On the Pulse

Rapid Genetic Testing Helps Find Answers for Sickest Kids

Rapid exome sequencing (rES), a blood test that can quickly detect genetic abnormalities, is helping obtain timely genetic diagnoses for critically ill children at Seattle Children’s.

A newborn boy was admitted to Seattle Children’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) earlier this year with arthrogryposis — a condition where an infant cannot move, their joints becoming frozen in place. When geneticist Dr. Jimmy Bennett met the infant, he was on a respirator and could only move his eyes.

“We didn’t know the cause of the arthrogryposis and could not tell the parents much about their son’s prognosis — whether he would ever come off the ventilator or if he would be intellectually disabled,” Bennett said. “With so little information, it was difficult to decide how to proceed.”

This family had a previous pregnancy that was similarly affected. Bennett believed the cause might be genetic and recommended rapid exome sequencing (rES) — a blood test that can quickly detect genetic abnormalities.

Less than a week later, the test identified a specific condition that led providers to administer an appropriate therapy. Before long, the child was moving.

“Never in a million years would we have tried this therapy without the genetic test results,” Bennett said. “Two weeks later, the patient was off the ventilator and moving all four limbs. It was like a miracle.” Read full post »


Rosy Finds Pride in Her Gender Identity

In honor of LGBT Pride Month, Rosy Delamarter, a 17-year-old patient at Seattle Children’s Gender Clinic, shares her story about discovering her gender identity, the happiness that it brought her, as well as the support she found from friends, family and others in her life during her transition.

For years something inside me felt “off.”

As a little kid I never thought much of the fact that I had been assigned male at birth. Gender roles were equally unimportant in my mind — I played with Hot Wheels and Polly Pocket toys without a second thought. I was a little kid, after all.

It wasn’t until elementary school when I started hanging out with macho, playfully aggressive boys that I became critical of my own gender expression. I didn’t just stop playing with Polly Pocket toys; I was embarrassed that I had ever even touched them. After all, I was a boy, so I was supposed to shoot Nerf guns, punch my friends and gag at everything pink, right?

Read full post »


Can We Respectfully Disagree? Navigating Cultural Differences in Healthcare

Dr. Doug Diekema, director of education in Seattle Children’s Treuman Katz Center for Pediatric Bioethics.

Providers often must negotiate with patients and families, but how should disagreements be addressed when the discrepancy is rooted in the patient’s culture or beliefs?

The Journal of the American Medical Association published an example of such a dilemma in 2008.

“Ms. R” was a 19-year-old woman who lived in the United States for several years while her parents lived abroad. She underwent an elective cranial surgery related to complications of a genetic syndrome.

The neurosurgical procedure was successful, and Ms. R seemed to be doing well until 10 days later when she complained of an acute, severe headache and quickly became unresponsive.

Ms. R had suffered an intracranial hemorrhage. Following repeated apnea tests, she was declared brain dead.

Because Ms. R’s parents had not been able to say goodbye, she was kept on a ventilator, pending their arrival.

Her father, who held Ms. R’s durable power of attorney for health care, arrived within 24 hours of the declaration of death. He requested the ventilator be continued and asked the provider to administer a traditional Chinese medicinal substance to Ms. R.

The father explained the substance is often used in his native country for a range of conditions, including coma. He asked the treating team to combine “the best of Western and Eastern medicine” to benefit his daughter.

Providers were unsure how to proceed. Should they comply with the family’s request, even though they felt certain it would not benefit the patient’s physical condition?

Read full post »


Star Athlete Sisters Are ‘Twinning’ When It Comes to Tackling Celiac Disease

Through Seattle Children’s Celiac Disease Program, twin sisters Claire and Emma learned how to adopt a new gluten-free diet in to their active, athletic lifestyle.

Claire and Emma Brennan are 13-year-olds who are always on-the-run.

Whether it’s sprinting across the basketball court or flying to their next volleyball tournament halfway across the country, these twin sisters stop at nothing to achieve athletic excellence.

“Claire and Emma have sports practice almost every day of the week,” said their mother, Cathy Brennan. “We’re always on-the-go, so I have to make sure they have easy access to snacks they can eat to keep energized.”

The active teens burn calories at a rapid pace given their hours of intensive sports practice, and so a balanced diet is key to performing at their best.

However, food prep takes some careful planning in the Brennan household as both girls are on a strict gluten-free diet to manage celiac disease, an autoimmune disorder that they were diagnosed with in September 2017.

Read full post »


Lifesaving Experience Inspires Kindergartner to Donate Birthday Gifts

Hannah Mae Campbell, 6, received a lifesaving heart transplant at 4 months old. She recently donated her birthday presents to Seattle Children’s.

Last month, 6-year-old Hannah Mae Campbell wanted to invite her entire kindergarten class to her birthday party. However, Hannah decided that she couldn’t possibly keep all of the gifts herself; rather she told her mother that she wanted to give them to kids at Seattle Children’s.

She said she wanted to give kids something to play with that would help them “have fun” and “feel happy,” since being at the hospital can sometimes be sad. Surpassing her original goal of donating 20 gifts, Hannah and her family delivered 139 toys and books to the hospital. The activities included Lego sets, Play-Doh, My Little Pony, Hot Wheels, puzzles, coloring books, dolls, superheroes and stuffed animals.

“Everyone says she’s such an old soul who is always wanting to help others,” said Jennifer Campbell, Hannah’s mother. “A lot of it may have to do with growing up a little quicker in a hospital. Hannah has experienced things like blood transfusions and surgery that a lot of kids have never had to go through.”

Read full post »


New Genetic Causes of Cleft Lip and Palate Revealed

Representing about 70% of cleft lip and palate cases worldwide, non-syndromic cleft lip and palate typically occurs in isolation without other physical abnormalities.

A study conducted by an international research team, which included investigators from Seattle Children’s Research Institute, implicates variants in four genes as a primary cause of non-syndromic cleft lip and palate in humans. The genes, associated for the first time with cleft lip and palate, encode proteins that work together in a network, providing important insight into the biological basis of one of the most common physical malformations. Read full post »


One Mother’s Mission to Share Her Love of Books With Kids, Offers VIP Seahawks Experience

Kai was first seen at Seattle Children’s Craniofacial Center when he was 5 months old.

Samantha Alexander first met Dr. Emily Gallagher, a craniofacial pediatrician in Seattle Children’s Craniofacial Center, when Alexander brought her 5-month-old son, Kai, to the clinic. Kai’s primary care doctor thought plates in his skull had fused together too quickly. He was evaluated for a metopic ridge, creating a point on his forehead.

While she feared he may need surgery, everything turned out fine. Alexander lovingly jokes, “He has a really big head.”

But from that initial clinic appointment, Alexander and Gallagher bonded over an unlikely love: children’s books. After the appointment was over, they chatted about their favorite books for nearly 30 minutes.

Alexander was an elementary school teacher before moving to Seattle with her husband, DJ Alexander. They moved in 2017 when DJ, a professional football player, was traded to the Seattle Seahawks. She had given up her teaching career, but she held fast to her love of books.

During that first appointment, Gallagher brought up a program called Reach Out and Read, which gives books to children 6 months to 6 years old during well-child visits. Gallagher started the program in the Craniofacial Center as a novel program outside of primary care. In the Craniofacial Center, pediatricians encourage families to read aloud together as a way to promote language development, with an additional focus on children with craniofacial differences who may face additional challenges with speech. Although Alexander’s son was too young for the program at the time, she says she instantly knew she wanted to help Gallagher expand the program.

Read full post »


A Teen Transforms Her Pain Into Soulful Melodies


Emily Talbot, 17, shares her story about her lifelong battle with a rare brain disease and how she has overcome the physical and mental health challenges caused by the condition through writing and performing music.

Although I look like any other 17-year-old, people don’t know that I live in pain 24 hours a day.

Since the age of 7, I have had 14 brain surgeries, 12 back surgeries and 6 stomach surgeries. I can’t begin to count how many spinal taps I’ve had.

Read full post »


Seattle Children’s Reaches Beyond Its Walls to Improve Mental Health Care for Kids in the Community and Across the Region

There is a tremendous need for improved access to mental health care and resources for children and teens nationwide.

At Seattle Children’s, its commitment to helping address this need spans not only within the Seattle community, but throughout the region.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 1 in 5 children have a mental, emotional, or behavioral disorder, such as anxiety or depression, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, disruptive behavior disorder, and Tourette syndrome.

While early intervention is key in managing mental health issues, only about 20% of children with disorders receive care from a specialized mental health care provider.

That’s why Seattle Children’s is continuously working to enhance access to mental health services, promote education and research, and advocate for families affected by mental illness.

The following describes three of the many innovative programs and initiatives that Seattle Children’s offers to help improve mental health care for all children.

Read full post »


Begin a Lifetime of Sun Safety Early in Childhood

Exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun early in childhood increases the risk of developing skin cancer later in life. Fortunately, childhood is also when many good habits form, like behaviors to increase sun protection. Dr. Robert Sidbury, division chief of Dermatology at Seattle Children’s, sees early childhood as the best time to begin teaching families about sun safety practices that will serve them well throughout life. Read full post »