On the Pulse

Agatha’s Dream of Walking to Her Local Ice Cream Shop Comes True

On Saturday morning, 10-year-old Agatha Holloway’s dream came true. Photo credit: Katie McCullough Simmons.

On Saturday morning, nearly 50 people gathered outside of 10-year-old Agatha Holloway’s home in the east central Seattle neighborhood of Madison Park to support the little girl with an incredible dream and fierce determination.

Her dream was to walk to her local ice cream shop, a journey that until recently seemed impossible. Read full post »


Surprising Discovery Could Improve Malaria Detection Worldwide

New research could pave the way for a rapid screening test capable of diagnosing submicroscopic malaria infections.

While the global health community has made great strides toward eradicating malaria through prevention and treatment strategies, rapid and inexpensive methods to diagnose submicroscopic malaria in individuals who have no clinical symptoms and undetectable levels of disease-causing parasites in their blood remain an unmet need.

With the unexpected discovery of a panel of peptides from several proteins encoded by the parasite that causes malaria, new research underway at Seattle Children’s Research Institute could pave the way for a rapid screening test capable of diagnosing submicroscopic infections.

Such a diagnostic test could permit the widespread screening of all individuals in high-risk regions – a practice global health experts agree is likely required to eradicate malaria. It could also provide a way to diagnose submicroscopic malaria infections during pregnancy, which bring substantial health risks for the pregnant woman, her fetus, and the newborn child. Read full post »


Jack Finds Strength Through His Disability, Inspires Others

Jack Clark, 12, shows off his dance moves on skates.

Jack Clark, 12, was born to stand out. He excels in sports, lights up a room with his infectious smile, amazes bystanders with dance moves on skates, and walks with a gait unique to him – with a prosthesis covered in flames. Jack was born with a disability, but he’s never let it slow him down. From the wrestling mat, to the roller skating rink, he always finds a way to thrive in the face of adversity.

“Most people see my disability as a disadvantage, but personally I see it as an advantage,” said Jack.

Jack was born with rare conditions affecting both of his legs – proximal femoral focal deficiency (PFFD) in both thigh bones and fibular hemimelia in the left lower leg. Isolated PFFD occurs in about one in 50,000 children and fibular hemimilia occurs in about one in 40,000 children. Read full post »


When Rare Epilepsy Struck Toddler, Diet Paved Road to Recovery

Our son, Sam, goofing around at home days before he developed a life-threatening form of epilepsy known as febrile infection-related epilepsy syndrome.

Parents David and Jennifer Cowan share how the rapid initiation of a special medical diet known as the ketogenic diet helped their son recover by leaps and bounds after he suffered from a rare, life-threatening form of epilepsy known as febrile infection-related epilepsy syndrome (FIRES). For more about how the ketogenic diet is used to treat epilepsy, please see a Q&A with the ketogenic diet team from Seattle Children’s Neurosciences Center.

Over the summer of 2017, our 4-year-old son Sam came down with a high fever that lasted about a week. Seemingly recovered, a day or two later he awoke as normal, snuggled and watched morning cartoons. But shortly after, and completely unexpectedly, Sam began to seize uncontrollably and stopped breathing. Read full post »


Food as Medicine: High-Fat Keto Diet Prescribed to Treat Epilepsy

Neurologists at Seattle Children’s prescribe the ketogenic diet for the treatment of epilepsy and other neurological conditions.

Doctors first started using the ketogenic diet to treat patients with epilepsy in the 1920s. While the diet has evolved over the decades to include less strict versions, and is gaining mainstream popularity for weight loss, children with epilepsy and other neurological conditions continue to benefit from its seizure-controlling effects.

The ketogenic diet team at Seattle Children’s Neurosciences Center takes a modern approach to help families use food as medicine. Here, ketogenic diet team members, neurologist Dr. Christopher Beatty; advanced practice provider Haley Sittner; clinical dietitian Marta Mazzanti; and nurse Deborah Rogers discuss how the diet works and how the team sets families up for success on the ketogenic diet. Read full post »


Study Shows How Group B Strep Establishes In Utero Infection, Posing Risk to Baby

Dr. Lakshmi Rajagopal’s lab at Seattle Children’s Center for Global and Infectious Disease Research is studying how group B strep establishes an invasive in utero infection during pregnancy.

Group B strep (group B streptococcus or GBS) is a common bacteria present in the vagina of about 1 in 4 women. In the U.S. and other developed countries, pregnant women are tested for GBS with those who test positive given antibiotics to help protect babies from infection. In low resource settings where GBS testing and treatment is often not accessible, invasive GBS infection leads to a large percentage of still births and an estimated 3.5 million preterm births each year.

Despite the substantial impact on pregnancy outcomes, scientists know little about how GBS establishes an in utero infection. In a paper published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation, Dr. Lakshmi Rajagopal, a principal investigator in Seattle Children’s Research Institute’s Center for Global Infectious Disease Research describes a newly uncovered mechanism by which GBS gains access to a woman’s uterus. Read full post »


When a Child Dies, Program Helps Grieving Siblings

Jenna and Braden Westerholm play together. Braden lost his sister to rhabdomyosarcoma in 2009.

In February 2006, Chris and Michele Westerholm’s 2 1/2-year-old daughter, Jenna, was diagnosed with rhabdomyosarcoma – a cancer made up of cells that normally develop into skeletal muscles. At the time, Michele was 11-weeks pregnant with her son Braden.

“It was frightening to imagine what life would be like, having a child with cancer and a newborn,” Michele said. “I didn’t have the time or the energy to plan for adding a new baby to our family.” Read full post »


I Was Not Ready to Die: How Seattle Children’s Immunotherapy Saved My Life

Aaron (left) poses with Dr. Mike Jensen, director of the Ben Towne Center for Childhood Cancer Research, at the Strong Against Cancer CELLebration fundraising event.

Seattle Children’s doctors and researchers are leading efforts to better treat cancer in children, adolescents and young adults by boosting the immune system with T-cell immunotherapy. Patients who cannot be cured with standard therapies are benefiting from clinical trials developed at the Ben Towne Center for Childhood Cancer Research, and supported by the Strong Against Cancer initiative. 

One of these patients is Aaron. When he feared he might be out of treatment options, Aaron found hope at Seattle Children’s. Now, he shares his story.

Cancer is such an ugly word. On the internet, it has become normal for people to use it to describe things, ideas or people they don’t like. But for me, that word only brings back painful memories of fighting a disease I would not wish on my worst enemies.

I was first diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia in January 2013. I was 19 years old, living in Vancouver, Canada, and studying computer science at Simon Fraser University.

I became suddenly ill while on a cruise vacation with my family. I had a fever that wouldn’t go away; nausea for no reason; and extreme fatigue. I needed to sleep all the time. I could barely walk. Climbing a flight of stairs felt like trying to climb Mount Everest.

We knew something was very wrong, so my family took me to the Emergency Department at Vancouver General Hospital.

I still remember lying on the hospital bed after the doctor delivered the bad news — I had leukemia. I couldn’t believe it. I asked the nurse as he was putting in my IV, “How long do you think it’ll take before I get better?”

He replied, “My friend, I’m afraid this is just the beginning of a long and difficult journey for you.”

Read full post »


Doctors Double the Length of Anna’s Arms, Giving Her Independence

Lisa went into labor expecting her daughter wouldn’t survive.

Lisa Booth was 40 weeks and 6 days into what had been a completely normal pregnancy when she received unexpected news during an ultrasound.

“Everything was fine at 9 a.m. At noon, I was told my daughter would be a dwarf. By 4 p.m., I was told she wasn’t going to survive,” said Booth. “I went home in a completely shell-shocked state.”

Hours later, Booth went into labor expecting the worst.

“Going into labor I was thinking she wouldn’t survive,” she said. Read full post »


A Surgeon’s Legacy Advances Surgical Care in India

A decade ago, the late Seattle Children’s surgeon, Dr. Richard Grady, began traveling to India for a special mission — to provide urgent surgical care to children born with a rare and complex disorder called bladder exstrophy (BE).

Grady’s dedication to helping under-resourced children in India led to the development of a unique international collaborative that aimed to alleviate the global burden of this surgically treatable disease, as documented in a recent article published in JAMA Surgery.

Dr. Paul Merguerian, division chief of urology at Seattle Children’s, who is helping to carry on Grady’s inspirational work, recalls his colleague’s passionate commitment to care for children not only in the Pacific Northwest region, but in a country located more than 7,000 miles across the globe.

Read full post »