Category Archives: Staff profiles and news

Five Question Friday: Brooke Blaschka

Five Question FridayEvery October, we celebrate National Respiratory Care Week to recognize our respiratory care professionals at Children’s. This week, we introduce you to Brooke Blaschka, a respiratory therapist who has worked at Children’s for just over two years.

Brooke Blaschka

Brooke Blaschka

What is your role? I am registered respiratory therapist. I work in all areas in all units at Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota on the Minneapolis campus.

What do you love most about your job? The thing I love most about my job is being able to help the patients. Even if it’s one patient a day, at least I know that I played a role in their recovery process and that they might be one step closer to going home with their families.

What drew you to working in respiratory therapy? I always knew I wanted to take care of kids, so I did some investigating as to what I could do, other than nursing, that would give me the opportunity to work with children. I wasn’t sure what respiratory therapy was until I actually started the program, but when I found out I fell in love, so I stuck with it.

When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up? When I was a kid, I wanted to somehow work with kids of all ages; it just took me sometime to figure out how I was going to do that.

How do you spend your time outside of work? Outside of work, I love to take my dog for a walk, I love to read, and I love to spend time with family “up north” at the cabin.

Nurse with inspirational story receives lifetime achievement award

Be Ho, RN, surgery, is the recipient of Mpls.St.Paul Magazine's Outstanding Nurses 2014 Lifetime Achievement award.

Be Ho, RN, surgery, is the recipient of Mpls.St.Paul Magazine’s Outstanding Nurses 2014 Lifetime Achievement award.

By Erin Keifenheim

Be Ho, staff RN, surgery, knew she wanted to be a nurse when she was 4½ years old, yet she never imagined that following her dream would lead her on a journey to flee her home country and start a new life halfway around the world. Now celebrating her 34th year at Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota, Be recently was named the 2014 Lifetime Achievement winner in the annual Mpls.St.Paul Magazine Outstanding Nurses awards for her amazing nursing skills and perseverance to follow her dream.

Be’s inspirational story starts in Vietnam, where she was born. When her father had abdominal surgery in the French-run hospital there, Be was mesmerized by the French nurses with their blue eyes, long eyelashes and surgical gowns, and the kindness they showed her family. She knew from that moment that she would become a nurse someday. At the age of 9, she pleaded with her parents to send her to nursing school. She cried so much that they finally arranged a meeting for her with the director of a local hospital. He convinced her to hold off on becoming a nurse until she was old enough. Finally, when Be was 17, she couldn’t wait any longer.

“At that time, nursing was looked down on as a career,” Be said. “Girls were supposed to stay at home. Nurses were viewed as the ones who did the dirty work – changing diapers and cleaning wounds. I didn’t dare tell my family I was applying for nursing school.”

Instead, Be lied to her parents, telling them she was going to visit her cousin in the capital, but she actually took the entrance exam for nursing school. Three months later, she didn’t have the heart to sneak away again to find out the results. However, her neighbor had gone to see the results of his fiancée’s exam and saw Be’s name on the list. He came over to congratulate her, thus breaking the news to her parents. Her mother cried and was resistant, but her father persuaded her to allow Be to go to nursing school – he knew she would be a wonderful nurse; he was right. Be went on to graduate second in her class. And because she always knew she wanted to work with children, she took a job at a children’s hospital in Saigon. She eventually went on to become the hospital’s director of nursing.

In 1968, Be received a scholarship to travel to England for intensive nursing care training. In 1972, she visited Minneapolis with a group of young patients who needed open-heart surgeries. The Children’s Heart Fund, now Children’s HeartLink, sponsored her to escort the patients and care for them while they were here. During that trip, she formed relationships with the staff at Children’s – Minneapolis who thought very highly of her and recognized her potential.

Be Ho, RN, a Vietnam native, wanted to be a nurse since she was 4 years old.

Be Ho, RN, a Vietnam native, wanted to be a nurse since she was 4 years old.

Back in Vietnam, the war was continuing. Because Be had traveled outside the country multiple times, the communist leaders suspected her of being a spy.

“Every week I had to write an essay to the communist government saying that I was the country’s enemy,” Be said. “One day I was brave enough to ask why I was being forced to write these letters. They told me ‘because you are such a good nurse.’ It was very hard for me to say I was an enemy when all I wanted to do was provide nurturing and loving nursing care – just like the French nurses I saw as a child.”

Eventually, Be became worried about her future in Vietnam. Her colleagues at Children’s Heart Fund attempted to evacuate her in 1975, but she couldn’t bear to leave without saying goodbye to her family. Though she feared for her life, she said a tearful goodbye to her friends and remained in Vietnam. A few years later, she knew it was time to escape. She contacted her U.S. colleagues for assistance, under the guise that she needed to have open-heart surgery in Japan.

“I had to lie again to escape Vietnam. If I was caught, I would be sent to a concentration camp,” Be said. “I told the hospital I was working for that my grandmother was dying, when she had actually died before I was born.”

Arrangements were made for Be to travel by boat to a refugee camp in Thailand.

“I had to leave without saying goodbye to my family. I wanted to protect them in case the communist government came looking for me. I wrote a letter to my dad and left. It was very scary,” she said. “I didn’t know anyone. It was getting dark. We had to hide under coconut leaves on the boat to disguise ourselves from the communist police who were chasing us. When we finally made it to international waters, I was so happy I cried.”

Be spent five months in the refugee camp, where she worked as a clinic nurse and as a translator for the U.S. delegation. It was there that she also met her now husband, who found her in the crowd of new arrivals and arranged for her to have a place to sleep. While the camp provided safety, she knew there was more out there for her, and soon she was sponsored to work in the U.S. In August of 1980, Be arrived in Minnesota.

“I knew I wanted to work at Children’s Hospital,” Be said. “It was a place of comfort for me. I talked with the director of nursing, but because my nursing papers and transcripts were thrown overboard by pirates during my escape, I had no official paperwork. They hired me as a nursing assistant in the PICU, and I was so grateful.”

Subscribe to MightyWith the help of a Children’s scholarship, Be went back to school full time and got her associate’s degree in nursing from Minneapolis Community and Technical College. She was then hired as a registered nurse at Children’s and worked on 4 East (now the sixth floor), before eventually transferring to surgery.

Be is now the urology team leader in the surgery department and works with surgeons and staff to make sure they have the instruments and supplies needed for a variety of surgeries. She works to onboard new surgery nurses in urology and across other services, too.

“With every patient she works with, Be is calm, comforting and compassionate,” said Pat Buzzell, patient care manager for the surgery department. “She takes care of the whole family, reassures them and educates them so surgery isn’t a scary experience. She comes in on her days off to conduct patient family tours, and she often stays late to check in on patients. She does whatever it takes to make families comfortable, using her cheerful personality to calm their fears and put them at ease.”

Be still has a deep love for Vietnam and returns there on medical missions to provide care for children at the hospital where she used to work. She has recruited Children’s surgeons and staff to join her on these trips, where they provide education to medical teams and perform surgeries.

“Be gives everything to her patients, whether they are here or in Vietnam,” Pat said. “She works tirelessly to advocate for them, and she doesn’t give up. Because of the journey she has had and how hard she has worked to get here, Be refuses to settle for anything less than perfection. She believes in hard work and practice and has earned the respect of the surgeons, anesthesiologists and all staff on our unit. Be says it’s an honor to work with kids – I say it’s an honor to work with Be.”

Now almost 70 and pondering when to retire, Be gets emotional when she thinks about potentially leaving Children’s – her second home.

“I am so grateful to Children’s Hospital for all they have done for me,” she said. “Without them, I wouldn’t be here now. This country took me in, but this hospital gave me a second chance for my life. I love Children’s Hospital from the bottom of my heart.”

Thank you, Be, for your heroic journey to follow your dream and for all you have done for Children’s patients and families over the years. On behalf of Children’s, we are proud to celebrate you as the Mpls.St.Paul Magazine 2014 Lifetime Achievement winner.

Be Thi Ho: Mpls.St.Paul Magazine Outstanding Nurse, 2014 from mspmag on Vimeo.

Red-Vested Rockstar: Josh Purple

Children's volunteer Josh Purple

Children’s volunteer Josh Purple

Meet Josh!

Why he rocks:

My volunteer work at Children’s Hospital began about 20 years ago. I got started thanks to my younger sister, who asked me to draw cartoons at the daycare center at which she worked. A mom, who happened to be a nurse at Children’s, was picking up her kids at the daycare. She saw me drawing the big cartoons, and asked if I would be interested in drawing at the hospital; I thought it was a great idea! I was then introduced to Kathi Rokke (a Children’s Hospital legend!). Kathi was kind enough to give me a shot and allowed me to draw cartoons on her “Porky Pork Chops Show” at the hospital. I have been a part of Children’s ever since!

With what other cool ventures have you been involved?

In the past, I have worked as a ballroom dance instructor at The Dancer’s Studio in St. Paul. A dance highlight was working with the James Sewell Ballet company at the Minnesota Opera for the show “Aida,” performing overhead lifts with the ballerinas. I have also done fire eating and fire juggling for the Holidazzle Festival! I did commercial and film work for about 10 years, getting my SAG-AFTRA card, with a highlight being a “Grease” parody TV commercial with Amy Adams. I currently work as a freelance artist, creating 3-D graphics and animation.

Check out some of his incredible work.

What’s your favorite thing to do outside of volunteering?

Subscribe to MightyArt! I love spending my free time doing art and animation.

If you could create a new candy bar, what would be in it and what would you name it?

If I could create a new candy bar, it would be a giant purple crayon, packed full of magic and fun. I’d name it “The Kid’s Club House Rocks!” It would instantly transmogrify the surrounding area to be filled with Muppets, Dr. Seuss poems and characters.

Share a favorite volunteer experience or story.

Every Children’s Hospital cartoon show and event for the past two decades; I cannot give enough credit and thanks to everyone in the Star Studio and at Children’s! Special shout-out to Amy, The Dude, Ben, Seth, Tanya, Kathi, Sharon, Ingrid, Benjamin, Christi, Diane, Laura, Kendall, Sandy and all of the volunteers. All of the kids and all of the extraordinary staff are the best of the best! Thank you!

Five Question Friday: Jeff Mason

Five Question FridayThis week, we are pleased to introduce you to Jeff Mason, DPT, physical therapist. Jeff has worked at Children’s for nearly four years now and still tells people he landed his dream job on the first try. Learn more about Jeff and how he uses play to help children with cancer stay active.

Jeff Mason, DPT, physical therapist

Jeff Mason, DPT, physical therapist

What is your role at Children’s? I am a physical therapist, working primarily with children who have been diagnosed with cancer, and their famillies, to make sure that they can keep active and keep playing, at home and in the hospital.

What is a typical day like for you? I split my time between the Cancer and Blood Disorders clinic and the hospital, working with kids and their families toward the goal of physical activity, which I like to call play. We work against the disease process, as well as the side effects of chemotherapy, which can cause fatigue, muscle weakness, balance problems and sensation changes, like numbing or tingling (buzzing, as some kids have described it), that can really get in the way of playing. I spend my day crawling on the floor, making ramps for Matchbox cars out of mats or books and tissue boxes, dancing or marching in a parade (shout-out to Music Therapy!), riding bikes or scooters, and making a lot of animal noises. I was known for my elephant for a while in the pediatric intensive care unit (PICU) – it’s tough to keep that one at a reasonable volume.

Do you have a favorite memory from working at Children’s? One of my favorite memories was going for a bike ride through the tunnel in the basement with a patient who was on her 96th day in the hospital and had just learned that she was going to be here longer. She really wanted to bike, so we walked the bike to the elevators, where she taught me how to play the elevator guessing game (which elevator is it going to be? She won every time). Then, she took off through the tunnels, with me tailing her with her IV pole, the balloons tied to the top smacking me in the face with every stride, her giggles filling the tunnel with pure joy. Those tunnels could have gone on forever; I don’t think either of us would have stopped.

Subscribe to MightyWhat do you love most about your job? See above :) I think the challenge of walking into a situation where there isn’t much motivation to play, during a most difficult time in someone’s life, and figuring out what gets him/her excited, or what will make him/her smile, and figuring out a way to make that the focus. I love working with kids and their families to help them take control of some aspects of the journey when there are so many things that are/seem out of their control. I also enjoy the incredible team that makes up Children’s, including my brother, a nurse in the PICU!

How do you spend your time outside of work? I have 7- and 8-year-old boys at home, so, obviously, we have lots of dance parties. We read delightful children’s books, we bike, we play a game called “Jody Monster” at the park (I am Jody Monster; it makes some kids nervous, because I take my roles seriously, not breaking character). We also enjoy kayaking, fishing, and the Northwoods at my partner Annie’s family cabin near Ely. I recently took up tinkering, turning a toddler bed into a reading chair, and I make a mean radiator cover/bookshelf.

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.

Red-Vested Rockstar: Lisa Zutz

Lisa Zutz is a volunteer at Children's.

Lisa Zutz is a volunteer at Children’s.

Lisa Zutz is an aspiring pediatric RN who currently works as a phlebotomist. She has volunteered on the inpatient units, in the sibling play area and, most recently, piloted a volunteer role in the lab, which has proved highly successful. What keeps Lisa coming back week after week? The positivity and bravery of our patients.

1. Why she rocks?

I got into volunteering because of its benefits; I believe that unpaid volunteers are kind of the “glue” that holds a community or even a hospital together. Volunteering makes me happy, and knowing that I am able to put a smile on a child’s face really makes my day. Volunteering at Children’s Hospital has brought so much fun and fulfillment to my life. I want to work as a nurse with children, and I feel that the skills I gain from volunteering will make me that much better of a nurse and a person.

2. What’s your favorite thing to do outside of volunteering?

Outside of volunteering, I keep pretty busy. I am very active and love to work out; whether it’s yoga, spin, or even a nice long run. Also, I spend a lot of time with my family.

3. Do you have any kids or pets of your own?

I do not have any kids, but once a week I babysit my two nieces, Chloe and Kinzi, ages 2 and 5. We have a blast together! I spend more time with my nieces than my actual friends. We enjoy going to the Maple Grove indoor maze, making cupcakes, playing outside and making projects. We definitely keep busy all day long. I also have a kitty. His name is Luigi, and I love him with all my heart. He is a beautiful mix: half-Siamese, half-Himalayan and loves to play and run around my condo.

Subscribe to Mighty4. If you could create a new candy bar, what would be in it and what would you name it?

I am not a lover of chocolate, but for everyone who is, I would make an ice cream bar loaded with caramel, pecans, rich chocolate and, of course, ice cream. I would call it “Caramel Delight,” and it would melt in your mouth!

5. Share a favorite volunteer experience or story.

I am not sure if I can choose a favorite; I believe every experience I have had at Children’s has made me into a better person. Each child is so different and unique that every experience has its own one-of-a-kind story. It is amazing to see how brave these kids truly are; they battle so hard and are so positive despite being sick. Life is so fragile, and when you see such young children sick, you realize how life should not be taken for granted. Volunteering is so rewarding!

Five Question Friday: Dr. Anne-Marie Priebe

five_question_friday1

Dr. Anne-Marie Priebe is a gynecologist at Children's.

Dr. Anne-Marie Priebe is a gynecologist at Children’s.

For this edition of Five Question Friday, we’d like you to meet Anne-Marie Priebe, DO, who sees patients at Children’s St. Paul, Minneapolis and Woodbury clinics.

How long have you worked at Children’s? I joined the Children’s team in September of 2013.

Why did you go into pediatric and adolescent gynecology? I never imagined that I would work in either OBGYN or pediatrics. But through my rotations I fell in love with the scope of OBGYN because it is a great combination of office, surgery and hospital. Plus I find joy in helping a mom bring a new life into the world. I did a rotation during residency with a pediatric gynecologist at a children’s hospital. At times, a few patients and parents can have preconceived notions about gynecological issues, but being able to teach families about gynecology and realize the “GYNO” doesn’t have to be scary is rewarding.

What are some of the conditions you treat? People are often baffled when I tell them I am a pediatric and adolescent gynecologist. Their first thought is teen pregnancy. Although we do see patients for contraceptive counseling, teens are referred elsewhere for prenatal care. There are many other reasons to see your friendly Children’s gynecologist for medical or surgical management of:

  • Abnormal development of the reproductive system (congenital anomalies of the uterus or vagina)
  • Contraception, including pills, patches, rings, injections, implants, IUDs
  • Delayed puberty or periods
  • Endometriosis, tissue that grows outside of the uterus
  • Labial adhesions
  • Lichen sclerosus
  • Medical uses of hormonal contraceptives (acne, menstrual migraine, catamenial seizures)
  • Menstrual problems, including painful periods, heavy periods, frequent or irregular periods
  • Menstrual suppression
  • Ovarian cysts, fluid-filled sacs in or on the ovaries
  • Pelvic pain
  • Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), a hormonal syndrome affecting females
  • Sexually transmitted infections (STIs)
  • Torsion (or twisting) of the ovary
  • Vaginal stenosis
  • Vulvovaginitis
  • Vulvar trauma
  • Vulvar abscesses or ulcers

Subscribe to MightyWhat do you love most about your job? When I was in college, I worked at a camp for middle schoolers. I have a soft spot for the preteens and teenagers who want to learn about things, such as periods, but are either too scared to ask or don’t want to ask their parents. Often times they look to their friends for answers even when their friends might be misinformed. I hope to educate teens on gynecology issues, and, with any luck, they will pass on correct information to their friends, too.

What do you enjoy doing outside of work? I love to travel and explore new places. I have been to 41 out of 50 states and would love to make it to every continent. During my explorations, I have discovered photography and refuse to hang any photos on my walls unless I have visited the location. I also love to cook but hate leftovers.

If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go and why?  I have always dreamed of buying an around-the-world ticket and just keep progressively heading east to see how others live and how the past shapes their culture.

Five Question Friday: Samantha “Sam” Hanson

five_question_friday1It’s time for Five Question Friday! This week, we have a special video edition to introduce you to our new Chief Human Resources Officer, Samantha “Sam” Hanson. In her first few months with the organization, Sam has been inspired by the amazing work of our employees and how they create a difference in the lives of children in our clinics, hospitals and communities every day.

Watch the video to get to know Sam (including a special bonus FQF question) or read the transcript of her answers below.

Five Question Friday: Samantha “Sam” Hanson from Children’s of Minnesota on Vimeo.

What brought you to Children’s? I was very intrigued by Children’s mission and its employees. I have worked in several different organizations, leading HR, helping companies grow and learn. I was very attracted to the special qualities of the culture, the people and the mission of Children’s.

What has impressed you most so far? So far, I’ve been most impressed by the creativity of our employees. There isn’t a problem/situation that is too big or too complex. Every day I see our employees going the extra mile, driving innovation for the benefit of our families and our children.

What do you look forward to most about working at Children’s? I am dedicated to working with our HR organization to make sure that we have the tools, the learning opportunities and the services that we need to support our employees to do their very best.

Subscribe to MightyWhat was your favorite childhood toy? As a child, I remember being very fond of a Mrs. Beasley doll. This was a doll associated with a TV show. It was my favorite doll, and, in fact, my sister bought a Christmas ornament of the Mrs. Beasley doll – these are long gone – but it’s the first ornament that goes on the tree. But now that I have an 8- and 11-year-old, we play with all sorts of toys; building toys are our favorite (Legos). You can find us down in our playroom building lots of Lego sets.

What do you enjoy doing outside of Children’s? Well, we are parents of an 8- and 11-year-old, so you can find us on any given day at courtside or at a field somewhere. Our daughter also performs with Circus Juventas here in St. Paul. We are outdoorsy, we like to camp, paddle and hike, so we love to take advantage of Minnesota’s beautiful state parks. And on the rare occasion where Missy and I can get away, Italy is our favorite location.

Five Question Friday: Andrea Herbert

Meet Andrea Herbert, a CT/MRI technologist at our St. Paul hospital.

Andrea Herbert

Andrea Herbert

How long have you worked at Children’s?

I have worked at children’s for 13 years.

What do you love most about your job?

I love the variety of my job. I love working in CT/ MRI and X-ray. I get to advance in all three areas, and my skills continue to grow. The variety keeps me challenged at work, which is very nice since I have been here for 13 years.

What do you think makes kids great?

I think kids are great because they are positive and upbeat, for the most part. If they have something like cancer or a brain tumor, they are able to not dwell on it and continue being and acting like a kid. Also, when they are scared, I can work with them to make their tests not scary at all, and that is very rewarding when I see a smiles on their faces.

How do you spend your time outside of work?

I spend a lot of time with my two kids, my boyfriend and my new puppy. We like to go on bike rides, walks and runs. I also love to go to concerts and out to new restaurants.

What’s your favorite restaurant?

My favorite restaurant is Ruth’s Chris.