Should Schools Require COVID-19 Vaccinations? An Ethics Expert Weighs In

A child wearing a face covering getting a vaccine.

Isaac was one of the first 5 – 11 age kids to get vaccinated at Seattle children’s

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, people have been asking ethical questions about vaccinating children against the disease: Is it necessary to vaccinate children, who seem to experience the disease differently than adults? Should children in school be required to get the vaccine?

We spoke to Dr. Doug Diekema, an emergency medicine physician at Seattle Children’s and director of education in the Treuman Katz Center for Pediatric Bioethics, to discuss these and other questions about vaccinating kids against COVID-19. Read on to learn more.

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The Mission of a Lifetime: State to Use Dr. Sihoun Hahn’s Newborn Screening Test for Wilson Disease

Kaitlyn and Ryan Wyckoff travel from their hometown of Wasilla, Alaska, to Seattle Children’s so Dr. Sihoun Hahn (center) can monitor and treat them for Wilson disease — a rare genetic disorder.

 

The lifetime goal of Dr. Sihoun Hahn, director of the Wilson Disease Center of Excellence and investigator in Seattle Children’s Research Institute’s Center for Integrative Brain Research, is one step closer to being achieved.

After more than 30 years studying Wilson disease, Hahn’s newborn screening test for this rare genetic condition will be trialed in a pilot study by the Washington State Department of Health by the end of the year. If the study is successful, Hahn’s test could soon be used to diagnose infants across the country with this life-threatening, but easily treated, disease.

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How Hunger Helped Dawson Learn to Eat

Photo of a baby smiling with food on his bib.

Today, Dawson is a well-nourished and thriving 9-month-old who eats all his meals and takes all his medications by mouth. If he hadn’t participated on Children’s hunger-based tube weaning process, he might have been dependent on a feeding tube for a much longer time.

When a pregnant Heather Henson learned her baby, Dawson, had hypoplastic left heart syndrome — a rare and serious condition where the left side of the heart is not fully developed — she immediately began researching the disease and the hospitals that treat it.

Heather and her family live in Anchorage, Alaska. The state doesn’t have a pediatric hospital equipped to perform the heart surgeries Dawson would need to survive, so she had to give birth somewhere else.

During her research, Heather found an HLHS Facebook group where other parents shared their experiences with the disease. Stories of successful surgeries and thriving babies gave her hope, but she worried when she saw many children who relied on feeding tubes after their surgeries.

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Turning 3 and Cancer Free

There may be no better way for a 3-year-old to celebrate cancer remission than with a Frozen-themed birthday party. That’s exactly what Penny Hatch and her family did last weekend.

Penny was diagnosed with neuroblastoma, a solid-tumor cancer with a survival rate of about 50%, three months after her baby brother, William, was born with a life-threatening heart condition. Today, William is thriving at home and Penny is in remission.

Penny’s final immunotherapy treatment was on Sept. 2 after a year of treatments that included surgery, chemotherapy, a bone marrow transplant, radiation, and immunotherapy which stimulates the immune system to fight diseases.

Samantha, Penny’s mom, was overwhelmed with emotions when she squirted the final immunotherapy drug dose into her daughter’s mouth. “It felt like I was finally allowed to feel the weight of everything we’ve been through.”

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Scientists Search for the Cause of Their Son’s Epilepsy

The phone call came at 2 a.m. It was a neonatologist calling about Kimberly Aldinger and Scott Houghtaling’s son, Grayson. Kimberly had given birth to premature twins a month earlier and both babies were in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) at Swedish Hospital. The new parents had returned home to get a much-needed night of sleep when the doctor left a message on their voicemail.

Child boy in booster seat

Kimberly Aldinger and Scott Houghtaling’s son, Grayson (pictured here), began having seizures when he was just 24 days old. Now, his parents are using their scientific expertise to try to find the cause of his epilepsy.

“I’m really worried about Grayson,” the doctor said. “He’s having a massive seizure. You need to come down here.”

Scott immediately feared the worst. “I thought, the only reason they’d call in the middle of the night was if they were preparing for the worst outcome — Grayson not surviving.”

Thankfully, the medical team was able to stop Grayson’s seizure that night, but it was just the beginning of Kimberly and Scott’s journey to understand the severity of their son’s brain damage and how it would shape all their lives.

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“So Much to Be Thankful For”: A Year In the Life of the Hatch Family Part Two

Two weeks before their 3-month-old son was scheduled for his second open-heart surgery, Kyle and Samantha Hatch were told their daughter likely had neuroblastoma.

Things are looking up for the Hatch family. William (left) celebrated his first birthday in May — a major milestone for children with his heart condition. While Penny still has a few months of neuroblastoma treatment, her hair is growing back and her nasogastric (NG) tube is out. Still, getting to this point has not been easy.

“We were utterly broken,” Samantha said. “But we had to pull it together for our children.”

After Penny’s tumor was discovered on her MRI, she needed a biopsy to definitively diagnose what providers suspected was cancer.

On August 11, 2020, Penny walked into Seattle Children’s hospital for the procedure. It was the last time Samantha and Kyle saw their daughter walk.

After a tumor sample was collected, Penny was discharged. But at home, Samantha said her daughter started screaming in agony. “She couldn’t stand and was in unbearable pain. I thought, ‘This isn’t normal. We’re going back in.’”

Penny was quickly readmitted to Seattle Children’s for pain management. Watching Kyle hold her in the hospital, Samantha noticed Penny was kicking her left leg while her right leg hung limp.

“It was terrifying,” Samantha said. “She couldn’t move it.”

The biopsy caused Penny’s tumor to swell and press against the nerves in her spinal cord, paralyzing her right leg. To make matters worse, the biopsy confirmed Penny did, in fact, have high-risk neuroblastoma. Read full post »

A Son With a Heart Condition, a Daughter With Cancer: A Year in the Life of the Hatch Family Part One

Kyle Hatch holds baby William, who was born with hypoplastic left heart syndrome (left). Three months later, Penny (pictured with her mom, Samantha) was diagnosed with neuroblastoma.

Who are your heroes? Are they exceptionally talented? Do they have superhuman abilities? Are they destined for greatness?

Or, are they ordinary people who face tremendous challenges and persevere out of love?

Kyle and Samantha Hatch undoubtedly fall in the latter category. In the past year, one of their twin sons was born with a life-threatening heart defect. Three months later, their 18-month-old daughter was diagnosed with neuroblastoma. And all of this happened during a global pandemic.

“We often talk about literary heroes, people who face adversity even when they’re unprepared,” Kyle Hatch said. “That’s what makes them brave, and that’s why our kids are some of the bravest people we know.” Read full post »

Amidst Ellia’s Cancer Treatment, the Yees Found a Way to Help Others

From left to right: Jenna, Ellia, Nathan, and Zach.

For the first three years of her life, Ellia was “the kid who never got sick.”

“We never worried about her,” says Jenna Yee, Ellia’s mom. “She was always very spunky and funny and had this incredibly dynamic personality. We knew from the start she was a fighter.”

But when Ellia was 3 years old, she developed a fever and became lethargic. Jenna Yee took her to a walk-in clinic where she was prescribed antibiotics for an ear infection. A few days later, Ellia woke up with a rash on her arms and legs, and red dots on her neck.

Jenna Yee brought Ellia to their pediatrician, who sent them to Seattle Children’s Emergency Department for urgent blood testing. Ellia’s dad, Nathan Yee, left work to meet them there.

Nathan Yee and Jenna Yee both have professional experience in cancer research. Jenna Yee was a toxicologist who worked on cancer clinical trials and Nathan Yee was helping develop immunotherapy treatments for adults with leukemia and lymphoma at Juno Therapeutics.

“Hearing Ellia’s symptoms, my first reaction was utter denial,” Nathan Yee says. “I was sure nothing was seriously wrong. But driving to the Emergency Department, I realized the truth was screaming in my face. Ellia had a classic presentation of pediatric leukemia.”

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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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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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