Category Archives: News

Helping kids make sense of Ebola

(iStock photo / Getty Images)

(iStock photo / Getty Images)

By Jimmy Bellamy

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

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

Answer questions asked

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monitor what the child sees, hears and reads

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

Make your child feel at ease

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

READ: Minnesota Department of Health’s FAQ about Ebola

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

Spotlight shines on Midwest Fetal Care Center

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

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

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

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

After summer off, Gavin faces next challenge with a smile

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

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

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

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

By Nicole Pierson

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gavin checks out some toys on the Internet.

Gavin checks out some toys on the Internet.

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

What parents need to know about Ebola


(iStock photo / Getty Images)

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

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

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

Children’s ranks among top social media-friendly hospitals

TOP75_CHILDRENS_HOSPITALSChildren’s Hospital and Clinics of Minnesota ranks No. 7 on the list of the Top 75 Social Media Friendly Children’s Hospitals for 2014, as selected by measured the social media presence of children’s hospitals in the U.S. to gauge which organizations best utilized their Facebook and Twitter accounts to connect with patients. Children’s scored 82.5 out of a possible 100 points.

Thank you to all of our followers across every social media platform for engaging with Children’s for health care news, trends, information and patient stories. And thank you,, for recognizing Children’s commitment to its patients, families and supporters. also released its list of top 100 non-children’s hospitals.

Follow Children’s on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google+, YouTube, Vimeo, Pinterest, Vine and LinkedIn.

Children’s to host vaccination documentary screening

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

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

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

Trauma 101: What it means to be a Level I pediatric trauma center

Our pediatric specialists in Minneapolis are on site, not on call, so they can get to children immediately.

Children’s pediatric specialists in Minneapolis are on site, not on call, so they can get to children immediately.

On the surface, it may be difficult to distinguish one hospital from another. Each one has doctors, nurses and operating rooms. Every place has an emergency room, and all ERs are the same, right?

Not exactly.

So then what does it mean when you’re told that Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota has a Level I pediatric trauma center in Minneapolis?

Established in June 2013, Children’s Level I Pediatric Trauma Center in Minneapolis received the American College of Surgeons’ verification by meeting the highest standards of expertise and level of preparation to care for critically injured children, which increases Children’s commitment to families throughout the region. Children’s – Minneapolis was designated by the Minnesota Department of Health as the first and only pediatric-only hospital in the state with ACS Level I recognition.

Children’s can accept injured kids directly from the site of the traumatic injury via ambulance or helicopter instead of being transferred from another hospital after being stabilized.

Children’s can accept injured kids directly from the site of the traumatic injury via ambulance or helicopter instead of being transferred from another hospital after being stabilized.


Trauma is the leading cause of death and disability in children.The first hour after an accident, the golden hour, is critical. Children’s can accept injured kids directly from the site of the traumatic injury via ambulance or helicopter instead of being transferred from another hospital after being stabilized.

Children’s – Minneapolis’ transformation from Level III status to Level I took three years, a process that was sped up with help of $17.5 million grant and ongoing philanthropic partnership from Minnetonka-based UnitedHealthcare, a UnitedHealth Group company, in 2010, making the UnitedHealthcare Pediatric Emergency Department and Level I Trauma Center a reality.

The emergency department at Children’s – St. Paul, which is Level III, has been renovated, and its staff go through the same training as those in Minneapolis.

At its Minneapolis and St. Paul hospitals, Children’s receives more than 90,000 visits annually and treats nearly 40 percent of Twin Cities pediatric trauma cases.

At its Minneapolis and St. Paul hospitals, Children’s receives more than 90,000 visits annually and treats nearly 40 percent of Twin Cities pediatric trauma cases.

Level I standards

At its Minneapolis and St. Paul hospitals, Children’s receives more than 90,000 visits annually and treats nearly 40 percent of Twin Cities pediatric trauma cases. When it comes to ACS-verified Level I attributes, Children’s has:

  • More than 150 emergency department staff, including board-eligible or board-certified pediatric emergency physicians, nurse practitioners, nurses and more
  • 24/7 in-house pediatric trauma surgeon; Children’s pediatric specialists in Minneapolis are on site, not on call, so they can get to kids immediately
  • Two large trauma bays, resuscitation rooms, a helipad and dedicated orthopedic room for fractures, featuring advanced X-ray capabilities
  • Research programs and performance improvement efforts to ensure that each patient experience leads to the best possible outcome
  • Injury prevention efforts such as Making Safe Simple, Children’s public education program designed to arm the community with basic safety and injury prevention tips

Subscribe to MightyPlan for the unplanned

You plan everything out for your kids (classes, camps and nutrition). It’s important to have a plan in case they’re in a serious accident. If your child has an emergency, know where to go. Program Children’s ER contact information into your phone. Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota are located in Minneapolis (2525 Chicago Ave. S.) and St. Paul (345 N. Smith Ave.)

When it’s critical, so is your choice – Children’s Level I Pediatric Trauma Center, Minneapolis.

Physical punishment of children not a long-term, healthy solution

(iStock photo / Getty Images)

(iStock photo / Getty Images)

Alice Swenson, MD, is a child abuse pediatrician at the Midwest Children’s Resource Center, a clinic which is dedicated to the medical evaluation of suspected child abuse and neglect.

Alice Swenson, MD

Alice Swenson, MD

There has been much conversation in the media regarding corporal punishment and physical abuse of children. We at Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota have an obligation to protect the health and safety of all children in our community and to respond to questions about discipline and abuse. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) reaffirmed its statement on discipline in 2012. The statement concludes that the purpose of discipline is to “teach or instruct” a child to prepare him or her to “achieve competence, self-control, self-direction, and caring for others.”

And while physical punishment of a child may be immediately effective in stopping an unwanted behavior, it is less useful in the long term. Spanking or hitting a child “models aggressive behavior as a solution to conflict and has been associated with increased aggression” in children. In addition, parents who resort to physical discipline are more likely to escalate the severity of the punishment in order to continue to achieve the desired effect, resulting in serious injury and abuse. We share the position of the AAP, that physical punishment of a child is not the optimal approach to discipline.

Additional resources and information:

Participate in #FighttheFluMN photo challenge

flu_prevention_kohls_600x600_4Flu season is just around the corner here in Minnesota and across the country. The Kohl’s Cares and Children’s Flu Prevention Project wants to know how you and your family plan to fight the flu this year. You’re invited to participate in the Flu Prevention Photo Challenge to show us how.

photoHere’s how to participate:

1. Snap a photo of you and/or your family fighting the flu.

Examples include:

  • Getting a flu vaccine
  • Washing your hands
  • Covering your cough
  • Showing off your “I got vaccinated” sticker

2. Post your photo on Twitter or Instagram using #FighttheFluMN (not case sensitive).

The contest runs until Wednesday (Sept. 17). Submit as many photos as you’d like. At the end of the day Wednesday, we’ll choose, at random, five people who each will receive a $50 Kohl’s gift card. Good luck and happy snapping!

Contest rules: Only photos posted by persons 18 years of age or older are eligible.

Social media disclaimer: We welcome and encourage open discussion on Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota’s (Children’s) social media sites  including but not limited to our blogs, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube pages and online story-sharing forums  and look forward to any comments, stories and experiences you want to share. Other than the entries Children’s posts ourselves, the opinions and/or views expressed on these sites represent the thoughts of individual bloggers and online communities, and not those necessarily of Children’s or any of our directors, officers, employees, research staff, medical staff or members of our board of directors. All links to other websites found linked from Children’s social media sites are provided as a service to readers, but such linkage does not constitute endorsement of those sites by Children’s, and as such we are not responsible for the content of external websites.

While Children’s makes reasonable efforts to monitor and/or moderate content posted on our social media sites, we do not moderate all comments and cannot always respond in a timely manner to online requests for information. Children’s reserves the sole right to review, edit and/or delete any comments it deems are inappropriate. Comments including, but not limited to, the following may be deleted or edited by Children’s:

  • Abusive or hurtful comments about a blogger or another participant
  • Off-topic and redundant comments (this includes promotion of events, groups, pages, Web sites, organizations and programs not related to or affiliated with Children’s)
  • Comments that use foul language or “hate speech” (e.g., racial, ethnic or gender bashing language)
  • Personal attacks or defamatory statements or comments about a participant, instead of just criticizing his/her posting, opinion or comments
  • Comments that violate the privacy of our patients and their families

Please remember that information posted on any of our social media sites shouldn’t be considered medical advice and shouldn’t replace a consultation with a health care professional.

Please be aware that once you post something online, there’s the potential for thousands (or hundreds of thousands) of people to read your words, even years from now. We therefore suggest that you exercise caution when posting medical information on any of our social media sites and that you not disclose personal identifiable information like your location, medical record number, financial information, etc.

By submitting content to any of Children’s social media sites, you understand and acknowledge that this information is available to the public, and that Children’s may use this information for internal and external promotional purposes and fundraising purposes. Please note that other participants may use your posted information beyond the control of Children’s. If you do not wish to have the information you have made available via this site used, published, copied and/or reprinted, please do not post on this page.

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.