On the Pulse

2018-2019 Flu Update with Seattle Mama Doc

Flu season is coming so it’s time to add scheduling flu vaccines to your to-do list. On The Pulse sat down with Dr. Wendy Sue Swanson, also known as Seattle Mama Doc, to get the latest flu news as the 2018-2019 flu season approaches. Spoiler alert: avoid promising a “no-poke” visit.

Q: What have we learned about last year’s flu season?

A: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) classified the 2017-2018 flu season as a “high severity season.” Flu activity was widespread across the country, and the season was long. There were large numbers of doctor office visits, emergency department visits, and hospitalizations related to flu. The flu season came earlier than expected and was severe, by the numbers.

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Dr. Grey Saves the Day for Teen with Down Syndrome

Savannah Miller, 17, poses with nurse practitioner Lindsey Thomsen, who dressed up as Dr. Grey from the popular television show to make Savannah’s dream of meeting the fictional doctor a reality.

Doctor appointments aren’t usually a fun experience for 17-year-old Savannah Miller who was born with Down syndrome. Usually, trips to the hospital are accompanied with a fair share of reluctance and anxiety. During a recent trip to Seattle Children’s, however, that all changed thanks to Lindsey Thomsen, a pediatric nurse practitioner in the pre-anesthesia clinic at Seattle Children’s, who went above and beyond her usual duties. Thomsen was inspired by one of Savannah’s favorite television shows to turn a trip to the doctor into an unforgettable experience for Savannah and her family.

Savannah has been a patient at Seattle Children’s since she was a baby, undergoing her first open heart surgery at only 3 months old. Hospital stays and check-ups have been a large part of Savannah’s life, which understandably can cause some unease. That was the case when Thomsen first met Savannah a few weeks ago. They were meeting to talk about an upcoming procedure.

“It was a challenge just to get her in the door that day,” said Jill Miller, Savannah’s mother.

Savannah was visibly upset and refused to have her vitals taken. Getting through the appointment was a struggle, but eventually Savannah warmed up to Thomsen.

“Will you be there?” Savannah asked Thomsen, referring to the day of the procedure. Read full post »


Miguel’s Journey to Take Back the Wheel After Cancer Diagnosis

Miguel Navarro, 18, was blindsided by a cancer diagnosis. Today, he’s on the road to recovery.

A single blow to 18-year-old Miguel Navarro’s shoulder turned his world upside down. He was boxing with his friends one afternoon when he felt a snap. He took a hit to his shoulder and immediately knew something was wrong.

“That punch altered my world,” said Miguel.

Miguel went to the emergency room where he found out he fractured his humerus, the long bone in the upper arm. Unfortunately, that wasn’t where his medical journey ended. While undergoing imaging, doctors noticed something amiss, and so Miguel underwent a myriad of tests. At the time, doctors thought what they saw in his imaging results could be a benign tumor.

On Dec. 12, 2017, Miguel was told the tumor wasn’t benign. He had osteosarcoma, an aggressive type of bone cancer. Read full post »


South Seattle Spreads Smiles in the Community

Dr. Seok Bee Lim has been practicing pediatric dentistry at Seattle Children’s Odessa Brown Children’s Clinic (OBCC) in the Central District for nearly 37 years. Although the neighborhood around her has changed since she started her career there, the mission of OBCC and the passion she has for caring for her patients has remained steadfast. Much like OBCC, Lim provides more than just healthcare; she’s part of the rich heritage OBCC was founded upon and the diverse community it serves.

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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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Fighting for Their Lives: Seattle Children’s Immunotherapy Journey

At Seattle Children’s, many children and young adults with cancer are finding hope in T-cell immunotherapy – an experimental treatment that boosts a patient’s immune system and uses it to fight a disease.

Seattle Children’s researchers are leading clinical trials in which a patient’s T cells are reprogrammed to express a chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) on the surface of the cell. The CAR is like a puzzle piece that’s designed to attach perfectly to a specific antigen or marker on the surface of the cancer cell. When they attach, the CAR T cells attack the cancer cells as if they were fighting an infection.

In just five years, Seattle Children’s cancer immunotherapy program has grown tremendously to include trials that target leukemia, brain and spinal cord tumors and solid tumors. Curious how these clinical trials work? Read on to learn more about the immunotherapy clinical trial process at Seattle Children’s.

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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 »