Patient Stories

All Articles in the Category ‘Patient Stories’

Child Life Specialists Help Patients and Families Cope During Uncertain Times

No matter the circumstances outside the walls of the hospital, Seattle Children’s is steadfast in helping every child live the most fulfilling life possible. Although COVID-19 has halted many things in life, health is not one. Compassion and expert care are two infallible aspects that make Seattle Children’s a place families can count on when they need care, and supporting that relentless mission are the incredible health care workers at Seattle Children’s who continue to provide the best, safest care possible for patients and families.

This year, child life specialists at Seattle Children’s have worked tirelessly to try and make the hospital feel like the same inviting and safe place it has always been. They are heroes without capes. Child life specialists help make sure a family’s experience at the hospital is a positive one. As members of the health care team, they work directly with patients and families to help explain a medical diagnosis, create coping plans, teach relaxation techniques, and more.

Walk into the Emergency Department and patients and families will see the bright, welcoming eyes of Riley Coyle. Underneath her mask and face shield, she radiates light. With her warm and inviting personality, she helps patients and families navigate through what can be a traumatic experience. No family hopes to find themselves in the emergency department, but when they do, Coyle is happy to be there with a reassuring hand.

“It’s a huge honor to support our patients and families and be a part of their journey,” Coyle said. “It’s really rewarding, and I try to do anything and everything I can to help them.” Read full post »

Malachi Stohr Is “Absolutely Amazing”

On May 7, 2018, Whitney Stohr slumped to the ground in the corner of her son’s room in Seattle Children’s Pediatric Intensive Care Unit.

Her son Malachi, who was born with a severe form of spina bifida, had undergone a tracheostomy days before. When he woke up after the procedure, his pain was so intense his body went into shock.

That night, Stohr remembers hearing beeps and alarms blaring in their room. Malachi wasn’t getting enough oxygen and his heart rate was dropping. Providers rushed in to perform CPR.

“I just crumbled to the floor,” Stohr remembers. “I was scared he wasn’t going to make it.”

That’s when a provider from the Medically Complex Care team knelt beside Stohr.

“She looked me in the eye and said, ‘It’s okay Whitney. We got him. He’s stable. He’s going to be okay.’ She told me that night that I needed to be strong for Malachi, and I haven’t stopped yet.”

The Stohrs have come a long way since then, and while Stohr has feared for her son’s life countless times, Seattle Children’s workforce members have been like a second family during the most challenging moments. Read full post »

An Open Letter: Let’s Celebrate Our Differences

In recognition of Spina Bifida Awareness Month, Whitney Stohr penned an open letter encouraging inclusion. She asks people to join her in celebrating our unique differences and to see her son for the extraordinary child he is.

Whitney and her husband, Jason, found out their son Malachi would be born with spina bifida when she was 19 weeks pregnant. Whitney said the moment they walked through the doors of the hospital they knew they were in the best place possible to give Malachi the best care possible. Whitney and Jason call Seattle Children’s a second home. The Stohr family moved from Yakima to Lynnwood to be closer to the expert care Malachi needs at a moment’s notice, offering them much-needed peace of mind at a time when there’s so much uncertainty.

In total, their family spent more than 380 days at Seattle Children’s, helping Malachi overcome tremendous hurdles. Today, in the midst of a pandemic, Malachi’s healthcare needs remain complex and require seamless coordination amongst his many providers at Seattle Children’s, the only nationally ranked standalone pediatric hospital in the Pacific Northwest.

Malachi’s incredible, ongoing medical journey is only part of their story. Whitney says she hopes people see the bright future Malachi has ahead of him. Read full post »

Six Years Later: Immunotherapy’s Tiniest Trial Participant Is Living With “So Much Joy”

Greta Oberhofer, now 7 years old, was the first patient under age 2 included in Seattle Children’s cancer immunotherapy clinical trials. Her parents once considered hospice care for their 13-month-old daughter. Now, Greta has been in remission for six years.

In the fall of 2013, Maggie and Andy Oberhofer watched their tiny, 8-month old daughter, Greta, fight for her life in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU) at Doernbecher Children’s Hospital in Portland, Oregon.

Greta had just been through a bone marrow transplant to treat her highly aggressive leukemia. Shortly after, she took a turn for the worse and spent a perilous month in the PICU.

Greta eventually recovered from the transplant and was able to go home, but the family’s reprieve only lasted three months. In March 2014, Greta’s cancer relapsed. Her chance of survival was now 10% or less.

Her parents couldn’t imagine dragging Greta through another bone marrow transplant, so they began to consider end-of-life care for their 13-month-old daughter.

“It was gut-wrenching, knowing her odds were so low,” Maggie said. “We were preparing ourselves to say goodbye to her.”

That’s when they learned about a new option — a cancer immunotherapy trial at Seattle Children’s. Read full post »

A Family’s Strength Raises Money for Seattle Children’s

When Victoria Reece found out she was pregnant, she and her husband were elated. During their 20-week ultrasound, they found out they were having a boy and left the appointment over the moon with excitement, envisioning a bright future as a family of three with their baby boy in tow.

The next day, they received an unexpected call.

“That’s when the chaos began,” Reece said.

The couple went back for more ultrasounds and their baby was diagnosed with a bilateral cleft lip and palate.

“We were really scared,” Reece said. “I had so much anxiety about it.” Read full post »

Like Mother, Like Daughter: Sharing a Craniofacial Care Team and Condition

Twins Melody (top) and Lyric Allen were born amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. Melody, like her mother, was born with a condition called craniofacial microsomia and needed care through in-person and telehealth appointments provided by Seattle Children’s Craniofacial team in the immediate days, weeks and months following her diagnosis.

Just weeks after the state of Washington went under shelter-in-place guidelines, Jenalysse Renaud gave birth to two beautiful babies on April 17, 2020. Renaud and Donovan Allen, the twins’ musician father, named them Melody and Lyric.

Melody, a whole two minutes older than her little brother, faces a few challenges. Her left eye is smaller than her right and is being monitored for potential blindness. In addition, she likely has hearing loss or deafness in one ear, all features of hemifacial microsomia. After several tests, she was also diagnosed with malrotation— an abnormality in which the intestine does not form in the correct way in the abdomen—at just a month old. Thankfully, she shouldn’t face any prolonged consequences from that diagnosis after undergoing corrective surgery in May.

Renaud herself was born with hemifacial microsomia, the same condition Melody now faces. Craniofacial microsomia, also known as hemifacial microsomia, is a congenital condition in which the tissues on one side of the face are underdeveloped—as well as some hearing loss. Renaud was also born with a solitary left kidney. Read full post »

From Stunning Diagnosis to Unexpected Hope: MEK Inhibitor Proves Amazing for Grace

Despite a lifetime of medical setbacks, you’ll almost always find 18-year-old Grace Carney smiling.

Grace Carney was 16 years old when she first began falling. Before long, she was falling every day. It got so bad that she had to rely on other people — family members at home and aides at school — to help her walk.

For Grace, this was the latest in a lifetime of medical setbacks, many of which stem from neurofibromatosis type one (NF1), a genetic disorder that causes tumors to grow all over the body, including under the skin and on the nerves.

To improve Grace’s ability to walk, a doctor in Spokane recommended a major orthopedic surgery. But as the Carneys prepared for that surgery, an MRI result flipped everything upside down and brought them to Seattle Children’s, where Grace received an innovative medical treatment that changed her life and could do the same for countless others with NF1. Read full post »

Reason to Celebrate: The Graduating Class of 2020

The patients at Seattle Children’s inspire. Through their tremendous stories, we have the opportunity to learn about what it means to be brave—what it means to persevere. Monumental accomplishments demand to be celebrated.

Over the years, Seattle Children’s has had the honor of sharing the incredible stories of our Patient Ambassadors. Several of those that already shared their personal and trying stories have reached a new milestone: graduation. Though 2020 has been one of the most challenging years in decades, the tremendous accomplishments of our patients are all the reason to celebrate.

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“You Don’t Have to Know Yourself Right Away”: Iris Shares Her Journey of Self Discovery As a Transgender Woman

In honor of LGBTQ+ Pride Month, Seattle Children’s patient Iris shares her story as a self-identified transgender woman and offers advice on how you can support the mental health and well-being of other transgender youth.

In July, Lisa picked up her 17-year-old, who had been identifying as gender non-binary, from summer camp. When her teen got into the car, they had news.

“I want to change my name to Iris and I am going to use feminine pronouns from this point forward.”

Lisa remembers her light-hearted response. “I just said, ‘Okay. But you may have to give me a minute to adjust.’”

For Lisa, this was not a tremendous, earth-shifting announcement. It was just another opportunity to support her daughter’s journey of self-discovery.

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Dr. John McGuire Shares His Son’s Challenges with Mental Health

I have worked at Seattle Children’s for 16 years and have been the Chief of Critical Care Medicine since 2013. My son Peter just turned 17. He recently “celebrated” his birthday at a therapeutic boarding school where he is in residential treatment for anxiety and depression. Although he was in and out of outpatient therapy for several years and was hospitalized at the Seattle Children’s Psychiatry and Behavioral Medicine Unit (PBMU) for severe depression at age 13, I rarely discussed his mental health with my colleagues. Most of the people I worked with regularly were unaware that coping with Peter’s anxiety and depression was part of my daily life. I used to think it was something private to keep to myself. However, I now realize it was my inability to address my own fear that kept me silent. I retreated into my job, and, at work, I could be the confident physician and ICU leader rather than the uncertain, anxious parent who didn’t know how to help his struggling son.

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