On the Pulse

Agatha Comes One Step Closer to Her Dream Come True

Agatha and her brother order ice cream at their favorite ice cream shop, Scoop Du Jour.

Nearly half a mile away from 10-year-old Agatha Holloway’s home is a quaint family owned ice cream shop called Scoop Du Jour. It’s her favorite ice cream shop, and she’s always dreamed of being able to walk there. But until recently, that journey was physically too far for her to walk.

Agatha’s declining mobility made walking long distances impossible, but today, thanks to Seattle Children’s Orthopedics and Rehabilitation Medicine teams, Agatha’s dream has come true. Read full post »


Out of Breath? Braking Neurons Play Surprising Role in Rapid Breathing

New research from Seattle Children’s offers fresh insight into how the brain sets the pace of breathing.

Next time a workout has you winded, the inhibitory neurons in your brain may be to blame. This is according to new research from Seattle Children’s Research Institute that offers fresh insight into how the brain sets the pace of breathing.

In a study published in the journal Nature Communications, researchers used laser light to manipulate very specific classes of neurons responsible for breathing. The technique, known as optogenetics, helps scientists isolate neurons in the brain to study their function.

When stimulated in the lab, the researchers found excitatory neurons – the brain’s go signal – actually slow breathing, while inhibitory neurons – the brain’s stop signal – intervene to make breathing more rapid. In addition to explaining how the brain adapts breathing in response to everyday cues, the finding could lead to more precise treatments for neurological conditions that frequently involve breathing abnormalities. Read full post »


Bike Safety Fiction and Facts

For many children and teens, biking in the driveway, around the neighborhood, or to a nearby school or park provides a sense of freedom and adventure.

Not only can biking be fun, it can also be beneficial to a child’s physical health — strengthening their heart, lungs, muscles and bones — as well as mental health, supporting learning and development.

With activities like biking, it’s always important to practice safety. However, with so many different resources available for families, it can be difficult to decide what bike safety practices are reliable and effective to teach their children.

Dr. Cora Breuner, a pediatrician and adolescent medicine specialist at Seattle Children’s, separates facts from fiction when it comes to bike safety, and shares tips from the dynamic perspective of a provider, educator and parent.

Read full post »


5 Developments in the Pipeline at Seattle Children’s Research Institute

Dr. Jim Hendricks, president of Seattle Children’s Research Institute.

Ranked as one of the top pediatric research centers in the U.S., Seattle Children’s Research Institute has accomplished so much in its 11-year history, and there is much to look forward to in 2018. Here, Dr. Jim Hendricks, president of Seattle Children’s Research Institute shares with On the Pulse what’s in store for the year ahead.  

1. Cancer immunotherapy

Seattle Children’s continued immunotherapy work is going to be very exciting this year.

In 2017, Seattle Children’s opened three new clinical trials offering innovative chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T-cell immunotherapies for children and young adults with relapsed or refractory acute lymphoblastic leukemia. Currently, there are four Pediatric Leukemia Adoptive Therapy clinical trials underway at Seattle Children’s (PLAT-02, PLAT-03, PLAT-04 and PLAT-05), with others expected to open this year. Read full post »


Teen Proves Kawasaki Disease is Not One Size Fits All

Audrey, pictured here with her cello before Kawasaki disease caused a large aneurysm to form in her heart.

Whether she’s performing in her school’s jazz band, teaching cello, painting or working as a YMCA counselor, Audrey Wright, 16, seems to do it all. She especially doesn’t let an aneurysm in her heart that developed as a result of Kawasaki disease get in the way of being a busy teenager and her dreams of majoring in studio art.

Audrey was diagnosed with Kawasaki disease, a serious illness that causes inflammation of blood vessels throughout the body, after coming down with what she and everyone else thought was a really bad viral infection. Despite visiting her pediatrician four times in six days, it wasn’t until her blood pressure dipped dangerously low that she was transported to Seattle Children’s. There, doctors in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit began to unravel the mystery of what was causing her illness.

“Once they got the report back, all of the pediatricians she had seen before coming to the hospital couldn’t believe it was Kawasaki disease,” Karen Wright, Audrey’s mom, said. “They were pretty shocked because she’s not the typical patient.” Read full post »


Born With a Hole in His Heart, Hybrid Procedure Helps Rowen Thrive

When Chelsie McKinney, her husband, and their two boys welcomed baby Rowen into the world in November 2017, they thought he was “absolutely perfect.”

“He was a big, strong and beautiful boy,” McKinney said. “We counted his fingers and toes like all parents do, and he seemed perfectly healthy. We were so excited to bring him home.”

However, before Rowen was discharged from the hospital, doctors noticed he had a heart murmur. An echocardiogram indicated he had a hole in the wall between the lower two chambers of his heart, which is called a ventricular septal defect (VSD). A VSD is the most common heart birth defect, and about three in every 1,000 babies are born with it.

At just a little more than 1 day old, Rowen was taken by ambulance to Seattle Children’s.

“It was scary, and a lot to digest so suddenly,” McKinney said. “We didn’t know what his future would hold. But even with all of the unknowns, we found comfort in knowing he was going to the best hospital where he would be in good hands.”

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To Save a Budding Heart, Innovative Surgery Performed for the First Time in the Pacific Northwest

Shanae Ceja, first pediatric patient in the Pacific Northwest region to undergo an innovative heart surgery called the Ozaki procedure, with Dr. Jonathan Chen, who performed the complex surgical technique.

As she watched her daughter being wheeled into the operating room, a striking memory overcame the flood of anxious thoughts going through Marisela Barragan’s mind.

“Just a few months before the heart surgery, my daughter Shanae was telling me how desperately she wanted to try out for her school’s volleyball team,” said Barragan. “Her doctors were advising against doing any type of strenuous sport because it could damage her heart, so I kept telling her ‘no.’”

“Then she turned to me and said, ‘Mom, please allow me to try out. If I’m going to die, I want to have done something in my life that I loved.’ Those words truly broke my heart.”

Barragan knew the only way her daughter could pursue volleyball along with her many athletic passions, like any other healthy 13-year-old, was to take a leap of faith with an innovative surgical technique that has only been performed on a small number of pediatric patients in the world. Called the Ozaki procedure, the complex surgical technique would help repair and put a stop to the disease that was causing ongoing damage to Shanae’s heart.

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Indoor Active Play for Heart Health

Active kids enjoy improved mental wellness and reduce their risk of heart disease. While the days are short and the weather is often cold or dreary, kids still need to be getting physical activity each and every day.

February is American Heart Month and On The Pulse asked Emily Carter, athletic trainer, and Dr. Monique Burton, director of the Sports Medicine Program, to share ideas for indoor activities that put a smile on a child’s face and get their heart pumping. Read full post »


Matched to the Perfect Target, Drug Dramatically Shrinks Tumors in All Ages, Multiple Cancers

Ashton Leeds, 8, was treated with larotrectinib at Seattle Children’s for thyroid cancer that had spread to his lungs and lymph nodes.

Dr. Doug Hawkins, division chief of Hematology and Oncology at Seattle Children’s, remembers matching one of the first pediatric cancer patients to an experimental drug that targets a specific set of genetic alterations associated with soft tissue tumors. The drug, larotrectinib, is designed to selectively stop the resulting abnormal tropomyosin receptor kinase (TRK) fusion proteins from promoting cancer cell growth.

“I was so excited to share the test results with the family and present them with the option of enrolling in a clinical trial for this new medication,” Hawkins said. “At the time, I had a pretty good inkling the drug was going to work, but there was very limited evidence of its effectiveness in children. It’s incredibly special that families were willing to take a chance on this drug early on.”

Today, the promising evidence in support of larotrectinib is building. A paper published in The New England Journal of Medicine documents the drug’s effectiveness in treating TRK fusion-positive cancers regardless of patient age or tumor type. The paper includes data from 55 patients, ages 4 months to 76 years and representing 17 different TRK fusion-positive tumor types, treated with larotrectinib. Overall, 75% of patients responded to the treatment and at one year, 71% experienced no disease progression since starting treatment. Read full post »


3D-Printed Heart Transforms Family’s Understanding of Complex Heart Disease

Auren Satake, 17 months, was born with a congenital heart defect known as hypoplastic left heart syndrome.

Rachael Satake holds a 3D-printed replica of her son’s heart condition in her hands during a recent appointment at Seattle Children’s Heart Center. For the first time since learning about the defect midway through pregnancy, she clearly sees how the surgeries he has undergone are helping his heart work despite having only one ventricle.

Her son, Auren, has a serious congenital heart defect called hypoplastic left heart syndrome (HLHS), which means he was born missing the left ventricle of his heart. His right ventricle works double time to supply blood to both his lungs and the rest of his body. Read full post »