Category Archives: News

Sleds, skis, snowboards and skates: Stay safe with these tips

Minnesota winters bring with them plenty of opportunity for fun in the snow and on the ice, especially when kids are home from school.

Follow these tips to help keep you and your family safe during the cold winter months.

Before venturing outside, be aware of conditions that may cause frostbite (freezing of skin exposed to cold temperatures) and hypothermia (dangerously low body temperature).

Wear the right clothes

Wind, moisture and contact with cold surfaces can all contribute to body-heat loss, so dressing appropriately is important to avoid frostbite or hypothermia.

  • Waterproof coat, snow pants and boots will help keep moisture out and warmth in.
  • Cover exposed skin as much as possible with gloves, a scarf and long socks, and be sure to wear a hat that covers your ears.
  • Dress in layers and avoid materials like cotton that soak up moisture.

Be sure an adult is nearby when kids are playing outside, and make sure everyone goes inside regularly to warm up.


  • Never sled in an area where there is traffic.
  • Wear a ski or bike helmet. A light stocking cap can fit under most helmets while still fitting appropriately.
  • Sleds that you can steer tend to be safer than disks, flat or roll-up sleds or toboggans.
  • Choose hills free of trees, ponds, ice, fences, ditches and large bumps.
  • Take turns; wait for others to sled and get out of the way before following behind.
  • Always go feet-first down the hill.

subscribe_blogSkiing and snowboarding

  • Wear a helmet approved for skiing, goggles and other appropriate equipment such as wrist guards.
  • Go on hills appropriate for your skill level.
  • Remember skiing and snowboarding are sports; you should stretch to warm up your muscles beforehand, eat well and stay hydrated.


Choose to skate on groomed ice rinks like the ones you find at arenas or parks rather than lakes or ponds, when possible. If you do go out on open water, check with the Department of Natural Resources to make sure the ice is thick enough. No matter where you skate, follow these tips:

  • Wear a properly-fitting helmet and other safety gear to protect your head and joints from injury if you fall.
  • Make sure your skates fit right and are tightly laced.
  • If you skate outside, avoid ice with cracks, slush and darker areas of ice – these are all indicators that it’s not safe.

The Minnesota Department of Public Safety also has information on winter safety.

Funds from triathlon to benefit Children’s-attended camp

Victory In Progress (VIP) is a newly renamed camp that has helped kids, including Children's patients, with cancer or blood disorders for 31 years. (Photo courtesy of CycleHealth)

Victory In Progress (VIP) is a newly renamed camp that has helped kids, including Children’s patients, with cancer or blood disorders for 31 years. (Photo courtesy of CycleHealth)

Q4_mighty_buttonCycleHealth, a Twin Cities-based nonprofit that raised more than $62,000 for Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota with its first-ever BreakAway Kids Tri (triathlon) in August, announced that funds raised from its 2015 event will benefit the newly renamed Victory In Progress (VIP), a camp for kids, including Children’s patients, with cancer or blood disorders.

The camp, which had lost its previous source of funding, was chosen in a unanimous vote by CycleHealth’s Kid Advisory Panel. Money raised at the BreakAway Kids Tri will cover the costs of sending more than 100 kids to the camp, which has helped kids for 31 years.

The second annual BreakAway Kids Tri takes place Aug. 22, 2015, at Lake Elmo Park Reserve.

CycleHealth on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter

The facts about this year’s flu vaccine


(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 flu vaccine for as many people 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


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.

Minnesota girl, 7, writes book to help patients

Kristina Heinlein, 7, wrote the book "Beans Brave Adventures at Children's Hospital," a story about her experience at Children's.

Kristina Heinlein, 7, wrote the book “Bean’s Brave Adventures at Children’s Hospital,” a story about her experience at Children’s.

Kristina Heinlein knows what it’s like to go through surgery. The 7-year-old Detroit Lakes, Minn., girl has had several procedures due to microtia, a congenital deformity where the outer ear is underdeveloped.

Q4_mighty_buttonFor the past two years, Kristina has undergone surgeries to reshape her right ear in hopes of gaining the ability to hear out of it. She has faced each procedure with bravery and enthusiasm, which made her want to share those experiences with other kids in a similar position.

What came from that was the book “Bean’s Brave Adventures at Children’s Hospital,” a story about Kristina’s journey at Children’s and advice for kids who will might be scared about surgery.

BOOK: “Bean’s Brave Adventures at Children’s Hospital” on Facebook

The Detroit Lakes Tribune wrote about the book and Kristina’s experience at Children’s. WDAY-TV of Fargo, N.D., and Moorhead, Minn., also featured a story about Kristina.


Father of cystic fibrosis patient plans concert, silent auction for Children’s

Edison Hopper was born with cystic fibrosis. (Amy Best / Amy Colleen Photography)

Edison Hopper was born with cystic fibrosis. (Amy Best / Amy Colleen Photography)

If you asked Charlie Hopper if the birth of his son was hard, you’d be off. Way off.

“To say it was difficult would be inaccurate,” Hopper said. “Any time you’re confronted with something your child has that could shorten his life shifts your perspective. We’ve done our best to take his diagnosis in stride, and the help of the team at Children’s has made that possible.”

A week after Edison Hopper was born last year, he was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis (CF). He has been treated at Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota ever since. It was a diagnosis that will forever impact the Hopper family. Parents Charlie and Becky have not only accepted it but also pledged to help other kids like Edison and all kids cared for by Children’s.

CF is a life-threatening genetic disease that primarily affects the lungs and digestive system. A defective gene and its protein product cause the body to produce unusually thick, sticky mucus. It clogs the lungs and leads to life-threatening lung infections, as well as obstructs the pancreas and stops natural enzymes from helping the body break down food and absorb vital nutrients.

After Becky became pregnant with Edison, she learned she was a CF carrier. As a result, Charlie was tested and also found to be a carrier. When both parents are carriers, children have a 1-in-4 chance of having CF. It wasn’t until after Edison was born that they learned his diagnosis.

“Emotionally, it was difficult after Edison was born, but we got to a point where everything leveled out, and it got easier and easier. We don’t know any different,” Hopper said.

Edison receives daily treatment. He takes 40,000 units of enzymes with every meal to help him maintain body weight, Hopper said. He uses a nebulizer twice a day and wears a vest during treatment to help loosen the mucus in his lungs.

He visits Children’s, specifically Dr. Brooke Moore at Children’s Respiratory and Critical Care Specialists (CRCCS) every three months for checkups. He does an annual visit with his whole CF team (doctor, nurse, dietitian, social worker, and respiratory therapist). To date, he has been healthy and hasn’t once been hospitalized.

Since Edison was born, there have been many promising developments for people with his diagnosis. Life expectancy on average for a person with cystic fibrosis is just over 37 years. Kids born today with it should live into their 50s, on average, Hopper has learned.

Q4_mighty_button“Part of why CF has advanced is because of places like Children’s,” he said.

Charlie and Becky are expecting their second child next year. Because they’re both carriers of the defective gene, their next child could have cystic fibrosis, too.

“We obviously don’t want our next child to have CF,” Hopper said. “But in the event our unborn son has CF, we’ll know how to manage it.”

Hopper wants to raise $15,000 yet this year for Children’s in honor of his son and the thousands of other kids for whom Children’s cares.

“Everything that Children’s represents is something bigger than us as individuals,” Hopper said. “They go above and beyond.”

To help raise funds for Children’s, Hopper has organized a benefit concert, featuring national touring band Blitzen Trapper at the Fine Line Music Café on Dec. 12 presented by 89.3 The Current and McTerry Music. Local standouts Farewell Milwaukee, Bigtree Bonsai and Old Desert Road will also perform. Tickets are $25 in advance, $30 at the door and $50 for VIP (balcony access and $20 bar tab); doors open for the concert at 7 p.m. Tickets are selling fast and can be purchased here.

There will be a pre-event silent auction sponsored by IPR directly next door to the Fine Line at 300 N. First Ave. from 4-7 p.m., featuring live acoustic music by local musicians David and Zach Young (Down and Above, Going to the Sun) and Ray Smart (The Attley Project, Meridian Incident). Admission to that event is $10 and includes free food and drinks, as well as two complimentary raffle tickets for prizes to be given away after the concert at the Fine Line (need not be present to win). Tickets can be purchased here. People with tickets to the concert will be admitted free. If you cannot attend either event but want to support the cause, give today.

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.


Healthy childhood development important for all

Mike Troy, Ph.D,

Mike Troy, Ph.D, LP, is Children’s medical director of Behavioral Health Services.

Mike Troy, Ph.D, LP

I had the honor this past week of participating in a panel discussion about the importance of early childhood development to healthy communities. Hosted by Healthy States, an initiative of American Public Media and Minnesota Public Radio, the topic of the evening was “Community Responses to Toxic Stress.” As readers may know from our recent report and community engagement work, the subject of early childhood development is near and dear to my heart and a significant focus of Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota.

My colleague and friend, Dr. Megan Gunnar, of the University of Minnesota’s Institute of Child Development presented scientific research on the essential role of a safe and nurturing social environment for healthy brain development. She also described how high levels of environmental stress in infancy and early childhood can lead to enduring problems in learning, physical well-being and social development. We know that birth to age 3 is an incredibly formative time for a developing mind, with 700 new neural connections made every second. But if a child lives in an environment with persistent challenges (toxic stress) such as poverty, poor nutrition and inadequate housing without the buffer of positive caretaking relationships, it prevents those connections from forming in an effective and efficient manner. Experience shapes brain architecture, and a poor early foundation affects development throughout the lifetime.

Q4_mighty_buttonPanelists MayKao Hang, president and CEO of the Wilder Foundation, and Sondra Samuels, president and CEO of Northside Achievement Zone, and I discussed how our organizations are helping to mitigate toxic stress and foster healthy child development. I left this lively discussion energized to continue Children’s work with community partners to help foster healthy development in children. Some of my thoughts include:

  • One way parents and community leaders can help is to encourage consistent monitoring of child development. At each well-child appointment and over time, we screen our young patients for normal development and identify challenges. Early intervention is key and can change the trajectory of a child’s life.
  • We can motivate leaders and others to action by educating them about the science of early brain development and the unequaled opportunity for healthy development that is presented during the first few years of life. Behavioral and emotional problems often have their roots in unhealthy conditions (toxic stress) in early, foundational stages of life.
  • What babies need is essentially the same across all communities: attentive and loving relationships, safe and stable environments, healthy food and developmentally appropriate activity.

Healthy development happens in the home and in the community through relationships with families, friends and neighbors. We all can play a role in supporting a strong start. Our collective focus must be on healthy development for all children.

Mike Troy, Ph.D., LP, is medical director of Behavioral Health Services at Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota.