On the Pulse

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 »


Dealing With the Emotional Aftermath of a Cancer Diagnosis

Grace Blanchard was just three weeks away from graduating from college when she began feeling like something was off.

“It started with my handwriting,” Blanchard said. “I had always felt like I had good handwriting, so it was strange that it all of a sudden became messy, slanted and unreadable.”

Then there was the slurred speech and dizziness.

“At first I thought I had vertigo,” she said, “so I decided to see a neurologist to get an MRI.”

Once the results of the MRI scan were in, Blanchard received a call.

“They asked me to come into the clinic as quickly as possible, and that I should bring support,” she said. “They knew that after hearing, ‘you have a brain tumor the size of a golf ball on your cerebellum,’ I wouldn’t be able to listen to anything else.”

The following day, Blanchard flew from California, where she had been going to school, to Seattle, her hometown, for surgery to remove the tumor.

“I decided Seattle would be the best option, not only because I wanted to be with my family,” she said, “but also because of the fact that Seattle has the best hospitals for cancer treatment.”

Within 24 hours of flying into Seattle, Blanchard went to Seattle Children’s to get her tumor surgically removed.

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Genetic Study Evolves Understanding of Common Birth Defects of the Brain

Daniel Sokoloff and his mom, Lara Sokoloff, photographed here when Daniel was younger, were one of 100 families who contributed to a study aimed at understanding common birth defects of the brain.

In the largest genetic study of the most common birth defects of the brain diagnosed during pregnancy, researchers from Seattle Children’s Research Institute say their findings evolve our understanding of brain development. The findings will also change the information given to expecting parents when cerebellar malformations, such as Dandy-Walker malformation and cerebellar hypoplasia, are detected prenatally.

With funding support from the Dandy-Walker Alliance and the Philly Baer Foundation, the results gathered from 100 families provide the most accurate information to date about the genetic and non-genetic causes of birth defects involving the cerebellum. They will also help doctors counsel parents about their child’s prognosis after they’re born and their risk of having another child with the abnormality.

“For those who are pregnant, you certainly don’t want to have a problem with the baby, but if doctors detect a brain abnormality, you want accurate information about what that means,” said Dr. William Dobyns, the senior author on the paper published in the American Journal of Human Genetics and an investigator in the Center for Integrative Brain Research. “It’s the same after birth. If you have a child at risk for developmental challenges, it helps to know the cause and what’s going to happen. This study significantly advances our ability to answer those questions.” Read full post »


Celebrating a Second Odessa Brown Children’s Clinic in South Seattle

For Shameka Cornelius, Seattle Children’s Odessa Brown Children’s Clinic (OBCC) is more than just a community clinic. To her, OBCC is family.

The clinic provides medical, dental, mental health and nutrition services to all families, regardless of their ability to pay. It also offers a unique model of care that addresses the socioeconomic and environmental roots of illness.

Shameka Cornelius

Shameka Cornelius poses with her three children, Saymirah, Shayrielle and Sy’ier.

Since Cornelius was a little girl, OBCC has been her medical home. From dental visits to well-child check-ups, Cornelius has fond memories of the clinic. She remembers walking from her grandmother’s house just blocks away in Seattle’s Central District to go to clinic appointments. For her, it never felt like going to the doctor. She was always excited to see the smiling faces of her care team.

“I still remember the very first fish tanks they had,” Cornelius said as she laughed. “Those were my first fish. You get your tokens when you go to the dentist and pick out a book after getting your shots. They even had popsicles sometimes.”

Cornelius says above all else, it’s the people that have made OBCC so special to her.

“Everyone should experience that type of service and a clinic of home and togetherness,” Cornelius said. “They actually care at OBCC. Everybody there is really friendly. For me, I wanted my kids to experience the same care that I received. The same people have been there since I was young. You can tell it’s not just work for them; they actually have a passion to be there.” 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 »


A Mother Seeks Silver Linings in Son’s Cancer Diagnosis

Henry with his sister, Alice, at Remingler Farms, enjoying a train ride.

In recognition of Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, Louisa Cranston shares her experience caring for her 3-year-old son, Henry, who was recently diagnosed with cancer.

My husband Robert and I are both Seattle natives. We met and began dating 10 years ago now, and will have been married for five years this October. Our son Henry was born in 2015, and his sister Alice followed in 2017.

Henry was and in most ways still is a very typical toddler. He loves playing outside, watching cartoons, and spending quality time with his people. He is an eager helper in the kitchen and anything he can do by himself, he wants to do by himself. Often when we are together, he echoes the words of his hero Daniel Tiger: “Mommy, I like to be with my family!”

When Henry arrived in our lives and made me a mother, I experienced a whole new set of emotions for the first time. I now understood the depth of the love my own parents felt, the glowing pride, and above all, the worry. The sleepless nights waiting for me to come home made sense. The lectures on safety and responsibility made sense. Because from now on and forever, I was only okay if Henry was okay.

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Avery’s Poem Inspires Hope for Children with Cancer

In recognition of Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, On the Pulse is sharing a powerful poem written by Avery Berg. Diagnosed with a rare and aggressive brain tumor when she was 10 years old, Avery knows all too well about the realities of the insidious disease, but she’s also hopeful for the future – a world without cancer.

Today, Avery is 14 years old. She just started high school, and she has no sign of disease.

Her family’s fight is not over though. They are champions for a brighter future for children like Avery – for hope, care and cures.

Avery, a patient ambassador for It Starts With Yes: The Campaign for Seattle Children’s, read the below poem in front of 1,700 people at T-Mobile Park on Aug. 18. The event, hosted by the Friends of Costco Guild, raised a record $10.4 million for uncompensated care at Seattle Children’s. Read full post »


‘Boys Will Be Boys:’ The Negative Effects of Traditional Masculinity

The phrase ‘boys will be boys,’ is often used to describe what some consider are normal masculine tendencies boys might have, such as being rough and reckless.

Dr. Tyler Sasser, a psychologist in Seattle Children’s Psychiatry and Behavioral Medicine clinic believes these characteristics of what society deems as masculine can often reflect unhealthy and sometimes risky behaviors.

“In Western culture, boys and men are expected to be competitive, tough and dominant,” Sasser said. “The term, traditional masculinity, labels these expectations. Meaning, boys and men need to be stoic and suppress emotions they experience, other than anger.”

Recent research shows that these beliefs associated with traditional masculinity often lead to harmful behaviors toward themselves and others.

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‘Hold On, Pain Ends:’ Javi Shares Her Mental Health Struggles to Inspire Change

I was in middle school when my mental health started deteriorating. Every day I would hide under tables, cover my ears, or hit my head. I would lash out at anyone who tried to help me. I was anxious 24/7. But I kept denying what was happening. I told myself that I was fine, that I was just going through a rough couple of days. Then days turned into weeks, and weeks into months.

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