Author Archives: Jimmy Bellamy

About Jimmy Bellamy

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

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 iTunes, Podbean, Stitcher, YouTube and Vimeo.

Meet Children’s new quality and patient safety manager

five_question_friday111

Diane Nalezny is Children's quality and patient safety manager.

Diane Nalezny is Children’s quality and patient safety manager.

It’s National Patient Safety Awareness Week — United in Safety — and we’ve joined forces with children’s hospitals around the U.S. to affirm the critical role patient families play in making hospital stays as safe as possible for their children. And in recognition of Patient Safety Week, we’d like to introduce Diane Nalezny in this edition of Five Question Friday.

What is your title?

I’m the quality and patient safety manager.

How long have you worked at Children’s?

I have been at Children’s for six weeks.

What do you love most about your job?

I love working with a great team and using data to help demonstrate and ensure our patients and families get safe, effective care every day. I also love problem solving and finding new ways to do better.

Why did you go into nursing?

I wanted a career that I could help people and always have a job almost anywhere I wanted to go.

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

So far, going on the hospital tours with Marcy McCraken and seeing all of the amazing places where care is delivered on both campuses at Children’s have been great.

How do you spend your time outside of work?

I love to cook, spend time with my husband, family and friends, at my sister’s cabin, paddle boarding, cycling and traveling.

St. Patrick’s festivities to alter traffic in St. Paul

subscribe_blogThose traveling to or near Children’s – St. Paul on Saturday and Tuesday are encouraged to allow extra time or find alternate routes that avoid the traffic from the LuckyPalooza (Saturday) and St. Patrick’s Day (Tuesday) events.

LuckyPalooza will be held on West Seventh Street from 2-11 p.m. During that time, West Seventh Street will be closed between Walnut Street and Kellogg Boulevard for this event, which includes music, tent parties and a stunt-bike performance.

The St. Patrick’s Day celebration and parade on Tuesday is expected to draw many extra visitors to downtown and the area near the Children’s – St. Paul.

“Children’s Pedcast,” Episode 2: Dr. Keith Cavanaugh on sleep health

subscribe_blogDr. Keith Cavanaugh and Karen Johnson, APRN, of the Children’s Sleep Center in St. Paul talk about healthy sleep habits for kids from newborns to teens.

They cover children and schedules, sleep apnea, daylight saving time, teens and technology, and other sleep habits, both good and bad, providing information for parents and kids.

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

Taking fear out of food-allergy diagnoses

(iStock photo)

(iStock photo)

Dealing with a food allergy diagnosis can feel daunting, especially for the uninitiated, due to its serious nature. But it doesn’t have to be — no parent or child has to face the new reality alone. There are doctors who specialize in food allergies, and there are groups and programs to educate and assist with how to live with food allergies.

The Food Allergy Support Group of Minnesota, founded in 2003, provides support to more than 650 members and is committed to guiding people through the confusion and fear that can come with a food-allergy diagnosis. Its mission is to empower families affected by food allergies by providing support, education and a community to build personal connections.

For the newly diagnosed, finding a board-certified allergist and learning what medications are commonly prescribed for food allergies are at the top of the list. Other actions include: knowing how to read food-ingredient labels, organize the kitchen and recipes, eat safely at restaurants, travel with food allergies, and partner with your child’s school.

All parents should know

It’s important for all parents and teachers to know about potential dangers and how to practice food safety, too. Kids with food allergies may encounter unsafe food or treats brought to school for lunch or holidays such as Valentine’s Day. Or a child’s friend visiting as a house guest may have a food allergy that requires consideration.

Preparing and taking precautions are not as difficult as you may think. Make sure you have the child’s emergency medications nearby and ask to review their Allergy Action Plan from their doctor. Here are some important steps to take if someone is showing symptoms of a food-allergy reaction:

  • Watch for symptoms, which may include hives, coughing or a tight throat.
  • Identify their symptoms on their Allergy Action Plan and determine if they are having a minor or severe reaction.
  • Give emergency medicine as directed, such as an epinephrine autoinjector (ex. EpiPen).
  • Call 911 for medical assistance and head to the hospital in an ambulance.
  • If possible, bring a smartphone or tablet to entertain your child during the wait.
  • Bring safe snacks.

Food or foe?

subscribe_blogEight foods account for more than 90 percent of food allergies in the U.S., according to the Food Allergy Support Group of Minnesota.

  • Milk (all dairy)
  • Eggs
  • Fish
  • Peanuts
  • Shellfish
  • Soy
  • Tree nuts
  • Wheat

The Big Quack

The Food Allergy Support Group of Minnesota (FASGMN) is hosting the ninth annual Big Quack, a family-friendly, food-allergy-safe event at the Water Park of America, from 4-8 p.m. April 19. Attendees will enjoy shorter lines as the park will be closed to the general public during this event.

The Big Quack event is a fundraiser to help support families who manage food allergies by providing special support groups and programming. Admission is $15 per person (if purchased in advance), which is roughly half of the usual price at the water park. No food allergies? No problem. All are welcome! For complete details or to order tickets, please visit FoodAllergySupportMN.org.

Food Allergy Resource Fair

The Food Allergy Resource Fair, which takes place on Oct. 12 at the Eisenhower Community Center in Hopkins, is an event open to the public that features allergy-friendly products and services from the U.S. and Canada. There are products for adults to sample and a safe trick-or-treat experience for kids with food allergies (all candy is free of the top-eight food allergens).

Find the Food Allergy Support Group of Minnesota at foodallergysupportmn.org,  Facebook, or email [email protected].

Introducing new podcast, ‘Children’s Pedcast’

Starting today, we’re happy to share with you our new podcast, “Children’s Pedcast,” a conversation about pediatrics.

subscribe_blog“Children’s Pedcast” — “Pedcast” for short — is a weekly podcast by Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota about pediatric health information, issues and concerns, featuring guests made up of experts from Children’s, The Mother Baby Center, Midwest Fetal Care Center and other individuals connected to Children’s, including doctors, nurses, other health care experts, patients and patient families.

The show is conversational and loose with a goal of providing information and an enjoyable, entertaining listener experience.

A new episode is available for download each Monday and can be heard on iTunes, Podbean, Stitcher, YouTube, Vimeo, all of Children’s social media channels and everywhere podcasts are available.