Kids Helping Kids: Christopher’s Toy Drive

 Becky, shares her son Christopher’s inspiring story and why he wanted to give back to fellow patients at Connecticut Children’s this holiday season. 

img_0708We brought Chris to the ER in January 2015 after he was unable to walk. Doctors found a tumor on his spine which began a whirlwind of scans, needles and a hospital stay that, at the time, we didn’t know how long would last.

The one thing that Chris could look forward to and that we could use as a reminder to get through the next procedure, chemo or scan was the prize box and toys he received for being so brave. Kelly and the rest of the staff at Connecticut Children’s Medical Center were instrumental in helping us through one of the toughest times we have faced as a family and one way we felt we could thank them was by giving back.


Last December, I wanted Chris to give back to the hospital in a way that was meaningful for him and something that was feasible to do year after year. He decided that a toy drive was a good idea because he always looked forward to getting a toy at the end of his visits. He wrote his letter and made a list of family and friends that he would like to ask and send his letter. After the toys were donated, he wrote thank you notes to those who donated to show his appreciation. He did the same thing this year. (Now that he is in first grade, his letter was done much more independently!) He added several people to his list and those that he asked were so excited to help him.


The best part is seeing the excitement on Chris’ face when he looks at the toys people donated as well as when he was giving the toys to Kelly. We hope to continue this each year and that it gets a little bit bigger to be able to make even more kids smile. We are so proud of Christopher for wanting to continue this tradition and for being able to see the importance of giving back!

Thank You for Taking Care of Us

By Melissa Wert, a grateful mom


I snapped this photo moments before Nick took Ryan back into the OR, and held his little hands while his 31″, 27lb body went stiff and he succumbed to the anesthesia gas mask attached to his tiny face.

The patient advocate at Connecticut Children’s was nice enough to smear the mask with grape Chapstick, so that Ryan couldn’t smell the strong gas. It’s amazing what tiny details bring you great comfort when the entire situation feels totally out of your control. This is the face of a small boy who has no idea what’s happening, just that his day isn’t right. No eating. No milk. Anxious parents. A strange place filled with so many strangers, all looking at him.

This is the face of a dad about to bring his baby boy into surgery. Terrified but resilient, counting on the prayer we said in the car as we parked, taking every extra moment we had to not walk inside. Please keep our boy safe. Let him come out stronger, healthier, better.

His procedure was minor, but our fears were large. I’m coming to realize that as NICU parents, the feeling of having your baby whisked away from you with no idea what’s happening next returns to you all too easily. Too quickly. And likely unnecessarily. But it’s always there – the fear. The anxiety. The heartache. It shapes how you parent and who you are as parents. But it also makes you strong. Brave. Willful.

I’m happy to report we’re all back home and little Ryan is happy as a clam, back to his normal self, but with some sparkly new ear tubes we’ve dubbed his “robo-ears”. Thank you, so much, to everyone who prayed for us and sent us your well wishes. They worked.  And an even bigger thank you to the amazing staff at Connecticut Children’s Medical Center for taking such good care of all three of us. #BabyLove #DontForgetDads

Top 6 Holiday Hazards

By Kevin Borrup, JD, MPA, Associate Director, Connecticut Children’s Injury Prevention Center

Twinkle, twinkle little star...Most injuries are predictable and preventable and we want you and your family to stay safe, happy and injury free this holiday season. Take precautions to ensure that your holiday plans are not interrupted by a visit to the emergency room. We have assembled some quick tips for what you can do to prevent injuries to you, your children, and family and friends this holiday season.

Motor Vehicle Crashes
Last December drunk driving crashes resulted in 840 deaths across the nation. Buckle up and make sure all your passengers are appropriately restrained.

• Do not drink and drive, and do not let friends drive impaired.
• Remind all your guests to designate their sober driver.
• The safest place for children is in the back seat.
• Child safety seats reduce the risk of death in a crash by 71% for infants and 54% for toddlers aged 1 to 4.

Christmas Tree Fires
Christmas Trees are a big part of the holiday season for many families. Unfortunately, they are also the source for approximately 250 home fires each year. So, take precautions to keep your family safe.

• If you have a natural tree, keep it watered, and never leave lights on when you are: not home, not in the room, or sleeping. If you have an artificial tree, use the same precautions by turning the lights off before you go to bed and when you are not home.
• Place your tree away from any heat source, including away from fireplaces.
• Use the newer LED lights – they do not get as hot as traditional incandescent lights.
• Inspect your old lights for fraying cords and replace them as needed.
• Avoid using real candles.
• Practice your fire escape plan with your family.

5,800 individuals are treated each year for falls involving holiday decorations. Another 2,000 are treated from injuries sustained after tripping over extension cords.

• If you do need to get higher up in decorating inside or outside your home, use a ladder rather than a chair or other furniture.
• If you are stringing lights on your house with a ladder, make sure the ladder is stable and on level ground. As you work, stay level with the area you are working on and do not over reach.
• Do not string extension cords across walkways, hallways or in some other way that makes it a tripping hazard.

Choking Hazards
During the holidays your children will be exposed to new toys and even new foods. Be aware of what is age appropriate for your child. The biggest concern with small children is choking.

• For young children, check to ensure that toys do not have small parts that could be placed in a child’s mouth.
• Be aware of toy labeling to ensure that the toy is right for your child’s age.
• Tree ornaments or icicles can pose a choking risk as well.
• Common holiday foods like peanuts and popcorn should not be given to kids under 4 years old.

Dog Bite Prevention
This holiday season, we all need to be aware of our pets, especially dogs. Over 100,000 children under 10 are treated in hospital emergency departments annually for dog bites. Over the holidays you may visit other people who have dogs, or you may have a dog. Any dog, even your family dog, can bite.

• Never leave young children alone with a dog.
• Teach children to be gentle and to never tease or bother a dog that is sleeping or eating.

Feeling Depressed
The holidays are filled with a sense of joy, but for many can also be a time of stress and anxiety. Some people can feel so depressed that they no longer want to live. In Connecticut, someone dies by suicide every day of the year on average. There are a number of things you can do for others, or for yourself to feel better during the holidays.

• If you know someone who is isolated or alone, include the person in your celebrations.
• Sometimes helping others during the holidays can help you to feel better too. Volunteer your time in a soup kitchen, for a toy drive or give a hand to your neighbor.
• If you feel that you or someone you care about is in crisis, dial 2-1-1 (in Connecticut).
• You can also contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline by calling 1-800-273-8255.
• Dial 9-1-1 if you are in a life threatening situation.



#GivingTuesday: Michael’s Story

This #GivingTuesday, you have the power to make more tomorrows possible …

michael-ramsdell-and-mother-amanndaMichael was born three months before his due date. At that age, a baby faces dire health challenges and Michael was no exception, weighing just 2 pounds, 2 ounces. This beautiful little boy underwent multiple brain surgeries, experienced bleeding in his lungs and was diagnosed with cerebral palsy.

Michael faced life threatening challenges at every turn but because of the caliber of care he received at Connecticut Children’s Medical Center, went home with his parents after 3 months in intensive care. Today, Michael is doing great, starting to crawl and learning to stand. “He continues to be happy and is getting stronger each day” says his mother, Amannda.

You have the power to make miracles happen for children like Michael and mothers like Amannda. Today, #GivingTuesday, make a child’s tomorrow possible. Every dollar can make a difference. Learn more at

#GivingTuesday: Dylan’s Story

Today is #GivingTuesday, a global event where people make donations and show support for nonprofit organizations working to improve our world…organizations like Connecticut Children’s Medical Center. Whether it’s a little girl with a rare blood disease, a newborn with a heart defect or a seven-year-old boy facing cancer, there is hope here because you were there when they needed you. At Connecticut Children’s that’s what #GivingTuesday is all about: making a difference, saving lives, and delivering dreams—giving children a brighter tomorrow.

dylan-coutu-4Born 15 weeks early and weighing 1 pound, 11 ounces, Dylan’s life was threatened at every turn. In his very first moments, his tiny, frail body suffered from brain bleeds, lung failure, a perforated intestine and a heart attack, in which he coded before being revived. This inspiring little boy continued to face one crisis after another.

But the dedicated doctors, nurses and specialists at Connecticut Children’s were there for Dylan every step of the way and managed every one of his issues. Today, 10 months later, Dylan weighs more than 13 pounds, is eating solid foods and loves Cookie Monster and the Count from Sesame Street. “He talks and laughs non-stop and is truly a happy baby!” says his mother, Kathryn.

Dylan’s happy ending is just one example of the kind of difference you can make in celebration of #GivingTuesday. Today people around the world will make donations to non-profit organizations that help make the world a better place. By making a donation to Connecticut Children’s and sharing this post, you can make a child’s tomorrow possible – children throughout the region like Dylan. Donate now at

#GetSmart About Antibiotics

By Nick Bennett, MBBChir, PhD, co-director of Antimicrobial Stewardship at Connecticut Children’s Medical Center

get-smart-week_group-photoThis week is “Get Smart” week, the annual CDC-led effort to help us all “Get Smart” about the use of antibiotics. As an infectious disease doctor I get to use antibiotics all the time – in fact I get to use some antibiotics that NO-ONE ELSE gets to use! But I also spend a considerable amount of my time working with colleagues to reduce their use of antibiotics. So why the contradiction?

Antibiotics are a modern luxury – without them something as simple as an ear infection could lead to meningitis, or a simple cut could lead to sepsis and never mind trying to perform complex abdominal surgery without antibiotics! We have become complacent about them though, and year by year we have been faced with more and more bacteria becoming resistant to the antibiotics. This means that the infections have become more difficult to treat, and more people have become sick as a result. The path to new antibiotic development has proven very difficult and slow, and so we have to protect what drugs we have left and reduce the rise of resistant bacteria. By one estimate, 23,000 people die every year in the United States from resistant infections.

Antibiotics work by either killing or slowing down the bacteria. They work together with a healthy immune system – which is why people with lower immune systems tend to get more infections. If an antibiotic stops working it’s not because the patient has become resistant to the antibiotic – it’s because the wimpy bacteria have all been killed off and only the resistant ones are left. There are several ways antibiotics can affect bacteria; by affecting their protein production, their DNA replication or directly damaging their cell wall. Unfortunately, we don’t have a lot of new ideas on how to kill bacteria – a big problem in the development of new drugs over the last few decades.

One downside of using antibiotics is of course resistance, but they have other side effects too. Rashes and other allergies can happen; diarrhea is a common problem and can be serious (especially in older adults); some antibiotics used in hospitals can even damage the kidneys or affect blood counts. These are all reasons to avoid using them unless absolutely necessary!

Sometimes it is hard to distinguish a viral infection (an infection that doesn’t need antibiotics) from a bacterial infection (an infection that often does). Ear infections, pneumonia, sore throat – can all be caused by BOTH viruses and bacteria. Sometimes it’s okay to watch, wait and see what happens – I joke that ear infections often get better in 7 days with an antibiotic, and a whole week without one!

Parents can join the fight against antibiotic resistance by not requesting antibiotics for things like runny noses or mild cough (almost always viral), and instead asking their doctor for a “Wait and see prescription,” which is only filled if the family is concerned about their child not getting better. The WASP has been shown to reduce antibiotic use by half for ear infections, with no increase in length of symptoms.

Immunizations can also play a helpful role when it comes to antibiotic-resistance. In fact, when a child is immunized they are at a MUCH lower risk of catching bacterial infections. In fact, at least one vaccine was designed specifically to reduce antibiotic-resistant infections that cause pneumonia.

Of course, I would be very happy if there was no more antibiotic-resistance, but as long as we continue to use antibiotics there will be antibiotic-resistant bacteria. We all have to work together to protect ourselves from ourselves!

Anthony’s Story

By Jessie, Anthony’s Mother

anthony_babyAfter having a near perfect pregnancy, I went to the hospital with labor pains at 34 weeks.  I completely expected to be sent home, thinking it was a false alarm.  After multiple attempts to stop labor, I was shocked when the doctor told us they couldn’t do anything else and the baby would be born in the next few hours.

They assured me he would have to go to the NICU but would be just fine.  As new parents we were terrified.  We were thrown a curve ball when the doctor told us there weren’t any beds left in the Connecticut Children’s NICU and the baby would have to be transported to another hospital and we would stay behind until I recovered.  He quickly said “I will see what I can do,” then came back within a few minutes and told us they had a bed in the Connecticut Children’s NICU with our name on it.  Our son, Anthony, was born a few hours later.

Although he was relatively healthy and considered late pre-term, he had bradycardia which would cause his heart rate to drop.  We were quickly jolted into the NICU life of monitors and beeps and awaiting the doctors’ rounds each morning.   Thanks to the rooms available to NICU parents, I basically moved into the hospital.

There were so many great nurses and doctors, like Dr. Marilyn Sanders, that not only gave our child great care but helped us through one of the most tumultuous times in our life.  They released our son on Christmas Day in 2012 – by far the best gift we could have ever gotten!  He came home on a heart rate monitor and stayed on it for four months.

anthonyI looked forward to our checkups with Connecticut Children’s and could not have been more thrilled when I got the final call that he was cleared and that we didn’t need to carry the clunky heart rate monitor around.  He is now a happy and healthy, almost 4 year old. The NICU experience is one that I will never, ever forget.  Although it was one of the toughest times in my life, I am forever grateful for the care provided by Connecticut Children’s.