On the Pulse

Supporting Youth Mental Wellness into Post-pandemic Life

Thanks to wider availability of vaccines and declining local rates of COVID-19, we’ve entered a new period in the pandemic. Parts of life are returning to what families were used to before coronavirus temporarily disrupted so much. As we increasingly return to obligations and pleasure outside of the home, it’s important to be aware that youth and adults alike will be learning to cope with emotions and feelings related to the experiences of the past year.

On the Pulse spoke with Dr. Yolanda Evans, an adolescent medicine physician at Seattle Children’s, about what kids and teens have experienced and how best to support them through this new period of time. Read full post »


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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Our Commitment to Anti-Racism: Listening to our patients and their families, our community and our team

Since January of this year, following concerns of systemic racism within our organization, we have accelerated our ongoing work to be an anti-racist organization and uphold our core value of equity. Though we’d made a formal commitment to anti-racism last summer, and subsequently launched our Anti-Racism Organizational Change and Accelerated Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Plan last fall, we recognize we must do more – and in greater collaboration.

The key to our transformation – and to the path ahead – lies in taking actions based on conversations and insights from our many stakeholders. We approach the gravity of this transformation and the opportunity to improve with humility in knowing we have not done enough – and our shortcomings have adversely impacted the kids and families we serve as well as our team. Upholding our commitment to anti-racism must be and will be the very fabric of Seattle Children’s future.

We have been in deep and ongoing listening mode so far this year and are grateful for the opportunity to engage in open dialogue to advance this important work. This includes connecting with Odessa Brown Children’s Clinic patients, families and supporters; our team members who identify as Black, Indigenous and people of color (BIPOC); our patient-family advisory council members; and through broader health equity, diversity and inclusion listening sessions and workforce surveys.

Here are some key themes we have heard in these conversations as well as the actions we have underway or have accelerated: Read full post »


How Reese Discovered a Life Worth Living

When Reese Patterson was in sixth grade, she experienced vicious cyberbullying from several of her peers.

“Every day I would get texts from people who would tell me to kill myself,” Reese said. “When you are told to do that every single day, you actually start to believe it.”

Reese’s mother, Val, recalls trying to work with her school to get the bullying to stop.

“We tried to work with the school, and they said it was out of their hands since it happened outside of the school day,” Val said. “We reported it to police after she overdosed, which became a big joke by some of the kids at school. From there, things got even worse.”

Reese began self-harming through cutting.

“Her school called me when they noticed her cutting,” Val said. “The school suggested I contact Mary Bridge Children’s Hospital, and we went straight there that afternoon. The social worker felt that Reese’s situation wasn’t serious enough and that she’d learn more dangerous behaviors while inpatient. All we were left with was a list of therapists to call.”

Things continued to unravel, as Reese’s cutting became more severe.

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Navigating the Digital World and Play During the Pandemic

In 2020, the TODAY Show featured Dr. Dimitri Christakis, director of the Center for Child Health, Behavior and Development at Seattle Children’s Research Institute, in a story about the evolving digital age and the effect media has on children and their developing minds. A year later, Jake Ward, NBC News correspondent, is following up to learn more about how the pandemic has impacted the use of digital devices. Watch as Ward and Christakis explore again the intersection between a child’s development and the digital world.

The below article features a family navigating the challenges of media usage during the pandemic and their participation in a study led by Christakis to better understand play-based activities.

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Five Years After Her Brain Tumor Surgery, Liesel Is Graduating From Harvard

Liesel Von Imhof at Harvard

Liesel Von Imhof will graduate from Harvard with a degree in stem cell biology in May 2021, five years after Seattle Children’s neurosurgeons removed her brain tumor.

As a high school freshman, Liesel Von Imhof had a dream of attending college at Harvard. She packed her schedule with challenging classes and participated in varsity sports such as cross-country running and cross-country skiing. She had occasional, debilitating headaches that sometimes caused her to miss school, but she blamed them on stress, dehydration or low blood sugar.

In July 2016, just before her senior year of high school, Liesel’s dream of Harvard was almost derailed when doctors found the reason for her headaches: a Ping-Pong ball-sized tumor in the middle of her brain.

At the urging of her doctors, Liesel, then age 17, and her parents traveled from their home in Anchorage, Alaska, to Seattle Children’s.

Thanks to the care she received here, the support of her family and friends, and her own determination, Liesel is graduating from Harvard this month with a degree in stem cell biology — her first step toward a career in medicine.

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Ensuring the Continuity of Research to Improve Children’s Lives Amidst the Unexpected

Seattle Children’s Therapeutics is envisioning and testing next-generation cell and gene therapies for pediatric diseases so children have the medicines they deserve.

How Seattle Children’s Therapeutics is Navigating the Pandemic

When the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a global pandemic in March 2020, Seattle Children’s Therapeutics researcher Kaori Oda worried that her research work would be put on hold, or even worse, need to permanently end. Like most people, she was worried that she and her family might contract the virus, but she was also concerned that a slowdown would impact her team’s timeline for bringing a much-needed therapy to children with leukemia.

Seattle Children’s Therapeutics is a unit in the research division at Seattle Children’s. As a novel non-profit therapeutics development enterprise, it is devoted to envisioning and testing next-generation cell and gene therapies for pediatric diseases, so children have the medicines they deserve.

The Seattle Children’s Therapeutics team has designed, manufactured and launched a robust portfolio of cellular immunotherapy clinical trials for childhood cancer since 2012 in the areas of leukemia, lymphoma, brain tumors and solid tumors. The team plans to expand its focus to other childhood diseases that are amenable to treatment using genetic and cellular therapies. Read full post »


The Nadella Family Commits to a Hopeful and Brighter Future for all Children and Families, Supporting Advanced Precision Medicine Neurosciences and Mental and Behavioral Health Care

Zain Nadella is 24 years old. When his family talks about him, they light up. They speak about his eclectic taste in music, his warm sunny smile, and the love he has for his family. Zain has had to struggle against tremendous adversity due to his medical condition. His journey has shaped the Nadella family’s story to one of resilience, empathy, and determination to realize the promise of a brighter future for children with neurological conditions.

Hours after Zain was born, he was rushed to Seattle Children’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). Born with cerebral palsy, he fought for survival in those first few months and required life-saving treatment. His parents, Satya and Anu Nadella, put their trust in the doctors and care providers at Seattle Children’s. Zain’s birth story was not what they had imagined. He was born weighing just 3 pounds and suffered asphyxiation in utero. When they found themselves surrounded by beeping machines and an army of healthcare providers, their focus shifted.

“Like our baby, I too was in survival mode,” Anu said. “I was focused on taking one day at a time.”

Today, Zain still faces many challenges. Zain’s health issues have only intensified as he has grown. He is legally blind and is affected by spastic quadriplegia and has required complex care at Seattle Children’s. The Nadella family likens the hospital to a second home. Read full post »


Building Cure Takes the First Step Toward Living up to Its Name

In March 2021, Harper Chittim became the first patient to receive a cell therapy product manufactured at Building Cure.

Building Cure and Seattle Children’s Therapeutics are devoted to developing innovative therapies for childhood disease. Meet the first patient to receive a cell therapy treatment produced at Building Cure.

When Building Cure opened in fall 2019, Meagan Hollingshead and Josh Chittim had more pressing concerns. Their normally energetic 6-month-old daughter Harper was sick, and multiple visits to their doctor in Yakima had provided no answers.

But when Harper’s condition worsened and she started struggling to breathe, they took her to the emergency room, where bloodwork revealed the devastating cause: Harper had acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL).

The doctor immediately sent them to Seattle Children’s.

“Meagan and Harper flew over to Seattle Children’s,” Chittim said. “And I drove there at 110 miles an hour.”

At that point, Hollingshead and Chittim weren’t aware Building Cure existed. They didn’t know how important the building, and the Seattle Children’s Therapeutics team it houses, would become to Harper’s future. And they had no idea Harper would receive the first cell therapy product manufactured there. Read full post »


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.

Read full post »