Monthly Archives: September 2013

Five Question Friday: Michael Dimunation


Meet Michael Dimunation, a developer at Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota.

Michael Dimunation

What  does a typical day look like for you? The Children’s developers group is responsible for several websites, web applications, desktop applications, databases and reporting systems.  As such, my typical day at Children’s might be comprised of anything from planned software development, updates for existing applications and websites, marketing initiatives, or any number of systems administration or maintenance tasks.

All of the Children’s developers manage a pretty substantial workload on a day-to-day basis, and usually have five to 10 active projects in the works at any given time. The scope of the projects ranges from larger applications with a project duration of several months, such as the new pediatric intensive care unit (PICU) quality database system, to mid-size projects, such as the Mighty blog redesign, all the way down to one-off web pages and email templates.

Throw in a pot of coffee (give or take), a few complaints about the Vikings, and a walk around the lake next to the Center Point office, and that about sums up a typical day.

You recently built Mighty — a Children’s health blog. What did that involve? I played a significant role in the development of the new Mighty blog, but it was by no means a singular effort – a lot of other very talented people were involved in the process, from marketing and graphic design to systems administration and architecture. The final release represents the efforts of a number of individuals and departments, a team of which I was happy to be a part.

“Mighty” was a complete overhaul of the existing  kids’ health blog. This involved a complete rewrite of the design templates, which dictate the overall look and feel of the site. There were also significant categorization and taxonomy changes, greatly simplifying the number of post categories and the organization of each new post on the blog. We also made several changes to the core WordPress system (the content management system we use for smaller websites and blogs), and added a number of new features and enhancements specific to the Children’s IT environment.

On my end, I started with a general overview of the new site requirements, and a complete set of graphic design mocks from our marketing department. The design mocks are delivered as Photoshop files, which are essentially a series of interwoven text and graphic layers that can be manipulated and extracted into discrete images, fonts and other assets.

Once this process is complete, the overall design and layout is built as a series of HTML page designs and styles, and then converted for use as WordPress templates. Some pages, such as the new homepage, receive special treatment, such as a rotating slideshow of new posts in a featured category or a list of recent updates to the blog. Code from other Children’s websites is then merged into the template (such as the top header, footer, and page navigation from our main internet site), creating a hybrid system containing elements from several different sources.

There is an overarching, concerted effort in the Children’s development group towards the unification of our disparate systems into reusable, centralized modules wherever possible. With the new Mighty site design, we took significant steps to design the final product as a universal, customizable template for future Children’s websites, which should allow us to more easily manage new web development efforts with significantly less maintenance and technical debt.

What do you love most about your job? To a large extent, the developers group is a small consulting team within the larger Children’s organization, and it has been a real treat to meet directly with so many different people in a wide variety of departments and positions. There is never a shortage of variety in the projects we undertake, and it is a rarity in the industry to work with such a broad range of platforms and systems, from our enterprise EMR and clinical systems all the way down to open source content systems and one-off web pages. There is also a strong sense of self-management and product ownership in our group, and with that comes a high degree of creative latitude and innovation. 

As cliché as this sounds, it is readily apparent that the work we do as developers has tangible, positive consequences in the lives of our patients. For example, the recently completed PICU Quality Database (the first of its kind in the industry), sponsored by a physician in our PICU, is a custom designed application used to measure specific and proprietary metrics relating to the care of PICU patients. The ongoing analysis and reporting of this information will lead to direct, measurable increases in the quality of care for future PICU patients.

When you’re not at work, how do you spend your time? Working on various cars, boats and an assortment of other motorized vehicles, boating on the St. Croix river, building furniture out of old engine parts (seriously), and continuing my quest for the perfect buffalo wing in the Minneapolis area (if you have any wing recommendations, please send them my way).

What is your favorite meal? I’m always jokingly (but not really jokingly) suggesting that our meetings here need to more food involved, so I’m not surprised this question is on here. If I had to choose, it would be either 1) a Manny’s steak dinner, or 2) my mother’s porcupine meatball recipe (1 lb beef, Rice-A-Roni beef flavor, one egg, mix, form into meatballs, simmer for 45 minutes) – seriously good comfort food.

MNsure: What you need to know

Family with health professionalOct. 1 marks the much anticipated launch of MNsure, the state’s new health insurance exchange. You may have recently seen ads and billboards featuring Paul Bunyon and Babe the Blue Ox talking about MNsure and encouraging Minnesotans to sign up for health insurance. That’s because under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), everyone is required to have healthcare insurance starting in 2014. Beginning Oct. 1, Minnesotans will have a new way to shop for health insurance coverage using MNsure, our state’s health insurance exchange.

So, what is MNsure? It’s an on online marketplace that you can use to compare plans and costs, enroll in public programs and purchase your own health insurance.

Who can use MNsure to buy policies? Individuals who don’t have health insurance, Medicaid recipients and small businesses with 50 or fewer employees can use MNsure.

How does this affect Children’s patient families?

  • If you currently have health insurance, you will likely see no change.
  • If you are enrolled in Medicaid already, you will be automatically transferred into the exchange for the first year. You will need to re-enroll for Medicaid through the exchange the second year.
  • If you do not have access to affordable coverage you can sign up for coverage through the exchange.
  • Enrollment begins Oct. 1, 2013 for coverage that takes effect on Jan. 1, 2014.
  • Low-cost plans, financial assistance and tax credits are available for those who qualify.
  • If you do not purchase health insurance you will be subject to a tax penalty.

Things to consider when picking your plan

  • Costs (premiums and out-of-pocket): MNsure users will be able to choose from a number of different plans: bronze, silver, gold or platinum. The various levels are based on the percentage of costs that the plans will cover. Be sure to pick a plan that works best for you and your family.
  • Access to health professionals: You will be able to look up your current pediatrician or provider on the MNsure website to ensure they participate in the plan you choose.

Children’s is here to help! Our financial counselors are being trained to help patients and families apply and enroll in health insurance through the exchange. They may also refer families to the MNsure Customer Service Center. Patient families can contact our financial counselors at the phone numbers listed below:

  • Minneapolis: 612-813-6432
  • St. Paul: 651-220-6367

The MNsure Customer Service Center: Customer contact specialists will be available to answer any questions online or through a toll-free number: 1-855-3-MNSURE (1-855-366-7873)

  • Monday – Friday: 7:30 a.m. – 8 p.m.
  • Saturday: 9 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.

Assistance will be available in English, Spanish, Hmong and Somali. Additional interpreter services are offered in more than 140 languages.

You can also download and print a factsheet with this information.

A lifetime of love for baby Nora

By David Hlavac

My wife and I are now members of that exclusive club that nobody wants to join: Parents who have lost a child. But through our grief, the staff at Children’s neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) made a terrible experience a little bit less unbearable by focusing first on the comfort of our newborn daughter, then on our family’s emotional health and well-being.

At 30 weeks gestation, we realized there might be some issues with our daughter — there were “soft markers” for some sort of genetic anomaly, but without further tests we couldn’t be certain about her prognosis.

At 35 weeks, we had a scheduled c-section delivery and our daughter, Eleanor Theresa, was born. She weighed just over 3 pounds. After I cut the cord, I heard a faint cry, then silence. The doctors whisked our daughter to an adjoining exam room, and when the nurse opened the door to say, “We need the father.” That was when I realized this story wouldn’t have a happy ending. In my mind, I remember thinking,” Please let her live — please let it be Down Syndrome or something…anything that isn’t a death sentence.” But when the neonatologist said he suspected our daughter had Trisomy 18, I knew we would be saying our goodbyes to Baby Nora very soon.

Once I broke the news to my wife, who was still on the operating table, I sat down with a neonatal nurse who explained a few possible scenarios to me. She did not sugar-coat things, but she was warm and understanding — a perfect balance that (in hindsight) probably prevented me from a rollercoaster ride of emotions.  It is hard to reconcile the joy you feel as a new parent with the grief of knowing your child is not going to survive, but our nurse emphasized how lucky we were that our daughter was born alive, and how we should make the most of our time with her. So while my wife recovered from her surgery, I camped out in the NICU and crammed a lifetime of love into my daughter’s brief life.

The NICU nurses didn’t look upon me with pity, and they didn’t question me when I asked to hold my daughter. They simply told me they were there to help however they could. Despite being on a ventilator, they gently moved Nora out of her isolette and placed her in my arms. I rocked her and sang to her, holding her tiny body skin-to-skin the way I had done with my surviving children when they were first born. It gave me the fleeting feeling that everything was normal and just for a moment, I simply felt like a proud dad again.

Before it came time to take her off the ventilator, the nurses prepared an array of keepsakes for u– plaster-cast footprints, a lock of hair and a photo session with Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep. They connected us with a social worker who helped prepare us for the overwhelming grief that was welling up inside our hearts. They encouraged us to bring our families — including our surviving children — to the NICU so they could all meet Nora. Each of these activities are now etched in our memories as milestones in our daughter’s short life, and we are so grateful for the entire NICU staff at Children’s for making those remembrances possible and giving us an honest, non-judgmental and compassionate experience. Despite our grief, we will always remember the care the nurses, doctors and social workers at Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota showed for our family. Just as we will never forget Nora, we will never forget their love and respect.

This post was originally published via Share Your Story. Do you have a story, too? Upload it here.

Jeffrey Steffensen to ‘Lead The Team’ at Vikings game

Jeffrey Steffensen

As the proud sponsor of the Mini Vikings Kids Club, at each home Vikings game, a Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota patient “Leads The Team.” This week, sixth-grader Jeffrey Steffensen is leading the team onto the field before the Vikings face-off with the Cleveland Browns.

Jeffrey was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease when he was 6 years old and has battled pneumonia 23 times. His claim to fame? He once conned a nurse into thinking he only drank flavored water.

He’s the youngest of five children and is the “trooper” in the family. He loves listening to music, playing on his X-Box, fishing and drawing.

We welcome Jeffrey and his family to this week’s “Lead The Team” event.

Five Question Friday: Jill Bauer

Meet Jill Bauer, an outreach nurse liaison at Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota.


How long have you worked at Children’s? I worked at Children’s as a travel nurse in the mid 80s but became an actual employee in January 2000.

What drew you to Children’s? Before coming to Children’s, I always admired the skilled expertise of the Children’s neonatal transport teams when they came to pick up infants who had become too critical for us to keep at the hospital I was working in at that time. I knew when I left that job someday, Children’s was the only hospital where I wanted to go so that I could be a part of that team!

You recently returned from Prague, where you presented at the Sigma Theta Tau International Honor Society of Nursing 24th International Nursing Research Congress. Can you tell us a little bit about your presentation? Yes! That presentation really expresses my passion for nursing and caring for neonates. It also emphasizes the opportunities that I believe nurses have to impact infant outcomes not only locally, but globally as well. After traveling to Guatemala, Uganda and Saudi Arabia multiple times to work and teach, I became more and more aware of how much the barriers in those environments inhibited education from becoming sustained practice change that could improve infant outcomes. I ended up choosing that topic for my final master’s degree project which was a critical review of the literature: “The Impact of Neonatal Resuscitation training on Infant Outcomes in Low Resource Countries.”

As nurses, we have the ability to do amazing things in this country to improve infant lives. Nurses in many other environments are often not so fortunate. Many barriers prevent nurses from obtaining knowledge and implementing it into best care practices for their patients. I really wanted to improve my understanding of this so that I could create educational strategies for those environments that decreased or removed as many barriers as possible and led to sustained care interventions and practice. I learned a lot through that work and had opportunities to share it with staff in Uganda and Saudi Arabia. When the opportunity came to also share the research in Prague at an international conference, I was thrilled.  Eight hundred nurses from 46 countries attended the conference and it was an incredible opportunity to be able to network with others who share my passion!

What do you love most about working at Children’s? I remember the first day I walked into Children’s to work. It felt like such a happy environment and I knew I was going to love being here! I have had two roles at Children’s. The first was in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). Attending births and having the experience of being a part of the team that helps a tiny life get started, works to strengthen it, and then send it home to their family can’t be beat. I have been honored to be a part of so many beautiful moments and miracles in the NICU area. Of course not every day is easy, but even working with families through the daily NICU struggles can be a gift.

In 2006 I became the neonatal outreach nurse for Children’s. In this role I share education and Children’s resources with peers in referral hospitals around our region. I love teaching, but when I hear that our outreach education or training has helped a nurse or physician improve or save the life of one of their infants because of what they learned from me or the outreach team, it is the best feedback I can get! When I first stepped out of the NICU, I missed the infants and families terribly until I realized that the impact that was possible through outreach could be just as fulfilling, but perhaps on a different scale. I am so very grateful to Children’s for the many wonderful experiences that I have had in this position!

How do you spend your time outside of work? My husband and I love spending time with our kids and granddaughters more than anything else! We also both love traveling (we always try to keep at least one trip in front of us), biking, walking our two dogs, and working on projects around the house. A family cruise coming up this winter to celebrate my husband’s birthday will bless us with two of the things we enjoy most!!! I also am always waiting and hoping for the next mission adventure as I wonder when and where it might be!

Have a Five Question Friday suggestion? Send the name to Brady Gervais at [email protected]

Recipe: Andrew Zimmern’s spaghetti with classic meat sauce

A steaming bowl of al dente spaghetti with homemade tomato sauce, fresh basil and a sprinkle of parmesan cheese is a guaranteed crowd-pleaser. To round it all out, serve with crusty bread (or breadsticks) and a big salad. — Andrew Zimmern

Photo by Madeleine Hill

Ingredient List

  • 1 pound dry spaghetti
  • 48 ounces tomatoes, chopped, in their juices. Canned is acceptable.
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 12 large basil leaves
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • Several pinches chile flake
  • 4 tablespoons sliced garlic
  • 1/4 cup minced parsley
  • 2 tablespoons minced anchovies
  • 4 tablespoons minced shallots
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 cup of the best olive oil you can get your hands on
  • Salt and Pepper to taste


Servings: 6 to 8 (makes enough sauce for 1 pound of dry pasta)

Make the Sauce

Place the olive oil in a large saute pan over medium heat.

Add all of the ingredients except the tomato products, salt and pepper. Saute until shallots are glassy, do not let the garlic burn.

Add the tomato products and stir to incorporate. Simmer until the sauce is no longer watery, 45 to 60 minutes.

Cook the Pasta

Meanwhile, cook the spaghetti in a large volume of rapidly boiling salty water to al dente, typically about 8 to 10 minutes (be sure to check manufacturer’s instructions).

Drain pasta quickly and if you need to hold it, cool under cold running water and drain well, tossing with olive oil and storing for a few hours at room temperature in a large bowl covered with plastic wrap.

To Serve

Transfer the cooked spaghetti to a large bowl. Add the sauce, and toss to fully coat the pasta. Serve family style, garnishing with fresh torn basil leaves and grated parmesan.

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Honoring Kayleen’s last wish

Kayleen Larson will forever be 9 years old.

Earlier this year, Kayleen passed away from leukemia. But, her life continues to be celebrated. On Sept. 16, neighbors, friends and the Children’s family came together at Children’s in Minneapolis to honor what would have been her 10th birthday – and her last wish.

She was a huge fan of Star Studio and the Dude, and she asked that every year on her birthday, her family stock Star Studio’s shelves with toys for patients. Toys arrived by the truckload on her special day. 

“Kayleen liked to have fun, and we liked to have fun together,” the Dude said 

The tradition started a year ago. When Kayleen turned 9, she asked for prizes for patients instead of presents for herself.

“We’re not done. This will go on,” the Dude said.

Thee Viking World Order will host its home opener party in honor of Kayleen on Friday and will collect gifts. Learn more here about the event.

Support Caring for Kayleen Legacy: Fight Like A Girl.

Watch friends and family sing “Happy Birthday” to Kayleen.


Five Question Friday: Dr. Susan Sencer

It’s National Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, so we want to use this Five Question Friday to feature one of our oncologists, Dr. Susan Sencer.

Dr. Susan Sencer

How long have you worked at Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota? I have been at Children’s since 1991 as a “full-fledged doctor.”  I really have been here on and off since 1982, though, since I came to both hospitals as a medical student and resident.

What drew you to treating kids with cancer? Oncology is an area of medicine which draws upon all of my skills and interests.  It’s very scientifically interesting, since new things are always being discovered, learned or put into practice.  Equally importantly, though, dealing with children with cancer is very emotionally rewarding, although certainly emotionally challenging as well.

It’s Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. If you could make families aware about anything about pediatric cancer, what would it be? Most children will never have to deal with cancer, or any other life-threatening illness.Thankfully. But if they do, most childhood cancers are now curable because of the many amazing medical advances over the last 50 years. Cancer treatment for children is an example of medical research at its best.

What do you love most about your job? Well, I certainly love my patients and their families. But I have to say that I also really love the people I work with.  I think that the people who are drawn to working with children with cancer or life-threatening blood disorders are a unique bunch.  Generally I say we are “quirky” and I love that about the folks I work with.

Do you have a favorite memory from working at Children’s? There is no one favorite memory. I treasure most of my memories, even when things don’t go well, or something tragic happens; my hope always is that by accompanying a child and his or her family on the cancer journey, we will have made a positive difference in some way. But one of my favorite times is when old patients come back to show off their own babies or college degrees or wedding photos!

Recap: Our discussion with Emily Bazelon on bullying

Emily Bazelon takes on the topic of bullying.

We read and hear about bullying in the news daily. But, what is bullying, exactly? Is it conflict? Picking on someone?

Emily Bazelon, a New York Times best-selling author of “Sticks and Stones: Defeating the Culture of Bullying and Rediscovering the Power of Character and Empathy” and Slate contributor, defines it as verbal or physical aggression that is repeated over time and involves a power imbalance.

Bazelon addressed approximately 130 health professionals, lawmakers, researchers and educators at the Minnesota Children’s Museum on Sept. 11. The event built upon work Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota has done around bullying, including a report released earlier this summer: “Understanding the threat of bullying.”

Here are some noteworthy messages from the evening:

  • Social media is a vehicle for bullying. But if it’s happening online, it’s probably happening offline, too.
  • For the target of an online bully: The Internet makes it feel like bullying is happening 24/7. It’s permanent and visible, and it can potentially reach a bigger audience.
  • For the online bully: He or she doesn’t have to look the target in the eye, there’s no face-to-face feedback and it can be anonymous.
  • We spend little time talking about whether social media companies need to play a role. That needs to change.
  • We need to send the message to kids that bullying isn’t normal behavior, and it’s not something everyone does.
  • Bystanders who watch bullying often have the most power to stop it. Bystander kids intervene about 20 percent of time.
  • A message for kid bystanders: You don’t have to be a hero. A thoughtful or empathetic message like “Are you OK?” can be helpful.
  • What do we do about bullying? Bazelon emphasizes prevention and intervention, which can’t be done in a day. We need to help shape who kids are.

Read more about bullying and how one local family overcame it.


Five Question Friday: Laurel Edinburgh

Meet Laurel Edinburgh, a  nurse practitioner at the Midwest Children’s Resource Center at Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota. Laurel was recently named an outstanding nurse by Minneapolis-St. Paul Magazine.  Read more about Laurel. 

How long have you worked at Children’s? I have worked at Children’s since 1999. I started working on my oldest child’s first day of pre-school. I am driving him to college this week! It has been 14 years.

What drew you to pediatrics? I love children — the way they believe in magic, blow bubbles, give you a hug, and they have interesting perspectives on life. They ask fascinating questions. They love their parents.

What do you enjoy most about working at Children’s? I adore my co-workers. My job provides me with the flexibility to provide clinical care to children and their families within the hospital and in the community. Beside providing clinical care, I have been allowed to participate in guiding and developing policy for sexually trafficked youth. I also have a chance to design my own research projects, teach and mentor students. Being a nurse at Children’s has allowed me the opportunity to follow my passions and use all of my facets of my nursing education.

What do you think makes kids great? I love that kids believe all things are possible. They can be nurses, sports stars, astronauts, scientists, police officers and judges — they can do all these jobs at the same time when they grow up. They think there is a chance to cure every disease, they see hope where I see none, they see humor when I see frustration, they see a game when I see more work to do, they remind me to slow down and enjoy the tiny moments. It is the process of figuring out a problem that may be the most important and not always the results. Kids remind me to laugh at Elmo and to eat more cookies and ice cream. 

If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would it be and why? I would like to travel to Auckland, New Zealand. I have heard there are amazing mud baths, beautiful scenery and I love New Zealand accents.