By Kipaya Kapiga
Conor and Emi
The staff at Boston Children’s Hospital works very hard to ensure that every procedure, test and patient visit runs according to plan. But last week the hospital broke from tradition and embraced the element of surprise when some patients received an unexpected gift of toy bags signed by current and retired New England Patriots players, inlcuding Zoltan Mesko and Joe Andruzzi.
The bags, which will be the first of four quarterly donations, come courtesy of the Messages of Hope Foundation, a nonprofit that donates thousands of Happy Hope bags to children undergoing treatment in various children’s hospitals across the United States. The foundation was begun by Emi Burke, the mother of a Boston Children’s patient, who was inspired to help pediatric patients all over the country.
Burke’s son, Conor, is treated at Boston Children’s for developmental delays and epilepsy. During one hospital stay, she noticed a few patients who didn’t seem to have any distractions to help them pass the time. When Burke asked a nurse why this might be the case, she was told that many times when parents are arranging for a hospital stay, they simply forget to bring toys or items to entertain and occupy their child. For other families, a “box of crayons seems like a luxury item,” Burke says. Full story »
After she was stricken with a serious illness almost overnight, and then rushed to Boston Children’s Hospital where in a matter of hours she received multiple treatments—including an extremely rare liver transplant—Hannah Swift could be the most aptly named eleven-year-old in the world.
In an age where close monitoring, drugs and advanced therapies can prevent or delay transplant surgeries for weeks or months, Hannah’s story is an amazing example of medical collaboration where every minute counted in saving her life.
More than a stomach bug
Hannah had been coughing and vomiting for a few days when her mother Carolyn brought her to see a pediatrician. Given the season, both mom and doctor assumed Hannah had caught the flu, so she was sent home for a few days bed rest. After two days of sleep and chicken noodle soup, Hannah wasn’t feeling any better. A day later she was so weak that she needed help getting into the shower. After noticing a yellowish tint around Hannah’s eyes and skin, Carolyn called the doctor who said they needed to go to the local hospital right away. Full story »
By Wendy Paulin
Hunter as a baby
As a parent, when you look at your newborn, it’s hard not to get swept up by all the possibilities that lie ahead. Your child has the world ahead of him—you can’t help but wonder what life’s adventures have in store. That feeling of unlimited potential is why Dr. Seuss’s, “Oh, the Places You’ll Go” is such a big hit in our family, both for my four boys and myself. But when I read “Oh, the Places You’ll Go” to my youngest son, Hunter, the words took on a whole new meaning. As I read him the story and shared the bright, beautiful artwork with him, I couldn’t help but feel a knot inside when I came to the part where things don’t go as planned.
As Seuss so wisely writes, “There are some, down the road between hither and yon, that can scare you so much, you won’t want to go on.” As a mother you do everything in your power to protect or guide your child away from the road Seuss describes, but in some cases you just can’t. That was very true for Hunter. Full story »
Having painful cramps isn’t really something a typical 14-year-old girl wants to think or talk about. Most girls assume that it’s normal and just part of the process of growing up. But when intense pain started to interrupt Brittany Berg’s social and academic life, she knew she needed to speak up.
It began during her freshman year of high school when the pain would get so bad she couldn’t focus while she studied at night. She’d lie down, hoping for sleep, but would still be overcome with discomfort. The only female in her drum line at school, Brittany couldn’t easily explain to her bandmates why she was a little slower on some days, or why the pressure of holding the drum caused even more pain.
She tried her best to explain to her friends what she was going through, hoping they could relate, but since she didn’t understand it herself, it made little difference.
Finally, Brittany talked to her mother and saw a doctor. She had a pelvic ultrasound and was prescribed birth control pills, which are often used to regulate a women’s menstrual cycle. However, this treatment only added mild depression and weight gain to Brittany’s list of irritating symptoms. Frustrated, and still not knowing the root of her pain, Brittany tried another type of birth control pill that her doctor prescribed, one that is taken every three months instead. Even though the pain lessened a little, it was still there. Full story »
There is a special kind of female athlete who is so dedicated that her sport becomes her life. Because research shows that girls and women are prone to higher rates of injuries and other health complications, these female athletes require a level of dedication not only to their sports, but also to their long-term health. And by pairing the two, they prevail.
For Krista Pinciaro, soccer player at Medfield High School, dedication to the sport came naturally. But when she tore her medial meniscus and re-tore her lateral meniscus (after tearing both her meniscus and anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) years before), she knew her senior-year soccer season was at stake.
“It was one of the worst days of my life,” says Krista. “Soccer isn’t just a sport to me, it’s my everything. It made me feel like I belonged to something, and it made me succeed academically because I knew I had to in order to keep playing. My teammates and my coaches were all like members of my family. Not playing was devastating for me.” Full story »
By Maureen Simoncini
When I was 18 weeks pregnant my husband, Kenny, and I went in for a routine ultrasound. We were excited to find out if I was carrying a boy or a girl, but we found out much more than that. The ultrasound revealed that I was having a boy, but he would be born with a serious medical condition called an omphalocele. (It’s a birth defect where the baby’s intestine or other organs stick out of the belly button. In many cases only a thin layer of tissue covers the intestines.)
Once it was established that our baby had an omphalocele, we were transferred to a doctor at our local hospital who specialized in high-risk pregnancies. It soon became clear that our case was severe—on more than one occasion we were told that our baby’s chances of survival were minimal at best.
But no matter how grim the news, Kenny and I said we were going to have the baby no matter what, termination simply wasn’t an option. It was then that I began looking for a second opinion, which led us to Boston Children’s Hospital. Full story »
The OWL team rowing at Agganis Arena
When it comes to achieving a healthy weight, nutrition is only one part of the process. Adding exercise to the mix helps build heart health and strength, and—perhaps of equal importance—it also helps build self-confidence.
While regular exercise is paramount, it’s not always easy for a teenager to join their high school’s competitive teams to stay in shape. “It’s hard to tell a kid to join something like soccer if they’ve never done it before, and their peers have been doing it since they were toddlers,” says Sarah Picard, MA, Med, physical activity specialist at Boston Children’s Optimal Weight for Life (OWL) Program.
This year with the help of the New Balance Foundation Obesity Prevention Center, Picard created a solution to that problem, and established OWL on the Water—a joint program with Community Rowing Inc. that allows OWL patients to form an exclusive rowing team, thereby providing habitual exercise and promoting teamwork. Full story »
Dan’s son Sean was born prematurely, with a long list of medical concerns. Because Sean was so fragile at birth he was unable to feed himself during infancy, which led to feeding problems as a toddler. Here, Dan describes the hurdles he and his family faced during Sean’s younger years, and the important role Boston Children’s Hospital’s Growth and Nutrition Program played in helping Sean eat solid foods.
By Dan Francis
Sean as a baby, with his feeding tube
For the first five months of my wife Jean’s pregnancy, things were going smoothly. But at the 20-week mark a routine ultrasound showed that our soon-to-be born son Sean was small for his gestational age and there was a low amount of amniotic fluid surrounding him in the womb. Jean was told to stay home from work and get as much bed rest as possible. Five weeks later another routine check-up showed that the bed rest hadn’t been enough; her blood pressure was now elevated (called preeclampsia) and could potentially hurt the baby. That’s when everything got serious.
We spent the next three weeks in the hospital while doctors and nurses monitored Jean and the baby. Doctors determined that a complication with the placenta was restricting the baby’s nutrients and he was only receiving about half of what he needed. Based on the discovery it was decided that the baby’s only chance for survival would happen outside the womb. A C-section was scheduled, and though he came into the world early, we were delighted to meet Sean.
Because he was premature and very small, Sean was born with several health problems. His lungs, heart and digestive system were all in danger of developing serious complications, but despite it all, Sean held on. It was amazing. He could almost fit in the palm of my hand, and still he had a fight in him that’s stronger than you see in most adults. Full story »