Category Archives: Featured

Boy, 6, overcomes rare form of lung cancer

Evan Ginter, 6, loves art, drawing and recess.

Evan Ginter, 6, loves art, drawing and recess.

Life was normal for the first seven months of Evan Ginter’s life. Then cancer changed everything.

Evan’s primary pediatrician noticed something was amiss during a routine checkup in December 2008. She noticed that Evan experienced shallow breathing. A subsequent chest X-ray showed a large, dark mass on his right lung, and Evan immediately was admitted to Children’s – Minneapolis.

Evan Ginter enjoys riding his bike.

Evan Ginter enjoys riding his bike.

After a series of events that included CT scans and surgery, Evan’s parents, Lindsay and Jeremy Ginter, learned on Jan. 12, 2009, that Evan had a rare form of lung cancer known as pleuropulmonary blastoma type 1r.

Gone are the days when Lindsay and Jeremy constantly had to worry about Evan. He had an annual checkup in June, when he had an X-ray. Not only was it clear, it was the first annual exam in which he didn’t need a CT scan, too – a huge milestone. He’ll continue to be monitored with X-rays for the next two or three years.

The Ginter family, which includes his brother, Edward, said they feel blessed for the specialized care Evan has received at Children’s. Not all families are as fortunate, Lindsay said.

Thanks to social media, Lindsay follows the stories of others with Evan’s diagnosis.

Evan Ginter“For those who aren’t in Children’s network and don’t have the access to the PPB registry, there are so many questions. They just don’t have the direction we had. Since day one, we had personal cell phone numbers of our oncologists,” she said. “It’s really hard to imagine it any other way, and my heart goes out to the families that don’t have those resources.”

Evan, now 6 and still quite a character, just finished kindergarten, where he flourished.

He loves art, drawing and recess. He might even be an engineer in the making.

“Both my husband and I are insurance and accounting people, so our brains don’t work that way. He’s turning out to be much more creative than we are,” Lindsay said. “So we don’t know where he gets it; it’s good.”

There’s no doubt Evan has been through a lot in his short life. We celebrate alongside the Ginter family as Evan looks forward to starting first grade this fall.

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.

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

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!

Stay safe and avoid dehydration in hot weather

Follow these quick tips to keep your kids safe from dehydration when they’re out playing in hot temperatures.

Summertime is definitely here, and what kid can’t wait to get outside and play? But staying safe in the sun, and avoiding dehydration, is important.

Subscribe to MightyWe believe in Making Safe Simple. Here are some quick tips to help your kids avoid dehydration:

  • On hot days, make sure you drink plenty of water to stay hydrated. The human body requires at least one liter of water daily.
  • Dehydration means that a child’s body doesn’t have enough fluid. Dehydration can result from not drinking, vomiting, diarrhea, or any combination of these conditions. Sweating or urinating too much rarely causes it.
  • Thirst is not a good early indicator of dehydration. By the time a child feels thirsty, he or she may already be dehydrated. And thirst can be quenched before the necessary body fluids have been replaced.
  • Signs of dehydration in children include the following: sticky or dry mouth, few or no tears when crying, eyes that look sunken into the head, lack of urine or wet diapers for six to eight hours in an infant (or only a small amount of dark yellow urine), lack of urine for 12 hours in an older child (or only a small amount of dark yellow urine); dry, cool skin; irritability, and fatigue or dizziness in an older child.
  • If you suspect your child is dehydrated, start by replenishing his or her body with fluids. Plain water is the best option for the first hour or two. The child can drink as much as he or she wants. After this, the child might need drinks containing sugar and electrolytes (salts) or regular food. Also, the child should rest in a cool, shaded environment until the lost fluid has been replaced.
  • Call your doctor immediately or take your child to the nearest emergency department if there is no improvement or condition is worsening.

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. From the seriously sick to the critically injured, we’re ready for anything.

Volunteer shout-out: Eric Gustafson

Eric Gustafson has been volunteering at Children’s for almost five years.

As part of National Volunteer Recognition Week, we’re profiling some of our Red-Vested Rockstars! Today, meet Eric Gustafson, who has been volunteering at Children’s for almost five years. He’s a laid-back guy with a great sense of humor. Eric often trains-in new volunteers, and serves as our orientation assistant at new-volunteer orientations. Learn more about Eric and why he gives his time to Children’s.

What is your favorite part about volunteering?

It has all been good; the staff and other volunteers have been exceptional. But if I had to boil it down, I would say being with the kids and hopefully helping.

What is a standout memory you have from your volunteer time?

I do remember an incident in the NICU where a nurse asked if I could hold a little boy so she could go to lunch. I was handed the kid and he immediately fell asleep. When the nurse came back she took him, and as I took just a couple of steps he began to cry, so I headed back. The nurse put him in my arms, and again, he fell asleep right away. We thought we were in the clear, so the nurse took over, and I headed out. Again, and after a few steps, he began to cry again! This repeated itself one more time before I ended my shift and had to let him stay with the nurse, still crying.

What advice would you give to a new volunteer?

Pay attention while you are training, use common sense and get comfortable going into rooms without being asked to. What I tell all the people I have trained is that this is not rocket science, but we cover a lot of material and, like many new scenarios, the first time you are on your own and are asked to do things on your own can cause some distress.

Besides volunteering, what is something you love to do?

Travel, spend time with my wife, hunt, drive.

Thank you, Eric, and all of our volunteers for all you do!