Inside Gillette Blog


Meet Us Monday -  Scott Schwantes, M.D.

Posted On: 05/04/2015

What is your position and role at Gillette Children's Specialty Healthcare? I have the privilege of serving as Gillette’s Associate Medical Director of Pediatrics. This work allows me to help shape how our fantastic care is delivered in the hospital for our patients. This role also has provided me with the ability to advocate for our patients on a local, state, and even national platform. It is invigorating to be able to expand my focuses to not only address my patient’s needs in the clinic room or hospital, but to also be able to address our patients’ needs on a larger scale.

Meet Us Monday -  Scott Schwantes, M.D.When I’m not providing direct patient care or out spreading awareness and advocacy for our kids, my clinic practice is spent working in Pediatric Hospice and Palliative Medicine. This rewarding and humbling work has graced me with the opportunity to get to know some truly incredible children and their families. I also have trained in Medical Acupuncture, and have been fascinated with using this modality to improve our children’s and young adult’s lives, outlook, and resilience.

Why did you get into healthcare? Ah, my vocation in healthcare is the current chapter in my life after many intriguing and interesting adventures. After taking my time in school (including dropping out of Art School), I eventually achieved a degree in Physics & Astronomy as well as Mathematics. I strive to maintain that sense of awe and wonder with the natural world even now. After briefly considering pursuing an esoteric career in gravitational mechanics, I worked for a small software company. It was during this time that I had a niece born with a congenital heart condition that was not compatible with a long life. After that experience with my niece Valerie, I had the presence of mind to engage in some serious self-reflection and listen to the quiet voice that allowed me to begin my journey to becoming a physician. The rest, as they say, is history.

What has been one of your most rewarding moments at Gillette?  Oh my goodness, there have been so many. I love seeing our kids when they are healthy. All too often, our only encounter with a child and their family is when they are ill or recovering in the hospital. When I see them going to physical or occupational therapy and they’re healthy, active and vibrant, it is incredibly rewarding. 

Some of the most moving moments in my career here at Gillette have been the deep and meaningful conversations I’ve been honored to participate in with families as their child nears the end of life. To be able to have admittedly difficult but moving and meaningful conversations reflecting on the joys and wonders of their child’s life is truly a glimpse into the sublime. Being able to work with those families and celebrate the life at the center of that work is eternally rewarding.

What do you like to do in your free time? I love hanging out with my lovely wife. We enjoy being outdoors and staying active. We enjoy walks along the mighty Mississippi River, as well as exploring our neighborhood. We also enjoy discovering great new restaurants to eat in Minneapolis and St Paul. To that end, we are excited that Sea Salt has opened again for the season. I also enjoy woodworking and love having a home improvement project to focus upon. Last summer I enjoyed making our big dining room table. I love cooking as well, and sharing the fruits of that labor with friends and family.

What is one fun fact about you? Just one? Here are three!

  • Already stated it, but I am a proud art school (MCAD) dropout
  • I used to have REALLY long hair in undergraduate school
  • I speak French, and like to believe that I can speak Spanish, German, and Latin.

No Helmet? No Ride!

Posted On: 04/29/2015

By: Mary Barsness

Editors Note: Read Mary's original blog post highlighting her son's Willi experience at Gillette here.

When our kids are little we ask them to hold our hands in situations we feel they could get hurt. As they grow up we give them more room to make their own way in the world. We warn them of all the dangers, but we work to balance that with the pure joy the ignorance of childhood affords. Some of the dangers we can control and some we cannot.

When my 14-year-old son fell off his longboard (a longer, faster type of skateboard) the evening of July 7, 2014 we almost lost him. He was alone. He was not wearing a helmet. Although he initially presented a bit disorientated, there wasn’t a scratch on him. Thankfully, a neighbor friend and his father both knew something was wrong. That night Willi’s brain began to bleed and swell. He had fractured No Helmet, No Ride Gillette Children'shis skull and suffered a traumatic brain injury.

I first saw Willi in the Level I Pediatric Trauma Center at Gillette Children’s Specialty Healthcare and Regions Hospital. It was the worst thing I have ever seen in my life. My first instinct was to grab his hand. Along with his father and our families we would sit by his bedside, someone always holding his hand so he knew we were there. On July 11th the doctors lifted the medications for a bit to see if he would respond. After a lot of persuasion, Willi squeezed his father’s hand with his left hand and mine with his right. We didn’t know if he would walk or talk to us again, but he squeezed our hands. That somehow meant he knew we were there. It felt safer.

Last week Willi had a checkup with Mark Gormley, M.D., who’s been with us since the beginning of Willi’s rehabilitation. There’s a standard series of physical tests to see if the brain is operating correctly. I choked up watching this drill I have now seen a hundred times because he did it perfectly. I thought of that first time he squeezed our hands in the PICU. It was weak, confused and uncertain. These days Dr. Gormley is putting his own hands at risk telling him to squeeze as hard as he can. Dr. Gormley released Willi from his care – a mere nine months after his fall. It has been a miraculous recovery.

We’ve learned a lot from this journey. We know how amazingly blessed we are to have a place like Gillette so close to home, how incredibly powerful it is when a community of friends and family surrounds you in love and support, and that miracles are real. We have also learned how many kids are not wearing helmets. A lot of the scary things in life are things we can’t prepare for, or protect our kids from. This is not one of those things. Willi probably would have gotten hurt even if he had had a helmet on, but would he have gotten this hurt?

While waiting for him to wake up, I had a lot of time to think. Seeing Willi’s friends who were coming to the hospital, all I could say was, “Wear your helmets. Promise me you will wear helmets.” They all promised. It wasn’t long into this experience I knew I had to share this message. I did a phone interview from the hallway of the PICU the first week. Bring Me the News headlined it “No Helmet No Ride” (link below) and it stuck with me.

As a parent I guess I had given up the battle. It wasn’t a conscious decision. I just stopped fighting it. He was such an amazing athlete with great reaction time, and he wasNo Helmet, No Ride right; none of the kids at the skate park or riding around the lake were wearing helmets. Since Willi’s accident it’s all I can see — kids on skateboards, rollerblades and bikes without helmets. I decided to launch a program offered through the Minnesota Brain Injury Alliance called No Helmet No Ride. The goal of the program is to reach out to middle and high school students and encourage them to wear their helmets on bikes, blades, and boards. Eventually, we hope to add helmet giveaways. Click here to learn how you can support our efforts and get involved.

I’ve heard people talk about getting their “calling”. I know what they mean now. It’s the thing you know you have to do, even though you’re not sure how. It’s the thing that wakes you up at 4 in the morning and whispers to you that you’re supposed to share this because it will make a difference. I am not sure I would be strong enough to share this message if our story had a different ending. If it weren’t for the doctors, nurses, rehab staff and everyone at Gillette giving us all such amazing love and care, including their support of the No Helmet No Ride program, we wouldn’t be able to have this voice. There just are not adequate words of gratitude for our newfound family.

P. S. I still try to hold Willi’s hand. Fifteen-year-old boys love it when their mothers hold their hands.

No Helmet, No Ride on Bring Me the News.


Gillette’s PICU Receives National Honor for Excellence

Posted On: 04/27/2015

When children require intensive care due to injury, illness or recovery from a complex surgery, it’s essential that their caregivers have the resources, support and workplace environment needed to provide an exceptional quality of care. Now, Gillette patients and their families can feel even more confident that they’re receiving the very best care possible.

Gillette’s Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU) recently received the prestigious gold-level Beacon Award for Excellence, the highest honor given by the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses (AACN).  Even more exciting, Gillette is the only children’s hospital in the region to receive the honor.  The closest children’s hospital with a gold-level designation is located in Cincinnati.Gillette Children's Specialty Healthcare, Pediatric Intensive Care Unit, PICU Group Photo

The Beacon Award recognizes excellence in all aspects of critical care, from infection rates and outcomes measures to department structure and employee engagement.  Recipients must successfully improve patient outcomes and align with the organization’s six Healthy Work Environment Standards.   This was the first time Gillette applied for the award.

Dawn Baddeley, RN, manager of Gillette’s PICU, says the application required painting a comprehensive picture of the PICU’s structure, mission and values.  “The AACN doesn’t just want to know what we are doing to continue to improve our safety and quality, they want to know how we are doing it,” she says. “They really get to the root of our culture and how we are on a journey of improvement.”

“I’ve always known there was something special about Gillette,” adds Baddeley. “Our nurses love Gillette, love its mission. And we hold ourselves to the highest standards.”

Baddeley says that Regions Hospital, with whom Gillette partners to operate Minnesota’s first Level I Pediatric Trauma Center, provided support and encouragement during the 18-month long application process.  Two Regions Hospital inpatient units have silver-level Beacon Awards.

The AACN gives the award in three-year cycles. Gillette will continue to apply for the recognition. 


Progressing From Concussion to Classroom With Occupational Therapy

Posted On: 04/24/2015

By Heather Forst, Occupational Therapist - Clinical Educator

A concussion is a mild traumatic brain injury. It occurs when someone sustains a hit to the head or a force to the body. The force causes the brain and head to move quickly back and forth, disrupting the balance of chemicals in the brain. Although concussions require proper care and time to heal, most people recover fully.

Symptoms of a concussion can include headache, vision changes, dizziness, nausea, difficulty concentrating or sleep changes. You don’t have to be “knocked out” to sustain a concussion. A health care Progressing From Concussion to Classroom With Occupational Therapyprovider diagnoses the condition. Because children and teens might encounter challenges returning to the classroom, your provider might refer your child to occupational therapy to help with a successful return to school.

An occupational therapist will complete an evaluation, looking at your child’s:

  • Vision and how any vision changes could affect school performance or daily activities
  • Eye-hand coordination skills
  • Memory, organizational skills, and attention as they relate to independent actions at school, at home, and in the community
  • Sensitivity to light, sound, touch, or movement

Gillette’s Children's Specialty Healthcare's team of occupational therapists have developed a process to help your child recover from a concussion. Depending on your child’s age, he/she may progress through up to four stages, with a focus on the following areas:

  • Vision
  • Mind-Body Awareness (general coping strategies for headaches, stress, or other symptoms)
  • Cognition (as it relates to everyday function)
  • Daily Activities (following a daily routine at home/school, completing chores, managing time for homework, keeping track of homework, etc.). 
  • Your child’s occupational therapist (OT) may ask your permission to coordinate with your child’s school if your child is having issues with vision or if a deficit is noted on your child’s vision screening. Your OT might suggest school/classroom accommodations to help your child be successful at school while  brain and vision functions continue to recover.

Our therapists have a wide variety of tools to help your child heal.  We might offer standardized tests to help identify cognitive skills that are challenging for your child. We also use our clinical expertise while watching your child do things like cook, make Play-Doh, or go to a café. Such activities let us observe skills including time management, task initiation, emotional control and persistence. We can use technology (such as your child’s smart phone or iPad) paired with various applications to help develop memory, planning, or organization skills. Adding those activities to your child’s therapy sessions helps them carry over the skills successfully outside of therapy.

Click here to learn more about occupational therapy at Gillette.    


Meet Us Monday - Jacque Jenkins, Guest Services

Posted On: 04/24/2015

What is your position and role at Gillette? I am a Guest Service Representative at Gillette Children's Specialty Healthcare’s St. Paul Campus. I have been with Gillette for a little over four months.

Meet Us Monday - Jacque Jenkins, Guest ServicesDo you have a favorite Gillette story or memory? Forming relationships with our patients is so rewarding. There is one patient I am particularly fond of who comes in regularly for her back brace. She wears a permanent smile and always has a band bracelet for me.  She and I talk about the Minnesota Wild and how she plays adapted hockey. Last week she told me that she no longer needs to wear her brace and that she won’t be coming in a whole lot anymore – happy news although I will miss her.

What do you like best about working at Gillette? I love being part of Gillette’s team, greeting our families and helping them to find their way around.  I love seeing smiles on the children’s faces when we can wear our silly hats or dress up for holidays!

Do you have any children or pets? Yes, I have two children Hayden, who will be 11 in November and Tayz who will be 2 in October. Hayden plays hockey for White Bear Lake Squirt level. Tayz, (who was named after a hockey player from the Chicago Blackhawks Jonathan Toews #19 [teɪvz/ TAYVZ]), likes to play and shoot his pucks around. Both boys are funny little characters. I am a definitely a true boy mom!

What are your hobbies outside of work? We are a HUGE hockey family! We eat, breathe and sleep hockey at our house! If my oldest doesn’t have a game or practice, you can bet we will be watching hockey. During summer we love to go down to Millville and watch the Pro Nationals Motocross (dirt bikes).  I also love to ice fish, camp, go for motorcycle rides and play with my kiddos.

What is one fun fact about you? I was born and raised a California girl, but am a true Minnesotan at heart!


Lifesaving Care and Expert Rehabilitation Helps Brianna Defy the Odds

Posted On: 04/23/2015

On March 17, 2014, life changed forever for then 14-year-old Brianna Strzok. As she and three friends drove home from school, they were rear-ended and pushed into oncoming traffic. Brianna’s side of the car sustained a direct hit from a truck driving more than 50 miles per hour.

When Brianna arrived at the Level I Pediatric Trauma Center operated by Regions Hospital and Gillette Children’s Specialty Healthcare, her prognosis appeared grim. She had sustained severe head trauma and multiple skull fractures; major damage to her diaphragm, colon, bladder and other vital organs; broken bones; and many other injuries. “One of Brianna’s doctors later told us that the amount of transfused blood she needed was the most he’d seen in 30 years of practice,” recalls her mom, Missi Langel. “I know in my heart that she would have died at any other hospital.”

In fact, Brianna’s outlook seemed so dire that her care team allowed additional family members into her room to say goodbye.Brianna Strzok Level I Pediatric Trauma Center

“I refused to believe she would never wake up”
Brianna remained in a coma for nearly five weeks while she struggled with the effects of her injuries, along with kidney and liver failure. Although doctors cautioned that she might never recover, Missi and other family members remained optimistic. Then, on Easter weekend, Brianna’s best friends visited her bedside. She emerged from her coma the same day.

Brianna had woken up, but her journey was only beginning.  The once-athletic teen had lost weight and muscle mass, and the damage to her brain was severe. “She wasn’t walking or talking, and had significant nerve damage in her left eye,” explains Missi. “She was awake, but not really awake.”  Brianna soon transferred to Gillette’s inpatient rehabilitation unit and began intensive physical, occupational and speech therapy. Missi describes watching Brianna re-learn everything as physically and emotionally exhausting. Support from Brianna’s care team helped her through. “They treated me like family. They explained the medical stuff, but also helped me understand that I was not alone in this journey.”Brianna in intensive physical therapy, occupational therapy

Milestones take on new meaning
As Brianna progressed in her therapies, she achieved milestones that became even more significant the second time around.  “The first time she spoke, rode a bike, stood up, climbed stairs—all of these things were turning points,” says Missi.  “Everything was a new first.”  Even Brianna’s care team expressed amazement at her continued progress given the extent of her injuries. 

But there were hard moments too.  Because Brianna’s brain had been so badly injured, she struggled with emotional and behavioral issues common in children who experience a traumatic brain injury.  “She went through many stages—first hitting, then swearing, then crying in pain. There were many nights I cried myself to sleep,” remembers Missi.

Through the highs and lows of Brianna’s recovery, hospital staff helped her family celebrate special milestones. For example, on her 15th birthday, they arranged to bring her beloved horse, Hidalgo, to an unused helicopter pad at Regions Hospital to visit Brianna.

“Thank you for saving mBrianna with Dr. Gormley, Gillette Children's Specialty Healthcarey baby girl!”
After three months of inpatient rehabilitation, Brianna went home. She continues weekly therapies in her community and follows up with her Gillette team regularly.  “Dr. Song is amazed and thrilled at how well Brianna is doing!” wrote Missi in a September CaringBridge entry. 

Today, Brianna is walking independently, riding her horse, and recently made her high school’s honor roll. Although she still struggles with physical effects of her injuries and short-term memory loss, she has defied the odds by accomplishing more than many people ever thought possible.   

Missi says she’ll be forever grateful to the Regions and Gillette team for bringing Brianna back from the brink of death.  Her message to them is this:  “You treated us like we mattered, like our daughter’s life mattered,” she says. “Thank you for saving my baby girl! I will never forget any of you.”


Meet Us Monday - Analise Ludwig, Audiologist

Posted On: 04/17/2015

What is your position and role at Gillette Children's Specialty Healthcare?  I am an audiologist and provide hearing evaluations and necessary follow-up for Gillette’s patients of all ages!  My job is to make sure those children and adults can hear everything they need to in order to communicate and live life to its fullest.

Do you have a favorite Gillette story or memory? Recently, a young sibling of a patient staying at Gillette decided to stop by my office window every time he and his parents took a walk down the hallway. Since they walked down the hallway a couple of times a day for several weeks we became fast friends! He would put his face right up to the window, and tap the glass. I made a habit of coming up to my side of the window and making funny faces for him. We both had a good laugh!

What do you like best about working at Gillette?  I love being at Gillette because I get to spend time with awesome kids and families that remind me to be hopeful and optimistic every day.  My patients and coworkers inspire me to work hard and always do my best.

Do you have any children or pets?  My husband and I have two young boys - Bennett and Felix.  They sure keep us busy these days!  We also have two dogs – Sugar, the French Bulldog and Pico, the Chihuahua.

What are your hobbies outside of work? Outside of work, I spend time enjoying all of the great activities near our home in Como Park. My family loves walking and biking around the lake, going to the zoo and swimming in the neighborhood pool. I’m also a big music fan – my kids and I have dance parties in our living room! 

What is one fun fact about you?  Every year, as soon as the snow melts, I switch over from driving my car to commuting to work on my yellow scooter!  Don’t be surprised if you see me headed in to or out of the audiology office with a black motorcycle helmet on.


Birthday Parties and Pool Therapy: My Volunteer Story by Joni Purrington

Posted On: 04/14/2015

I love working with children and their families, and I have the honor of being a volunteer and former employee at Gillette Children's Specialty Healthcare.

Volunteer Birthday Parties at Gillette Children'sI started with Gillette as a volunteer in the pool at the former Lake Phalen facility. In 1981, I became an employee, joining Gillette as the first director of pool therapy. I hold a doctorate of physical therapy degree, and I believe that water is an equalizing medium for a lifetime of fun! When you see a group of children having fun in an aquatic setting, there is little difference between those who have special needs and those who don’t.

Although I no longer work at Gillette, I began volunteering because I wanted to assist children who have differing abilities and educate them on how to be safe while enjoying the water. Since then I have served as a member of the fundraising organization Friends of Gillette, helped with fundraising events, and thrown monthly birthday parties for Gillette’s inpatient kids at the St. Paul campus.  

Planning the monthly birthday parties brings me a lot of joy. I work with Gillette’s Child Life staff to find out if any inpatient kids have a birthday coming up. I then develop a party theme for them. It’s the little things—like finding out if the birthday child is a boy or girl and learning their interests—that make planning the parties fun. On birthday party nights, all inpatient kids are invited. I bring in crafts for special projects and an ice cream cake from the North St. Paul Dairy Queen.

My goal is to plan activities that will interest children of various ages. I bring crafts that allow patients to complete a project as independently as possible—from choosing the activity to choosing the materials to completing the project. The kids can decide whether to make something for themselves or for someone else. If a patient has siblings, I bring enough materials so that everyone can participate.  Parents often enjoy working on the activities, too!

I’m inspired to volunteer as part of my philosophy of working with all children in our community. I continue to volunteer at Gillette because of the hospital's mission and vision. I’m inspired by the dedication of the hospital's leaders and by Gillette’s research efforts, leading edge medical care, and exemplary care for anyone who seeks the organization’s medical services.

And I’m really looking forward to Gillette’s new therapy pool opening later this year!


Meet Us Monday – Jacki Shugart, Rehabilitation Therapy Support

Posted On: 04/13/2015

1.) What is your position and role at Gillette? I work as therapy support in Gillette Children's Specialty Healthcare’s Rehabilitation Department.  You’ll see me helping transport patients and their families from the inpatient rooms to their therapy sessions, along with assisting the therapists with their daily needs.  I’m also a Child Passenger Safety Technician and part of the transport team that completes consultations with families on how to safely transport their child home.

Meet Us Monday – Jacki Shugart, Rehabilitation Therapy Support2.) Do you have a favorite Gillette story or memory? One of my favorite memories was when I was working with a patient who had been recovering from an unfortunate accident. I watched Gillette’s speech therapists help heal this patient’s voice and the progress was truly remarkable.  Eventually, the patient was finally able to find their voice again and managed to sing the song “You are my Sunshine.”  Just about everyone around began to tear up because of how special that moment was. 

3.) What do you like best about working at Gillette? I like helping patients and their families through some of the difficult situations or transitions they might encounter.  I especially like working with inpatients and their families since often times they are here for extended period. That means I get to know them even better on a personal level. Knowing that I made a difference by making their stay easier is incredibly rewarding.

4.) Do you have any children or pets? My husband and I are new parents; we have a 4-month-old baby girl named Gia! We also have a cat named Hubert and a little Havanese dog named Arnold!

5.) What are your hobbies outside of work? I play in adult volleyball leagues and love going to see new movies with my husband.  I also enjoy spending time with my parents –if I’m not at home with my husband and daughter, you can almost always find us at my parents’ house.

6.) What is one fun fact about you? I’m 6 feet tall and I played college basketball!  I’m always up for being challenged in a game of PIG.


Lawnmover Safety Tips

Posted On: 04/10/2015

Lawnmover Safety Tips - Gillette Children'sWith summer fast approaching, Minnesota homeowners soon will dust off their lawnmowers and begin the weekly routine of cutting their grass. During this time, it’s important to keep in mind the dangers that lawnmowers can pose to children. A lawnmower blade’s damage to still-developing bones and growth plates can put children at risk for limb-length discrepancies and permanent orthopedic deformities. Help prevent serious injuries by following these guidelines:

Before You Mow

  • Keep children indoors while mowing.
  • Never allow a child to ride on a riding lawn mower with the operator.
  • Pick up stones, toys and debris from the lawn to prevent injuries from flying objects.
  • Never allow children to play on a lawn mower, even if it is turned off.
  • Never mow barefoot – wear shoes, not sandals.
  • Use eye and hearing protection.

Who Should Mow?

  • Children should be at least 12 years-old before operating any lawn mower.
  • Children should be at least 16 to operate a riding mower.

While Mowing

  • Only use mowers with automatic shutdown abilities, such as those with a control that stops motion when the handle is released.
  • Don’t mow in reverse.

* These safety tips are based on the American Academy of Pediatrics’ policy statement, Lawn Mower Injuries to Children.


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