Despite not being able to vote in the next presidential election, 16-year-old Joey has been making rounds to meet candidates as they visit his home state. To many, 16 might seem young to be so engaged—but Joey has been a seasoned advocate for years. In fact, he represented Medical University of South Caronia Children’s Hospital (MUSC) at Family Advocacy Day almost 10 years ago!
Even as a 7-year-old at that time, Joey was a strong advocate for children’s health. He was particularly passionate about raising awareness for cystic fibrosis (CF). Joey was born with CF and has spent his whole life seeing the importance of children’s hospitals for kids like him.
That’s why he began volunteering for the for the American Civil Liberties Union’s (ACLU) Rights for All campaign and interviewing candidates on the road. Joey shares his story every chance he gets!
Wow, how the years flew by! On Nov. 6, 2013, Speak Now for Kids was launched. Today, we are a strong community made up of more than 60,000 child health champions just like you.
While today’s kids represent around 25% of the U.S. population, they are 100% of our future. That’s why their health and well-bring must always be a top priority.
Thank you for your continued advocacy for children’s health! Your support has made a huge difference in kids’ lives. During the past six years, you’ve made your voice heard in a big way. In fact, our community has gotten Congress’ attention with a combined total of more than 100,000 email messages, tweets, phone calls, and in-person visits!
Celia was born at 27 weeks. She weighed in at 1 pound 11 ounces. She was diagnosed with lung immaturity and apnea of prematurity, a condition in which breathing repeatedly starts and stops. As a result, she needed to be on a ventilator for several weeks.
“Fortunately, none of Celia’s complications were too severe,” says neonatologist Francis Poulain, M.D. “However, she did remain at UC Davis Children’s Hospital in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) for 93 days.”
Great gymnasts have a fierce determination to improve their skills, but Aspen is unstoppable. After a lawnmower accident at her grandparents’ house left her without a right foot, Aspen endured four surgeries and months of recovery. But she always had her eye on the prize: returning to gymnastics.
Aspen received much of her care and treatment at Texas Scottish Rite Hospital for Children. She was under the care of the hospital’s chief of staff emeritus, Tony Herring, M.D., and a full team of child life specialists, physical therapists and prosthetists. “When she went back to gymnastics, she went straight to the balance beam,” Aspen’s mother, Mary, says. “If I could go back and change things now, I wouldn't. She has been an inspiration to me, her family and everyone around her without even trying.”
For Down Syndrome Awareness Month, Speak Now for Kids chatted with Lynn, Will’s mother, to learn about Will and his health journey at Mt. Washington Pediatric Center.
When she was 21 weeks pregnant, Lynne went in for a routine ultrasound. Experts noticed her son’s pinky was small. After a follow-up test, it was determined that her baby, Will, had Down syndrome—or Trisomy 21.
“The first 24 hours were rough,” says Lynne. “We relied on Mt. Washington Pediatric Hospital for the first few weeks of his life. They provided a nurturing environment for us during this stressful period.”
Now 5 years old, Will is doing amazing! He’s currently in kindergarten and loves to sing, dance, play soccer and draw. He is full of energy and enjoys being outside with his brothers.
“He’s a typical toddler,” she says when asked what it’s like being a parent of a child with Down syndrome. “He’s running around everywhere, getting into everything that toddlers get into.”
Wyatt is a typical 4-year-old. He loves LEGOs, watching baseball and playing fetch with his dog. But, unlike most kids his age, Wyatt has a rare form of dwarfism—he has had to overcome many obstacles in his young life. For National Dwarfism Awareness Month, Speak Now for Kids chatted with Jenn, Wyatt’s mother, to learn about Wyatt and his health journey at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta.
It wasn’t until my son, Wyatt, was 10 weeks old that doctors discovered he has significant spinal cord stenosis. His doctors were unsure if surgery was needed to prevent further damage to his spinal cord.
A temporary solution was introduced, and Wyatt was fitted with a cervical neck brace to see if any damage to his spinal cord could be reversed. Because Wyatt was so little, the specialists had a hard time finding a cervical collar small enough to fit his tiny neck. Coincidently, Wyatt’s dad worked for a surgical equipment company that specializes in spinal implants. With the help of donations from his employer, Kevin began making his own cervical braces for Wyatt at home.
To have a place like Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta (CHOA), where the specialists are all in one place, is so important. With the help of weekly physicals, occupational and speech therapists, and close observation by numerous specialists, Wyatt is now a thriving toddler!
Taking place on October 16 each year, World Spine Day highlights the importance of spinal health and well-being.
When Caleb arrived at Shriners Hospitals for Children — Chicago, he had a spinal curve of 120 degrees. Diagnosed with kyphosis, a condition in which the spine is curved and protrudes outward, Caleb’s family turned to Shriners to help for the son they recently adopted from China. In addition to kyphosis, Caleb was born with multiple congenital anomalies in his lower extremities, including clubfoot and hip dysplasia. Caleb is also deaf and is working to learn sign language.
Purnendu Gupta, M.D., chief of staff and pediatric spine surgeon, met with the hospital’s spine team and determined that operating with two surgeons would produce the best outcome. A 3D printed model of Caleb’s spine helped the team prepare. Working with 3D models allows surgeons to see the malformations from various angles.
The evening before his surgery, Caleb was feeling nervous. After seeing Caleb was uneasy, Gupta sat on the floor alongside Caleb to show him the 3D model, which helped ease the nerves.
The 10-hour surgery significantly reduced Caleb’s spinal curve and gave him several inches in height. He will continue his care with the orthopedic team at Shriners for his lower extremities.
“At Shriners, we have team of nurses, physical therapists, occupational therapists, care coordinators, child life specialists, recreational therapists and more who work with our patients every step of their medical journey,” says Gupta. “This team approach allows for great outcomes and recovery with the children we treat.”
Photo: Cathleen Himes
Shriners Hospitals for Children-Chicago
To view more photos visit Children’s Hospitals Photo Exhibit.
National Pediatric Nurses Week is from October 7-11, 2019. Today, Carol shares her testimonial as a nurse.
From the first day of nursing school, I knew I would become a pediatric nurse. But I didn’t know I would find my calling in pediatric surgery.
One day during my clinical rotation in the O.R., I could feel the department suddenly “buzzing” more than usual. Near the end of my shift, I found out we were getting a new heart for a very sick baby. At the time, pediatric heart transplants were relatively rare so I did not want to miss this operation.
I watched in total awe for hours. Just as the baby’s new heart was sewn into place, the chief surgeon motioned for me to stand next to him. He took my hand and placed it on the baby’s new heart. Within moments, she was taken off the bypass machine that had kept her alive during surgery. I felt her heart beat for the very first time.
Two-year-old Maggie has just received her fourth Mehta cast to treat idiopathic scoliosis, a curvature of the spine. Mehta casting is a succession of casts that have been shown to be the best treatment for children with scoliosis, typically applying a new cast every six to eight weeks. Full correction can be achieved without invasive surgery.
“Patients tolerate casts extremely well and is a much better option than bracing,” says Henry J. Iwinski,Jr., M.D., chief of staff and pediatric orthopedic surgeon at Shriners in Lexington. “This treatment method has been revolutionary in the care of these children.”
After Maggie came out of anesthesia with a pink Mehta cast wrapped around her stomach, she became anxious. Post-anesthesia care unit nurse, Katy, picked Maggie up to comfort her as she rested after a tough procedure.
Gavin is a fighter. At age 9, he was diagnosed with Ewing sarcoma, a very rare type of cancerous tumor that affects about 200 people each year. Most often found in males, Ewing sarcoma grows in the bones or the soft tissues surrounding the bones. In Gavin’s case, the tumor began in his back, pressing on his lumbar spine and the nerves controlling his left leg, causing excruciating pain and temporary paralysis.
To relieve the pain and prevent further nerve damage, doctors removed the tumor and began chemotherapy. After the chemo, Gavin started radiation therapy as an outpatient. The goal was to be sure the cancer cells in the original tumor were gone. For a while, they were.
“Gavin put cancer in the rearview mirror and went on with his life,” says his mother, Julie. But about two years after treatment, Gavin started waking up with terrible headaches. An MRI confirmed the cancer was back, appearing at the base of his skull, cervical spine and in his ribs. The news was a devastating blow, but he mustered the strength to fight the cancer again. Since then, Gavin says he’s relapsed five or six times—he’s lost count.
“Over the years, we have used standard chemotherapy to treat Gavin, but we have also tried a variety of other innovative options, including experimental therapeutics and immunotherapy,” says J. Allyson Hays, M.D. “What impresses me the most about him and his parents is they continue to choose optimism, generosity and love throughout his treatment. He is an inspiring young man, and we are exploring every avenue possible to give Gavin a fighting chance.”
Photo: Jane Kortright
Children’s Mercy Kansas City, Kansas City, Missouri
To view more photos visit Children’s Hospitals Photo Exhibit.