Category Archives: Featured

Helping kids make sense of Ebola

(iStock photo / Getty Images)

(iStock photo / Getty Images)

By Jimmy Bellamy

Your young child has seen or heard news coverage about Ebola, which has led to questions or noticeable worries from your little one. What do you do?

Mike Troy, Ph.D., LP, medical director of behavioral health services at Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota, provides some helpful tips for parents confronted with questions from their kids.

Answer questions asked

“It’s important for parents to respond to what their child is asking rather than making assumptions about  what you think he or she needs to know,” Dr. Troy said. “Make sure you’re addressing your child’s concerns, talking in ways that match their development level.”

READ (from AAP): What parents need to know about Ebola

“Be honest and reassuring in a way that’s developmentally appropriate and consistent with how you would typically talk about other concerning issues,” Dr. Troy said. “For very young kids and preschool-age children, they can imagine a lot of things, so they need reassurance and basic information without excessive detail. For this age group, reassurance from a trusted adult is more important than a logical, fact-based explanation.

“Whereas a school-age child in second, third or fourth grade may need reassurance as to why they personally are safe. For these children, accurate facts and a simple, logical explanation may be helpful. You can say things like, ‘It’s hard to actually get the disease’ and ‘So far it hasn’t been detected in Minnesota, and it’s safe to go to school.’ ”

Here are a few other facts that you can share with your children if they have concerns:

  • Although Ebola is a real problem in some parts of the world, they remain safe.
  • Our health care system is among the best in the world for taking care of sick people.
  • Ebola is rare and does not exist everywhere. When cases are found, the person with the infection is taken to a safe place to be cared for so that they can get better and not make anyone else sick.
  • Ebola is difficult to spread and is not an airborne virus, unlike the common cold. It does not spread through air, food, water or by touching things like a keyboard, desk or money.
  • Doctors and scientists who know a lot about Ebola are working hard to find ways to prevent or cure this illness.

Monitor what the child sees, hears and reads

“It’s absolutely reasonable to monitor your child’s news and social media consumption,” Dr. Troy said. “Because the coverage has been pervasive and often sensationalized, it’s prudent, especially with younger kids, to limit how much they’re exposed to it.”

Make your child feel at ease

The goal for adults caring for children is to help them feel safe without needing frequent reassurance. If reassurance is necessary, then the most important thing to emphasize is how rare the disease is in the U.S.

READ: Minnesota Department of Health’s FAQ about Ebola

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

Spotlight shines on Midwest Fetal Care Center

Ian Kempel was born with an omphalocele. His story was featured on the TV show "The Doctors." You can see more about Ian and his parents, Leah and Todd, on The Mother Baby Center's Great Beginnings blog. (Photo by Jessica Person / First Day Photo)

Ian Kempel was born with an omphalocele. His story was featured on the TV show “The Doctors.” You can see more about Ian and his parents, Leah and Todd, on The Mother Baby Center’s Great Beginnings blog. (Photo by Jessica Person / First Day Photo)

Our partner, The Mother Baby Center, and its blog, Great Beginnings, are in the middle of hosting four weeks’ worth of unique patient stories from the Midwest Fetal Care Center.

Go on journeys with four remarkable families who have faced and overcome adversity under rare circumstances.

Bullied kids, bullies need our help

Children who are being bullied cannot learn, and children being bullies often need our help, too. (iStock photo / Getty Images)

Children who are being bullied cannot learn, and children being bullies often need our help, too. (iStock photo / Getty Images)

By Kelly Wolfe

October is Bullying Prevention Month: We can learn a lot from a llama.

“It’s not nice to be a bully.” Those were the words my 4-year-old said as we were sitting down for breakfast recently.

Pleasantly surprised that he was aware of this fact, I smiled and said, “That’s right. Who told you about bullies?”

“We read a book at school about the bully goat,” he said. “He was not nice.”

Those few simple words prompted a discussion about what a bully is, why it’s not nice to bully someone and what we should do if we see someone being bullied. And while a little part of me was sad that, at 4 years old, he needed to learn about bullies, a larger part of me was thrilled that education about bullies was happening in his school. The messages we try to teach at home were being reinforced by his teachers and classmates. Everyone was saying the same thing: bullying is not OK.

October is National Bullying Prevention Month, and this year’s campaign has focused on one basic principle: “The end of bullying begins with me,” a simple premise that if we can all just learn to treat each other with respect, dignity and the same kindness with which we want to be treated, there will be no more bullies.

The PACER (Parent Advocacy Coalition for Education Rights) Center spearheaded the campaign and coordinated efforts on bullying prevention, education and awareness nationwide. Their mission is to “expand opportunities and enhance the quality of life of children and young adults with disabilities and their families, based on the concept of parents helping parents,” including issues around bullying.

Subscribe to MightyWe know that 94 percent of children with disabilities report being victims of bullying, and, according to the 2013 Minnesota Student Survey, more than 70 percent of fifth-graders and 90 percent of 11th-graders report being bullied at school during a 30-day period. The Safe and Supportive Schools Act that was signed into law this year aims to address it.

It’s time that the conversation is elevated and that actions are taken to protect all of our kids. Children who are being bullied cannot learn, and children being bullies often need our help, too.

It’s never too early to start talking to your child about bullying. There are excellent books and resources out there. In addition to PACER, the Minnesota Department of Education has some tips for parents if they suspect their child is a victim of bullying.

“Teacher has some things to say: calling names is not OK.” We all can learn from Llama Llama and the Bully Goat. As parents, adults and role models to our children, we all have a responsibility to model acceptable behavior. And we need to do a better job of standing up for our kids, for all of our kids; because the end of bullying begins with all of us.

Kelly Wolfe is senior policy and advocacy specialist for Advocacy and Child Health Policy at Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota.

After summer off, Gavin faces next challenge with a smile

Gavin Pierson, 8, who underwent his third Visualase procedure for a brain tumor Oct. 23, smiles before school earlier this fall. (Photos courtesy of the Pierson family)

Gavin Pierson, 8, who underwent his third Visualase procedure for a brain tumor Oct. 23, smiles before school earlier this fall. (Photos courtesy of the Pierson family)

Less than 48 hours after surgery, Gavin spent part of his weekend jumping in a pile of leaves.

Less than 48 hours after surgery, Gavin spent part of his weekend jumping in a pile of leaves. Below: Gavin and sister Grace play in the leaves.

By Nicole Pierson

It has been eight months since Gavin has been in the hospital. Yes, you read that right, eight whole months. This has allowed for an amazing time of healing and the opportunity for Gavin to focus on so much more than his brain tumor. He spent his summer vacation doing things that 8-year-olds should do, like playing baseball for The Miracle League!

He also took advantage of his grandma’s pool and learned a few new tricks. He is now a pro at swimming in the deep end, doing cannonballs and flips underwater (both forward and backward, he would point out). As a family, we had bonfires, went canoeing and buried treasure at Pancake Island during our Fourth of July celebration.

Gavin and Grace PiersonAfter two years filled with nearly constant appointments, scans and procedures, we decided to take the summer off and provide Gavin with a much-needed reprieve. He desperately needed the break. Because he is medically stable and doing well, Gavin’s medical team agreed that giving him a summer away would be good. When considering his treatment, I am so thankful that Gavin’s team understands the whole child and that they realize medicine comes in many forms.

Throughout his time off, Gavin stayed on Palbociclib, a targeted therapy which is in pill form. At the end of August, he had a 3T MRI and PET scan to look closely at the tumor and help his medical team plan for his next ablation surgery. The MRI showed stability of Joe Bully, with no urgent concerns. From that appointment, we set up his third laser ablation procedure, which took place this past Thursday with Dr. Joseph Petronio. Less than 48 hours post-op, Gavin had tons of energy with minimal soreness. He felt so good he spent the weekend playing in a leaf pile, surfing the Web and challenging his little brother, Gage, to games on Xbox; his ability to bounce back is a testament to how minimally invasive the Visualase procedure is on its patients!

Gavin (left) and brother Gage play video games days after Gavin's surgery.

Gavin (left) and brother Gage play video games days after Gavin’s surgery.

Four days after surgery and Gavin is back at school today, and that is music to our ears. Due to his tumor and multiple surgeries, Gavin previously had lost the ability to read. Only a year ago, he had to relearn letters. But today is different. Now, Gavin is attending school full time as a third-grader at Ramsey Elementary, and he continues to make huge gains in reading and spelling. On the day of the surgery, he was spelling the words from his spelling test. This weekend, he read his Spider-Man chapter book.

Subscribe to MightyGavin’s doing well in math, too, scoring high in data and geometry. After missing 17 months of school and undergoing multiple brain surgeries, this is something to celebrate! Gavin’s strength in fighting Joe Bully is allowing him to fight all of the other side effects as well. He amazes us every day.

With Gavin’s third laser ablation surgery now securely behind us, we are relieved, but we still have so many mixed emotions. We know that we have to keep fighting, yet we have enjoyed his summer off so much that we are hesitant to re-enter a schedule full of procedures rather than swim dates. As always, we keep marching on. General Gavin is ready for the next phase of this battle. His soldiers are behind him, but he is leading the army.

Gavin checks out some toys on the Internet.

Gavin checks out some toys on the Internet.

Nicole Pierson of Ramsey, Minn., is the mother of 8-year-old Gavin Pierson, who is the first child in the U.S. with a mature teratoma brain tumor to undergo Visualase laser treatment.

What parents need to know about Ebola


(iStock photo / Getty Images)

Parents, we know you have questions about the Ebola virus, which has dominated national and regional news coverage in recent weeks.

Ebola disease, caused by the Ebola virus, is one of a number of hemorrhagic fever diseases, according to the Minnesota Department of Health. Ebola disease first was discovered in 1976 in what is now the Democratic Republic of Congo near the Ebola River.

To learn more about Ebola, here are two great resources:

Children’s to host vaccination documentary screening

Subscribe to MightyChildren’s will host a screening of “Invisible Threat,” an award-winning documentary about understanding the science of vaccination and the misperceptions that lead parents to delay or decline life-saving immunizations, from 6-8:30 p.m. Thursday at its Minneapolis campus (2525 Chicago Ave. S.).

Parents, health care providers, staff and the public are invited. Flu vaccinations, courtesy of Kohl’s Cares, will be available for 150 people (between 6-7:30 p.m.) and administered by MVNA-qualified nurses. Healthy snacks will be served, and a panel discussion will take place after the film.

The 40-minute independent documentary, produced by high school student filmmakers, has earned praise from more than 50 organizations, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, multiple children’s hospitals, and Every Child By Two, calling the documentary “powerful,” “fast-paced,” “well-balanced” and “impeccably produced.” The event is sponsored by the Minnesota Childhood Immunization Coalition.

Define safe boundaries for kids and play

Encouraging the learning and exploration process will increase your child’s confidence and creativity, and defining safe boundaries and rules will keep you both happy. (iStock photo / Getty Images)

Encouraging the learning and exploration process will increase your child’s confidence and creativity, and defining safe boundaries and rules will keep you both happy. (iStock photo / Getty Images)

By Dex Tuttle

Not long ago, I watched my toddler daughter, Quinnlyn, as she played with her favorite blocks. She picked one up, stacked it carefully on top of another, and repeated until she had a tower four or five blocks high. Without warning, she pummeled the tower while sounding her signature high-pitched battle cry, sending blocks flying in all directions. She immediately seemed to regret not having a tower and ran to pick up the blocks to start the process over.

Young children begin to understand their world by cause-and-effect experimentation. Psychologist Jean Piaget was one of the first to put this concept into organized thought.

This behavior is apparent with my daughter: “If I stick my hand in the dog’s water dish, my shirt gets wet. This pleases me and I must do this each morning, preferably after mommy helps me put on a clean shirt.”

Then, something occurred to me as I watched Quinnlyn build and destroy her tower; there is a trigger missing in her young mind that could change her behavior: She does not understand consequence, the indirect product of an effect.

I began to notice this in her other activities as well. At dinnertime, we give her a plastic fork and spoon so she can work on her motor skills. If she’s unhappy with how dinner is going, she throws her fork and spoon on the floor in a fit of toddler rage. She is then immediately puzzled by how she’ll continue her meal now that her utensils are so far away.

Subscribe to MightyAs frustrating as toddler tantrums can sometimes be for parents, I’d love to be in my daughter’s shoes. Who wouldn’t want the satisfaction of taking all those dirty dishes that have been in the sink for two days and chucking them against the wall? That decision, of course, would be dangerous and reckless and I have no desire to clean up such a mess. And, with no dishes in the house, I’d be forced to take a toddler to the store to shop for breakable things; not a winning combination.

There’s an important lesson here for safety-minded parents: Kids will explore their environment in whatever way they can. It’s like the feeling you get when you find a $20 bill in the pocket of a pair of pants you haven’t worn in months, or when you discover the newest tool, gadget or fashion. For toddlers (and us adults), it’s fun finding new things and learning new skills; it’s motivating and creates a feeling of accomplishment. However, the cognitive skills of a toddler haven’t developed beyond that cause-effect understanding.

This is why we need to consider the environment in which our young children play. I recommend giving them plenty of space and opportunity to experiment without worry of the consequence:

  • Make sure stairs are blocked off securely and unsafe climbing hazards are eliminated; encourage kids to explore the space you define.
  • Create a space to explore free of choking hazards, potential poisons and breakable or valuable items; leave plenty of new objects for children to discover, and change the objects out when the kids seem to grow tired of them.
  • Allow children to fail at certain tasks; be encouraging and positive without intervening as they try again.
  • If possible, discuss their actions and consequences with them to help them understand the reason for your rules.

Encouraging the learning and exploration process will increase your child’s confidence and creativity, and defining safe boundaries and rules will keep you both happy.

At Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota, we care for more pediatric emergency and trauma patients than any other health care system in our region, seeing about 90,000 kids each year between our St. Paul and Minneapolis hospitals. Children’s Hospital in Minneapolis is the area’s only Level I pediatric trauma center in a hospital dedicated to only kids, which means we offer the highest level of care to critically injured kids. When it’s critical, so is your choice – Children’s Level I Pediatric Trauma Center, Minneapolis.

Dex Tuttle is the injury prevention program coordinator at Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota and the father of a curious and mobile toddler. He has a Master of Education degree from Penn State University.

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.

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.

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