When high school sophomore Justin Griffin was about four months old, he began having lapses in his breathing. He was having seizures that were discovered to be caused by a brain tumor. Boston Children’s Hospital neurosurgeon Joseph Madsen, MD, removed the tumor. All seemed to be well.

But in middle school, Justin’s seizures started up again. They were caused by a small lesion—a pocket of abnormal tissue—that had developed near the location of the original tumor. His neurologist prescribed a series of anti-epileptic medications.

“He would be on a medicine for a while and it would seem to be working, and then he would start having seizures again,” says his mother, Keren. “The neurologist said that usually after three or four medicines when you fail, that’s when they start talking about other options, and one of them would be surgery. I said, ‘I don’t want to open up his head again. Isn’t there anything else we can do?’” Full story »

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Laundry pods pose serious harm to young children, study finds

by Maureen McCarthy on November 12, 2014

washing machine and laundry detergent dangers for toddlersUnder lock and key: Tips to secure cleaning products 

A recent study conducted by the American Association of Poison Control Centers (AAPCC) cites nearly 10,000 U.S. children 5 and younger who were exposed to, or had harmful contact with single-load laundry packets during the ten-month period from Jan. 1 to Oct. 31, 2014. The AAPCC report says children who have ingested the highly concentrated single-load liquid laundry packets have experienced excessive vomiting, wheezing, gasping, sleepiness and difficulties breathing.

According to the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), a laundry pod’s soft and colorful exterior can easily be mistaken by a child as candy, toys, or a teething product, and once mixed with saliva, the packets dissolve quickly and release the highly concentrated toxic liquid.

Though a slight decrease (approximately 4 percent) compared to 2013 data, the number of injuries young children suffer due to exposure to household cleaning products continues to prompt concern.

Lois Lee, MD, MPH, of Boston Children’s Hospital’s Emergency Department Injury Prevention Program shares suggestions for preventing accidental poisoning. Full story »

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wounded warrior and child amputee show off one-armed pushupsAbout the blogger: Ten-year-old Jen Castro, from New Fairfield, Conn., was born a below-the-elbow amputee and has been a Boston Children’s Hospital patient for most of her life. She is an avid softball player.

Most kids dream of going to summer camp. But I’m not most kids. I was born a below-the-elbow amputee.

I don’t really like summer camp. It was never easy for me to be around other kids who don’t know me. I get stares, endless questions, and then whispers and comments: “Look at that girl, she’s missing her arm.”

I’d rather not attend.

Wounded Warrior Amputee Softball Camp

So you can just imagine what I felt like when my mom told me about a camp that was open only to kids who were missing limbs. That all the instructors would be missing limbs too. For a moment, she had my attention when she told me it was a softball camp, because I love softball. But only for a moment! Full story »

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Congenital heart defect patient Skylar Bayer as toddler

About the blogger: Skylar Bayer, 28, is a PhD student at the University of Maine. When she was one day old, she had open-heart surgery for transposition of the great arteries, a congenital heart defect where the heart’s two main arteries are physically swapped. But her heart defect didn’t keep her from being a kid like any other and hasn’t stopped her from following her passions. If anything, it’s made her appreciate life all the more. 

I can still recall being a five-year-old girl in the women’s locker room of the swim and tennis club my family attended in the summer. I’m peering around the room at all the other girls’ and women’s chests, and I notice for the first time that no one else has the same six-inch scar down the middle of their chests that I have. Until then, I thought that everyone had that scar.

It was the first time I started to realize that I had had a very different experience coming into this world than most people around me.

When my mother was pregnant with me, her doctors discovered that I had a congenital heart defect called transposition of the great arteries (TGA). Luckily for my parents (and me), they lived just outside Boston. I was born at Brigham and Women’s Hospital on September 1, 1986, and had heart surgery at Boston Children’s Hospital the next day. I was home nine days later. Full story »

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Norovirus: What parents need to know

by Lisa Fratt on November 6, 2014

girl with stomach acheNorovirus—a highly contagious virus that causes diarrhea, vomiting and stomach pain—has made an earlier than usual appearance in Boston, sickening more than 100 students and staff members at Condon Elementary School.

Norovirus infects 19-21 million people in the United States every year. Infections usually peak between November and April. There is no vaccine to prevent infection or drug to treat it. The infection typically doesn’t last long, says Gail Potter-Bynoe, manager, infection control at Boston Children’s Hospital. Full story »

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 Catherine Rose Rising Star Boston Children's Hospital

What spurs innovation? Catherine Rose, PhD, MBA, senior product manager for Philips Healthcare Applications, says it was her daughter, Alexis.

In 2010, Alexis, who is visually impaired and profoundly deaf, visited a Philips showroom and was captivated by the interactive displays of colored LED lighting. Intrigued by her daughter’s response to light, Rose called upon her mechanical engineering background and conceptualized and launched LightAide, a teaching tool for children with low vision and cognitive disabilities that uses interactive displays of color to introduce literacy and mathematical concepts. Full story »

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From Sandy Hook to Ebola: what to do when fear goes too far

by Meaghan O'Keeffe on November 4, 2014


It was my daughter Sophie’s first day of kindergarten. I was desperately trying (and failing) to hold back the tears. Wearing sunglasses inside the building came in handy because I was determined to put on a big show of confidence.

Parents around me also looked nervous and emotional. A child’s first day of kindergarten is a big transition. Gone are the days of spending so much time together. Now a large portion of your child’s life will happen outside of the home. Even if your son or daughter was in full-time daycare or preschool, kindergarten is new and unwieldy. You aren’t just sending your kid into the belly of the beast, you’re saying goodbye to an old way of life. A life you’ve known for five or six years.

That was a small part of what I was feeling. But if I’m telling the honest truth, I was afraid.

School shootings have lasting impact

I was afraid of another Sandy Hook.

School shootings are terrifying and tragic. There isn’t a single one of us who wasn’t crushed by the events at Sandy Hook and the acts of gun violence before and since. I couldn’t help but feel as if my daughter’s school might be next.

I couldn’t stop worrying.

Every time I dropped Sophie off at school, I cried afterward. Ambulance sirens made my heart race. My stomach was in knots from morning till night. My fears had gotten out of control.

So I went to see a counselor. Me. The nurse, the professional, the one who’s usually reassuring concerned parents about this thing or that thing.

Why am I telling you this?

Because it’s important. Because I hope that if you need to seek help, you will.

There is so much to be afraid of. The media is fraught with alarmist stories of Ebola and Enterovirus D68, of global conflict, school bullying and car accidents. Social media can intensify our fears.

Being aware and informed is one thing. But most of the time the fear we feel is not useful. It’s harmful. It’s our way of trying to control for every possibility. And when that kind of fear gets out of control, you need to do something.

It’s important to know that if you’re struggling with fears or sadness that go beyond the usual worries and difficulties in life, there is help. If getting help seems like something a “normal” person shouldn’t need to do, think about your car. When it’s shaking and choking on the highway, do you just tough it out and hide it from others? Or do you take it to your mechanic—an expert—who can listen to the engine and coax it back to running smoothly?

By talking to a professional, you learn coping skills. You learn how to stay balanced in the face of uncertainty, anxiety, conflict and loss. When you are balanced, your children feel safer. If you’re struggling, even if you’re doing a great job of hiding it, your kids will know. They might not verbalize it and they might not even be completely cognizant of it. But they will know.

Sophie and I have graduated to the car drop-off line. I pull up to the school entrance and she hops out, waves good-bye and opens that big school door by herself. I drive away with a smile on my face.

Am I cured of my tendency to think dark and scary thoughts? Not by a long shot. But I’m learning how to recognize these unhealthy fears. I’m learning that these worries are just stories that I tell myself. And I’m learning how to stop chasing them.

I reached out for help when I needed it. It’s the most “normal” thing you can do.


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Why Yoga is like food

by Kipaya Kapiga on October 29, 2014

20142027_MEHCyoga-11PreviewlargeAs far as Emily Davidson, MD, MPH, RYT, is concerned, claiming to not like yoga is like saying you don’t like food. “There’s a really big range of what kinds of yoga practices you can do,” she explains.

Davidson, who is the director of Boston Children’s Down syndrome Program, speaks from personal experience. She started practicing yoga in 1998 after she was diagnosed with coronary artery disease and discovered that, along with improving her flexibility and strength, yoga helped manage the stress of her diagnosis and treatment.

In fact, she liked it so much that she went on to complete a 200-hour yoga teaching program and set out to offer her patients with Down syndrome the same benefits she got from practicing it by launching a yoga class at Boston Children’s Primary Care at Martha Eliot. Full story »

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