Make Halloween healthy: If you dare!

by Meaghan O'Keeffe on October 21, 2014

Meaghan O’Keeffe, RN, BSN, is a mother, writer and nurse. She worked at Boston Children’s Hospital for nearly a decade, in both the Cardiac Intensive Care Unit and the Pre-op Clinic.  She is a regular contributor to Thriving.

Meaghan_OKeeffe_1Happy Halloween! This is a festive time of year when kids get excited to dress up in fantastical costumes and enjoy some light-hearted scares. But let’s be honest. Most kids dream about one thing and one thing only: the enormous bounty of candy that awaits them. Didn’t you?

Besides tasting great, sugar intake heightens the pleasure and reward centers of the brain. Feel-good hormones like dopamine and serotonin are released when we eat certain groups of foods. The more sugar we eat, the more dependent we become on sugar to elicit those pleasurable feelings. Sustained sugar intake may even alter the neural pathways in the brain, increasing the likelihood of overeating. Understanding this process takes the blame away from each of us and explains why willpower often goes out the window when you’re surrounded by countless numbers of wrapped up chocolates and candy corn. Full story »

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Buddy system benefits athletes with hip dysplasia

by Lisa Fratt on October 16, 2014

kristina_s_1The buddy system is great. It helps keep buddies safe, secure and confident. When you’re a college athlete facing two major surgeries (called periacetabular osteotomy or PAO) to correct hip dysplasia in one year, a buddy can be a lifeline.

Until she was 18, Kristina Simonson had been one of those lucky athletes who escaped injury season after season. The Babson College student started playing soccer at 5 and entered college as a two-sport athlete—soccer and lacrosse.

She began experiencing hip pain her freshman year in college. Her trainer suspected it might be a torn labrum, or a rip in the seal that normally cushions the hip joint. He was right … but only partially. Full story »

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The Gift of Sweet Dreams

by Erin Horan on October 15, 2014

JustineOver the past nine years, Justine Naphols has rallied a group of friends to jointly sew more than 1,300 pillowcases, many of which have gone to patients at Boston Children’s Hospital Pediatric Transplant Center. The fact that her 100th birthday is this month hasn’t stopped her from promising 17 more by Christmas.

“It keeps me out of trouble,” the New Jersey native says of her sewing habit, her tone slyly playful. “This gives me pleasure. It keeps me up, keeps me going.” Full story »

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jasepr_s_1Twelve-year-old Jasper Sieniewicz, from Cambridge, Mass., had looked forward to his September 5 birthday party for weeks. So his mother Martha was a little puzzled when he claimed he had no room for cake after pizza.

At 9:30 p.m., after the crowd of middle schoolers left, Jasper confided to his parents that he had a stomach ache. “Jasper is pretty tough. He’s a hockey goalie, and he doesn’t complain,” says Martha. She thought it might be a case of too much pizza and encouraged him to try to sleep.

By 3 a.m., he was vomiting. Martha thought it might be food poisoning and called their pediatrician’s overnight pediatric advice line. The nurse on call asked questions to check the severity of Jasper’s symptoms and advised her to call back in the morning if her son wasn’t feeling better.

Jasper’s vomiting persisted through the morning, and Martha worried he was getting dehydrated. Another concern was appendicitis, so by 2:00 p.m., Martha and Jasper headed to Boston Children’s Hospital emergency room.

The mother of three had made a few trips to the emergency room in the past. “At Boston Children’s, you’re so conscious of how mundane and manageable your child’s illness is compared to many other patients,” she says.

A surprise from the trauma team

When Jasper started perking up in the emergency room, Martha thought that perhaps it had just been something he had eaten after all, and she considered taking him home. “And that’s when the full-on miraculous Boston Children’s experience started. The entire staff was like a cast in a TV program. The physician assistant was friendly and accommodating. Blake Windsor, MD, emergency physician, was charismatic and kind and ignored my chatter about food poisoning.”

“I suppose, somewhere at Children’s, there MUST be some surly, disaffected, inattentive, humorless employees — that IS Boston, after all — but the only ones in evidence are as charming, bright, energetic, gentle, patient, charismatic (and good-looking!) as the cast of an absurdly unrealistic television show.”

Text message from Martha to her husband during Jasper’s visit

Windsor ordered an ultrasound, and the technician showed Jasper his inflamed appendix.

David Mooney, MD, MPH, director of the trauma center, entered the scene, explaining every step of the procedure to Jasper and Martha and re-assuring them that he had finished his last appendectomy just one hour before.

Jasper’s birthday weekend ended on Sunday when he was released from Boston Children’s. He returned to seventh grade by mid-week, and the goalie was back on the ice two weeks later.

“We’re very lucky,” says Martha. “When I tell people Jasper had an emergency appendectomy, they say, ‘It must have been so scary.’ But I wasn’t scared for a minute, once we got to Boston Children’s, because everyone we encountered was perfectly confident, kind and calm. We knew we were in the best hospital in the world, and that Jasper was being cared for by doctors and nurses who were incredibly skilled and sympathetic. I wouldn’t call it a pleasure. But we are tremendously grateful and impressed.”

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Mick-4When Michael “Mick” Devlin was born in 1987, his parents were sure of two things: They loved him, and they would cherish every minute they had together because no one knew how many they had left.

Mick was born with ornithine transcarbamylase (OTC) deficiency, a genetic disorder that disrupts the liver’s ability to break down protein and eventually leads to a toxic build up of ammonia in the blood. It’s a very serious condition, and when Mick was born there weren’t many sustainable treatment options for OTC deficiency. Many children with the disease died.

Needless to say, when Mick’s parents Cathy and Michael held their newborn son and learned about his OTC deficiency, they were terrified. And while they didn’t know it at the time, their son would soon be one of the first children in New England to receive a successful liver transplant—a surgery that would eventually save his life, and the lives of thousands of children to follow. Full story »

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8 common child health myths busted

by Meaghan O'Keeffe on October 6, 2014

Meaghan O’Keeffe, RN, BSN, is a mother, writer and nurse. She worked at Boston Children’s Hospital for nearly a decade, in both the Cardiac Intensive Care Unit and the Pre-op Clinic.  She is a regular contributor to Thriving.

Meaghan_OKeeffe_1From fever to flu to vaccines and enterovirus, there’s so much health information out there. It’s difficult to separate fact from fiction. Some commonly circulating health myths might confuse even the most well-intentioned parent. Sort out the truth from the myth, and you’re on your way to making the best, informed health care decisions for your child. Full story »

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By Mark Gorman, MD, Director of the Pediatric Neuro-Immunology Program at Boston Children’s Hospital

20141001_Gorman-7If you’ve been following the news lately, you’ve likely heard that a very small number of the patients currently being tested for Enterovirus D68 (EVD68) at Boston Children’s Hospital and other hospitals around the country, have developed some additional neurological symptoms including muscle paralysis or weakness of the arms and/or legs.

These symptoms are particularly frightening to parents and caregivers because they are so similar to symptoms associated with polio. Please be assured, this is not polio, and may be completely unrelated to EVD68. At this point, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) have not made a connection between the muscle paralysis and weakness and EVD68.

Boston Children’s confirmed yesterday that we have treated four patients with those neurological symptoms. The youngest is four years old; the oldest is 15. All four patients had a history of respiratory illness. We did not find any enteroviruses in their spinal fluid and we are waiting on additional tests results to come back from the lab.

In the meantime, two of the four children have already recovered enough to be discharged and one is on a regular neurology inpatient floor. Only one requires intermediate care unit-level care.

Here are a few important facts that you should be aware of:

  • While you may have heard that EVD68 is related to the virus that causes polio (which was eradicated using a vaccine developed at Boston Children’s), these paralysis symptoms are not due to the polio virus.
  • Enteroviruses in general can sometimes cause similar neurologic illness.
  • Enterovirus infections are common, especially at this time of the year.
  • The CDC and the hospital clinicians who are treating these cases have not confirmed a link between EVD68 and neurological paralysis.
  • The CDC is working with state and local public health officials to identify cases, collect information and perform laboratory studies that will help us figure out the root cause of these symptoms.

Remember: If your child is having difficulty breathing or has new weakness, you should contact your pediatrician immediately.

To better prepare families, Boston Children’s Hospital has created an educational sheet that outlines what EV-D68 is and what families should do to avoid exposure. The information can be found here on our website.

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Improving the health and daily lives of children with asthma

by Maureen McCarthy on September 30, 2014

DSCN0658Wheezing, shortness of breath, multiple medications, missed school days, and frequent hospital visits are the challenges nearly seven million U.S. children face when managing asthma.

Since 2005, Boston Children’s Hospital’s Community Asthma Initiative (CAI) has worked with over 1,000 families to help them better manage their child’s asthma. The goal is threefold: to increase a child’s quality of life; reduce Emergency Department (ED) visits and hospitalizations; and save money on asthma-related health care spending, which adds up to over $3.2 billion a year nationwide. Full story »

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