Author Archives: Jimmy Bellamy

About Jimmy Bellamy

Social media specialist, Children's Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota

Road to concussion recovery longer for one twin

Twin sisters Michelle and Adrianna (Photo courtesy of Karen Schlossmacher-Smith)

Twin sisters Adrianna (left) and Michelle suffered concussions 24 hours apart. Since then, Adrianna has suffered two more concussions. (Photo courtesy of Karen Schlossmacher-Smith)

In March 2013, we wrote about twin sisters Adrianna and Michelle, who suffered concussions 24 hours apart. Since that blog post appeared, Adrianna suffered second and third concussions. The girls’ mother, Karen Schlossmacher-Smith, RN, a nurse at Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota, writes about Adrianna’s experience coping with traumatic brain injuries.

Karen Schlossmacher-Smith, RN

My daughter, Adrianna, suffered her first concussion after hitting her head on the court during a basketball game in January 2012. Two subsequent concussions led to the start of a long road of recovery, one she still is navigating with the help of Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota and its concussion clinic.

At the time of her first concussion, before Children’s had a concussion clinic, Adrianna received a CT scan elsewhere that revealed no bleeding. She performed frequent computer baseline testing until she was cleared about six weeks later.

In January 2013, Adrianna’s head was stepped on during basketball. She experienced blurry vision and was seen by the Children’s Concussion Clinic, where she saw a physical therapist who evaluated gait, endurance and some visual/balance issues. Headaches were minimal. Once again, she was cleared to resume normal activities six weeks later after passing computer, visual and balance testing.

Adrianna’s twin sister, Michelle, followed with a concussion of her own 24 hours after Adrianna’s second had occurred. This, too, was from basketball. Michelle was seen in the ER with extreme light and noise sensitivity and slight headaches. Noise sensitivity plagued her for several weeks and altered her activities and interactions with friends. She was cleared after the same physical therapy, visual/balance and computer testing. But Michelle stopped playing basketball to avoid any further concussions from the sport and is focusing on diving, where this year she placed fifth at the state meet.

On June 25, 2014, Adrianna, who also dives and was attending a camp, smacked the water with her left-front forehead and saw stars. She rested briefly and was told to try again. She did and hit the front of her head again on the water and saw stars but performed the next day. Upon a discussion with the coach about the incident, we noted her right eye was dilated. Fifteen minutes later in the car, she appeared to be fine, with no complaint of headaches.

Shortly after the diving incident, Adrianna was hit on the left side of her face with a ball while playing lacrosse. What followed were occasional days of not feeling well but no obvious eye dilation.

In mid-July, our family took a trip to Colorado and Wyoming. Adrianna became sick immediately after activities and exercise. She was ghostly white, dizzy, nauseated, vomiting, and had extreme headaches, right-pupil dilation and couldn’t stand. She was taken to the ER, where a CT scan was done due to previous injuries. A concussion and altitude issues were examined as the severity of symptoms came on quickly. She slept for most of the next two days.

Adrianna went on to suffer from severe headaches, visual impairment, a dilated right eye, dizziness, and an abnormal gait. She entered Children’s Concussion Clinic again under Mary Koolmo, APRN, and Ann Hickson, MD, an ophthalmologist who specializes in concussions and visual impairment associations. Headaches remained severe, 24/7. She always awoke with a baseline headache of about 4, and then within an hour would be at a scale of 8-10, depending on activity. Basic medications for pain had no effect.

She began working with Katie Gehrz in occupational therapy for visual disabilities and Jenny Henrickson in physical therapy for balance and overall vestibular issues. Henrickson was astute to the drops in blood pressure, dizziness and rapid increased headaches and made a request for Adrianna to see a cardiologist.

She started taking amitriptyline, a black-box drug that was used formally for depression, seizures and headaches. An electrocardiogram (EKG) was done for baseline. She passed out within 24 hours of taking the pill. The pill was slowly advanced as the medical team didn’t think it caused this blood-pressure drop with one dose but Adrianna passed out a second time. She saw Rodrigo Rios, MD, a cardiologist for postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS) due to rapid heart rate and passing out. Dr. Rios’ plan was to have Adrianna drink a lot of water — 80-100 ounces is the range we have heard from many in the field — increase salt intake and get to the ground if she felt like she was going to pass out. Upon a third increase, Adrianna passed out again. A side effect of this medication is low blood pressure, and there was a thought that the medication probably exacerbated her POTS. The medication required a slow withdrawal period where she had no pain control due to side effects.

She continued her eye training through Dr. Hixon and to be supported by Gehrz in OT. Gehrz worked on eye exercises, visual perceptual, memory issues and tracking. She was aware of how Adrianna became fatigued with only 5-10 minutes of activities. Adrianna’s eyes would be lively upon arrival then she would look completely drained, turn pale, and headaches increased quickly. Many days, therapy would have to include frequent breaks to try and lower her headache threshold. Sometimes Adrianna would go home and rest for a few hours then return to school.

Starting high school increased the difficulty of dealing with Adrianna’s post-concussive symptoms. She didn’t want to be separated from her friends. School staff mentioned the possibility of home-schooling; it took a lot of time and energy for staff at Adrianna’s school to understand the impact of what she was facing versus that of about 40 other kids with concussions. True visual impairment meant she couldn’t read because she couldn’t see words due to the inability to wear her contact lenses or glasses.

Only a couple of Adrianna’s friends knew she had another concussion. Sometimes it seems like everyone who suffers a blow to the head today is diagnosed with a concussion. Some have no residual symptoms after two days, some have an occasional symptom, and then there are others who are severely compromised to the point that daily activities are altered immensely.

The concussion clinic has added a person on staff to work with school districts in regard to attendance issues, as it can vary in need among students. (Long-term concussion issues can lead to depression and anxiety due to medications and loss of what previously was normal. Adrianna chose to stay involved, paced activities and knew her own limits. Overall, this, as well as having a supportive sister, is what kept her positive.)

One evening, after a routine trip to the concussion clinic, Adrianna was feeling so sick with severe headaches, she was admitted for a short stay and received IV fluids and pain medication to try and counteract the headaches. A CT scan was done to assess any changes since her previous MRI. The fluids had no effect, and the medication relief was brief. Lab results offered up low ferritin and lower vitamin D levels. She was started on some medications to increase these levels with thoughts that increased levels might help with headaches.

Adrianna is in her eighth month since her most recent concussion. Some visual improvement has occurred over the past nine months. She had surgery at Christmastime to drain and clear a mass area near her left nasal-eyebrow region. The surgery performed by Frank Rimell, MD, had its risks, but through consultation with another ear, nose and throat doctor, Barbara Malone, MD, it was felt to be in Adrianna’s best interest to go in and remove the cyst-like matter in hopes of relieving some ongoing pain.

subscribe_blogThe challenges to date: She has had 30-plus weekly occupational and physical therapy visits, and speech therapy with Melanie Gylling, who assists with strategic methods for educational learning, memory and strategic problem solving and organizational skills in daily activities.

Adrianna continues to follow monthly with ophthalmology and neurology with eye testing for visual depth and tracking. The number of missed school days has been a stressor, but she has learned to advocate for herself. Her processing skills from simple to logistical have been hindered with the third concussion. Reading is done with size-20 font, and she has worked up to 10-15 minute intervals. Her school provides notes and tests with enlarged text, but sometimes the tests are read to her. Her books are on audio, and she records notes during class. Audio is somewhat difficult to revert back to for consecutive homework assignments that might later be added by a teacher.

A neurological assessment exam was done to identify areas of learning that Adrianna may need support in educationally now and in the future, as well as in problem-solving issues more strategically in her everyday life. Simple items and tasks that once were simple now have to be re-evaluated to solve. We’re in the process of obtaining/trialing Livescribe, a pen for note taking in class. Adrianna is able to recite back three to four items in a list when asked to recall. She has not been cleared to work on computers yet, though she gets time each day to use Snapchat to communicate with friends.

Adrianna’s visual field is somewhat clear at 8-12 inches from her face. She jumps back if anything comes within this spatial area. Since having surgery, her right eye no longer is dilated as it had been for six months. She went nearly seven months without exercise, other than walking, and since has been cleared for light aerobic exercise on the treadmill and light swim stokes without her heart rate rapidly increasing.

Since using propranolol for headaches at the suggestion of Dr. Rios, Adrianna hasn’t passed out and her headaches have subsided. The million-dollar questions are: Did the mass removal stop the headaches? Does propranolol mask the headaches? And if she comes off the medicine, will headaches return, or is it a combination that turned the tide?

Adrianna has remained positive throughout this ordeal. She passed her driver’s permit test on her 15th birthday, though, unlike her sister, she hasn’t been able to drive. Adrianna knows contact sports no longer will be a daily part of her life. She has helped manage Michelle to a state diving record. Adrianna plans to manage the boys’ basketball team and track and diving teams to stay involved in the sports that once filled her schedule. Her teachers have been supportive, and she has done well in school with no decreased loads, though with extreme effort and time.

Adrianna’s friends rallied for her during surgery, and she quickly has learned how life can change, to appreciate what you have and make the most of it. Live your life, don’t just exist!

Meet Sandy Bergeron, director of Volunteer Services

five_question_friday111We continue to celebrate National Volunteer Recognition Week by highlighting Sandy Bergeron, the director of Volunteer Services at Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota, in this edition of Five Question Friday.

Sandy Bergeron has worked at Children's for 23 years.

Sandy Bergeron has worked at Children’s for 23 years.

What is your role and title?

My role is director of the Volunteer Services department. We connect volunteers to Children’s mission through rewarding, mutually beneficial and defined opportunities that positively impact the patients, families and staff, while offering supportive and rewarding experiences to volunteers.

How long have you worked at Children’s? 

I have worked at Children’s for 23 years.

What do you love most about your job?

Knowing volunteers really do make a difference at Children’s. Every day, volunteers donate their time and talents, sharing their busy lives, to help the patients and families journey at Children’s. We get to know so many people, with a different team of volunteers each day of the week, all bringing unique backgrounds and stories to their volunteer.

Nurses call regularly to let us know where help is needed, and volunteers rise to the call, willing to go where the need exists. It is humbling being surrounded by so many fabulous people, with such great passion for children, who come each day with a smile to do the best they can, and they do it free!

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

subscribe_blogOh, yes; it’s very vivid, and I tell it a lot! I was taking a new volunteer who was about 23 years old on a tour for his first shift. We got on the elevator, and a nurse was escorting a patient up to his room. The patient was about 12. His eyes lit up when he saw the red vest, he sat up in his wheelchair and said brightly, “Hey, can you come up to my room and play video games? Now?” And then gave his room number and wanted the volunteer to go with him right away. I knew right then and there that the volunteers were an integral part of the Children’s team. It stills makes me smile to this day thinking about that elevator encounter.

How do you spend your time outside of work?

I love the outdoors. I canoe, kayak, bike, garden, walk my dogs, travel and try my hand at arts and crafts.

“Children’s Pedcast”: Dr. Maurice Sholas on physiatry, rehab services

subscribe_blogDr. Maurice Sholas, senior medical director of rehab services at Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota, discusses how rehabilitation is connected to every aspect of care at Children’s. Dr. Sholas shares his experiences of providing care in New Orleans and Atlanta and his vision for Children’s in its pursuit of helping kids get better from start to finish through personalized, innovative care and treatment.

“Children’s Pedcast” can be heard on iTunes, Podbean, Stitcher, YouTube and Vimeo.

“Children’s Pedcast”: Dr. Gigi Chawla on well-child visits


On Episode 5 of “Children’s Pedcast,” Dr. Gigi Chawla, senior medical director of primary care at Children’s, joins the show to discuss all things well-child visits and the importance of finding the right pediatrician for your child from birth to adulthood. She answers a lot of questions and provides helpful information for parents with kids of all ages.

“Children’s Pedcast” can be heard on iTunes, Podbean, Stitcher, YouTube and Vimeo.

Health and wellness are her emphasis

five_question_friday111Alexa Ernst has a passion for health and wellness, which makes her an excellent fit as Children’s Be Well program coordinator. Get to know her in this edition of Five Question Friday.

Alexa Ernst is Children's Be Well program coordinator.

Alexa Ernst is Children’s Be Well program coordinator.

What is your role and title?

I am Children’s Be Well program coordinator. The Be Well program is devoted to bringing you a culture with an emphasis on health and wellness. Your wellness matters to Children’s, and it matters to me. I am committed and eager to provide you with a healthy work environment!

How long have you worked in employee wellness?

I have been working in employee wellness for more than three years. I began working in employee wellness after graduating from the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse in 2011 when I completed an internship supervising the Wellness Center at Boston Scientific in Arden Hills. I then worked with HealthFitness Corporation, initiating health and fitness initiatives at two multitenant buildings in Bloomington. Just recently, I had the experience to be the Health and Fitness Program Manager for GE Capital Fleet Services, where I developed wellness initiatives and administered and evaluated health and wellness programs.

What excites you most about this new role?

Everything! I am so excited to be a part of such a wonderful organization and to be a part of something that will truly make a difference in the lives of Children’s employees. I am thrilled to engage with you as we begin to build on programs, challenges and seminars, giving you the tools that you need for your personal health and wellness.

subscribe_blogWhy did you go into wellness?

The importance of health has been a part of my entire life, and I hope that I can inspire the employees at Children’s to do the same! I was a gymnast for 14 years and truly feel that it instilled a life of health and well-being in me from a young age. I have three years of corporate wellness experience and had the opportunity to help others make lifestyle changes to improve their overall health. A person’s health is an individualized experience, each having his or her own unique story and journey; I am so excited to be a part of Children’s journey!

What experience has been most rewarding to you in your career so far?

I feel that there are rewarding opportunities every day in this career. It is so inspiring to see the impact you can make on somebody’s life each and every day. All of my experiences have led me to be here today at Children’s, and I feel that taking on this role as the Be Well program coordinator is the most rewarding experience that I could have landed. It truly is a dream job, and I couldn’t imagine a better organization with which to work. I feel grateful for the opportunity to be able to strive while working with Children’s employees as the Be Well Program continues to grow.

(Bonus question) How do you spend your time outside of work?

I enjoy spending my time being as active as possible but also love my down time reading, watching movies and eating chocolate. My favorite activities include yoga, being a part of the Twin Cities River Rats water ski show team; snowboarding, personal training, group fitness instruction, and gymnastics. You also can find me rooting on all Wisconsin sports teams!

Hearing aids expand 9-week-old boy’s world

Clockwise from bottom: Elijah Cook, born Jan. 2, mother Ahavah, sister Evelyn and father Jason (Photo courtesy of the Cook family)

Clockwise from bottom: Elijah Cook with mother Ahavah, sister Evelyn, 7, and father Jason. Elijah was born Jan. 2 with severe-profound sensorineural hearing loss. (Photo courtesy of the Cook family)

Jimmy Bellamy

After Ahavah Cook’s baby, Elijah, was diagnosed with profound hearing loss shortly after his birth, the Andover, Minn., mom thought she’d never hear sweet coos and sounds produced by her beautiful newborn.

Elijah Cook was born Jan. 2 at Mercy Hospital in Coon Rapids. Twelve hours later, he failed his newborn hearing screening. Nurses downplayed the result, reassuring Ahavah and husband Jason that it was common for babies to fail the first hearing test only to pass the 24-hour follow-up exam.

But that, and a third test with an audiologist, yielded the same result.

“We could see there was a good chance that he wouldn’t pass additional tests,” Ahavah said. Though she and Jason had been optimistic, the couple knew that hearing challenges were a possibility with their son. Both of their mothers and fathers are deaf, and Jason has no hearing in his left ear. “When Elijah came back (from the first test), we were expecting good news because we have almost a dozen nieces and nephews that have no hearing issues.”

The hearing aid Elijah wears in one of his ears, with a quarter to show scale

The hearing aid Elijah wears in and around one of his ears, with a quarter to show scale

After the three failed tests, the Cooks were referred to the developmental and rehabilitation program at Children’s Specialty Center, connected to Children’s – Minneapolis. There the Cooks met with Lori Johnson, AuD, for another hearing exam.

“We had a lot of time to ask questions,” Ahavah said, “and from that moment all of our worries went away.” Though the Cooks didn’t get the results they wanted, Ahavah said, they felt more knowledgeable about Elijah’s diagnosis, which is severe-profound sensorineural hearing loss. While it is likely genetic, upcoming tests will confirm that.

“Lori has been great. Overall, I give her a 20 out of 10,” Jason said. “She answered all of our questions and gave us more time than was allotted.”

On March 5, Johnson fit then-9-week-old Elijah with tiny hearing aids that allowed him to hear his mother — and the world — for the first time. The moment was captured on video.

“The first time I saw him blink, I had a lot of emotions,” Ahavah said. “I was trying really hard not to cry. I didn’t want him to see me cry. I was trying hard to keep it together and just talk to him.”

Since then, Elijah has been cooing, smiling and responding to the sounds made by his family, including big sister Evelyn, 7.

Elijah with his mother, Ahavah, shortly after his birth (Photo by Tres Belle Studio)

Elijah with his mother, Ahavah, shortly after his birth (Photo by Tres Belle Studio)

“The cooing is the big thing,” Jason said. “He wasn’t very talkative, but ever since he was fitted for his hearing aids he’s cooing more, he pays more attention.”

The goal for audiologists is to have infants with hearing loss fit with hearing aids when they’re a couple weeks or months old. If babies don’t pass their initial and follow-up screenings, and get referred to Children’s immediately, it’s common to be fit at 2 or 2½ months. Elijah was fitted early because of his family history and parents’ timely follow-up, Johnson said. The youngest child she has fit with hearing aids was 2 weeks old.

“The hard part with Elijah and the severity of his hearing loss is you really don’t know (if he can hear) until he can give you cues — looking around for sound, searching with his eyes,” Johnson said. “Computer technology lets us know if he should be able to hear sounds.

“Once he’s sitting up, at around 7-month age, we’ll know for certain what he’s hearing with the hearing aids on as he will be able to respond for a behavioral hearing test, and that’s true for any child with any degree of hearing loss.”

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USA TODAY / KARE 11: Baby hears mom for first time

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Elijah with hearing aids

Elijah was fit for hearing aids at a young age because of his family history and parents’ timely follow-up.

Early diagnosis and fitting combined with the technology and medical procedures available today — hearing aids, cochlear implants and bone conduction hearing aids — allows children with hearing loss a life with limitless possibilities.

Johnson said any child diagnosed with hearing loss and fit with hearing aids before 3 or 6 months can do anything as long as hearing-aid use is consistent.

“The big thing to take away in the case of Elijah and every other case is the earlier we can get diagnosis and family into early intervention and get started, you can have some really great outcomes,” she said. “But it’s really about the early detection piece of it.”

Jason and Ahavah said their experience growing up in the deaf community and seeing struggles will provide their son advantages. Many of their family members are fluent in American Sign Language (ASL) and are helping educate and sign to Elijah.

“Every parent wants the best for their kid. I just want to be able to equip him to handle life’s challenges,” Jason said. “I want to make sure he can overcome them and succeed.”

The Cooks encourage others with children born with hearing loss not to wait to do early invention and evaluation.

“Let other people help you because it’s overwhelming,” Ahavah said. “There are a lot of additional appointments. Get the help that you need.”

Elijah and big sister Evelyn

Elijah and big sister Evelyn

subscribe_blogSo how has that cooing been since Elijah received his hearing aids? It has been music to his mom’s ears.

“I kind of lost hope that I would get that milestone,” Ahavah said, “but it’s pretty cool that the hearing aid is able to help us bring it back.”

“That’s really the reason why I do my job; it’s for the parents who have children with a hearing loss and want their kids to develop speech and language,” Johnson said. “My goal is to give that to parents whenever possible.”

Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota has audiology services through ear, nose, throat (ENT) and facial plastic surgery as well as the developmental rehabilitation program. Children’s has comprehensive care for hearing loss, from screenings to hearing-aid fittings to cochlear-implant surgery through follow-up audiology and speech pathology.

Five Question Friday: Meet Kirsten Granberg

five_question_friday111As Child Life Week nears a close, we want to introduce you to Kirsten Granberg, one of our child life specialists, in this edition of Five Question Friday.

Child life specialist Kirsten Granberg has worked at Children's for two years.

Child life specialist Kirsten Granberg has worked at Children’s for two years.

What is your job at Children’s? Describe your role.

I am a child life specialist that works in Sedation and Procedural Services (SPS) at Children’s – Minneapolis. My role in this department is to provide developmentally appropriate education and procedural support to patients needing some type of sedation (or no sedation, if applicable), and hopefully help minimize their stress and increase their understanding of their medical experience. I work directly with the patient and family to find out how I can best offer support for his or her procedure, whether it be with the use of distraction (iSpy or sound books, iPad, guided imagery, bubbles, etc.) or parental coaching. The staff and I work closely to determine how we can all support the child and family in the best possible way as one cohesive team, and hopefully have the patient’s and family’s experience be a positive one.

How long have you worked at Children’s?

I have been at Children’s for two years. When I was hired, I worked as casual staff and at a contracted emergency department in Plymouth. I began working in SPS in fall 2014 when the Child Life position was created.

What do you love most about your job?

There are many aspects that I love about my job, but the one that always makes my heart happy is when I have the chance to do medical play with a patient before a procedure or scan. I love having a variety of medical items all over the floor where the child has the time to explore and manipulate the materials, ask questions and hopefully make sense of what is going to happen. Play is the universal language for children, so by incorporating something they are familiar with and tying in the medical aspect, children begin to gain mastery and a sense of control over the situation. How empowering for the child!

subscribe_blogWhen you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?

When I was a kid, I wanted to be a teacher, nurse or veterinarian. All my dolls and stuffed animals had many visits to the “hospital,” where I would treat them and nurse them back to health. We went through lots of Band-Aids in my house. One of my favorite gifts was getting a cast and crutches for my doll!

What do you enjoy doing outside of work?

I probably shouldn’t admit that I watch way too much Netflix, so besides that, I love activities outdoors, singing in my car, finding new restaurants, attending different sports events and cheering for my beloved Green Bay Packers!

“Children’s Pedcast,” Episode 4: Child life specialists on taking medicine


On Episode 4 of “Children’s Pedcast,” child life specialists Jeri Kayser, Sarah Magnuson and Sam Schackman join the show to talk about the different challenges parents face with kids of all ages when it comes to taking medicine, both short and long term. The trio provide tips and strategies for help and success during the most difficult times when med taking seems impossible.

subscribe_blogIdeas for medicine taking

Developmental considerations

Infants: Birth to 18 months

  • Babies typically will react with any new flavor in their mouths; it’s important to avoid labeling the medicine as “yucky tasting” in response.
  • Be mindful of how you present the medicine, a positive attitude goes a long way.
  • Start practicing saying out loud what the medicine will be doing for your baby as you give it — it’s a good habit to start: “This medicine is going to help your ear feel better.”

Toddlers: 18 months to 2½ years

The hallmark of toddlers is to say “no” to anything and everything. If it’s not their idea, it’s probably not a good idea to them! Medicine fits neatly into something that is not their idea, so it helps to show them exactly why it should be their idea. “You told me your ear hurts and you want it to feel better, right (wait for the ‘yes’)? This medicine will make it feel better, but only if it gets down to your tummy.”

Pre-schoolers: 2½-5 years

They have had some life experience, tasted medicine and may not be excited to repeat that experience. Also, they are age-appropriately seeking control and recognize the opportunity for control when they zip their lips. Find ways to add fun as well as choices. Choices help a child regain control and still meet the goal of taking the medicine. Routine works well to help understand the time-limited nature of the experience. Sticker charts add a sense of accomplishment and measurement of progress.

School-age children: 5-12 years

Kids this age are old enough to understand how the medicine will help them but can become easily frustrated if they are struggling with the taste of medicine or difficulty swallowing a pill. Practicing with similar-sized candy is helpful if you work up in size to the size of the prescribed pill. Start with something small, like a Tic Tac, then incrementally larger candies until you get to the desired size. Finding opportunities to point out to your child how the medicine is helping them adds to their motivation.

Teens

Many teens don’t like to interrupt their lives or appear different in any way from their peers. It can be a challenge to coordinate their schedules with the requirements of taking a prescription. It’s helpful to walk through what it would be like to take the medicine and coordinate any necessary adjustments with your physician and pharmacist. The school nurse can be a great resource to make sure the medicine is taken. If your teen has a long-term medicine to take, this is a great time to teach them how to be responsible with their meds.

Behavioral support

  • Implement a routine for taking the medications: sitting in a certain chair, drinking something of their choice right after, etc.
  • Incorporate medical play with small candies and a doll or stuffed animal to practice the routine.
  • Give appropriate choices: Syringe or cup? Sitting at the table or sitting on the couch? Explain why the medicine is important. Older kids can understand if they take the medicine, their ear won’t hurt, etc.
  • Parents: Try to keep a positive attitude. Your child will be able sense your frustration, which will only make the situation more difficult. Work together toward your end goal.
  • Take the child to the store to buy a special cup and drink choice to chase after medicine.
  • Be honest. Never tell your child medicine is candy or try to hide medicine in food (it’s OK to use food/liquid to help administer the medicine — just make sure your child knows the medicine is there).
  • Use visual supports to help a child understand medicine routines. For instance, visual supports can help a child learn each important step to swallowing a pill and can even be used to help make the connection between taking the medicine and getting to enjoy that favorite activity (by showing a picture of a child taking medicine paired with a picture of the activity). You can download the ATN’s free Visual Supports toolkit.

Dealing with taste

Check with your physician and pharmacist on how medicine should be taken and what you can take it with before you try any of these suggestions.

  • Have a frozen treat (popsicle, etc.) or chew on ice prior to taking medicine. This “numbs” your taste buds to minimize taste.
  • When possible, crush it up and put it into pudding, applesauce, etc.
  • Mix crushed pills with frozen juice concentrate (numbs the taste buds and masks the taste). Grape, raspberry and lemonade are stronger flavors.
  • Mix crushed pills with maple syrup or coat the tongue with maple syrup to mask the taste.
  • Put the whole pill in a small spoonful of Jell-O.
  • Wash the tongue, scrub the taste buds if the taste is lingering, or pretend a wet wash cloth is an ice cream cone and lick it.
  • Blackberries can be used as edible medicine cups. The pill fits quite well in that little hole, and if your child is a fruit eater it makes it easier.

Other resources on the Web

“Children’s Pedcast” can be heard on iTunes, Podbean, Stitcher, YouTube and Vimeo.

Five Question Friday: Psychologist works to help children, families

five_question_friday111Don Brunnquell, LP, has a number of stories and memories from his time at Children’s. We’d like you to get to know the Children’s mainstay in this edition of Five Question Friday.

Don Brunnquell, LP, has worked at Children's for 35 years.

Don Brunnquell, LP, has worked at Children’s for 35 years.

What is your title? Describe your role.

My formal title is resident ethicist and director of the office of ethics. I am a psychologist with additional training in ethics. This means I am the first responder and coordinate the work of the ethics committee in bioethics education, policy and consultation. On a day-to-day basis, that means things like talking with family and staff about complex decisions for a patient such as choosing an invasive surgery for a child with a life-threatening disease, and working on education such as grand rounds or unit in-services around moral dilemmas and distress, and working on policies that clarify how we deal with complex values issues such as “Do Not Attempt Resuscitation.”

How long have you worked at Children’s?

I’ve worked at Children’s for 35 years, although I was a psychology intern for one year prior to becoming an employee. I started at Children’s – Minneapolis when there were about 450 employees. I continue to work here because I work with a lot of wonderful and dedicated people.

subscribe_blogWhat do you love most about your job?

I love being with children and their families, and working to help them have as good a life as they can. Helping people sort through, make sense of and make peace with decisions that are intellectually and emotionally tough is very rewarding. No two days are the same.

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

There are so many! One of my favorites was receiving a letter from a parent whose child had died, who had struggled with decision-making, and at times was very suspicious and angry; she thanked us for how we had stood by her and helped her face something that is unimaginable for a parent. Another happened recently when a new employee approached me and said that I had worked with her family about 20 years ago when her sister was ill, and the good experience here in a terrible time helped guide her choice to work in health care.

How do you spend your time outside of work?

Balance is important. It used to be with my kids, but now that they are grown it’s music (I play every week with two friends in an acoustic folk band called Stealin’ Home), writing poetry, fantasy baseball (in the same league for more than 20 years), and cycling or cross-country skiing. Also, I am a huge Gopher basketball and Twins fan.

“Children’s Pedcast,” Episode 3: Nicole Skaro and Dr. Anne Bendel on parents’ roles on care team

Episode 3 coverDr. Anne Bendel, the director of neuro oncology at Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota, and Nicole Skaro, the mother of Victor “Valiant Vito” Skaro, discuss the importance of establishing a strong relationship between the doctor and patient family as well as parents’ roles as members of a child’s care team. Vito was diagnosed with medulloblastoma in August 2014, when he was 11 months old. Nicole and Dr. Bendel share what questions parents should ask when facing a life-changing medical diagnosis.

Listen to “Children’s Pedcast” on iTunesPodbean, Stitcher, YouTube and Vimeo.