Patient Care

All Articles in the Category ‘Patient Care’

I Was Not Ready to Die: How Seattle Children’s Immunotherapy Saved My Life

Aaron (left) poses with Dr. Mike Jensen, director of the Ben Towne Center for Childhood Cancer Research, at the Strong Against Cancer CELLebration fundraising event.

Seattle Children’s doctors and researchers are leading efforts to better treat cancer in children, adolescents and young adults by boosting the immune system with T-cell immunotherapy. Patients who cannot be cured with standard therapies are benefiting from clinical trials developed at the Ben Towne Center for Childhood Cancer Research, and supported by the Strong Against Cancer initiative. 

One of these patients is Aaron. When he feared he might be out of treatment options, Aaron found hope at Seattle Children’s. Now, he shares his story.

Cancer is such an ugly word. On the internet, it has become normal for people to use it to describe things, ideas or people they don’t like. But for me, that word only brings back painful memories of fighting a disease I would not wish on my worst enemies.

I was first diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia in January 2013. I was 19 years old, living in Vancouver, Canada, and studying computer science at Simon Fraser University.

I became suddenly ill while on a cruise vacation with my family. I had a fever that wouldn’t go away; nausea for no reason; and extreme fatigue. I needed to sleep all the time. I could barely walk. Climbing a flight of stairs felt like trying to climb Mount Everest.

We knew something was very wrong, so my family took me to the Emergency Department at Vancouver General Hospital.

I still remember lying on the hospital bed after the doctor delivered the bad news — I had leukemia. I couldn’t believe it. I asked the nurse as he was putting in my IV, “How long do you think it’ll take before I get better?”

He replied, “My friend, I’m afraid this is just the beginning of a long and difficult journey for you.”

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A Surgeon’s Legacy Advances Surgical Care in India

A decade ago, the late Seattle Children’s surgeon, Dr. Richard Grady, began traveling to India for a special mission — to provide urgent surgical care to children born with a rare and complex disorder called bladder exstrophy (BE).

Grady’s dedication to helping under-resourced children in India led to the development of a unique international collaborative that aimed to alleviate the global burden of this surgically treatable disease, as documented in a recent article published in JAMA Surgery.

Dr. Paul Merguerian, division chief of urology at Seattle Children’s, who is helping to carry on Grady’s inspirational work, recalls his colleague’s passionate commitment to care for children not only in the Pacific Northwest region, but in a country located more than 7,000 miles across the globe.

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Born With a Hole in His Heart, Hybrid Procedure Helps Rowen Thrive

When Chelsie McKinney, her husband, and their two boys welcomed baby Rowen into the world in November 2017, they thought he was “absolutely perfect.”

“He was a big, strong and beautiful boy,” McKinney said. “We counted his fingers and toes like all parents do, and he seemed perfectly healthy. We were so excited to bring him home.”

However, before Rowen was discharged from the hospital, doctors noticed he had a heart murmur. An echocardiogram indicated he had a hole in the wall between the lower two chambers of his heart, which is called a ventricular septal defect (VSD). A VSD is the most common heart birth defect, and about three in every 1,000 babies are born with it.

At just a little more than 1 day old, Rowen was taken by ambulance to Seattle Children’s.

“It was scary, and a lot to digest so suddenly,” McKinney said. “We didn’t know what his future would hold. But even with all of the unknowns, we found comfort in knowing he was going to the best hospital where he would be in good hands.”

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Shedding Light on Mental Health Stigma and the Truth About Treatment

John Madden, now 22 years old, has referred to his stay as a teenager in the Seattle Children’s Psychiatric and Behavioral Medicine Unit as the 10 most important days of his life.

When John Madden was 16 years old, the growing stress from his demanding academic schedule became a catalyst for larger issues.

Madden had withdrawn from friends and family. His misuse of prescription medication and use of illicit drugs to cope with the stress further aggravated undiagnosed mental conditions. Bouts of depression and mania sometimes left him sleepless for days with little control over his thoughts and actions.

Madden recognized he needed help, but he was not relieved when he was admitted to the Seattle Children’s Psychiatry and Behavioral Medicine Unit (PBMU).

“I had this Hollywood view of treatment and thought it was going to jump from talking to being restraint-oriented, locked in a room and treated sub-human,” Madden said. “I wanted to avoid that stigma about what goes on in mental health hospitals.”

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Kids With IBD Cook up a Recipe for Remission Using a Unique Diet

Avi Shapiro, 17, suffered from Crohn’s disease. He achieved remission through a unique diet called the specific carbohydrate diet (SCD). Now, he has made it his mission to share the benefits of the diet with other kids like him.

Avi Shapiro knows his way around the kitchen. While the average teen might be fishing around their pantry for a bag of potato chips or a box of cookies, Avi is in the kitchen whipping up ingredients for his next delicious concoction. Depending on the day, he might prepare homemade marshmallows, a serving of spaghetti squash pesto or a scrumptious stack of waffles baked to perfection.

The effort that Avi puts into cooking these delectable dishes isn’t purely for pleasure or practice to become the next winner of “Top Chef.” For the 17-year-old, cooking food has become a lifestyle that he has learned to embrace over the last three plus years to remain healthy after achieving remission from Crohn’s disease, a form of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).

“I learned that being able to cook is a valuable skill to have,” said Avi. “Knowing the types of ingredients to buy which support my well-being and getting to create and eat meals that I actually enjoy feels truly amazing.”

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With a Genetic Answer, Parents Find Comfort in Son’s Rare Epilepsy

Genetic testing helped diagnose Nolan Wood, 3, with KCNQ3 epilepsy.

Even though Nolan Wood hadn’t experienced a seizure in more than two years, his parents still had questions about their son’s future.

“We wondered if there were others out there that have what Nolan has,” said Emily Wood, Nolan’s mom. “If so, what does their life look like?”

The Woods’ search for answers began when Nolan, 3, was diagnosed with infantile spasms and regression of his motor skills when he was 6 months old. Before receiving seizure medications, Nolan had hundreds of daily subtle, reflex-like seizures. Due to the regression of his motor skills, he had stopped rolling over, smiling and crying. A condition known as cortical visual impairment had also rendered him legally blind. Read full post »

Pinpointing Pancreatitis: How Family History Played a Role in Amber’s Painful Illness

It’s holiday time in the Louden household. However, this year is unlike any other. For the first time in 11 years, 17-year-old Amber Louden will be able to join her family at the Thanksgiving table and indulge in some of her favorite dishes pain-free.

“I remember Thanksgiving two years ago; I ate so much food that I ended up in the hospital because of the horrible pain I was in,” said Amber. “Last year, I didn’t even get a chance to sit at the dinner table because I spent the holiday in the hospital where I stayed for 12 days.”

Amber’s decade-long battle with chronic pancreatitis prevented her from partaking in cherished holiday traditions.

It may be surprising that these traditions and the root of Amber’s struggle with pancreatitis share one common factor — and that happens to be family.

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Surgery Frees Lillee from Seizures Medication Couldn’t Stop

Lillee Haynes, 4, surrounded by her three older brothers.

When 4-year-old Lillee Haynes runs through the doors of Seattle Children’s South Clinic for her speech therapy appointment and heads straight for a table covered in crayons, it’s hard to imagine that nearly two years ago she faced hundreds of epileptic seizures each day.

“Her seizures happened so often that I installed a camera above her bed to record any she had at night,” said Aimee Haynes, Lillee’s mom. “One night the camera recorded 200 movements. I was shocked to see how many seizures disrupted her sleep.”

Lillee’s brain didn’t rest until she underwent not one, but two neurosurgeries at Seattle Children’s to remove the diseased area of her left brain, allowing her healthy brain to grow and develop.

“You could say Lillee is most definitely right-brain dominant,” laughed Haynes. “That might explain why she has such a spicy personality.” Read full post »

Newborn Screening for Rare Disorders Becomes Researcher’s Lifelong Mission

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.

For the first 15 years of his life, Ryan Wyckoff appeared to be a perfectly healthy, active teenager, living with his family in Wasilla, Alaska.

But during New Year’s weekend in 2009, Ryan began to feel seriously ill. He was lethargic and had a high fever that could not be controlled by acetaminophen.

Ryan was so sick he could barely make the trip to his family doctor. The doctor thought Ryan looked jaundiced and referred him to their local hospital, but providers there found nothing wrong so they sent him home.

Ryan’s symptoms worsened. He gained 15 pounds in just a couple days as fluid built up in his abdomen. Ryan’s mom, Lisa Wyckoff, remembered how her tall, slender son looked like he was pregnant.

An MRI revealed Ryan had cirrhosis — advanced scarring in his liver. His condition was life-threatening, so he was flown to Seattle Children’s by Medivac.

“It’s terrifying to have something seriously wrong with your son that no one can figure out,” said Lisa. “We felt so helpless.” Read full post »

Special Forces of Life Strengthen Bond Between Hudson and His Uncle Trevor

Hudson received a portion of his uncle’s liver in July as part of a living donor liver transplant.

Jordan and Morgan Hill carry with them everywhere a custom-made coin inspired by their son’s liver transplant and the man who saved his life.

Morgan had the coin made weeks before his older brother, United States Army Special Operations Command Lt. Col. Trevor Hill, flew to Seattle from his home in North Carolina to donate part of his liver to his 8 ½-month-old nephew, Hudson.

“My brother saved our son’s life,” Morgan said. “Trevor has had what is called a challenge coin throughout his military career. It’s a sign of respect. It’s a symbol of someone’s unit and their life, and I wanted him to have one representing the incredible gift he gave us.” Read full post »