On the Pulse

Driven by His Brother’s Diagnosis, Forrest Pursues a Career in Medicine

Forrest Potter with his younger brother Bryson Potter. Bryson was diagnosed with Leigh Syndrome (LS) as a child, a progressive neurodegenerative disorder.

Forrest Potter grew up at Seattle Children’s watching by the bedside as his little brother faced a debilitating diagnosis, Leigh Syndrome (LS), a progressive neurodegenerative disorder.

Nearly 17 years after his brother’s diagnosis, Potter hopes to once again find himself by the bedside, this time wearing a white coat. When he was younger, there was little he could do for his brother. Today, he’s hopeful he’ll be able to help those in need and that his experiences at Seattle Children’s will help him as he begins a medical journey of his own.

My introduction to medicine was one rooted in fear. Over the course of two weeks, I had developed a routine: Sit in the waiting room collecting my courage, wash my hands, get cleared by the nurse to walk into the pediatric intensive care unit (PICU), get up on the step stool to talk to my unconscious brother for five minutes while looking as little as possible at the giant food processor like machine whirring with his blood. I felt helpless, but there was little more I could do to support my younger brother. Read full post »


Using Gene Therapy to Build an Immune System in Newborns Without One

Gene therapy holds promise of a potentially safer, more effective path to a cure in infants born without the critical infection-fighting cells of the immune system.

Out of every 60,000 births, a baby arrives to face the world without a fully functioning immune system leaving them unequipped to fight even the most common infections. Children with this rare life-threatening genetic condition, known as severe combined immunodeficiency (SCID), have the best chance at a healthy future if they undergo a stem cell transplant before they are 3 ½ months old.

Seattle Children’s recently opened a clinical trial that is seeking a potentially safer, less aggressive and equally effective path to a cure by using a novel gene therapy to fix the faulty gene that causes the most common type of SCID.

On the Pulse met with the trial’s principal investigator, Dr. Aleksandra Petrovic, a pediatric transplant specialist and researcher at Seattle Children’s Research Institute’s Center for Immunity and Immunotherapies, to learn more about the experimental therapy available through this trial. 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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Study Shows a Child’s Neighborhood Continues to Impact Their Weight Status

Can a child’s neighborhood affect his or her weight status, diet, and activity level? According to new research published today in Obesity, the answer is yes.

Dr. Brian Saelens, a principal investigator at Seattle Children’s Research Institute who led the study, said children living in neighborhoods with favorable nutrition and activity environments, meaning the neighborhoods had at least one high quality park and were more walkable and there was access to healthy foods or less access to less healthy foods, continue to have lower rates of obesity when compared to children living in less favorable neighborhoods. Less favorable neighborhoods were defined as having no or lower quality parks and either no supermarket or a higher concentration of fast food restaurants. Read full post »


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 »


Boy Born With Life-Threatening Condition Rises Up For a Brighter Future

In 2009, during Laurina Barker’s 20-week ultrasound, she and her husband Ryan received news that no expecting parents want to hear.

“The technician turned to me and said something looked different and that they would have my doctor call me,” said Barker.

A couple of days later, the Barkers would learn their baby had congenital diaphragmatic hernia (CDH), a rare birth defect where a baby’s diaphragm does not form completely. This leaves a hole between the abdomen and chest allowing their organs, most often their intestines and liver, to slip through the hole and up into the chest.

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Anesthesia Bag Art Lifts Spirits of Kids Undergoing Surgery

When 4-year-old Sho Hansen entered the doors of Seattle Children’s Bellevue Clinic and Surgery Center to get his tonsils removed, he clung on tightly to his mother.

“After his name was called and we sat in the exam room, all he wanted to do was sit in my lap and not acknowledge anyone that came in to talk to us,” said his mother, Lisa Hansen. “Sho is shy and tends to get nervous around people he doesn’t know well.”

One of the staff members in line to help prepare Sho for his surgery was a nurse anesthetist named Anisa Manion.

“My role at the clinic is to administer anesthesia to patients to help them fall asleep before going into surgery,” said Manion. “We’re given a short period of time to get kids as comfortable as possible. The process can be very challenging — many kids are anxious and nervous, so the friendlier we make the environment for them, the easier it is for them.”

Manion has a special trick up her sleeve when it comes to calming kids down during the pre-surgery process.

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Abdominal Pain in Kids: Anxiety-Related or Something More?

It’s not uncommon for kids to complain of abdominal pain around the start of the school year, before a big test, sports game or performance — when their stress and anxiety levels can be at an all-time high.

While this may not be a cause for immediate concern for some parents, others may feel uncertain on how to address their child’s pain, or may not know that there could be more to it than just a few ‘butterflies’ fluttering in their child’s stomach.

Dr. Nicole Sawangpont Pattamanuch, a gastroenterologist at Seattle Children’s, breaks down the symptoms of abdominal pain related to stress and anxiety, recommends coping techniques for kids to alleviate their discomfort, and shares red flags to help families determine if there is something more concerning to their child’s symptoms.

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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 »