Patient Stories

All Articles in the Category ‘Patient Stories’

Born Breathless, Baby Finds Hope After Weeks on Life Support

Garrett Smith survived six weeks on life support in Seattle Children’s neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). Photo courtesy of Arlene Chambers Photography.

From the moment he made his entrance into the world, Garrett Smith struggled to breathe.

“We longed for that first cry as he was placed upon his momma’s chest,” said Kevin Smith, Garrett’s dad. “Unfortunately, we didn’t get to hear that cry. Instead, we saw Garrett gasping for air and making quiet whimpers.”

As doctors raced to get Garrett the air he desperately needed, they first transferred him to the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) at the hospital where he was born. When his condition continued to deteriorate, they transferred him to a higher level of care at Swedish First Hill. Less than 24 hours later, the Smiths learned he would need yet another transfer, and faced the scariest decision they ever had to make as parents. Read full post »

Milton Wright Finds His Way Back ‘Home’

Milton Wright III has returned to work at the hospital that saved his life.

Milton Wright III has only worked at Seattle Children’s for a couple months, but the hospital has been his second home for much of his life.

Wright’s childhood unfolded within Seattle Children’s walls — making friends, experiencing loss and facing death more times than he can count.

Today, Wright is back at Seattle Children’s — not as a patient, but as an employee and a symbol of hope.

“I want to do something that’s worthy of my life being saved,” Wright said.

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Harper Beare is ‘Doing Something Amazing’

Harper was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia when she was just 10 months old.

When asked about the birth of her daughter Harper, Sydney Beare lights up.

“Harper was 8 pounds, 1 ounce, 21.5 inches and the most beautiful baby I’ve ever seen!” she said.

By all accounts, Harper was an exceptionally happy, and seemingly healthy, baby. She began sleeping though the night when she was just a few days old and almost never fussed, even when teething. Beare said her daughter was “totally content.”

But in July 2017, when Harper was 9 months old, she became seriously ill.

Harper first developed an ear infection, a staph infection and had an infected cut on her finger. During the next month she became lethargic and pale.

Beare noticed bruises on her legs, and later on her back and face. Harper began having diarrhea and vomiting. She also slept all the time. Despite all this, Harper’s well-child checkup in August revealed no concerns.

Then, on Aug. 21, Harper woke up with a fever.

“She was just lying there, with dry, cracked lips, screaming,” Beare remembered, choking back tears. “I was worried something was wrong but I pushed that idea aside because I didn’t want to think anything bad could happen to my baby.”

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April Discovers Power in Her Voice Through Selective Mutism Program

April Merrill is a 6-year-old who loves to sing and dance. Yet, her struggle with an anxiety disorder called selective mutism hinders her ability to do the activities that showcase her vibrant and joyful personality.

“Her voice disappears, as April describes it,” said Kelly Merrill, April’s mother. “She said that she wants to talk but can’t seem to find her voice.”

As April was growing up, Merrill noticed signs in her daughter that indicated something might be wrong.

“When April started to talk, she could only verbalize 20 or so words,” said Merrill. “She was 2 years old at the time and I noticed she couldn’t expand her vocabulary.”

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Bretton Refuses to Let Cancer Keep Him Off the Ice

Bretton Chitwood, 18, is an avid hockey player. He was diagnosed with osteosarcoma in 2016, but has since returned to the ice. He now plays with a custom prosthesis.

On May 18, 2016, Kara Chitwood and her son Bretton Chitwood traveled from their home in Lynden, Washington, to Seattle Children’s for what they thought would be a routine outpatient appointment to get magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) on Bretton’s ankle. Instead, they didn’t end up leaving the hospital. That day would become one they would never forget.

The pain Bretton was experiencing in his ankle was more insidious than they could have ever imagined. Doctors found a mass and said they needed to do a biopsy to determine what it was. One possibility was the unthinkable: cancer. Read full post »

When the Going Gets ‘Ruff’, Kids Find Comfort From a Four-Legged League of Heroes

In honor of National Dog Day, On the Pulse is recognizing three unique four-legged visitors who bring joy to kids at Seattle Children’s.

When a child is in need of some cheering up during a hospital stay, Seattle Children’s knows just the right MVP for the task – Most Valuable Pup that is. With their wiggling tails, wet noses and oozing charm, each of the nine volunteer therapy dogs in Seattle Children’s Animal-Assisted Activities Program harnesses their unique strengths and abilities to bring a smile to every patient they meet.

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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 »

Why Reid ‘Walks Awesome’ for Hydrocephalus

When other kids ask Reid Watkins, 8, about the leg braces he wears, he likes to tell them they help him ‘walk awesome.’

The outgoing third grader was diagnosed with cerebral palsy and hydrocephalus at 16 months old. Until undergoing two surgeries over the course of two years at Seattle Children’s, both conditions had limited his ability to walk on his own.

That made taking part in this year’s Hydrocephalus Association Seattle WALK to End Hydrocephalus all the more important to Reid. For the last seven years, the Watkins family has participated in the walk at Magnuson Park as a way to raise awareness about the condition. 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 »

Rock Climbing Brings Families Together, Builds a Community for Children With Limb Differences

Ramon Little, 9, has been rock climbing since he was 5 years old. Seattle Children’s and Outdoors for All partner to give children with limb differences the opportunity to rock climb. Photo by: Scott Filipiak

This weekend, a group of Seattle Children’s patients and families got together outside the walls of the hospital for a unique social – to climb a 30-foot rock climbing wall. For 8 years, Seattle Children’s and Outdoors for All have partnered together to allow children with limb differences the opportunity to rock climb.

Dr. Suzanne Steinman, a physician in the Hand and Upper Extremity Program who helps organize the event, says the social is a way to provide families the opportunity to get together and for kids to see they’re not alone.

“Every child who attends the event has something in common: they all have unique limbs,” said Steinman. “From congenital abnormalities of the hand or foot, to losses from amputation or trauma, kids get to see other kids with arms and legs just like theirs.”

Kenna Chapman, custom events and program manager at Outdoors for All, added, “Events like this make me feel like our work really does enrich the lives of people through recreation.” Read full post »