Your connection to top pediatric health care professionals; what's new in the world of children's health; and expert tips to help you raise happy, healthy kids.

March 18, 2019

Heroes “fur” Real

There are few things cuter or more joy-inducing than dogs. Their ability to connect with humans — uncanny. Their cuddling prowess — unparalleled. And their positive effects on health — pretty darn undeniable. Scientific studies have shown that simply petting a pup increases one’s output of the feel-good hormones serotonin, oxytocin and prolactin, in turn reducing anxiety and loneliness and amplifying comfort and mental stimulation. Spending time with furry friends can also help lower blood pressure, mitigate pain and, in some instances, even dial down the need for medication.

At Rady Children’s Hospital-San Diego, our philanthropically funded PetSmart Paws for Hope program applies these findings to improving patients’ lives through one-on-one visits tailored to their unique needs, both emotional and medical. Through about 15,000 encounters each year, more than 30 dogs and their human counterparts work tirelessly to bring smiles, laughter and a greater sense of well-being to our patients and their loved ones. And, fun fact: Many of these doggedly devoted (see what we did there?) volunteers also happen to be Rady Children’s employees and their pets. Meet a few  — both two- and four-legged — now!  Read More...

Canine Therapy, Giving Back, Staff Stories
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March 11, 2019

Dream On: Quality Sleep at Every Stage of Childhood

Who doesn’t love a good night’s sleep? A solid snooze is physically and mentally restorative, and an essential part of living your healthiest life. For kids, who are on a constant developmental trajectory from the day they’re born, sleep is all the more important. However, many parents wonder how much is enough, how to help kids fall and stay asleep, and when it might be time to seek help from a sleep pro.

With National Sleep Awareness Week upon us, Rakesh Bhattacharjee, M.D., director of the Center for Healthy Sleep at Rady Children’s Hospital-San Diego and an associate professor of pediatrics at University of California San Diego School of Medicine, offers expert insights on this tricky topic via the infographic below.  Read More...

Child Development, Sleep
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March 7, 2019

Nutrition Fact vs. Fiction

Navigating nutrition is tough enough when keeping your own well-being in mind. But as parents, you know considering foods that support your child’s health, growth and development takes grocery shopping, meal planning and cooking to a whole other level. This is further compounded by the fact that there is tons of confusing, ever-changing information out there on what actually is healthy.

For National Nutrition Month, we asked a couple members of the team at Rady Children’s Hospital-San Diego’s Nutrition Clinic to address some of the nutrition topics they hear most about — and help separate fact from fiction.  Read More...

Nutrition
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March 1, 2019

Getting to Know: Rady Children’s Child Life Team

“Radiology,” “chemotherapy” and “dialysis” are big terms for little patients to understand, and even bigger medical experiences to go through. So, when anxiety strikes before a procedure or things get overwhelming during a hospital stay, a very special kind of health care professional is there to help calm fears, make sense of it all, and even inspire fun and laughter — child life experts.

At Rady Children’s Hospital-San Diego, our Child Life Services team comprises 15 certified child life specialists (C.C.L.S.) and two child life assistants. Fun fact: Child Life Services is one of the programs at the Hospital that is funded entirely through donations, a sure sign of its value and effectiveness. Members of the team are available to patients, parents and siblings seven days a week in inpatient and outpatient areas. Just some of the areas they can visit are outlined below — their reach throughout the Hospital is broad!  Read More...

Child Life, Staff Stories
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February 20, 2019

From Fear to Empowerment: Why I Joined the New Cardiac Family Advisory Council

by Melissa Cohen, Cardiac Family Advisory Council Member

The numbness of my epidural hadn’t yet worn off when my beautiful newborn daughter turned blue. My husband and I only got to hold Makayla (“Mak,” as we call her) for two hours before she moved from our loving, warm arms to a tiny plastic isolette, and we wouldn’t be able to hold her again for three days. She was diagnosed the day after she was born with a congenital heart defect (CHD) called Tetralogy of Fallot, and was rushed to the cardiovascular intensive care unit (CVICU) at Rady Children’s Hospital-San Diego.  Read More...

Family Advisory Council
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February 11, 2019

Protecting Youth Athletes from Dental Injuries

When you think of sports injuries in kids, things like concussions, sprains and broken bones likely come to mind. But with one in three youth athletes affected, injuries to the teeth and mouth are also high on the list, explains Parvathi Pokala, D.D.S., a pediatric dentist at Rady Children’s Hospital-San Diego. With Children’s Dental Health Month upon us and springtime sports season fast approaching, learn more about how you can help your champions’ favorite activities play nice with their smiles.

Play Ball (Carefully)  Read More...

Dental Health, Safety, Sports Medicine
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February 8, 2019

Bad Romance: Raising Awareness of Abuse in Teen Relationships

While most romantic relationships forged in teenage years don’t last forever, they can typically be looked back on for fond memories, lessons learned … or at least a good-natured eye roll. But the American Psychological Association (APA) reports that for more than 10 percent of high school students, young love includes physical, verbal or emotional abuse, potentially endangering teens and inflicting trauma, shame or psychological distress that can last even into adulthood.

“Research consistently shows that traumatic experiences during adolescence can have direct and profound associations with both psychological and physical health issues,” says Benjamin Maxwell, M.D., medical director of inpatient psychiatry at Rady Children’s Hospital-San Diego and assistant professor for the Department of Psychiatry within University of California School of Medicine. “Implications may include depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress and suicidal ideation, as well as an increased likelihood to develop an eating disorder, engage in risky behaviors or have abusive relationships in the future.”  Read More...

Behavioral Health, Safety
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February 6, 2019

Keeping Kids’ Blood Pressure and Cholesterol in Check

It’s likely you’ve talked with your doctor about your heart health and where your blood pressure and cholesterol stand. But have you talked with your child’s pediatrician about theirs? “We usually think of hypertension (high blood pressure) and high cholesterol as problems that affect adults, but we tend to forget that these problems can start early in life,” explains Jessica Haley, M.D., pediatric cardiologist and director of the Division of Cardiology’s Home Monitoring Program at Rady Children’s Hospital-San Diego and assistant clinical professor of pediatrics at University of California School of Medicine. “Hypertension is found in approximately 3.5 percent of kids and teens; abnormal cholesterol levels are found in approximately 20 percent. Both of these issues are more common among kids who are overweight or obese.”

High blood pressure or cholesterol levels in youth are typically the result of underlying health issues, such as kidney disease; environmental factors, such as unhealthy diet or weight and insufficient exercise; or genetics. “Some kids have an increased risk of developing these problems simply because it runs in their family,” Dr. Haley says. Since these potentially harmful conditions can stem from so many — or even multiple — areas of health, Dr. Haley emphasizes the importance of partnering with your child’s pediatrician to monitor from a young age. Early intervention is critical to providing proper treatment, in turn reducing the likelihood of conditions worsening and of progression to cardiovascular disease, stroke, heart attack, kidney disease or heart failure in adulthood. “Studies have found that kids that have high blood pressure are more likely to continue to have it as adults. We are now finding that kids with hypertension or abnormal cholesterol are developing subtle changes in their bodies, including thickening of the heart muscle and of the arteries, which contributes to the early development of cardiovascular disease,” continues Dr. Haley.  Read More...

Cardiology
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February 1, 2019

Getting to Know: Justin Ryan, Ph.D. – Director of the 3D Innovations Lab

Justin Ryan, Ph.D., is an artist — a very specialized, highly technical, life-improving artist. After all, as director of the new 3D Innovations (3DI) Lab at Rady Children’s Hospital-San Diego, he and his team craft 3D models of hearts, brains, bones and more to streamline surgical plans and improve outcomes for even the Hospital’s most complex cases. Find out more about his fascinating role, his unique professional background and his peaceful spirit animal in our latest edition of “Getting to Know.”

Describe a typical workday.  Read More...

Research and Innovation, Staff Stories
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January 30, 2019

Changing Policies, Changing Lives

Each year, the Cochlear Implant Program team from the Audiology and Speech-Language Pathology Departments (latter team pictured) at Rady Children’s Hospital-San Diego witnesses dozens of profoundly deaf or severely hard-of-hearing children experience the sounds of the world around them for the first time. Being outfitted with a cochlear implant, a surgically placed electronic device, can be transformative for a child’s development and future. But it’s not a one-and-done event — because recipients haven’t always been able to have the same speech-teaching interactions that hearing children do, life with a new cochlear implant can involve significant, specialized speech therapy requiring weekly visits. Accordingly, one of the key questions when evaluating a child as a cochlear implant candidate is whether or not they’ll be able to attend these visits, explains Shari Garrett, M.S., C.C.C.-S.L.P., C.H.T.P., manager of the Speech-Language Pathology Department.

With many of the Hospital’s cochlear implant families living in out-of-town areas such as Calexico, El Centro and Riverside County, Garrett says that can be tough. Until recently, speech pathologists saw families so dedicated to their child’s care that they’d spend hours each week driving back and forth to appointments, only to arrive (understandably) exhausted and less engaged than they would be with a shorter commute. She and her team knew something needed to change — they needed to bring speech therapy to families’ homes through telemedicine, a burgeoning form of health care that connects patients and providers from anywhere using audio and video technology. Think of it like a patient privacy-friendly version of Skype.  Read More...

Child Development, Hearing/Speech, Research and Innovation
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January 21, 2019

Drugs and Alcohol: Know the Facts

By the time they reach their junior year of high school, about 52 percent of kids in California have had an alcoholic drink at least once, while 43.5 percent, 40 percent, 22 percent and 6 percent have gotten high at least once using cold or cough medicine, marijuana, prescription pain medicine, and cocaine or amphetamines, respectively[1]. Nationally, 16.5 percent of high school seniors say they binge drink, and 24 percent of youth in eighth through 12th grades use marijuana[2].

A number of factors can make it more likely for teens to use or abuse drugs and alcohol — ranging from psychiatric illness, a history of trauma or neglect, and hanging out with drug-using peers to genetics, availability and coming from a low socioeconomic background. However, unrealistic expectations and lack of accurate information are often strong contributors, says Kara Bagot, M.D., a child and adolescent psychiatrist at Rady Children’s Hospital-San Diego and an assistant professor within University of California San Diego School of Medicine’s Department of Psychiatry. She continues to explain that a large part of misinformation stems from using search engines, or even social media, to research substances. “They are frequently directed to other sites, forums or chats that have inaccurate or misleading information on drugs. Studies have found that incorrect information increases the risk of adolescents trying substances they may not otherwise have tried.”  Read More...

Behavioral Health, Safety
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December 21, 2018

Getting to Know: Karen Miller, B.S.N., R.N., C.E.N. – Neuro-Oncology Case Manager at the Peckham Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders

Karen Miller, B.S.N., R.N., C.E.N., (pictured in the birthday hat with some of her neuro-oncology teammates), has been a nursing pro for the past 12 years, and has been overseeing all aspects of brain tumor cases at Rady Children’s Peckham Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders since June 2018. We chatted with the San Diego newcomer to learn more about her role as neuro-oncology case manager, her penchant for a certain red-haired crooner and what local staple she’s obsessed with snacking on.

As a nurse case manager, what’s your day-to-day like?  Read More...

Hematology/Oncology, Staff Stories
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December 18, 2018

Rady Children’s ECMO Expertise Goes Global

George Sutherland, M.B.A., R.R.T.-N.P.S. (pictured middle right), is going places. And while he certainly excels in his role as Rady Children’s Hospital-San Diego’s extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) coordinator, we mean this literally. That’s because in Nov. 2018, Sutherland led a group of Rady Children’s ECMO experts on a volunteer trip to China, where they helped train 25 practitioners at Chengdu Women’s and Children’s Central Hospital on this life-saving technology and establish a neonatal ECMO program. Sutherland’s fellow volunteers included Denise Suttner, M.D. (pictured middle left); Jose Honold, M.D.; Carlos Ramos, M.D.; Erika Fernandez, M.D. and ECMO Primes Lutchi Abraham, B.S.N., R.N., C.C.R.N.; Elana Sterling, B.S.N., R.N., C.C.R.N.; Arjumand Gutierrez, B.S.N., R.N., C.C.R.N.; and Patricia Belmares, B.S.N., R.N., C.C.R.N.

ECMO is a complex form of cardiac bypass technology that uses mechanical devices to support heart and/or lung function in severe heart or lung failure that is unresponsive to conventional care. ECMO removes deoxygenated blood from the body; oxygenates, ventilates and warms the blood through an artificial lung; and returns the blood to the patient via a cannula, or medical tube. Rady Children’s is equipped with seven ECMO pumps and has a staff ECMO prime, who can put patients on ECMO and oversee their care once a surgeon places their access catheters, in-house 24/7. Rady Children’s is the only hospital in San Diego County that offers this service to pediatric patients, and has managed the care of more than 700 children since beginning its ECMO program in 1987.  Read More...

Cardiology, Giving Back, Staff Stories
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December 12, 2018

A Continuum of Care: Kelly’s Story

If you take a walk by our inpatient pharmacy on the weekend, it’s likely you’ll catch Kelly Chan, a 23-year-old Doctor of Pharmacy candidate at UC San Diego Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, hard at work as an intern. For Kelly, vying for this role was an easy decision — after all, Rady Children’s Hospital-San Diego was the first home she ever knew.

When she was pregnant, Kelly’s mother underwent a procedure that screens for fetal abnormalities through a small sample of amniotic fluid. The analysis revealed that something was seriously wrong with Kelly’s development. Further studies revealed that Kelly would be born with a right-sided diaphragmatic hernia. This rare birth defect results in a large hole in the diaphragm, the muscle that separates the abdomen and chest, and supports breathing function. Through the hole, Kelly’s liver and bowel had moved into her chest, preventing her right lung from developing. Kelly’s mom would need to deliver by cesarean section, and Kelly would require a critical intervention right after birth.  Read More...

NICU, Staff Stories
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December 12, 2018

Food for Thought: Understanding and Managing Food Allergies in Kids

Food allergies are becoming increasingly common, particularly in children. We sat down with Stephanie Leonard, M.D., director of the Rady Children’s Hospital-San Diego Food Allergy Center and an associate clinical professor for the Division of Allergy-Immunology-Rheumatology within University of California San Diego School of Medicine’s Department of Pediatrics, to discuss prevalence, what’s new in research and how we can all work together to better protect kids managing allergies.

Food Allergies 101  Read More...

Allergy/Immunology, Research and Innovation
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December 4, 2018

Simple Tips for Raising a Compassionate Kid

As parents, you strive to instill good values in your kids — mind your manners, be a good sport, sharing is caring. Among the most prized of these warm and fuzzy human traits is having compassion for others, but it can be tough to gauge when children are ready to grasp and grow this emotionally complex concept. We asked three experts from Rady Children’s Developmental Services team — Maggie Kershaw, M.S., M.S.W., a behavior specialist at Children’s Care Connection (C3); Brian Fritz, B.C.B.A., a behavior specialist at the Autism Discovery Institute; and Lorri Bauer, M.S., a behavior specialist at C3 and KidSTART Center — to provide some guidance on kicking off the conversation and continuing to nurture compassionate kids through all stages of childhood.

An Early Start  Read More...

Behavioral Health, Child Development
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November 30, 2018

What’s New in Flu? A Q&A with Dr. John Bradley

Ah, winter — a time for holiday cheer, sweater weather (well — for San Diego, at least sometimes) and … the flu. Most of us have experienced this nasty virus at least once, and last season’s strain made headlines for infecting even those who were vaccinated, and for its effects on children. To help parents prep for this year and guard their kiddos as much as possible, we connected with John Bradley, M.D., director of the Division of Infectious Diseases at Rady Children’s Hospital-San Diego and a professor and chief for the Division of Infectious Diseases within the Department of Pediatrics at University of California San Diego School of Medicine.

Q: What do we know about this year’s flu?  Read More...

Flu Information, Vaccines
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November 21, 2018

The Bedtime Cart: Creating Sweeter Dreams for Rady Children’s Patients

It’s a Wednesday night. The lights in the Peckham Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders at Rady Children’s Hospital-San Diego are low, and a lull has fallen over halls that were full of hustle and bustle just a few hours ago. But in the midst of the evening quiet, there’s still activity afoot. From patient rooms drift gently whispered tales of Harry Potter and Thomas the Tank Engine, and the soothing aroma of freshly brewed chamomile tea fills the air. That’s because on Wednesday nights, The Bedtime Cart — and its devoted volunteers — make the rounds to bring a little extra comfort to the center’s patients and their families.

The Bedtime Cart has been delivering sweeter dreams since 2015, when Margaret Fitzgerald, B.S.N., R.N., C.P.O.N. (pictured on the right), a 16-year Rady Children’s employee and hematology/oncology nurse-turned nurse manager-turned interim director of the Peckham Center, got it rolling. “I started because I really wanted patients and families to have what they needed to get a good night’s sleep,” she says. “You should have the same routine you have at home. So I thought, ‘well, I’ll start a cart that goes around with volunteers.’” Stocked with goods such as cozy socks, soft flannel pillowcases, herbal teas, books for kids of all ages and even miniature bottles of a custom-blended lavender aromatherapy lotion, the cart was an instant hit with patients and loved ones, so much so that Margaret has helped replicate it in two additional units.  Read More...

Giving Back, Hematology/Oncology
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November 5, 2018

Beating Up Bullying

In recent years, bullying has become increasingly recognized as a widespread and common issue for young people. And it’s not just happening during those classically challenging middle school years. About 20 percent of high school students are bullied[1], while 90 percent of elementary school children say they’ve been bullied at least once by their peers[2]. While bullying can happen to any child, “often, kids are bullied because of differences in race or religion, or because of disabilities or special needs. Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer or intersex youth are also at a higher risk for being targeted,” says Brent Crandal, Ph.D., child and family psychologist at The Chadwick Center for Children & Families at Rady Children’s Hospital-San Diego.

After the initial sting of bullying has worn off, its effects can be lasting and profound. “Bullying can be a source of intense strain, worry, sadness and isolation,” Crandal explains. “Sometimes, bullying carries on for weeks, months and even years, and can often be traumatizing.” For example, bullying has been linked to serious mental health implications ranging from agoraphobia, anxiety and panic disorders, depression, and antisocial personality disorder to suicidal ideation, plans and attempts[3].  Read More...

Behavioral Health
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