Author Archives: ChildrensMN

The facts about this year’s flu vaccine

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(iStock photo)

Despite what some vaccination opponents have written and some media have reported, the drifted flu strain doesn’t mean the vaccine doesn’t work. (iStock photo)

Patsy Stinchfield

Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota this month is seeing record numbers of ill children — more than 450 cases, the most ever for this time of year — ranging from 4 weeks to 15 years old, with a fairly common 12 percent admission rate. Many of them have symptoms consistent with influenza, and of those admitted for a stay, 70 percent of the age-eligible kids have been unvaccinated against flu.

While the Internet, the once-nicknamed “information superhighway,” is full of helpful information, it also has its fair share of breakdowns and wrecks. Though it brings us a wealth of knowledge at our fingertips, misinformation also is abundant in today’s 24-hour news cycle. Depending on the topic, the practice can have serious consequences.

This year’s influenza vaccination was designed to protect against up to four strains of the flu (two A strains and two B strains). This month, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced that one of the strains of influenza, A H3N2, has drifted, changing itself from what was put in this year’s flu vaccine. It’s like the original plan for the vaccine and the circulating flu strain were to be like identical twins, but now the virus has changed its genetic makeup to present instead like brother and sister. This resulting strain in the vaccine is now about half as protective. However, there are two to three other strains in the vaccine that can help keep you and your family better protected from the flu.

Despite what some vaccination opponents have written and some media have reported, the drifted strain doesn’t mean the flu vaccine doesn’t work, even against A H3N2. It means that the vaccine may not be as effective against the mutated version of A H3N2, though it may lessen the severity of the symptoms from it. The vaccine still protects recipients against the two B strains and other A strain.

Q4_mighty_buttonEarly in each year, in order to manufacture as much flu vaccine as possible, the World Health Organization (WHO) makes its recommendations for which strains the flu vaccine should target. This year, according to IFL Science, WHO made its recommendations in February, and A H3N2 was included. The drifted strain was discovered in small numbers at the end of March.

Like with many diseases and illnesses, young children, expecting mothers and the elderly are most susceptible to influenza. Vaccination is important to protect yourself and others. Not everyone is healthy enough to receive the vaccine, which comes in the form of a shot or nasal mist, to protect themselves, so it’s up to everyone to work together to minimize the spread of the potentially fatal disease.

While the vaccine may not prevent someone from getting influenza A H3N2, it may keep a person from getting severe influenza requiring a critical-care stay. It’s not too late to vaccinate, and it’s vital to do so. Learn more about additional resources to protect you from the flu and how to get your vaccination.

Patsy Stinchfield, infectious disease nurse practitioner, is the Director of Infection Prevention & Control and  the Children’s Immunization Project at Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota.

’Tis the season – for injury?

The increase in toy-related injuries primarily is due to ride-on toys and scooters. (Children's Hospitals and Clinics photo)

The increase in toy-related injuries primarily is due to ride-on toys and scooters. (Children’s Hospitals and Clinics photo)

Dex Tuttle

Toddlers have a seemingly infinite amount of energy. This isn’t news to most of you, but as a new parent my expectations of my daughter’s energy level are always a significant underestimate of the stamina of which she’s capable. On a recent weekend, Quinnlyn and her “Namma” ran more than 50 laps around our kitchen and living room with little or no signs of slowing down.

As a result of this constant source of energy, I often struggle to keep my daughter occupied. My rationale is that she’s less likely to get into trouble if she’s busy with some toys or an activity; however, that may not be the case.

Q4_mighty_buttonA new study found that, nationally, toy-related injuries are sending another child to the emergency room every three minutes.

This increase in toy-related injuries primarily is due to ride-on toys and scooters. Nearly half of the kids injured by toys are hurt falling off of them, and of those, many of them break bones.

REPORT: Avoiding dangerous toys

Now may be a time of year that some of us are thinking about getting new toys for the little ones. Whether they play with new toys or hand-me-downs, it’s not likely we’ll ever totally protect our kids from injury, but this serves as a good reminder:

  • Always read the instructions and follow manufacturer guidelines on age and appropriate use.
  • Define a safe space for kids to use these high-risk toys, and always make rules about staying away from other hazards such as traffic, obstacles and other people.
  • It’s never too early to get kids in the habit of wearing helmets. If they’re on wheels, their helmets should be on – indoors or out.
  • Make sure the toys are in good repair and check the Consumer Product Safety Commission for recalls.

Dex Tuttle is the injury prevention program director at Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota.

Making of “Meet Abbey, future ballerina”

We get to work with amazing kids like Abbey every day at Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota. And each one has a dream that’s worth reaching.

The concept of the “Give today. Support tomorrows.” fundraising campaign is built on the spirit that every child has the chance to realize his or her hopes and dreams.

Take a behind-the-scenes look at the making of the commercial featuring Abbey, the future ballerina, and her family.

You can help our kids get to “when I grow up.” Give today. Support tomorrows.

Making of “Meet Abbey, future ballerina” from Children’s of Minnesota on Vimeo.

30-second commercial:

Meet Abbey, future ballerina from Children’s of Minnesota on Vimeo.

Flu vaccination more important than ever

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The flu vaccination is the best defense against what can be a serious infection at any age.

The flu vaccination is the best defense against what can be a serious infection at any age.

Q4_mighty_buttonBy Patsy Stinchfield, PNP

Parents — heads up!

If you haven’t received your or your children’s influenza vaccine, now is the time. The flu has begun to circulate in Minnesota and is a strain (A-H3N2) that is known to cause more-severe illness in all ages, but especially in the very young and the very old. One child in Minnesota already has died this year from this usual, seasonal strain of influenza.

It takes about two weeks to make protective antibodies, so get in now for your shot or nasal mist before gathering with sick friends and relatives.

The flu vaccine contains A-H3N2, but the virus circulating now has changed a bit, making the vaccine not a perfect match. However, it still is critical to get a flu vaccine because there is cross-protection that will help prevent kids from ending up in the hospital or worse yet, the intensive care unit.

It’s a busy time for everyone, but right now there is nothing more important than protecting yourself (especially if you have a baby younger than 6 months who is too young to be immunized), and your children. The flu vaccine is available at most clinics and retail stores, but please call and make arrangements.

Have a happy and healthy holiday!

Patsy Stinchfield, PNP, is the director of infectious disease and prevention at the Children’s Immunization Project at Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota.

Andrew’s Journey: A life of great purpose and meaning

By Nicole Schmidt

Excited to wear my cute boots for a post-Christmas brunch at my sister’s, I needed to use the bathroom one more time before we headed out. Let’s just say when I sat down I got more than I had expected.

(Photos courtesy of Nicole Schmidt)

Nicole and Paul Schmidt are the parents of Andrew Schmidt. (Photos courtesy of Nicole Schmidt)

My son, Andrew Jacob Schmidt, entered the world three weeks early and changed our lives forever. As a parent, you never forget the first time you look at your child. When I first locked eyes with Andrew, I knew something was not right but couldn’t put my finger on it. The phrase “coarse facial features” was used by our pediatrician, and we were encouraged to be evaluated by a geneticist.

Andrew Schmidt

Andrew visited Children’s when he was 4 months old.

When Andrew was 4 months old, we visited Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota. With thick stacks of paperwork in hand, the questioning and assessment of our son and his coarse facial features began. We worked with Dr. Nancy Medelsohn and the genetic counselor that day and over the next few months. After a multitude of tests and referrals, they concluded that that Andrew had Beckwith-Wiedemann syndrome. This rare disorder is characterized by pre/postnatal overgrowth, neonatal hypoglycemia, congenital malformations and a higher risk for tumors and cancer.

Andrew Schmidt

Andrew initially was diagnosed with Beckwith-Wiedemann syndrome shortly after birth.

Over the next few years, Andrew continued to struggle. He was not meeting basic developmental milestones and was suffering from low-muscle-tone seizures called myoclonic jerks and was diagnosed as deaf and blind. Oddly enough, none of these symptoms were associated with Beckwith-Wiedemann syndrome. There were frequent phone calls from Dr. Mendelsohn’s office, most often from herself to guide us to the next course of action, set up early intervention, refer us to other specialists or relay lab work or ultrasound findings.

Q4_mighty_buttonAfter attending a Beckwith-Wiedmann syndrome medical conference and sharing Andrew’s case with several people including Dr. Beckwith himself, my husband, Paul, and I decided to reach out to Andrew’s superstar, Dr. Mendelsohn. We shared what we had learned and she reopened the case. Soon after, she recommended that we test for an extremely rare genetic disorder called Pallister-Killian syndrome.

I was certain the test would prove negative, until I looked up this syndrome the night before the test. I couldn’t believe my eyes; it was like Andrew was plastered all over the website: broadened eyes, turned-up nose, myoclonic jerks, severe cognitive delays, deafness and blindness. Andrew met almost every characteristic. We weren’t surprised when Dr. Mendelsohn called to confirm Andrew’s diagnosis. Pallister-Killian syndrome occurs for no known reason. With only 300 diagnosed worldwide, Andrew was the first diagnosis in Minnesota.

Andrew was diagnosed with Pallister-Killian syndrome.

Andrew was diagnosed with Pallister-Killian syndrome, an extremely rare genetic disorder.

We finally had an answer. We had milestones to look forward to and compare. For the first time, we were looking at our son with all of the things he had accomplished versus all the things he hadn’t. We had a diagnosis. We had a doctor who listened to me, a doctor who trusted me, and I trusted her. Mutual respect for knowledge and skill, her wisdom from education and practice combined with my 24/7 observations, commitment and love for my child made us a great team, Team Andrew.

pksWith this diagnosis, my grieving and healing had already begun. I started forgiving myself for a syndrome over which I had no control. I started taking some deep breaths and learned we were in a marathon. There were no quick fixes, no miracle drugs, no special cures.

As we approach Andrew’s 10th birthday, he can walk with a walker and says “mama” and “more”; our dreams obviously have changed, but the journey to help him become part of this world now is supported with the resources we have gathered along the way.

Andrew

Andrew

Without the open mind of one doctor, who knows where we would be today?

As far as the cute boots? I still have them. My marathon might not be running in Duluth, but it’s a marathon that requires a unique set of training. It is a life most fear and one that I wouldn’t wish on any of you. But it’s a life with great purpose and meaning and sweet silver linings along the way.

Meet John

When John grows up, he wants to be a hockey player.

When John grows up, he wants to be a hockey player.

When exploring the impact of supporting a child’s tomorrow, we went straight to the source: our patients. We asked several to share how Children’s has played a role in their life today, and what they look forward to in their tomorrow. This is what we learned.

Q4_mighty_buttonName: John

Age: 8

Hometown: Hastings

John was referred to Children’s, where he and his family learned he had stage IV advanced neuroblastoma. He has undergone chemotherapy, surgeries, radiation, a stem cell transplant, antibody therapy and now is participating in the difluoromethylornithine (DFMO) trial.

When John grows up, he wants to be a hockey player. Maybe even for the Minnesota Wild! Go, Wild!

No child loves being in the hospital, but when John is at Children’s, he loves watching The Dude on Channel 13.

Meet Sam

Sam came to Children’s because of hypoplastic left heart (HLH) syndrome and has undergone four open-heart surgeries to help reroute it.

Sam came to Children’s because of hypoplastic left heart (HLH) syndrome and has undergone four open-heart surgeries to help reroute it.

When exploring the impact of supporting a child’s tomorrow, we went straight to the source: our patients. We asked several to share how Children’s has played a role in their life today, and what they look forward to in their tomorrow. This is what we learned.

Q4_mighty_buttonName: Sam

Age: 3

Hometown: Litchfield

Sam came to Children’s because of hypoplastic left heart (HLH) syndrome and has undergone four open-heart surgeries to help reroute it.

When Sam grows up, he wants to build parks because he loves playing in parks.

When at Children’s, Sam loves “all of the train toys they let me play with.”

Sam, 3

Sam, 3

Family thankful for care infant daughter received at Children’s

Khloe Marincel spent six weeks at the Infant Care Center in Minneapolis. (Photos courtesy of the Marincel family)

Khloe Marincel of Rice Lake, Wis., and her family spent six weeks at the Infant Care Center in Minneapolis. (Photos courtesy of the Marincel family)

The following is a letter to Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota from Jason and Beth Marincel, father and mother of patient Khloe Marincel, and Kyri, Khloe’s sister.

Dear Children’s,

I am writing to you on behalf of our family’s outstanding experience we had while our infant daughter, Khloe, was hospitalized at Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota’s Infant Care Center (ICC) in Minneapolis from July 9 to Aug. 16. Typically a lot of people wouldn’t consider a six-week hospital stay as a pleasant experience; however, to our family, this stay couldn’t have been any better except the fact we were split apart.

When this journey began July 9, we could say this was the scariest thing we have had to encounter as a family. Within a few hours of arriving in the Emergency Department, a solution was found to Khloe’s issue, and we immediately were comforted by several nurses and doctors that Khloe was in the best place.

Even though Khloe couldn’t get into surgery until July 11, we knew your staff was doing as much as it could to make sure our family’s needs were met. Prior to surgery, your staff thoroughly explained the procedure and recovery process for Khloe. As parents not knowing what to expect, we found that their explanation of the surgery very comforting and gave us confidence about the type of care Khloe would be receiving at your hospital.

Q4_mighty_buttonKhloe’s recovery time seemed to take forever due to a few setbacks. But, even when there was a setback, your staff was on top of it and already had a plan of action to take to get her quickly back on the path to recovery. When these setbacks seemed to get us down, your staff reassured us that these setbacks weren’t anything major and Khloe would be back on track before we know it.

There wasn’t a day that went by where a nurse didn’t ask what we needed or a surgeon didn’t clarify/explain Khloe’s progress. When it came time for Khloe to be discharged, we felt it was a bittersweet moment. We were excited the moment had finally arrived, but Beth had to fight herself from crying because of the extraordinary hospitality and service we received during Khloe’s stay. Your staff was professional and friendly and knew exactly how to make us feel welcome and at “home” even though we were two hours from our home and family in Rice Lake, Wis.

This kind of experience wouldn’t be easy for any family, but if a family were given a choice of where their child can receive the best service, we would definitely direct them your way! We are truly grateful for all your staff did to make us feel welcome in this chapter of our lives and the dedication they provided Khloe to make her stronger!  We are proud to inform all of you that Khloe weighs little more than 9 pounds (a number we hadn’t seen yet!), back to rolling over (as she did before being admitted) and smiling and talking more than ever! She has had one emergency room visit since she has been home, but only for an ear infection as a result of teething, another sign of getting much stronger! Our family would have no idea where we would be today if you didn’t provide your absolute best care to our daughter! (And Kyri would have no idea what she would be doing without her sister!)

Thank you so much!

Jason, Beth and Kyri Marincel

P.S. The members of the Geek Squad provide amazing customer service and have provided our family with many memories that enlightened our stay at Children’s Hospital. They have no idea how much their positive attitudes and generosity mean to families in your facility. Sometimes a highlight of my day would be those five pictures I was able to print. They may think it is a simple act of kindness, but it’s the whole world to most in your facility!

Meet Julia

When Julia grows up, she wants to be a veterinarian so she can take care of cute animals.

When Julia grows up, she wants to be a veterinarian so she can take care of cute animals.

When exploring the impact of supporting a child’s tomorrow, we went straight to the source: our patients. We asked several to share how Children’s has played a role in their life today, and what they look forward to in their tomorrow. This is what we learned.

Q4_mighty_buttonName: Julia

Age: 8

Hometown: Elk River

When she was 5 years old, Julia was taken to Children’s after her mom discovered she was turning blue and feeling extra-tired. He lungs collapsed, and doctors discovered that Julia has a rare asthma, triggered by viruses.

When Julia grows up, she wants to be a veterinarian so she can take care of cute animals.

She likes practically everything about Children’s, so she’s raising $1,000 annually for the next five years to help other kids.

Mother of Children’s heart patient writes book

Charlie was born in 2005 with a congenital heart defect. (Photo courtesy of Mindy Lynn)

Charlie was born in 2005 with a congenital heart defect. (Photos courtesy of Mindy Lynn)

 

Charlie and Mindy Lynn

Charlie and Mindy Lynn

Embracing Charlie, a book by Minneapolis author Mindy Lynn about her son, a young Children’s patient born with a congenital heart defect, was named a finalist in the Christian Inspirational category of the 2014 USA Best Book Awards.

In the book, Mindy Lynn writes about her family’s emotional journey since Charlie’s birth in 2005.

Embracing Charlie is available in paperback; for the Amazon Kindle, Barnes & Noble Nook and at Smashwords.