On the Pulse

Helping Children and Teens Cope with Anxiety About COVID-19

As coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) continues to spread, adults, children and teens are trying to make sense of what the outbreak means for their families and communities. Those with anxiety disorders may feel more worry than usual.

On the Pulse asked Dr. Jennifer Blossom, a psychology postdoctoral fellow at Seattle Children’s Psychiatry and Behavioral Medicine Clinic, how to share information with the children and teens in your life in a way that helps prevent too much worry. The good news is that just as there are steps you can take to help you and your loved ones try to avoid the illness, there are steps you can take to help your child or teen cope with the situation.

“There are a number of ways parents can successfully help their child stay on track during this time,” Blossom said. “In general, the goal is for parents to encourage their child’s participation in routine activities, such as going to school (as informed by the most recent public health recommendations or decision by your child’s school district), while helping their child think realistically about the risks.” Read full post »


Childhood Tics: Will My Child Outgrow Them or is It Something More?

Childhood tics come in all shapes and sizes. Tics can range from a subtle nasal sniff or throat clearing to a more severe head snap or vocal outburst.

Tics that start in elementary school and continue during adolescence are also common. According to Dr. Dararat Mingbunjerdsuk, a neurologist that specializes in movement disorders at Seattle Children’s Neurosciences Center, up to 10-20% of school-age children may exhibit a tic at one point in their life.

“Tics that come and go are the most common cause of movement disorder we see in the clinic,” she said. “The vast majority of children eventually outgrow their tics or the tics become less frequent or less severe as the person enters adulthood.”
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Marcus Joins Clinical Trial to Help Hearts Like His

Worry flooded Candice Andrews’ mind as doctors wheeled her newborn son away for open heart surgery.

“I knew about his heart condition since I was 7 months pregnant,” Andrews said. “However, it was still very scary knowing that someone was going to do surgery on my 7-day old baby.”

Andrews’ son, Marcus, was born with hypoplastic left heart syndrome, a rare and serious birth defect that occurs when the left side of the heart is not fully developed.

Fortunately, Marcus recovered well after his first of what would be three surgeries needed to treat his heart condition.

“Doctors mentioned how exceptional his recoveries were,” Andrews said. “We were so grateful, given how unknown the entire situation was for us.”

Although his first few years of a life were a bit rocky, Marcus remained relatively healthy as he progressed through childhood.

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For Mother-Daughter, Science and Medicine Run in the Family

Dr. Bonnie Ramsey (left) and Dr. Ann Dahlberg (right), are not only mother-daughter but also fellow clinical researchers and at Seattle Children’s.

When Dr. Bonnie Ramsey entered medical school at the advice of an undergraduate professor in the early 1970s, she and her female classmates at Harvard Medical School were still among the early coteries of women to pursue careers in science and medicine.

“We were the first bolus of women,” Ramsey said, using the medical term to describe their injection into a field dominated by male physicians. “It was interesting. When you are the first cohort, there is a tendency to compete with each other rather than work as a team.”

Since finding her footing in those early days, Ramsey has pioneered therapies improving the lives of children with cystic fibrosis (CF). Today, she leads all clinical research efforts at Seattle Children’s as the director of the Center for Clinical and Translational Research.

Her career will no doubt leave a lasting impact for the future physicians, researchers and women that will follow her, but for Ramsey, it’s a personal legacy that makes her most proud. Over the last decade, she’s watched her daughter enter the medical field and become a formidable physician-scientist in her own right.

“I am so incredibly proud of her,” Ramsey said. “Watching what she has to juggle and balance is in some ways harder for me than doing what I did with no real generation ahead of me to look to for guidance.” Read full post »


Seattle Children’s New Autism Center Will Help Advance Care for Families in the Region Thanks to Generous Gift

This past December, Nataly Cuzcueta was brought to tears by a word from her 4-year-old daughter, Kira.

With her little arms outstretched, Kira looked up to her mother and said “up.” It may seem like a simple request, but for Cuzcueta, it was a major milestone and cause for celebration. Immediately and happily, she obeyed. She lifted her daughter into her arms and excitedly twirled around the room, a smile beaming across her face.

“Today has been a day I’ll never forget,” she said.

Miles away at Seattle Children’s Autism Center, Dr. Mendy Minjarez, director of the Applied Behavior Analysis Early Intervention Program and interim executive director of Seattle Children’s Autism Center at Seattle Children’s, celebrated as well. Cuzcueta had captured the moment on her camera and had sent a note of gratitude to Minjarez and her care team.

“It was monumental for our whole team,” Minjarez said. “I remember getting the email and running down the hall excitedly to tell our team. It’s been a long time coming.”

Today, Cuzcueta says the team at Seattle Children’s Autism Center is like a second family. Her twin daughters have come a long way since they first started receiving treatment more than 2 years ago. Read full post »


Bringing Sustainability and Choices to Hospital Food

Alicia Henn, a cook in Seattle Children’s Forest Kitchen, helps serve healthy, sustainable food to patients, families and workforce members.

What do you think of when someone says, “hospital food” — green Jell-O anyone?

You probably don’t think of create-your-own omelets, barbecued chicken salads, street tacos or hand-tossed pizzas.

Hospital food has traditionally gotten a bad rap — and for many years it was deserved.

When Gina Sadowski, director of Nutrition, Culinary and Retail, started at Seattle Children’s more than 15 years ago, the food options in the hospital industry left something to be desired.

“Hospitals had very basic menus, heavily reliant on processed and convenience foods,” she said. “It was literally open a box, heat, serve.”

Since then, it has been Sadowski’s goal to change that at Seattle Children’s. Read full post »


Helping Families Navigate the Digital World

Digital devices like the iPad have only been around for about 10 years, but in that short amount of time, they have become ingrained into everyday life and research examining their impact on young children is limited.

Dr. Dimitri Christakis, director of the Center for Child Health, Behavior and Development at Seattle Children’s Research Institute, was featured on the TODAY Show to discuss the evolving digital age children are growing up in. Watch as three families learn more about how their children interact with devices like the iPad and hear about the challenges Christakis faces as technology continues to advance at a much faster rate than our understanding of the impact of digital devices on a child’s developing mind.

It may seem as though digital devices and touch screens like the iPad have been around for decades, but the reality is that these devices have only been around for about 10 years. In that short amount of time, they have become ingrained into everyday life, but research on their impact is limited. What concerns researchers like Dr. Dimitri Christakis is that we don’t yet understand the effects these devices may have on young children, and so that’s why they’ve taken center stage in many of his research studies.

Christakis isn’t advocating for taking screens away from children. He simply hopes he can help parents and caregivers better understand and navigate how devices like the iPad can fit into their lives in a healthy way.

“The point isn’t that we should take away all digital devices, but rather that we should come at it from a different perspective,” Christakis said. “We should ask, ‘How can we help children live healthy lives in a digital world that they’re immersed in from birth?” Read full post »


Unraveling Microaggressions

Microaggression may not be a term that most are familiar with.

Without knowing it, you may have been the recipient of a microaggression, or may have committed a microaggression.

That’s precisely why it’s important to understand what microaggressions are, so we can address and challenge our own biases, be aware that disparities exist, and assess the significant impact it has on our society.

On the Pulse sat down for a Q&A with Dr. Roberto Montenegro, a psychiatrist from Seattle Children’s Psychiatry and Behavioral Medicine clinic, who studies microaggressions.

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Fighting to Give Every Child With Cancer a Chance to Become a Parent

Taylor Tran (left) and her mother Mai Nguyen. Taylor underwent cancer treatment when she was 2 years old, causing her to go into early menopause when she was just 16.

“You pay the price for having cancer over and over again.”

Mai Nguyen’s words are loaded with sorrow as she speaks about her 17-year-old daughter, Taylor Tran, who is dealing with fertility concerns more than a decade after she survived late-stage cancer.

It’s easy to understand the exasperation Nguyen feels: Her daughter was diagnosed with stage 3 single-cell sarcoma of the kidney when she was 2 years old and was treated with intense chemotherapy and radiation. Now, the treatments that saved her life have put her into early menopause.

“It’s been traumatic,” Nguyen said. “We’ve tried so hard to allow Taylor to have a normal childhood and this feels like one more thing cancer has taken from her.”

Stories like Taylor’s inspired Seattle Children’s urologist Dr. Margarett Shnorhavorian to tackle a challenging area of research that was largely uncharted more than a decade ago. Since then, she’s helped change perspectives and protocols for fertility preservation in childhood cancer survivors. Read full post »


Tara Shares a Message of Inclusion

Tara Nadella shares her personal experience as the sibling of a patient at Seattle Children’s and explains why she approaches life with a lens of inclusion.

I’m 17 and a senior in high school. Family time is important to me, especially with my siblings! When my brother, Zain, and I spend time together, we usually listen to music or go to the movies.

Pretty ordinary sibling stuff, but what makes our story particularly unique is the fact that Zain has cerebral palsy.

Zain is 23 and has been a patient at Seattle Children’s for his entire life – so we see the hospital as a second home. We’ve spent a lot of time there, including holidays like Thanksgiving and Easter.

Last year, Zain was in the intensive care unit for his birthday, so we brought the party to him — taking turns visiting his room and singing. The staff was so gracious about everything, and we were able to bring joy to Zain even though he was in a hospital bed.

From my first taste of onion rings in the cafeteria as a child to understanding how to care for my brother today, this hospital has been a partner on our journey. All children and families deserve the exceptional care we’ve been so fortunate to receive at Seattle Children’s. Read full post »