Monthly Archives: August 2014

Red-Vested Rockstar: Josh Purple

Children's volunteer Josh Purple

Children’s volunteer Josh Purple

Meet Josh!

Why he rocks:

My volunteer work at Children’s Hospital began about 20 years ago. I got started thanks to my younger sister, who asked me to draw cartoons at the daycare center at which she worked. A mom, who happened to be a nurse at Children’s, was picking up her kids at the daycare. She saw me drawing the big cartoons, and asked if I would be interested in drawing at the hospital; I thought it was a great idea! I was then introduced to Kathi Rokke (a Children’s Hospital legend!). Kathi was kind enough to give me a shot and allowed me to draw cartoons on her “Porky Pork Chops Show” at the hospital. I have been a part of Children’s ever since!

With what other cool ventures have you been involved?

In the past, I have worked as a ballroom dance instructor at The Dancer’s Studio in St. Paul. A dance highlight was working with the James Sewell Ballet company at the Minnesota Opera for the show “Aida,” performing overhead lifts with the ballerinas. I have also done fire eating and fire juggling for the Holidazzle Festival! I did commercial and film work for about 10 years, getting my SAG-AFTRA card, with a highlight being a “Grease” parody TV commercial with Amy Adams. I currently work as a freelance artist, creating 3-D graphics and animation.

Check out some of his incredible work.

What’s your favorite thing to do outside of volunteering?

Subscribe to MightyArt! I love spending my free time doing art and animation.

If you could create a new candy bar, what would be in it and what would you name it?

If I could create a new candy bar, it would be a giant purple crayon, packed full of magic and fun. I’d name it “The Kid’s Club House Rocks!” It would instantly transmogrify the surrounding area to be filled with Muppets, Dr. Seuss poems and characters.

Share a favorite volunteer experience or story.

Every Children’s Hospital cartoon show and event for the past two decades; I cannot give enough credit and thanks to everyone in the Star Studio and at Children’s! Special shout-out to Amy, The Dude, Ben, Seth, Tanya, Kathi, Sharon, Ingrid, Benjamin, Christi, Diane, Laura, Kendall, Sandy and all of the volunteers. All of the kids and all of the extraordinary staff are the best of the best! Thank you!

Five Question Friday: Jeff Mason

Five Question FridayThis week, we are pleased to introduce you to Jeff Mason, DPT, physical therapist. Jeff has worked at Children’s for nearly four years now and still tells people he landed his dream job on the first try. Learn more about Jeff and how he uses play to help children with cancer stay active.

Jeff Mason, DPT, physical therapist

Jeff Mason, DPT, physical therapist

What is your role at Children’s? I am a physical therapist, working primarily with children who have been diagnosed with cancer, and their famillies, to make sure that they can keep active and keep playing, at home and in the hospital.

What is a typical day like for you? I split my time between the Cancer and Blood Disorders clinic and the hospital, working with kids and their families toward the goal of physical activity, which I like to call play. We work against the disease process, as well as the side effects of chemotherapy, which can cause fatigue, muscle weakness, balance problems and sensation changes, like numbing or tingling (buzzing, as some kids have described it), that can really get in the way of playing. I spend my day crawling on the floor, making ramps for Matchbox cars out of mats or books and tissue boxes, dancing or marching in a parade (shout-out to Music Therapy!), riding bikes or scooters, and making a lot of animal noises. I was known for my elephant for a while in the pediatric intensive care unit (PICU) – it’s tough to keep that one at a reasonable volume.

Do you have a favorite memory from working at Children’s? One of my favorite memories was going for a bike ride through the tunnel in the basement with a patient who was on her 96th day in the hospital and had just learned that she was going to be here longer. She really wanted to bike, so we walked the bike to the elevators, where she taught me how to play the elevator guessing game (which elevator is it going to be? She won every time). Then, she took off through the tunnels, with me tailing her with her IV pole, the balloons tied to the top smacking me in the face with every stride, her giggles filling the tunnel with pure joy. Those tunnels could have gone on forever; I don’t think either of us would have stopped.

Subscribe to MightyWhat do you love most about your job? See above :) I think the challenge of walking into a situation where there isn’t much motivation to play, during a most difficult time in someone’s life, and figuring out what gets him/her excited, or what will make him/her smile, and figuring out a way to make that the focus. I love working with kids and their families to help them take control of some aspects of the journey when there are so many things that are/seem out of their control. I also enjoy the incredible team that makes up Children’s, including my brother, a nurse in the PICU!

How do you spend your time outside of work? I have 7- and 8-year-old boys at home, so, obviously, we have lots of dance parties. We read delightful children’s books, we bike, we play a game called “Jody Monster” at the park (I am Jody Monster; it makes some kids nervous, because I take my roles seriously, not breaking character). We also enjoy kayaking, fishing, and the Northwoods at my partner Annie’s family cabin near Ely. I recently took up tinkering, turning a toddler bed into a reading chair, and I make a mean radiator cover/bookshelf.

Newest Timberwolves Wiggins, Bennett, Young and LaVine visit Children’s

Members of the Minnesota Timberwolves posed for photos with fans at Children's – Minneapolis.

Minnesota Timberwolves mascot Crunch and rookie Andrew Wiggins pose for photos with fans while Thaddeus Young colors pictures at Children’s – Minneapolis.

New Minnesota Timberwolves (from left) Anthony Bennett, Andrew Wiggins, Thaddeus Young and Zach LaVine and mascot Crunch join The Dude during an episode of "Kids Clubhouse" on Wednesday inside Star Studio at Children's – Minneapolis.

New Minnesota Timberwolves (from left) Anthony Bennett, Andrew Wiggins, Thaddeus Young and Zach LaVine and mascot Crunch join The Dude during an episode of “Kids Clubhouse” on Wednesday inside Star Studio at Children’s – Minneapolis.

By Jimmy Bellamy

The latest additions to the Minnesota Timberwolves’ roster have had a busy week. Three days after the team acquired Andrew Wiggins, Anthony Bennett and Thaddeus Young in a blockbuster trade, the trio and Zach LaVine, the Wolves’ top pick in this year’s draft, met fans at the Minnesota State Fair. The fanfare continued Wednesday when the players and team mascot Crunch met some of their youngest supporters at Children’s – Minneapolis.

The players joined The Dude for an episode of “Kids Clubhouse,” where they played basketball and taught The Dude how to execute a proper chest pass. After that it was on to the seventh-floor playroom to hang out, color pictures, sign autographs and pose for photos with patients.

A photo gallery of the team’s visit is available on our Facebook page.

The Timberwolves also produced a video of the visit on

2014 Kids Count Data Book: It’s time we listen


Nearly 50 percent of all African-American children in Minnesota lived in poverty in 2012, along with 38 percent of American Indian children, 30 percent of Hispanic or Latino children and 20 percent of Asian children — this compared to 8 percent of white children. (iStock photo / Getty Images)

By Ryan Earp

News usually is framed in two ways: the good news and the bad news. And while good news is always great to hear, it’s important to listen to the bad, especially when it comes to how well we are serving our kids. The annual Kids Count Data Book released last month reported good and bad news for Minnesota, and it’s time we paid attention to both.

The report produced by the Annie E. Casey Foundation and the Children’s Defense Fund is highly respected for its state-by-state assessment of children’s health, education and overall well-being.

A snapshot of Minnesota kids

While on the surface many headlines from around the state highlight good news in the report – that “Minnesota is No. 5 Best State for Children” and that “Minnesota Ranks High in Kids’ Well-Being,” – their underlying messages tell us that there is much work to be done surrounding children’s general welfare as more Minnesota kids are living in poverty. Here’s a snapshot of the Minnesota rankings.

Previously ranked as high as seventh in the nation’s overall health ranking, the 2014 Kids Count Data Book finds Minnesota to have fallen to the 17th among all states. In a recent interview with the Star Tribune, Stephanie Hogenson, research and policy director at the Children’s Defense Fund – Minnesota explains, “As one of the healthiest states overall in the country, and with globally renowned health care, Minnesota should not be in the middle of the pack for child health. … We’re no longer seen as a leader in child health as we once were.”

What happened?

Policy experts point to the increase in poverty as a determining factor in the state’s declining health outcomes. According to the report, “Growing up in poverty is one of the greatest threats to healthy child development. … [It] can impede children’s cognitive development and their ability to learn. It can contribute to behavioral, social and emotional problems and poor health.”

Minnesota’s rising rates of child poverty are exacerbating racial inequities that are among the worst in the nation, because communities of color and native communities are disproportionately impacted. Nearly 50 percent of all African-American children in Minnesota lived in poverty in 2012, along with 38 percent of American Indian children, 30 percent of Hispanic or Latino children and 20 percent of Asian children — this compared to 8 percent of white children.

The report goes on to state “the biggest challenge in an era of increasing inequality in income and wealth is the widening gulf between children growing up in strong, economically secure families within thriving communities and children who are not.”

Subscribe to MightyA call to action

Minnesotans are taking note. Efforts are under way through organizations and initiatives aimed at providing our children and families with economic stability, affordable housing options, and access to high-quality child care and development opportunities.

At Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota, we are committed to helping all children lead healthier lives, and are actively involved in supporting efforts to address some of the economic and social determinants that have profound impacts on child health. We are hopeful that new policies, funding and programs will help lift our children out of poverty. You can be a part of our work by joining our advocacy efforts.

See a quick snapshot of how Minnesota ranks in other areas of the report.

Ryan Earp is an intern with the Advocacy and Child Health Policy team at Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota.

Five Question Friday: Terrance Davis

Five Question FridayIt’s Friday, and what better way to celebrate the end of the week than with a Five Question Friday profile? Meet Terrance Davis, who works on our Environmental Services team within the Minneapolis Surgery department.

Terrance Davis has worked at Children's for 25 years.

Terrance Davis has worked at Children’s for 25 years.

How long have you worked at Children’s?

I have worked here for 25 years.

Describe your role.

I clean surgery rooms between cases and stock supplies.

Do you have a favorite memory from working at Children’s?

I have a few favorites:

  • The surgery staff surprised me with a 50th birthday celebration.
  • Each annual craft show, which is so much fun
  • Gathering for the Environmental Services Week events

What do you think make kids great?

I have a couple answers for this one. First, they can smile at you and make your entire day better. Second, they have great energy, which can be contagious.

What is one interesting fact about you?

I was married in Las Vegas at the top of the Stratosphere tower with local TV personality “Fancy Ray” McCloney standing with me as my best man.

Family screening tests risk of developing type 1 diabetes

(iStock photo / Getty Images)

(iStock photo / Getty Images)

The McNeely Pediatric Diabetes Center is part of an international research network called Type 1 Diabetes TrialNetThe center is screening relatives of individuals with type 1 diabetes (T1D) to see if they are at risk for developing the disease. The TrialNet research study offers a blood test that can identify increased risk for T1D up to 10 years before symptoms appear.

Subscribe to MightyTrialNet offers screening to individuals:

  • Ages 1-45 with a parent, brother, sister or child with T1D
  • Ages 1-20 with a niece, nephew, aunt, uncle, grandparent, half-brother, half-sister or cousin with T1D

Screening is available in the McNeely Pediatric Diabetes Center (located on the fourth floor of the Gardenview building at Children’s  St. Paul, 345 N. Smith Ave., Suite 404. There is no fee to participate, and parking vouchers will be provided to all participating families.

For more information or to refer eligible families, contact Brittany Machus, clinical research associate, at [email protected] or (651) 220-5730.

Participation strong for #MNvaxchat

By Jimmy Bellamy

Subscribe to Mighty

Thank you to everyone who joined us for #MNvaxchat on Monday night. More than 75 participants from across the U.S. engaged in a conversation about vaccinations with Patsy Stinchfield, PNP, Children’s director of infectious disease and prevention, and John W. Baker, MD, a pediatrician at Metropolitan Pediatric Specialists in Burnsville.

The informative hour-long chat, hosted by Children’s and Twin Cities Moms Blog, respectfully covered more than a dozen unique, well-researched topics with a highly engaged audience of parents and advocates.

The recipient of the $50 Target gift card is Linsey Rippy. Congratulations, Linsey!

We look forward to hosting more Twitter chats on a variety of health topics!

Jimmy Bellamy is the social media specialist at Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota.

Five Question Friday: Kelly Patnode

Five Question Friday

Meet Kelly Patnode, patient access specialist at our St. Paul hospital, who has a love for the Minnesota State Fair.

When she isn't working in our St. Paul hospital, Kelly Patnode enjoys reading and helping out at the Minnesota State Fair.

When she isn’t working in our St. Paul hospital, Kelly Patnode enjoys reading and helping out at the Minnesota State Fair.

How long have you worked at Children’s?

I have worked at Children’s in St. Paul for 36 years.

What drew you to Children’s?

I started in St. Paul when it was on “the hill” (across the highway from our current location) as a volunteer at the age of 13. I was a volunteer for four years. I went to school for medical office occupations, but there were no openings at that time. When I was talking to someone at Children’s, they said there was an opening for a health unit coordinator. I asked what that person did, and they explained that person works at the main desk on the floors. I asked if that was similar to a ward secretary, and they said yes. I said, “Well, I have done that job for four years, so I think I could do it!”

Subscribe to MightyWhat is a typical day like for you?

My typical day starts with making a coffee. It is just the right way to start of the day. I then clean and restart all the computers, restock supplies and then either sit at the emergency room desk and start answering the phone, make calls for the providers, put together a chart or break down a chart or start with registering patients who come to be seen in the ER.

What do you love most about your job?

Every day is a different day. What I did yesterday at my job may be totally different than the day before or today. If I can get a smile out of a patient and their parents, it just makes the day better.

What do you enjoy doing outside of work?

Usually I read books. But during the summertime I am busy because I also work at the Minnesota State Fair, selling box-office tickets for grandstand shows and pre-fair tickets. I have been working there for 38 years. So when I am not working at the hospital, I am at the fair. I am actually taking vacation from the hospital to work full time at the fair this year.

Mother shares story of her hero

By Courtney Kile

When you think of a hero, chances are it’s someone who has helped you or inspired you – your parents, a teacher or a religious figure. My hero is about 3 feet tall, likes cheesy pizza and is obsessed with the PAW Patrol. He’s my son.

I married my husband, Robert, in 2009. Before the ink was dry on our marriage license, we were ready to make our duo a trio. Every month I’d take a pregnancy test, only to be let down. After nearly two years of infertility and loss, we were thrilled to find out I was pregnant! My dream was coming true.

Courtney Kile was pregnant with her son, Sullivan, in 2011.

Courtney Kile was pregnant with her son, Sullivan, in 2011.

At 20 weeks, we found out we were having a boy. His name would be Sullivan James, “Sully” for short. He was healthy, and everything looked great. Pregnancy was tough, and after being diagnosed with pre-ecclampsia at 37 weeks, doctors decided it was time for Sully to arrive.

I was prepped for surgery at our hospital in Duluth, Minn. On Nov. 14, 2011, Sullivan James Kile came screaming into the world at 6 pounds, 8 ounces; he was perfect.

Sullivan "Sully" James Kile was born Nov. 14, 2011.

Sullivan “Sully” James Kile was born Nov. 14, 2011.

When I finally got to see him, he was in the level-two nursery with an IV and oxygen cannula. Robert and I were told that because Sully was early, he just had to “turn the corner,” and that’s why he had low oxygen saturations.

Very early next morning, I surprised to see Sully receiving an echocardiogram. Once the test was finished, the nurse told me the doctor was on the phone. That’s when my world came crashing down.

“Courtney, the Life Flight team from Children’s – Minneapolis is on their way,” he said. “They will be there in five minutes. I think Sully has something wrong with his heart and he is going to need surgery. You should probably call your husband.”

It was like being hit by a wrecking ball. All I remember was barely being able to dial my husband’s number and screaming at him to get to the hospital.

I went back and held Sully. I was rocking him in a chair when Robert arrived, his eyes red-rimmed from crying. Everything was a blur. As the life flight team updated paperwork, the nurse at our local hospital turned to us and said, “Why don’t we take a few pictures, ya know, just in case.”

Just in case? Just in case of what? This was not how this was supposed to go. We were in shock. We took a picture together and then Sully was taken to another hospital a mile away to a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). His umbilical cord chunk had been removed and replaced with a central line IV. He was given prostaglandins to help his heart function properly.

Shortly after his birth, Sully had to be flown from Duluth to Children's – Minneapolis.

Shortly after his birth, Sully had to be flown from Duluth to Children’s – Minneapolis.

While I was signing releases for the transport, Robert looked at me and said, “I have only held him twice.” The flight nurse from Children’s overheard him and picked up Sully and gave him to Robert for a hug. It’s overwhelming to be a new dad, and after being thrown into a situation like this, it was comforting for Robert to have a moment with his new baby boy. Sully was taken to the airport, and Robert and I set off for the excruciating two-hour drive to Minneapolis.

Shortly after we arrived at Children’s, the cardiologists gave us our answer: Sully had pulmonary atresia with tetralogy of Fallot. When a baby is in utero, the ductus pumps the oxygenated blood to the lungs. Once a baby is born, the ductus closes and the pulmonary valve takes over. Sully’s pulmonary valve was covered in tissue and couldn’t open. When his ductus started to close, he wasn’t getting enough oxygenated blood to his lungs. The prostaglandins they gave him in Duluth were to keep the ductus open. Sullivan was scheduled for surgery the next morning. He was too young for a valve, so they were going to put in a shunt to temporarily pump the blood properly until he was old enough for a valve placement.

Subscribe to MightyWe were transferred to the Cardiovascular Care Center (CVCC). Sully was placed in a huge bed, with wires everywhere; I just wanted to hold him.

As I cried to myself, his amazing nurse looked and me and said, “Do you want to give him a quick snuggle?” I nodded and she expertly picked him up ­– wires, tubes and all – and put him in my arms. It was important to us to have those special moments where we could be parents in the midst of all the chaos.

The next morning, Sully was sedated and prepped for surgery. To say we were scared would be an understatement. We gathered around him and said a prayer. Then they wheeled him away. Waiting for him to get out of surgery was hard, but a social worker repeatedly checked on us, making sure we were OK. Just as I was about to crack under pressure, Sully’s surgeon, Dr. Frank Moga, came and told me that everything went perfectly. I calmly walked to the bathroom and lost it. Relief washed over me.

Sully had heart surgery at Children's.

Sully had heart surgery at Children’s.

We were told that it takes most children 10 days to two weeks to leave the hospital after surgery because they have to learn to eat. Sully shocked doctors by learning to eat immediately. They were impressed by how quickly he was healing. Six days after open heart surgery at 3 days old, we got to take our boy home the day before Thanksgiving.

Six days after open heart surgery at 3 days old, Sully went home the day before Thanksgiving in 2011.

Six days after open heart surgery at 3 days old, Sully went home the day before Thanksgiving in 2011.

We planned how it was going to be when we brought Sully home, but nothing prepared us for our new reality of medicine, an oximeter and scale. I was a germaphobe, coating everyone in hand sanitizer. We were glad to be home, but there was a dark cloud looming knowing that Sully would need a total repair surgery for his valve in the next few months. Luckily, his team at Children’s calmly handled my anxiety and answered all of my late-night phone calls and emails. Every follow-up appointment and conversation brought hope and confidence. The staff at Children’s taught me how to advocate for my son and made me feel that I had a voice. Whenever I would second guess myself, I would remember the surgeon telling me, “We see children every day, but you see yours every day.”

At 5 months old, Sully had to have a second surgery.

Sully appears to be waving at the camera in this photo.

When he was 5 months old, Sully’s cardiologist, Dr. Marko Vezmar, told us it was time for surgery No. 2, which would take place exactly 6 months after his first surgery. The anxiety returned. My saving grace was that I knew we were coming back to a safe place.

Sully Kile

At 5 months old, Sully had to have a second surgery.

As hard as the first surgery was, the second one was far worse. We knew him now. We knew his personality. But once again, the team worked miracles. After eight days on the CVCC, with constant love and support from Sully’s care team, we were sent home.

After his second surgery, Sully was ready to go home again.

After his second surgery, Sully was ready to go home again.

We pulled away from Children’s, and I cried. Six months of living in uncertainty and limbo were over. No more oximeter, no more scales, no more meds; it was done. We could be a normal family– at least our own version of “normal.”

Today, Sully is an active 2½-year-old with shining blue eyes and a heartbreaker smile. He spells his name, likes to sing Zac Brown Band songs and turns his nose up at broccoli. He seems like your average toddler, but Sully is a warrior.

Sully celebrates his second birthday with a cupcake.

Sully celebrates his second birthday with a cupcake.

Sully was destined to be ours and show everyone what a fighter looks like. He‘s the definition of miracle and hero. He’s my best friend, and he’s here because of Children’s. I’m thankful to everyone at Children’s, from the nurses and surgeons who were by his side, to the cafeteria worker who remembered me every morning – they all made those tough days a little brighter.

Sully’s strength has inspired us and others. Because of the support we received from Children’s, Robert and I knew we had to help our fellow heart families and heart warriors. We started a nonprofit for cardiac families in Minnesota called Project Heart to Heart. We’ve been able to help other families and made lifelong friends.

It’s not the norm for most, I guess, but this is our world. I wouldn’t change a thing. I’m the mom of a miracle.

Picture10Many people never get to meet their hero; I gave birth to mine.

Children’s, Twin Cities Moms Blog host #MNvaxchat

Subscribe to MightyAugust is National Immunization Awareness Month, and Minnesota’s new immunization requirements take effect Sept. 1. With that and back-to-school mode under way, we’ll be co-hosting a Twitter chat with our friends at Twin Cities Moms Blog.

Join us for the live chat, using #MNvaxchat from 8-9 p.m. Monday, that will feature Patsy Stinchfield, PNP, director of Infection Prevention and Control and the Children’s Immunization Project at Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota. Children’s and Twin Cities Moms Blog will be there, too. Participants who use #MNvaxchat in tweets during the live chat qualify for a chance to win a $50 Target gift card.

ALSO: Read the Children’s vaccinations blog archive on Mighty.

UPDATE: Participation strong, informative on #MNvaxchat