreak. Read full post »

Study Helps Parents Build Resilience to Navigate Child’s Cancer

Credit: E. Dubois Photography

Tatum Fettig remembers when her family’s lives changed forever. In 2016, her daughter Teagan began vomiting and struggling with balance. At Seattle Children’s, Teagan, then 2, was diagnosed with a pediatric brain tumor, medulloblastoma. Through the grueling process of chemotherapy treatment and radiation, Fettig and her husband were by Teagan’s side, trying to cope with the uncertainty of whether they would see their youngest child grow up. They mourned the loss of their former life.

“Having a child with cancer is traumatizing,” Fettig said. “It doesn’t mean you’re broken, but it affects the whole family. People tell parents to take care of themselves, but when your kid is sick, you can’t think of anything else.”

Fettig’s experience is not uncommon. Research shows that parents of children with cancer experience psychological stress during the child’s treatment. After treatment is complete, parents report higher anxiety, depression and posttraumatic stress than the average population. However, formal mental, emotional and social support for parents is not typical after a child’s cancer diagnosis.

In a study published in JAMA Network Open, Seattle Children’s researchers addressed this need, adapting an intervention previously used for teens and young adults with cancer. They found that one-on-one sessions teaching skills through a tool called Promoting Resilience in Stress Management for Parents (PRISM-P) improved resilience and benefit finding, or personal growth, among parents of children with cancer. Read full post »

Climate Change Effects on Skin: A Q&A With Dr. Markus Boos

Dr. Markus Boos, a pediatric dermatologist at Seattle Children’s, with one of his sons.

Climate change, a result of elevated carbon dioxide levels, leads to environmental changes that affect everyone, says Dr. Markus Boos, a pediatric dermatologist at Seattle Children’s. The 20 warmest years on record globally all occurred in the last 22 years, with the past 5 years being the warmest. While natural disasters such as wildfires, hurricanes and other forms of extreme weather can cause lasting physical, mental and emotional harm to all people, specific populations are more adversely affected. This includes the elderly, individuals with disabilities and children.

These major environmental changes put children’s health and safety at risk, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. Recent reports have estimated children under age 5 bear 88% of the burden of disease due to climate change. On the Pulse talked to Boos about how climate change impacts skin conditions in children, and how parents can protect their kids from ultraviolet (UV) radiation. Read full post »

What Parents Need to Know About Vaping

Mango, fruit and crème are just a few of the nicotine flavors that may be drawing kids and teens to electronic cigarettes and vaping. In recent years, rising rates of youth in the United States using e-cigarettes has grown into a public health epidemic.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), e-cigarette use jumped 78% among high school students from 2017 to 2018. Last year, more than 3.6 million middle school and high school students in the U.S. used e-cigarettes. The products’ surge in popularity led the Food and Drug Administration to restrict fruit and candy flavored e-cigarettes at gas stations and convenience stores in 2018.

“I have absolutely seen an increase in teens using e-cigarettes, and so have hospitals and schools across the country,” said Dr. Yolanda Evans, associate professor of pediatrics in adolescent medicine at Seattle Children’s. “With these highly addictive products becoming more popular and readily available, it’s important for parents to know what e-cigarettes are and how to discuss vaping with their children.” Read full post »

After Tragedy, Family Raises Awareness for Drowning Prevention

At 3 years old, Yori Tsunoda was a bright and energetic boy who was always on the go.

“Yori had a huge personality,” his mother, Chezik Tsunoda, said. “As the third of four boys, he knew how to stand out. He was really silly, always made everyone laugh and loved playing with his brothers.”

The toddler had a knack for puzzles and a vast knowledge of airplanes. One of Yori’s favorite books was an airplane encyclopedia and he could name any plane by the picture.

Less than a year ago, Yori was at a friend’s house playing in the pool when he quietly slipped below the surface. When Yori was pulled from the water, it was clear that he was not breathing and did not have a pulse. After a few minutes of CPR, first responders arrived. They were able to revive his heart and transfer him to Seattle Children’s.

While Yori’s body eventually recovered, his brain never regained function due to a severe lack of oxygen, which is unfortunately the case with many drowning victims. Two weeks later, he was pronounced brain dead and passed away on Sept. 1, 2018.

“I had no idea when we walked into the hospital that we would not be walking out with him,” Tsunoda said. “As a parent, you assume it’s going to be okay, but it wasn’t. We were completely devastated.” Read full post »

Mother of Micro Preemie Twins Shares NICU Advice

At 10 months old, Amelia and Calvin Phillips have proven they are fighters, overcoming multiple obstacles to get to where they are today. The twins were born as micro preemies, a term used for babies born before 26 weeks gestation, or who weigh less than 1 pound, 12 ounces.

Throughout their time in Seattle Children’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), their parents, Amanda Littleman and Nathan Phillips, have been by their side. In time for Mother’s Day, Littleman shares her story and advice to mothers in a similar situation.

“Everyone tells you that the NICU will be a rollercoaster ride, and it really is. But it does get better,” Littleman said. “Just seeing Calvin and Amelia today makes all the ups and downs and scary conversations worth it. I can’t believe how far they have come since the day they were born.” Read full post »

Alaska Teen is Climbing to New Heights After Heart Transplant

Just two days before he got sick, Adrian Peterson was practicing martial arts – a typical activity for the active 17-year-old who regularly biked, climbed and hiked. But that all changed in October 2018, when Adrian woke up feeling congested and nauseous.

“That was the only forewarning I got for what was to come,” Adrian said.

At first, doctors in Fairbanks diagnosed Adrian with the flu. However, about two weeks later, doctors at an urgent care center discovered Adrian had something more. He was sent to an emergency room with acute heart failure.

“My next memory was waking up while being toted over to an ambulance. I was told that we had to fly to Seattle Children’s,” Adrian said. “I fell asleep on the flight, and the next thing I knew I was in Seattle with an IV line in my neck.”

Adrian was diagnosed with dilated cardiomyopathy, which is when the heart is severely weakened and it becomes enlarged.

“It was completely unexpected,” Adrian said. “All I knew was that I wanted to be healthy again.” Read full post »

Scientists Find Clues to Rare Mutation Hours After Toddler’s Brain Surgery

At 5 months old, Tyler Cassinelli, now 3, was battling both liver cancer and intractable epilepsy. When he was at Seattle Children’s preparing to undergo cancer treatment, Tyler had a seizure that stopped his breathing.

“It was one of the scariest moments of my life,” said Jane Cassinelli, Tyler’s mother. “We could see his stats on the monitor dropping, and doctors came rushing in.”

Doctors quickly intubated and revived Tyler. Five months later, his cancer was in remission. However, he continued to have unpredictable and life-threatening seizures that multiple medications failed to stop.

Genetic testing revealed that Tyler had a mutation of the HCN1 gene. Children with this rare abnormality are at risk for traumatic epilepsies, said Dr. Nino Ramirez, director of the Center for Integrative Brain Research.

“It was difficult to hear that Tyler was expected to have a lifetime of hard-to-control seizures due to a genetic disorder,” said Cassinelli.

In addition to the mutation, Tyler had a brain malformation called focal cortical dysplasia, a common cause of intractable epilepsy. Testing showed Tyler’s seizures were coming from an area on the left side of his brain. Brain surgery to address the problematic lesion could help, and what’s more, his brain could also enable researchers to unlock some of the mysteries of the genetic mutation.

“Tyler’s situation was unique and extremely desperate,” said Ramirez. “There is great clinical interest worldwide in better understanding the HCN1 mutation, and Tyler’s brain could provide a rare window into its role in epilepsy.” Read full post »

Teen Creates Art for Heart Warriors

After doctors found a tumor and cyst in her brain, 13-year-old Emiliah Albanese discovered that channeling her love for drawing was a helpful way to relieve stress and express her feelings.

When she learned her younger cousin would need heart surgery, Emiliah put her artistic skills to work by creating a personalized heart drawing. On social media, her art quickly caught the attention of other families who had children with heart issues. She began receiving hundreds of requests to create personalized “heartwork.”

Emiliah’s striking watercolor-painted drawings often feature children and anatomically correct hearts with thoughtful, customized details. In one picture, a girl waters colorful flowers that blossom from a heart. In another, a boy pulls a wagon carrying a heart. Through her “heartwork,” Emiliah hopes to help brighten what can be a difficult time for children and their families.

“I feel really happy when I’m drawing for others, especially knowing that the drawings seem to bring joy to other kids and their families,” said Emiliah. Read full post »