Author Archives: Jimmy Bellamy

About Jimmy Bellamy

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

Newest Timberwolves Wiggins, Bennett, Young and LaVine visit Children’s

Members of the Minnesota Timberwolves posed for photos with fans at Children's – Minneapolis.

Minnesota Timberwolves mascot Crunch and rookie Andrew Wiggins pose for photos with fans while Thaddeus Young colors pictures at Children’s – Minneapolis.

New Minnesota Timberwolves (from left) Anthony Bennett, Andrew Wiggins, Thaddeus Young and Zach LaVine and mascot Crunch join The Dude during an episode of "Kids Clubhouse" on Wednesday inside Star Studio at Children's – Minneapolis.

New Minnesota Timberwolves (from left) Anthony Bennett, Andrew Wiggins, Thaddeus Young and Zach LaVine and mascot Crunch join The Dude during an episode of “Kids Clubhouse” on Wednesday inside Star Studio at Children’s – Minneapolis.

By Jimmy Bellamy

The latest additions to the Minnesota Timberwolves’ roster have had a busy week. Three days after the team acquired Andrew Wiggins, Anthony Bennett and Thaddeus Young in a blockbuster trade, the trio and Zach LaVine, the Wolves’ top pick in this year’s draft, met fans at the Minnesota State Fair. The fanfare continued Wednesday when the players and team mascot Crunch met some of their youngest supporters at Children’s – Minneapolis.

The players joined The Dude for an episode of “Kids Clubhouse,” where they played basketball and taught The Dude how to execute a proper chest pass. After that it was on to the seventh-floor playroom to hang out, color pictures, sign autographs and pose for photos with patients.

A photo gallery of the team’s visit is available on our Facebook page.

The Timberwolves also produced a video of the visit on NBA.com.

Participation strong for #MNvaxchat

By Jimmy Bellamy

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Thank you to everyone who joined us for #MNvaxchat on Monday night. More than 75 participants from across the U.S. engaged in a conversation about vaccinations with Patsy Stinchfield, PNP, Children’s director of infectious disease prevention and control, and John W. Baker, MD, a pediatrician at Metropolitan Pediatric Specialists in Burnsville.

The informative hour-long chat, hosted by Children’s and Twin Cities Moms Blog, respectfully covered more than a dozen unique, well-researched topics with a highly engaged audience of parents and advocates.

The recipient of the $50 Target gift card is Linsey Rippy. Congratulations, Linsey!

We look forward to hosting more Twitter chats on a variety of health topics!

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

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

Making magic happen: The infant-toddler brain

Anna Youngerman is the director of advocacy and health policy at Children's Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota and a proud parent of her 2-year-old son.

Anna Youngerman is the director of advocacy and health policy at Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota and a proud parent of her 2-year-old son.

By Anna Youngerman

For many parents, sleep-deprived might be how we choose to describe the first three years of a child’s life — at least it has been for me. But as I look through the haze of too few hours of sleep, there’s also magic to these early years. I frequently find myself in a state of awe and wonder at my growing child. The first time your baby catches your eye and holds your gaze, the first time he says “mommy,” the cobbling together of phrases to describe his day and even the frustration-driven tantrums — those are all magical moments.

It turns out there’s a reason the awe-inspiring moments come fast and furious during these earliest years. The brain wiring is on hyper-drive:

  • 80 percent of brain development happens by the time a child is 3 years old.
  • 700 new neural connections are made every second in the first few years of life.

This naturally occurring development can serve as a springboard for a productive, healthy life. Yet, just as a magician must carefully prepare for a trick so it appears both astonishing and seamless, helping every child realize the powerful potential of these years also requires intentional support.

Inspiring action

Though our paper, “Foundation for Life: The Significance of Birth to Three,” we want to inspire more robust discussion and action around the value of investments in and attention to our youngest children. We want to invite the tough questions and – more importantly – be part of answering them:

  • What can we do, collectively, to reach the most vulnerable children?
  • How do we mitigate toxic stress factors that tear away at a child’s potential?
  • What’s the community’s role in ensuring that no child lacks the positive relationships so crucial to healthy development?
  • How do we build a coordinated system that focuses on what a child needs and not what the system needs?
  • Subscribe to MightyHow do we reach children at an age (0-3) when they often are cared for by family, friends and neighbors and not always tied to existing systems?

These aren’t easy questions, but just because they’re tough doesn’t mean we shouldn’t take them on and figure out how to work together toward getting answers. The stakes are just too high and the opportunity too great.

Like most parents, I’ll gladly navigate my sleep deprivation in exchange for giving my kiddo every opportunity he deserves. That’s the hope and dedication we want to inspire. I hope you’ll join us.

Anna Youngerman is the director of advocacy and health policy at Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota and a proud parent of her 2-year-old son.

Tech Spotlight: A look at Visualase, a minimally invasive laser surgery system

Visualase's workstation interfaces with an MRI to allow temperature control and monitoring in real time during a treatment.

Visualase’s workstation interfaces with an MRI to allow temperature control and monitoring in real time during a treatment.

Gavin Pierson, now 8, of Ramsey, Minnesota, underwent two Visualase procedures in October and February.

Gavin Pierson, now 8, of Ramsey, Minnesota, underwent two Visualase procedures in October and February.

The story of Gavin Pierson, the 8-year-old Ramsey, Minnesota, boy battling a brain tumor, includes a number of key players: his doctors, parents, siblings and care team, and the thousands of people who have followed his two-year fight against the aptly nicknamed “Joe Bully.”

But one of Gavin’s most important allies doesn’t have a degree, voice or personal Facebook page.

Visualase, an MRI-guided, minimally invasive laser system, has been the Kryptonite to Gavin’s tumor since he became the first person with a mature teratoma brain tumor to undergo the procedure. His first laser surgery took place on Oct. 29, 2013, at Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota and his second four months later on Feb. 20, 2014.

“There are many things that make this procedure unique. One is the use of MRI, which allows us to monitor the temperature of both the tumor and the normal brain during the laser treatment,” said Joseph Petronio, MD, medical director of pediatric neurosurgery at Children’s and the doctor who led Gavin’s Visualase procedures. “The composition of (Gavin’s) tumor is unusual, including elements of bone and skin that makes it conduct heat very broadly. By being able to monitor temperature that closely, we are able to target the tumor more precisely without damaging other tissue.”

Founded in 2005, Visualase, Inc.’s system is a minimally invasive laser procedure that allows surgeons to pinpoint and treat lesions and tumors with extreme precision.

So, how does Visualase work?

  • Visualase Cooled Laser Applicator System: The system features a disposable fiber optic catheter with a built-in cooling mechanism that prevents overheating near the surface of the applicator. This laser catheter is placed through a small opening in the scalp and skull and into the center of a tumor using advanced MRI technology. Laser energy is then used to heat the tumor carefully. The system was engineered to allow for the use of higher laser powers to destroy tumors with shorter exposure times.
  • Laser generator: The generator produces light energy that is used to thermally ablate, or destroy, soft tissue.
  • Workstation: The workstation interfaces with an MRI to allow temperature control and monitoring in real time during a treatment. It also provides on-screen visuals of the tissue as it turns into a solid or semi-solid state. Because of the in-depth monitoring, the procedure results in a high level of precision and control.
  • Temperature: The time it takes to destroy parts of the tumor depends on the temperature of the laser. When set to 113-140 degrees Fahrenheit, tumor cells eventually get destroyed. Cells and tissue are destroyed immediately when the laser is between 140-212 degrees. Anything above 212 degrees, though, can cause water in the tissue and areas inside a cell to vaporize, and leads to ruptured cells and tissue components.
  • According to Visualase, once soft tissue is destroyed, or ablated, it is considered non-viable and is reabsorbed, leaving little evidence that a tumor or burn existed.

After getting its start in treating liver and prostate problems, the Visualase Thermal Therapy Subscribe to MightySystem was cleared by the Food and Drug Administration in 2007 for the ablation of soft tissue in neurosurgery. Visualase’s first minimally invasive neurosurgical procedures were performed in 2006 in Paris as part of a study for treating brain tumors.

The Visualase laser system is in use at more than 40 hospitals, nationwide, including 15 pediatric hospitals. In pediatric patients, including at Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota, Visualase has also been used to address brain lesions that cause epilepsy.

“What’s exciting to me is the path this technology opens to areas of the brain that were closed to us before,” said Petronio. “To think we could reach a day when the term ‘inoperable brain tumor’ in children is obsolete is extraordinary.”

Source: visualaseinc.com

Five Question Friday: Mary Sachs

In honor of Cystic Fibrosis Awareness Week, this edition of Five Question Friday is about Mary Sachs, RN, CNP, who works with cystic fibrosis patients at Children’s. 

Mary Sachs, RN, CNP, has worked at Children's for about 22 years.

How long have you worked at Children’s?

I have worked at Children’s for about 22 years. I started out in the pulmonary clinic as a nurse practitioner, and I continue to work in the pulmonary field doing asthma clinics in St. Paul and coordinating the cystic fibrosis program on the Minneapolis campus. I also work 2½ days per week in the general pediatric clinic. I enjoy the variety in my job and the ability to be on both sides of the river.

How has cystic fibrosis care changed over the years? Or what advances have you seen in the way we care for pediatric cystic fibrosis patients?

One of the biggest changes that happened eight years ago was the addition of testing for cystic fibrosis on the newborn screen. Whereas before, we would diagnose most children after they had issues with frequent pneumonias or infections or were failing to thrive, we now can diagnose them shortly after birth and begin preventative medications and strategies to optimize growth and maintain lung function. We used to also hospitalize children with CF at diagnosis because they were so sick. Now we usually don’t have to hospitalize children until they are older and we provide most of our education and treatments as outpatients.

What’s one thing you want people to know about cystic fibrosis?

The main thing I would like for people to know is that there is great hope that one day we truly will find a cure. The research happening around this orphan disease is truly amazing, and Children’s is a part of this research, enrolling subjects in many observational and clinical trials. New drugs studies are actually making corrective changes at the cellular level which is very exciting.  

Parents also need to know that if their child is diagnosed with CF that they are not alone. There is a team of people at Children’s who are going to be there with them every step of the way.

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

There are some many wonderful memories of caring for children and their families here, but one memory reminds me that when you work here at Children’s – you have to be ready for anything and truly at the top of your game. I walked into one of our patients with CF’s room on the sixth floor one day and he was watching the “Wishing Well Show” (the previous in-house studio show). Porky-Chop (the pig puppet) was having a hog-calling contest for patients and staff. Sam (my patient) insisted that we enter the contest (and how could I say no?). We did our best and then I was off to see the rest of the patients with CF on the unit. The next day when I came onto the floor, he came running out of his room yelling “Mary, Mary! We won! We won!” He was just SO excited. He is a teenager now, and when he comes to Children’s for his annual clinic visit with the team once a year, we still laugh about it.

If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go and why?

I would go to Italy because of the wonderful culture, food and wine.

Cities 97′s Paul Fletcher to host Baby Steps 3K

Paul Fletcher of Cities 97 will be the emcee for Baby Steps 3K walk and party, taking place on Saturday, May 31, at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds. Paul and his wife, Spencer, their family and friends will walk in honor of their daughter, Elsie, who was born with Hirschsprung’s disease and continues to receive care at Children’s. All proceeds from Baby Steps 3K will go to support the neonatal program. Learn more about or register for Baby Steps 3K.

In 2013, Paul and Spencer shared their story about Elsie and the care they received at Children’s and the Ronald McDonald House:

Photo gallery: 2013 Baby Steps 3K

A peek inside a music therapist’s cart: What do you do with all that stuff?

This music therapy cart contains instruments, not ice cream.

By Erinn Frees and Kim Arter

Some people have a bag of tricks, but the music therapists at Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota are lucky enough to have a whole cart. Since music therapists use music to accomplish nonmusical goals, having the right instruments available to accomplish these goals is important. If you have been to the hospital, you’ve probably seen us pushing around big, white carts or smaller, black boxes full of instruments. Here’s a peek at how we might use all those instruments:

The guitar provides rhythmic energy.

Guitar

This probably is the most-versatile tool we have, and it’s rare for any of us to do a session without one. We use the guitar to accompany much of the music we produce during sessions, and it can provide rhythmic energy, motivation to move or quietly relaxing chords.

Whether we are playing “The Itsy Bitsy Spider” to help slow down a baby’s heart rate or “Call Me Maybe” to promote self-expression in a preteen, the guitar is a must.

 

Music therapists typically carry around quite a few kinds of drums.

Drums 

We typically carry around quite a few kinds of drums. Imagine one patient using a drum to work on reaching his arms over his head, while another patient uses a hand drum to express her frustration and anger about not being able to go home this weekend. The music therapist even can facilitate drum circles with groups of patients, which can release stress and anxiety while providing a sense of group cohesion.

 

Harmonicas can increase breath support for a patient with decreased lung function.

Harmonicas

These also have a variety of purposes. They can increase breath support for a patient with decreased lung function or calm nerves as a patient is forced to breathe in and out evenly in order to produce a good sound on the instrument. It can provide a way to improvise for someone who never has played an instrument, which can help a patient express him or herself through music.

 

A wind chime is a great instrument for a child who has a limited range of motion or a severe developmental delay.

Wind chimes

This is a great instrument for a child who has a limited range of motion or a severe developmental delay. This instrument can be placed near any part of a child’s body of which he or she can control movement (fingers, knees, feet, elbows), providing a motivating ring with even the smallest movement.

 

 

A young child may use a xylophone with different-colored bars to learn colors.

Xylophones

These again are extremely versatile instruments. A young child may use a xylophone with different-colored bars to learn colors, while another child may need practice holding onto the small mallet in order increase fine motor control. Another child may find the metallic shimmer of the xylophone’s sound helps him relax. 

Music therapists have a large variety of shakers, including maracas, egg shakers, mini-maracas and fruit/vegetable shakers.

Shakers

We have a large variety of shakers, including maracas, egg shakers, mini-maracas and fruit/vegetable shakers. Shakers are great movement motivators in which a patient can work on grasping or passing the instrument back and forth from one hand to the other. A music therapist might model specific movements for the patient to follow. This requires focus and attention to task.

These are just a few examples of why we might choose a particular instrument to use during a session. We have many more instruments inside our cart, and other reasons for using each of them. We’d love for you to ask us to take a look sometime. We’re sorry; our carts do not contain ice cream (we get asked this question often) — but we think there is something much better inside!

Erinn Frees and Kim Arter are music therapists at Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota.

Surgery before birth saves lives of preemie twins

Amina (left) and Rania Abdi were born Feb. 11, 2014, at 25 weeks. The twin sisters were diagnosed with twin-to-twin transfusion syndrome while in the womb. (Jimmy Bellamy / Children's Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota)

We continue our focus on fetal care this month by honoring Siman Abdi and her twin daughters, Amina and Rania, who were born Feb. 11 at 25 weeks.

Earlier in Siman’s pregnancy, the sisters were diagnosed with twin-to-twin transfusion syndrome (TTTS), which is a rare condition that occurs when one twin donates blood to the other while in the womb and, if left untreated, potentially can be fatal for both babies.

Thanks to the work of the Midwest Fetal Care Center, a collaboration between Abbott Northwestern Hospital and Children’s, Siman’s daughters are recovering at Children’s and continue to grow stronger each day.

Learn more about twin-to-twin transfusion syndrome:

Twin-to-Twin Transfusion Syndrome from The Mother Baby Center on Vimeo.

Study: Concussion recovery time doubles when injury is sustained during school year

A patient visits the concussion clinic at Children's — St Paul on March 11, 2014. (Photo by Scott Streble)

A patient visits the Concussion Clinic at Children's — St Paul on March 11, 2014. (Photo by Scott Streble)

Concussions and the treatment after one is sustained have been at the forefront of media coverage in recent years. What once was viewed by some as brag-worthy or a badge of honor now is being taken seriously for its potential immediate and long-term effects.

While progress has been made in how the seriousness of a concussion is perceived, it’s still relatively unknown when it’s acceptable for individuals, including children, to return to normal cognitive and physical activity after suffering one.

According to a study by the Concussion Clinic at Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota, a child who sustains a concussion during the school year takes significantly more time to recover than one who suffers a similar injury during the summer.

“We were surprised at the magnitude of the differences,” Robert Doss, PsyD, co-director of the Pediatric Concussion Program and one of the study’s researchers, said. “We weren’t surprised that it was in that direction; just simply that the magnitude was what it was.”

Researchers took patients seen in the Concussion Clinic at Children’s from 2011-12 — 43 children who suffered concussions during the school year and 44 injured in the summer — and monitored their progress. For the children who sustained a concussion in the summer, the average number of days to recover was 35. Recovery time more than doubled (72 days) when the injury was sustained during the school year.

Another study, “Returning to Learning Following a Concussion,” published in October in Pediatrics, the official journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), explains the difficulties children experience in a school setting after suffering a concussion. Post-concussive symptoms often can linger or increase in severity without proper adjustments to a child’s environment or academic routine. Research suggests that academic demands and school environment may be a barrier to recovery.

Because each concussion and child is different, the AAP study recommends creating a multidisciplinary team to facilitate a student’s recovery and help him or her return to normal activities. Those four teams are: 

  • Family (student, parents, guardians, grandparents, peers, teammates and family friends)
  • Medical (emergency department, primary care provider, concussion specialist, clinical psychologist, neuropsychologist, team and/or school physician)
  • School academic (teacher, school counselor, school psychologist, social worker, school nurse, school administrator, school physician)
  • School physical activity (school nurse, athletic trainer, coach, physical education teacher, playground supervisor, school physician).

“It’s important to understand the individual child,” Doss said. “It seems like our practitioners are noticing more responsiveness by the schools to put forth accommodations for these kids. Some schools are more accommodating than others. Some seem to have a grasp of concussions.

“Overall, I think our perception is that schools are more receptive and thinking about it more actively. They’re instituting programs on their own, so they’re prepared for what comes next.”

Subjects were evaluated and treated in the Concussion Clinic after presenting with symptoms consistent with mild head trauma.

Researchers identified two groups based upon whether they recovered from their concussions during the school year or summer months and were ages 7 and older. The school year was defined as September through May. The school group was matched to the summer group by age and gender.

The average age of the children in the study at the time of injury was 14 years old.

Date of recovery was defined as the final visit date in the Concussion Clinic.

Doss also cautions parents and kids that they aren’t out of the woods once recovery is complete.

“It seems pretty clear in some of the guidelines that prior history of a concussion puts you at a higher risk for subsequent concussions,” he said.

However, according to the Children’s study, there’s little empirical support for the amount or duration of cognitive and physical rest after a concussion and the time frame for children to safely return to normal daily activities without experiencing ongoing cognitive or physical deficits.

According to the “Returning to Learning” study, cognitive rest refers to avoiding potential cognitive stressors, such as texting, video games, TV exposure and schoolwork. However, to date, there is no research documenting the benefits or harm of these methods in either the prolongation of symptoms or the ultimate outcome for the student following a concussion.

“Should the kids not be on Xbox versus playing a little bit of Xbox?” Doss said. What may be best during recovery depends on the case. “How much schoolwork is appropriate?”

Doss said the perceptions families and academic institutions have about concussions are evolving.

“Schools across the U.S. did not seem to be prepared. You bump up against the usual: The kids look fine. They’re not limping. They have an injury that’s not visible,” he said. “The general population is dealing with this heightened awareness of concussions.”

Variables collected for analysis included school grade, prior concussion history, loss of consciousness with presenting injury, first clinic visit ImPACT computerized cognitive testing raw scores — verbal memory composite, visual memory composite, visual motor speed composite, reaction time — ImPACT post-concussive symptom  scores, and history of depression and anxiety, migraine, other neurological problems, learning disability or ADHD.

The study was conducted by Robert Doss, PsyD, Neuroscience Center of Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota, and Minnesota Epilepsy Group, P.A.; Kara Seaton, MD, Emergency Department of Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota; and Mary Dentz, RN, CNP; Joseph Petronio, MD; Julie Mills, RN, CNP; Jane Allen, RN, CNP; and Meysam Kebriaei, MD, of the Neuroscience Center of Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota.