Inside Gillette Blog

Gillette Physician Receives Grant for Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA) Research

Posted On: 01/30/2015

As one of the region’s top neuromuscular programs, Gillette Children’s Specialty Healthcare treats children who have a variety of disorders that impact their muscle function. Our Neuromuscular Clinic offers advanced treatments and supportive therapies to help minimize the effects of neuromuscular conditions.  

Research plays an important role in our Neuromuscular Clinic, as well.  Integrating research and clinical services helps us remain at the forefront of treatments that improve our patients’ health and quality of life.  Just this week, we learned some exciting news: Gillette’s own Walter Truong, M.D., will receive a $50,000 grant from Cure SMA, an organization dedicated to funding research in spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) treatment and care.

SMA is a neuromuscular disorder that causes muscle weakness and decreased muscle mass (atrophy). As a result, it can impede activities such as crawling, walking, and eating. Because of their muscle weakness, children who have SMA often cannot stand independently and use stander devices as a means of maintaining bone health. Dr. Truong’s research will measure the effectiveness of standers, which are often incorporated into therapy programs for children who have SMA, in improving bone strength, preventing fractures, and improving quality of life.

During the study, a small group of Gillette patients will gradually increase the amount of time they spend in a stander device over a year. Regular scans will measure growth in the children’s bone strength resulting from increased standing time. The results, along with a future larger study slated to include hundreds of children from throughout the U.S., will help determine whether more standing makes bones stronger and whether this can decrease the number of fractures in children with SMA.

Congratulations to Dr. Truong and Gillette’s entire Neuromuscular Clinic team on this exciting announcement!  Click here to learn more about Dr. Truong’s research.

Meet Us Monday - Jennifer Severud, Outpatient Imaging - Lead Technologist

Posted On: 01/26/2015

1.) What is your position and role at Gillette? I am the lead technologist for outpatient imaging at Gillette Children’s Specialty Healthcare’s St. Paul campus.  I take x-rays, coordinate daily workflows/ schedules and help organize and implement x-ray protocols and procedures.  I have been here 3 ½ years and absolutely love Gillette and what I do!

Meet Us Monday - Jennifer Severud, Imaging2.) Do you have a favorite Gillette story or memory? I have had so many great memories but one that really stands out as a proud moment is seeing a collaboration between my colleagues and I come to life. Together, we facilitated the creation of a spine chair – which is essentially a chair that allows patients in wheelchairs to stay seated for spine x-rays. Seeing one of my patients use our spine chair for the first time during their x-rays was incredible. The parents were so thrilled at the design, safety and comfort it provided their child. This chair has helped our work and workflow tremendously.  I am so happy that it is making our patients and families imaging experience better!

3.) What are some of your hobbies outside of work? Outside of work I enjoy spending time with my family and friends.  I have a cabin in Northern Minnesota so most of our summer weekends are spent fishing, boating, and swimming. In the winter, we enjoying ice fishing and snowmobiling.  I also love Photography, traveling, Minnesota football and exercise.

4.) Do you have any children or pets? We have two little girls, Diem and Maci. We also have a Dog named Bella.  She is a Vizsla (Hungarian pointer) who is full of energy and excitement.

5.) If you could travel anywhere, where would you go? My dream destinations would be Bora Bora (or somewhere in the French Polynesia), Greece and Italy.  We are also looking forward to our first Disney World vacation with our girls.

6.) What is one fun fact about you? I have never watched an episode of the TV show ‘Friends’.  I know, call me crazy!

Editors Note: Want to hear more from Jenny? Read her guest blog post on Positive Distractions: Finding Fun in Imaging and Radiology.


Meet us Monday- Meet Krissy Plasch, Registered Nurse

Posted On: 01/14/2015

1.) What is your position and role at Gillette?  I am a nurse in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU) at Gillette Children’s Specialty Healthcare. I have been with Gillette for a little over six years. I started on the Resource Team when it was first getting started and then transitioned into the PICU after about two years.

2.) Do you have a favorite Gillette story or memory?  One of my favorite things is when previous patients come back to visit the PICU when they are well.  It always amazes me to see how far our patients have come and to see them at their best!

3.) What are some of your hobbies outside of work?  Outside of work, I like to try new recipes and restaurants, play the Wii with my kids, travel, have dance parties with my kids, relax by the fireplace, and bowl.

4.) Do you have any children or pets?  I have an 18-year-old step-son named Devin, a 14-year-old step-daughter name Cailah, a 13-year-old son named Isaiah, and a two year-old son named Jaxson. I also have a rescue dog named Maggie Mae.

5.) If you could travel anywhere, where would you go? Soon, I will be traveling to Costa Rica with a few of my closest college friends, but I could travel anywhere, I would go to Italy or India.

6.) What is one fun fact about you? When I am cleaning my house, I love to turn up 90's music really loud!

Positive Distractions: Finding Fun in Imaging and Radiology

Posted On: 01/13/2015

By: Jessica Pietsch, Imaging – Lead CT, Jennifer Severud –Imaging-Lead Outpatient X-Ray and Martin McLean, Imaging – Lead MRI Technologist

Radiology and imaging are often necessities for patients at Gillette Children’s Specialty Health Care. Imaging scans help to diagnose, manage and treat conditions. In other words, they let us look at what’s going on inside the body. Patients need imaging for all kinds of reasons, including to diagnose conditions such as fractures, congenital abnormalities and spine deformities.

Gillette is a proud member of image gently®, an alliance that promotes using minimal radiation in children while still obtaining high-quality images. Gillette meets image gently standards in the following ways.

• We employ highly trained staff.
• Our staff limits the use of radiation only to the amounts necessary for a specified body part.
• We use pediatric-level doses of radiation.
• We log all doses with the American College of Radiology.
• We also use positive distractions to meet image gently standards.

Positive distractions can help calm patients during imaging exams, providing them with a better experience. Adding elements of fun to an ordinary exam can drastically reduce patients’ stress levels. Positive distractions come with many benefits, including minimizing the need for general anesthesia. Let’s take a closer look at the three most common types of imaging and radiology procedures—and the different types of positive distractions we offer at our St. Paul campus.


An X-ray is in an invisible beam of radiation used to look at bones, organs and other parts of the anatomy. We use X-rays to diagnose scoliosis in the spine, check lower extremities for limb-length discrepancies, and identify fractures, bone anomalies and rare conditions.  Though many of our X-ray exams are quick and noninvasive, we make them easier by using positive distractions. 
For example, the equipment and walls in our X-ray rooms have bright and colorful decals. They even have twinkle lights on the ceiling. Kids love staring up at those lights! We also have an iPad loaded with games and shows that patients can play or watch during an exam.  And, of course, we offer pencils and stickers to our patients at the end of each visit.

Some patients can’t leave their rooms for X-ray exams. For them, we bring a portable X-ray machine (pictured below) to their room.  Much to the delight of our kids, this machine is decorated with fish in bright colors. The decals on the portable machine help kids take their minds off the exam, making the procedure less scary and the equipment less intimidating.  It also brings a lot of fun into the room.

CT Scan (Computed Tomography or CAT Scan)

A CT scan (pictured above) is similar to an X-ray, but an X-ray is only one dimensional. A CT scan can show images in three planes—top, front and side. These exams typically last from 15 to 45 minutes, depending on the patient’s ability to remain still. CT scans help us diagnose spina bifida, complex movement disorders, brain injuries and more.

Because patients often need to lie on their back during a CT scan, we have two 70-inch TV screens in the ceiling that play movies. Before the CT scan begins, kids can pick one of six different movie themes—from playful puppies to soothing oceans. The options allow kids or caregivers to choose a movie theme that corresponds to their mood that day, further helping to reduce anxiety.

MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging)

An MRI is a safe and painless test that uses a magnetic field and radio waves to produce detailed pictures of the body's organs and internal structures.  We use MRI exams to detect a variety of conditions, including those that involve the brain, spinal cord, skeleton, chest, lungs, abdomen, pelvis, wrists, hands, ankles and feet. In some cases, an MRI can provide clear images of body parts that are more difficult to see with an X-ray, CT scan or ultrasound.

MRI exams generally take at least 30 minutes for each body part, so longer positive distraction techniques are a must. We offer video goggles and more than 90 videos for everyone from toddlers to teenagers. We also offer headphones so patients can relax and listen to their favorite music.

We want to provide our patients with an amazing experience during their Radiology and Imaging visit. That’s why we work at creating a positive, fun and interactive environment!

Meet Us Monday- Meet Rebecca Hamilton, Registered Nurse

Posted On: 01/12/2015

1.) What is your position and role at Gillette?  I am the day-charge nurse on the orthopedic surgical unit at Gillette Children’s Specialty Healthcare. I help to coordinate all of the activity that goes on in our busy 18 bed unit.

Meet Us Monday- Meet Rebecca Hamilton, Registered Nurse2.) Do you have a favorite Gillette story or memory? There are so many good memories and stories to tell. Thinking back over the years, it is amazing to me the great changes that have taken place at Gillette. In my early days at Gillette when I was doing bed-side care, it was always the little things that I remember, the little smiles, the handmade drawings, and the big thank yous from patients as well as their families. Now that I have been in a leadership position for many years, it is the enthusiasm of new nurses as they come to Gillette and learn to enjoy these things as well. It’s a pleasure to be able to watch them grow in their confidence and abilities and be able to mentor them to become good nurses. I have developed lifelong friendships at Gillette which will go on for years to come. 

3.) What are some of your hobbies outside of work? I have been a runner for years and love to camp and hike as well. I enjoy spending time with friends and family and I love to travel. The best is when I am able to combine family and/or friends  with my travel!

4.) o you have any children or pets? No children but I have one cat named Bynx.

5.) If you could travel anywhere, where would you go? I have been fortunate to be able to do a lot of travelling but one place I still want to go to is Australia and New Zealand. 

6.) What is one fun fact about you? I have run two marathons and have traveled to China, Africa, Portugal, Spain, Austria, Germany, Switzerland, and England!

My Gillette Story by Heather Haigh, Mom to Jackson

Posted On: 12/31/2014

My son, Jackson, was born full term and healthy, weighing 8 pounds, on Halloween 2012. Except for acid reflux that developed shortly after birth, he had no problems—until April 5, 2013. That typical Friday morning changed our lives.

Jackson was unable to keep down any nutrition that day.

He still can’t.

Within a few days, he was admitted to a hospital for dehydration, where he lived on sugar water and IVs for two weeks. He couldn’t keep down even an eyedropper full of formula, breast milk, or anything else. He dropped from the 50th percentile for height and weight to below zero.

He was fighting for his life, and no one knew why.

Even today, his primary condition is a mystery, though Jackson has been diagnosed with 38 secondary conditions. His body rejects saliva, and he can’t live without a feeding tube. We were referred to Gillette Children’s Specialty Healthcare for palliative care in May 2014. We see Scott Schwantes, M.D., and he is absolutely amazing. He has developed a plan to manage Jackson’s pain and improve his quality of life. We can't fix Jackson's conditions, but we can manage them.

Jackson used to have episodes of autonomic neuropathy (also called dysautonomia)—complete with heart-wrenching, full-body nerve pain—up to six times a day. Dysautonomia is a very complex dysfunction of the autonomic nervous system. Jackson’s temperature would swing from 93 to 103 degrees every few minutes. We are now down to six episodes a month on average, and his temperature usually ranges from 94 to 97 degrees.  Gillette understands the condition and is helping us manage it the best that we can.  

We’ve developed a good handle on things, especially compared to what it was like before we began coming to Gillette. I’m forever grateful for the quality of care and depth of discussions that take place during appointments. For example, last summer we saw Marshall Taniguchi, M.D., a pediatric rehabilitation medicine specialist. He was going to assess when Jackson could begin wearing a feeding tube backpack, but he did so much more. He assessed Jackson’s symptoms at the time and referred us to several specialists to help us with many issues. Each specialist looks at the big picture, not solely their own specialty.

That appointment day, Jackson received a helmet to protect his head from his frequent falls. We have since seen urology, neurology, and sleep medicine specialists. Although Jackson is living with machines, and his daily challenges can be severe, he is thriving. He smiles and plays and is a little boy. He laughs, giggles, is learning sign language, and claps every time he does something right.

I make a point of giving Jackson a childhood in between medical life. I refuse to have him remember only the medical aspect of his life, so we try to do a lot of fun things. He learns at his own pace, works hard at therapy, can tell a story with his eyes, and enjoys life to its fullest. One thing we’re trying to live by is the quote above Jackson’s crib: “Let him sleep now, for tomorrow he will move mountains.”

Jackson inspires everyone he meets, including me. Despite countless tests, procedures, lab draws, doctor appointments and therapies, Jackson is the happiest little boy ever.  Our journey isn’t over, but we are so blessed. I thank God every day for the angels he sent to us, including everyone at Gillette. My son wouldn’t be where he is without them. I can't thank you all enough.  We have a long way to go, but I feel safe under your hands.  


Meet Us Monday- Meet Joy Taber, M.D., Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Specialist

Posted On: 12/31/2014

1.) What is your position and role at Gillette? I am a Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Specialist who works at Gillette Children’s Specialty Healthcare’s Lifetime Clinic with adults with chronic (life-long) nervous system condition

2.) Can you tellus a little about your education/career history? I am from Minnesota and went to Hamline University and then to the University of Minnesota for medical school and residency.

3.) Do you have a favorite Gillette story or memory? During my residency program, I was fortunate to be able to train and learn from the staff at Gillette. I have lots of memories of a strong team-approach and patient and family-centered care.

4.) What are some of your hobbies outside of work? Outside of work, I enjoy being outdoors, reading, exercise, and hunting. I also love trying new foods.

5.) Do you have any children or pets? I don’t have any children, but I would love to have kids in the future! In terms of pets, my sister has a dog named Lucky. Everyone in my extended family loves her and considers her the family pet!

6.) If you could travel anywhere, where would you go? I was stationed in England for three years with the military. I got to travel a lot throughout Europe, but I never made it to Scotland or Scandinavia, so I would probably travel north if I could go back!

What is one fun fact about you? I am currently in the National Guard and love working with the military

My Gillette Story by Stephanie Petersen, Mom to Sadie

Posted On: 12/23/2014

My Gillette Story by Stephanie Loeffler, Mom to Sadie Sadie blessed us in this world on November 12, 2012 – three weeks before her due date. What we thought was going to be another normal, easy delivery, ended up being an emergency cesarean section. At birth, Sadie was small for her age, suffered from an enlarged liver, heart, and spleen, and had calcifications throughout her brain. A few days after her birth we found out that the cause of all of this was cytomegalovirus (CMV), a virus that I had contracted while I had been pregnant. We were devastated by the news. Hearing that our little girl could be deaf, never walk or talk, and would probably have seizures was horrific news to swallow.

After 3 weeks in the NICU we got to take our sweet little girl home. When Sadie was 20 months old, we were introduced to Gillette Children’s Specialty Healthcare during one of her routine physical therapy appointments. Her therapist noticed that when Sadie used her gait trainer to walk, her left foot turned and started to drag more and more. Together we thought braces would be a good option. Her recommendation was to go to Gillette and that’s where we met the amazing Nanette Aldahondo, M.D. She would be the one to diagnose Sadie with diplegic spastic cerebral palsy.

From that very first visit we learned so much about Sadie's diagnosis and where we were going to go from there. Sadie was fitted for her braces that My Gillette Story by Stephanie Loeffler, Mom to Sadie same day and within a month she had them. We also planned to have Sadie see Dr. Aldahondo a few months later for botulinum toxin injections. Between Sadie’s AFO (ankle-foot orthoses) fitting and her botulinum toxin  appointment, she began walking on her own! At her botulinum toxin appointment, Dr. Aldahondo was so pleased with Sadie's progress she suggested not doing the injections that time and we agreed! She thought we were going to be upset that she wasn't going to do them, but in fact we were very pleased. We were pleased that Dr. Aldahondo took the time to  explain the reasoning why and the effects it could have on Sadie just learning to walk.

We have another appointment in January to check Sadie's progress and we will determine if botulinum toxin injections are needed at that time. Sadie is a very active child and she tries to do everything her older siblings do. She is starting to run and even though she stumbles and falls quite a bit, she gets right back up and runs more. She is a determined little girl—a fighter!  We have been so grateful for the wonderful care that our little girl has received from Gillette.

Meet Us Monday- Meet Janet Cortes, Certified Orthotist

Posted On: 12/23/2014

1.) What is your position and role at Gillette? I am a certified orthotist and I work in the assistive technology department on the St. Paul campus at Gillette Children’s Specialty Healthcare.

Meet Us Monday- Meet Janet Cortes, Certified Orthotist Gillette2.) Do you have a favorite Gillette story or memory? I’ve been at Gillette for 10 years and have so many great memories so it is hard to pick a favorite. My Gillette co-workers have become my family and some of my best friends; they are a great support system. The smiles and resilience of the kids at Gillette remind me that life is great and there is so much to be thankful for.

3.) What are some of your hobbies outside of work? I love to do crafts and make jewelry. I have participated in the St. Paul art crawl and some craft fairs with my jewelry made from up-cycled materials and natural stones.

4.) Do you have any children or pets? My baby is an 8-year old black cat named Martino. He is a great cuddler. 

5.) If you could travel anywhere, where would you go? I love to travel and my dream is to go to every country in the world at least once. I love learning about other cultures and enjoying the fabulous food that every place has to offer. So far my favorite city has been Istanbul.

6.) What is one fun fact about you? I don’t have good balance, I don’t know how to swim well, and I’ve always been afraid of heights. In the recent years I decided that I needed to try new things and test my fears. This summer I had fun learning how to ride a bike, paddle boarding, kayaking, and I even went on a Segway tour. It may seem like nothing but it really took a lot out me to try those activities and I was very proud of myself when I was done with each.

Meet Us Monday- Meet Carol Rodriguez Unit Coordinator/Nursing Assistant

Posted On: 12/18/2014

Meet Us Monday- Meet Carol Rodriguez Unit Coordinator/Nursing Assistant1.) What is your position and role at Gillette? I am a health Unit Coordinator / Nursing Assistant on the Orthopedic Surgical Unit at Gillette Children’s Specialty Healthcare. I have worked here at Gillette for 19 years.

2.) Do you have a favorite Gillette story or memory? I have so many stories and wonderful memories from Gillette, that I could probably write a book. I tell the patients that are getting older and transitioning that soon they will be pushing me out in the wheelchair, my wig will be falling off, my lipstick will be smeared and my stockings sagging at my ankles! They love it and usually laugh.

3.) What are some of your hobbies outside of work? I love to SHOP!

4.) Do you have any children or pets? I have 2 sons, and a daughter.

5.) If you could travel anywhere, where would you go? If I could travel, I would love to go back to Mexico. Both of my grandparents were from Mexico so I have a lot of cousins there.

6.) What is one fun fact about you? I became a Grandma this year!


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