Got Milk?

Eagle Intern Fellowship Program

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My twin and I were born six weeks prematurely, weighing less than seven pounds combined. These special circumstances surrounding my birth have helped to shape my passion for medicine. For as long as I can remember, I have always dreamed of becoming an obstetrician and working with moms and their newborns. My internship with the Connecticut Human Milk Research Center has exposed me the various components of importance in the treatment of premature infants, one being their nutrition.

Premature infant nutrition an elaborate field within it of itself. The complex diet of these sick and tiny babies is imperative to their current and future health. The Connecticut Human Milk Research Center and NICU at CCMC strives to encourage feeding all of its NICU babies breast milk, as it supports healthy growth and development and can protect against a plethora of conditions, such as necrotizing enterocolitis, allergies, asthma, and obesity.

Before…

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Summer Snack Series: Frosty Fun Fruits

My favorite part of summer is of course, the fresh fruit! Peaches, cherries, blueberries, watermelon…it all just sounds and tastes so delicious. And the best part…? It’s all very healthy for you! Summer is the perfect time of year to introduce these fruits to your family and it’s very easy to incorporate into your daily diet. Maybe it’s the bright colors or or the natural sugars…whatever it may be, making fruit appealing to your kiddos is now easier than ever.

Freeze it, blend it, mix it…fruit is delicious no matter how you slice it. Check out these quick and easy snack ideas, perfect for a warm, sunny summer day!

FullSizeRender (7)Fruit Freeze – ½ cup frozen fruit blended with 1 cup water or seltzer water OR try a Fruit Smoothie – ½ cup fruit, ½ cup greek yogurt, 1 cup milk or soy milk (unsweetened), blend with ice

IMG_2767Smear frozen yogurt in between two graham cracker squares and add sliced strawberries or bananas for a healthy “ice cream” sandwich

Frozen fruit such as grapes, bananas, kiwi or watermelon are always another great option for a cool and nutritious snack.  Place a ½ banana on a popsicle stick – dip in greek yogurt then nuts, crushed graham crackers or cinnamom for a treat your kiddo (and you) will love!!

The Conversation Every Parent Should Have with their Child about Pokémon GO

Children, adolescents and even adults can’t seem to get enough of the new, augmented reality game, Pokemon Go. The phone app has taken over news headlines and swept the nation by storm since launching on July 6. With more than 21 million daily users, chances are that your child has either heard of the game or is already playing it. So, as a parent, what do you need to know about the game and what precautions should your child take when playing it? Our very own, Kevin Borrup, Associate Director of Connecticut Children’s Injury Prevention Center, joins our blog to answer common questions and offer up safety tips on how to catch em’ all.

Pokemon Go App Icon on iPhone

Istanbul, Turkey – July 14, 2016: Macro closeup image of Pokemon Go game app icon among other game icons on an iPhone.

As I was headed to a meeting last week I noticed three men, somewhere in the 30 to 40 year old range, standing together outside the building I was entering. They looked up and said, “Let’s get the next one,” and then they were off through the parking lot. A colleague who was with me asked, “What are they doing?” You guessed it, they were playing Pokemon Go. They were dressed for work, but I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt and assume they were on a coffee break. Over the last week I have been bombarded with Pokemon Go headlines announcing players crashing cars, getting hit by cars, and even one suffering a poisonous snake bite.

We live in a society of increasing distraction and games like Pokemon Go that are based on augmented reality are poised to become an ever increasing part of that distraction. I am sure that Pokemon Go is a fun game and I have heard that it has gotten kids and adults off their computers, out of their houses, and back outside where some players are walking miles in pursuit of Pokemon. That’s a good thing. However, adults and children should be aware of the distraction caused by Pokemon Go and take steps to manage that distraction. Talk to your kids, whatever their ages, about the following three rules.

Rule #1 – No Pokemon Go and driving. Seriously, hand that phone to the passenger and let them help you. In 2014, over 3,000 people died and more than 400,000 were injured in motor vehicle crashes caused by distracted driving. This number is expected to continue to rise. The National Safety Council has just released a statement asking gamers to put their personal safety ahead of their scores, before someone is killed.

Rule #2 – Devices down and heads up, repeat this to yourself until it becomes a silent mantra. People who pursue Pokemon need to understand that if they go near or in a road way, they are at-risk. Do not assume that drivers see you (they definitely cannot see the Pokemon), or that they will avoid you. Put your phone down and look to make sure it’s safe before crossing a road. According to Safe Kids Worldwide, teens make up 50% of all child pedestrian deaths. Distracted walking has already resulted in a 25% increase in pedestrian injuries in this age group.

Rule #3 – Look around you using your eyes, not your phone. There are so many situations of risk where making sure that you know what is happening around could save your life. Don’t walk off a cliff, run into a tree (yes, this has happened), or fall off your boat in search of Pokemon. And, if you are an adult supervising children, put that phone down and pay attention to the kids.

Be smart, put safety first!

Ponseti Method: A Giant Step in Non-Surgical Treatment of Clubfoot

Ponseti Method_Ted Story_BLOGNine-year-old Ted Simons wasn’t even born when his parents, Bruce and Betsy Simons of West Hartford, began making treatment plans for his left foot.

In 2005, when his mother was pregnant with twin boys, she learned during a prenatal visit that Ted had clubfoot, a condition in which at least one foot is twisted inward and down in an abnormal position.

“I went for an ultrasound and the tech looked at the screen and said, “This one has clubfoot – and this one doesn’t,’” Betsy said. “Our first call was to the pediatrician, who referred us to Dr. Jeffrey Thomson.”

Dr. Thomson, an orthopaedic surgeon and director of the Division of Orthopaedics, is one of two physicians at Connecticut Children’s Medical Center certified by the late Dr. Ignacio Ponseti to use the Ponseti Method, a protocol designed to treat clubfoot deformity in early infancy. The Ponseti Method is a non-surgical technique that uses gentle manipulation of the foot and plaster casting in babies to achieve correction of the foot.

“We got in touch with Dr. Thomson and made an appointment while I was still pregnant,” Betsy said. “We met with him a few days after Ted and Charlie were born.”

Clubfoot in Newborns
Each year, about one in 800 newborns are born with clubfoot, a condition that occurs more frequently in males than females and often in both feet. While its cause is unknown, genetics are thought to play a role. Left untreated, a clubfoot will remain twisted and may cause problems with walking – and other issues – as the child grows.

Although the Ponseti Method was developed by Dr. Ponseti more than 40 years ago, it has caught on in more recent years as a standard treatment of clubfoot in babies. As many as 30 patients are treated with the Ponseti Method at Connecticut Children’s each year. According to Dr. Thomson, the ideal age to begin treatment is within the first month of life.

“I have treated over 100 patients and, by the far, the Ponseti Method is the best,” Dr. Thomson said. “Ted’s treatment was so successful because his parents were very compliant and did everything that was asked of them.”

Treatment Steps
Initial treatment with the Ponseti Method consists of gentle manipulation of the foot to obtain the best alignment possible. It is followed by a long-leg cast (thigh to toes) to maintain correction. Ted underwent weekly casting for approximately six months, but typically, four to eight weeks of casting is required.

The second step involves a minor surgical procedure called a heel-cord tenotomy in which a tendon is cut to lengthen a muscle that has developed improperly.

The third step uses a Denis-Brown Bar to maintain correction. In this stage of treatment, the child wears special shoes connected to a bar full time until the age of six months and then during the night until the age of two. It is considered one of the most challenging but critical steps of the protocol.

For the Simons, swapping the shoes on the Denis-Brown Bar with special sandals was an important next step, as the shoes proved to be uncomfortable for Ted and had caused his feet to blister. The sandals made all the difference.

“He wore this bar at night until he was five,” Bruce said. “Wearing it was just part of his normal routine.”

Treatment Success
Ted Blog_Soccer PhotoWith the Ponseti Method, manipulation and casting is successful in approximately 75 to 80 percent of patients. For the Simons family, following the protocol closely and consistently helped ensure their son’s success. Entrusting his care to Connecticut Children’s was a big part of that equation.

“Dr. Thomson was great about spending time with us,” Betsy said. “He and the rest of the staff were always available for all of our questions.”

For Ted, who will be a fourth grader this fall, being treated for clubfoot is not something or his parents usually think about or discuss. But his successful treatment has allowed him to participate fully in the sports he loves, including tennis, skiing, swimming and soccer. “If you saw him playing tennis, skiing or walking today, you’d never know he had clubfoot as a baby,” Bruce said.

“I’m glad I’m able to participate in so many different sports,” Ted said, “and I’m glad that Dr. Thomson helped make that possible.”

Speak Now for Kids Family Advocacy Day

By Kelly Ray

I just got back from an awesome trip to Washington, DC with my mother and my older sister. We were there to attend Speak Now for Kids Family Advocacy Day with Dr. Jim Shmerling, Ann Taylor and Jane Baird, the CEO, Chief Administrative Officer, and Senior Director of Government Relations at Connecticut Children’s Medical Center, respectively. Speak Now for Kids Family Advocacy Day is an annual event that gives patients and families from children’s hospitals across the country the opportunity to advocate on behalf of children’s health!

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Spiderman joined Kelly, her family and Connecticut Children’s President & CEO, Dr. James Shmerling, Jane Baird and Ann Taylor for a photo-op at the celebration dinner.

In Washington, I had the incredible opportunity to speak with people on Capitol Hill about Connecticut Children’s and the ACE Kids Act. ACE Kids would improve the way Medicaid works for our country’s sickest children. I shared my cancer story in the offices of our Connecticut Congressional delegation. I’d like to thank Senator Blumenthal, Senator Murphy, and Representative Courtney for inviting us to their offices to advocate for children’s hospitals across the country.

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Kelly Ray shared her story with  Senator Christopher Murphy during her time at Capitol Hill.

Due to the sit in for gun control that occurred in the House of Representatives, we did not get to meet with our other Connecticut Representatives. We are, however, thrilled to know that Congressman Larson and Congresswoman Esty, along with the entire Connecticut delegation, are supportive of the proposed legislation for ACE Kids, as well as other federal programs like the Children’s Hospitals Graduate Medical Education payment program and the Children’s Health Insurance Program.

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Kelly, her sister and mother Carolyn posed for a photo in front of the White House green screen.

I did not know before our trip that more than half of the patients treated at Connecticut Children’s (& other children’s hospitals) rely on Medicaid and the current way that Medicaid pays for their services puts children’s hospitals in a very difficult financial situation. If something doesn’t change, I worry that children’s hospitals will no longer be able to give kids the care they so desperately need!

Finishing one marathon. Training for another.

Alexa’s first marathon started when she was just three years old and she was diagnosed with a rare and deadly cancer. But with years of aggressive treatment and annual checkups until age 18, Alexa, now age 24, is cancer free and recently took part in the Boston Marathon.

Alexa photo 9-2013_nAlexa’s mom, Kerry, tells the story: “Our family just finished celebrating 21 years since Alexa’s diagnosis, but I remember that time as if it were yesterday. When Alexa was three years old she began having trouble sleeping because of a pain in her side, although there was no bruise or other problem we could see. When the pain continued, we took Alexa to her pediatrician, but he couldn’t find anything either.

“Alexa’s pain didn’t go away, though,” Kerry continued, “and seemed to be increasing, so the doctor told us to take her in for an X-ray first thing in the morning. After the X-ray, we learned there was a spot on Alexa’s lung, and an appointment had been scheduled later that day at another hospital. As we got our things together, I casually mentioned to the ER staff that we were going to stop at McDonalds on the way since Alexa hadn’t eaten all day. When we got to the counter at McDonalds, the person there asked if I was Alexa’s mom. When I said ‘yes’ they told me the hospital had called ahead to warn us not to let Alexa eat as she would need to be sedated for the next procedure.

“We needed to drive out to Manchester Hospital for the MRI, but Alexa didn’t respond well to the sedative and it looked like the MRI would have to be postponed. I just knew there was something seriously wrong though; in my bones I just knew. In the end, the staff re-worked the schedule and fit Alexa in for her MRI later that day. Then we were instructed to return to UConn Health Center. Connecticut Children’s had not yet opened, so this was the beginning of our driving all over the state to see various specialists,” Kerry explained.

“At UConn they were expecting us, so in a short time we found ourselves in a room on the cancer unit. Dr. Altman and four other doctors asked my husband and I to step into the hall where they told us our daughter had cancer. It was very serious and they were considering immediate surgery. By this time it was quite late in the day. And I had a one-year-old at home with my father.”

burrows and altmanWith a deep breath, Kerry continued, “Alexa had a neuroblastoma, located behind her heart and lungs. Typically, these cancers occur near the abdomen and are found in the first 6 months of life. We learned the tumor was quite large and advanced, as it had been growing for Alexa’s entire life. And it was pressing on her nerves (which had caused the side pain). But due to spinal cord involvement, as well as the overall complexity of the case, Dr. Altman decided to consult with colleagues before moving forward with surgery.

“Alexa went through days of tests and specialist consultations as the pain grew worse. The one thing that seemed to help was being in water. There was a huge tub at UConn so I brought in a bathing suit and spent hours playing Barbies or drawing in the tub with Alexa. Because her case was so rare (fewer than 2% of neuroblastoma grow behind the heart), Dr. Altman presented Alexa’s case to a board of specialists in Chicago. All in all, it ended up taking about 10 days to get to the first surgery. The surgery itself took about 11 hours, but we all felt optimistic that it was successful.

“Sometime later though Alexa started tripping and generally losing coordination,” Kerry recalled. “An emergency MRI revealed that her tumor had grown back. And this time the tumor was growing in her spine.”

“All this happened before Connecticut Children’s opened its doors,” Kerry explains, “so Alexa and I, and my one year old, were running all over Connecticut to see specialists, and get tests or X-rays. It was very difficult. But once Connecticut Children’s opened, Alexa’s entire team was able to easily gather for regular updates and strategy sessions. And of course, my husband and I were invited to all of these meetings. It was such a tremendous relief to have everyone in the same place and it helped us better understand what was going on.

Alexa Burrows finishing the 2016 Boston Marathon_n 4“Connecticut Children’s understands children. It sounds so simple, but makes all the difference. Their approach is much more patient and sympathetic to children. It’s an entirely different and better experience for children and their families.”

Taking time out from her marathon training, Alexa recollects, “I don’t remember any of the early stuff – the surgeries or all the testing to get a diagnosis. I continued to have appointments at Connecticut Children’s until I turned 18 though. The doctors wanted to establish that my protocol could be useful to other children with serious cancers like mine. That makes me feel really good.”

“I mostly remember Dr. Altman being gentle and kind,” Alexa recalls, “and also that the nurses were fun and caring. I remember the dinosaur examination table was my favorite and I would fuss if we had to use a different room. I know I’m incredibly lucky to be alive, let alone training for the Boston Marathon. It’s funny – even though I know I was very sick, my memories of Connecticut Children’s are mostly warm and happy.”