Inside Gillette Blog

Meet Us Monday- Meet Katie Wilkins, Physical Therapist

Posted On: 03/24/2014

1. What is your position and role at Gillette? Do you have a favorite story or memory? I am an outpatient physical therapist at Gillette Children’s Specialty Healthcare at the Minnetonka Therapies clinic. My favorite memories at Gillette are developing long term relationships with amazing patients and families, and watching kids grow up! One of my favorite stories was seeing a young child in a wheelchair for the first time. After twenty minutes in the wheelchair, the young child had already figured out how to wheel down the hallway and had the biggest smile. I feel so fortunate to work with the most amazing colleagues and have so much fun every day in the job I love.

2. What are some of your hobbies outside of work? I enjoy traveling to new places and photography – I always have my camera with me. My husband and I especially love travelling back to Montana (his home state) to go downhill skiing, backpacking, camping and hiking. Every fall my husband and I backpack into the Boundary Waters with friends. In the summer we enjoy spending time with friends and family, boating, and spending time at the lake. I also enjoy running and rock climbing any chance I can. 

3. Do you have any children or pets? I have twin boys, Jack and Sam who were born in October 2013. 

4. If you could travel anywhere, where would you go? I have been very fortunate to travel to some amazing places and have many more on the wish list. I have never taken a “beach vacation,” and would love to try it out, Saint Lucia or Hawaii look amazing!

5. What is one fun fact about you? I was a collegiate gymnast at University of Wisconsin – La Crosse.


Gillette’s Simulation Center Featured in Pioneer Press

Posted On: 03/20/2014

Gillette's surgical simulation center, which opened in 2012, is a state-of-the-art facility located adjacent to our hospital's surgical suites and imaging center. Our medical staff use the space to rehearse complex surgical procedures in a real-life surgical environment - and as part of training for new residents and fellows. The surgical simulation center is also used to educate science-minded high school students about potential careers in the medical field through hands-on learning. That role was recently highlighted in the March 16 edition of the Pioneer Press 'Education Notes,' a weekly round-up of happenings at Twin Cities-area schools. See below for more - or, read the story on the Pioneer Press website.

More than 50 students from the biomedical sciences program at East Ridge High School in Woodbury visited Gillette Children's Specialty Healthcare as part of their medical interventions class. The students worked with biomedical professionals and used the surgical simulation lab where doctors and nurses are trained. East Ridge has more than 250 students in the program.

Meet Us Monday- Meet Linda Hoffman, Registered Nurse

Posted On: 03/17/2014

1. What is your position and role at Gillette? Do you have a favorite story or memory? I'm an RN here at Gillette Children’s Specialty Healthcare.  I work with rheumatology and orthopedics as well as doing infusion therapy in the outpatient department of St. Paul clinic. I started as a nurse intern on the orthopedics unit in June 1991. I have so many heartwarming stories with the wonderful patients we are able to meet and care for.  When I was working as an inpatient nurse, I had one patient for over a week and he was saddened to hear I was going on vacation. His question to me was: “Now who is going to wash my hair?” I still see him at Gillette when he comes for appointments, and I still get a big hug from both him and his mom.

2. What are some of your hobbies outside of work? I have a wide variety of hobbies. My family and I enjoy snowmobiling, four-wheeling, boating, and fishing. I love to garden, bake, and cook as well.

3. Do you have any children or pets? I have two grown children and my grandson is almost 18 years old and a senior in high school (already!).  We no longer have any pets, but when my children were young they each had a horse.

4. If you could travel anywhere, where would you go? I have a “bucket list” that I’m working on now, but I have done a fair amount of traveling with my family, which is priceless.

5. What is one fun fact about you? A fun fact is that I became a certified scuba diver, along with my husband and children at the same time. We have taken many trips together where we were able to scuba dive as a family! 


Wanted: Volunteers Who Love to Laugh

Posted On: 03/12/2014

This fall, Gillette will host our third annual Laugh Out Loud Twin Cities (LOLTC) comedy event, benefiting Gillette. Last year, headliner Howie Mandel entertained more than 500 people, and the evening’s activities raised more than $250,000!

We are recruiting committee members to volunteer their time and talents to plan and execute this year’s event, which will take place Saturday, Sept. 27, at the Hilton Hotel in downtown Minneapolis.

What does it mean to serve on this committee? Once a month, you’ll meet with a group of passionate and committed individuals who want to help make LOLTC fun for everyone who attends. From planning fundraising activities like the “mystery box” or “wine toss,” to decorating the venue for the event, there are lots of ways we can use your help.

We ask that committee members be available for the majority of monthly meetings (twice each month as the event date comes closer) and be available to volunteer at and attend the event on Sept. 27.

For more information about this special volunteer opportunity, please contact Jenny Floria at 651-229-1766 or at  You can also go to and provide us with your contact information. Someone will get in touch with you.

My Gillette Story by Melanie Hendrickson, Lincoln’s mom

Posted On: 03/11/2014

How would you describe Lincoln to someone who hasn't met him? Lincoln is a sweet little boy. He smiles all the time and is a very happy. He loves to laugh, really hard, and his laugh is contagious! He is also very determined. He works hard despite his challenges. Lincoln has a look in his eye that melts your heart. He is a gift that teaches others how to love.

What are Lincoln's favorite thing(s) to do? Read books, listen to music (mostly country!) swim, knock things over, play with other kids, and go for walks outside.

What is Lincoln’s medical condition? Lincoln has spastic quadriplegic cerebral palsy, epilepsy, cortical vision impairment, global developmental delays and hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy, or HIE (an injury to his brain caused by lack of oxygen at birth). 

How did your family come to find out about Gillette? Several Gillette neurologists, one of which included Dr. Timothy Feyma, visited Lincoln in the NICU after his birth to evaluate his MRI, CT scans and EEGs. That is when we were given Lincoln’s “news” which was the start of our journey. After his discharge from the NICU, Lincoln has been followed closely by his Gillette care team of doctors, seating specialists, and therapists.

What treatments and services has Lincoln received at Gillette? Lincoln has visited Gillette for a variety of services, including neurodiagnostics, neurology and rehabilitation medicine appointments, hip X-Rays, rehabilitation therapies including physical, occupational and speech therapy, assistive technology, and injections of botulinum toxin (Botox) and Pheno to address his spasticity (overly tight muscles). He also spent a few days in the hospital after developing infantile spasms (seizures) and received treatments of Adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) injections.

What has your experience at Gillette been like for Lincoln and your family? Words cannot express how grateful we are to all Gillette staff.  The doctors, therapists, nurses, EEG technicians, and receptionists have helped Lincoln tremendously. They have shared with us news that a parent dreads; news that broke our hearts. They have also lifted us up during those tough times and given us hope. Lincoln always receives top notch care at Gillette! We have complete trust in all of his doctors and they continue to help Lincoln reach his full potential.

Does your child have a favorite doctor, nurse, therapist or other caregiver? Lincoln has many favorites!  Some include Dr. Beverly Wical (pediatric neurologist), Stephanie (physical therapist), Jennifer (speech therapist), Kathy (occupational therapist), Bill (orthotist), Brian (seating and adaptive equipment),  and Tina (EEG technician). They are ALL FABULOUS! TRUE ANGELS!

What about your child makes you most proud? Lincoln is a little warrior. He works very hard and will not give up despite all of his challenges.  He is happy and teaches those around him what is truly important in life.

Meet Us Monday- Meet Ashley Zwiefel, Registered Nurse/Perianesthesia

Posted On: 03/10/2014

1. What is your position and role at Gillette? Do you have a favorite story or memory? I have been a Registered Nurse at Gillette Children’s Specialty Healthcare for 5 years in the Operating Room and recently transitioned to a position in the Perianesthesia department and love it! Some of my favorite memories are from the many fundraisers and Gillette sponsored events I have participated in! From volunteering at the State Fair and Ronald McDonald house to doing the Polar Plunge and playing on the Gillette softball team, I love spreading the word about Gillette and also interacting with co-workers and patients outside the hospital setting!

2. What are some of your hobbies outside of work? Most of my time is spent with my fiancé and family on the lake in the summer, going to movies, exploring new places and restaurants, and one of my favorite hobbies is baking and decorating cakes! Currently most of my time outside of work is spent planning my wedding coming this June!

3. Do you have any children or pets? I have a toy poodle named Bentley.

4. If you could travel anywhere, where would you go? I have been very fortunate to travel to some of my "dream destinations" like Germany, Italy and Africa but my all-time dream would be to visit beautiful Bora Bora!

5. What is one fun fact about you? My favorite color is teal!


Defying Predictions: Mary Kate’s Story

Posted On: 03/06/2014

Mary Kate is a social butterfly and animal enthusiast with a passion for music and dance. Her spirited personality—combined with a lifetime of care at Gillette Children’s Specialty Healthcare—has helped her achieve things that some might call “impossible” for the bubbly 12-year-old.

Search for Answers Leads to Difficult Diagnosis

Mary Kate’s mom, Donna, first suspected something wasn’t right when her daughter seemed noticeably weaker than most babies.  A physical therapist by training, Donna immediately began searching for answers.  She remembers the day a community therapist described Mary Kate’s symptoms as hallmarks of spinal muscular atrophy (SMA). “A light came on,” she says. “And I just knew.”

A progressive disorder characterized by muscle weakness, SMA can lead to complex health issues. Mary Kate received an official diagnosis of SMA I, the most severe form, at 6 months. She’s been coming to Gillette ever since for comprehensive neuromuscular care, including pediatric rehabilitation medicine, pulmonology and seating services. That care has helped her defy predictions that she wouldn’t live past age 2.

Meeting Mary Kate’s Needs

In addition to addressing Mary Kate’s physical well-being, Gillette has also supported her social and emotional development. “Neuropsychology emphasized the importance of friendships, of keeping strong connections with peers,” says Donna.  “When they say Gillette offers comprehensive care, they mean it!”

Because of Mary Kate’s muscle weakness, she relies on a complex seating system to keep her mobile and independent.  That includes adaptive ballet, which Mary Kate participates in from her power chair. When the need for special modifications arise—most recently, a device allowing Mary Kate to show her pet goat, Oreo, in the county fair—the family calls on Gillette seating specialist Brian Reilly. “Brian lives by the Gillette philosophy of doing everything he can to help kids be kids,” says Donna.

A New Kind of ‘Normal’

Despite Mary Kate’s physical limitations, her family is committed to giving her the same opportunities as any other child. “For us to see her taking part in activities, and having girlfriends, is so rewarding,” says Donna.  “Our ‘normal’ is different, but it doesn’t mean a lesser quality of life.”

Meet Us Monday- Meet Briana Jacobson, MRI Technologist

Posted On: 03/03/2014

1. What is your position and role at Gillette? Do you have a favorite story or memory? I am a MRI Technologist in the Imaging Department at Gillette Children’s Specialty Healthcare.  I also work in CT occasionally.  In MRI, we work with a powerful magnet that helps get images of the body.  The MRI exams last from 7 minutes to a couple of hours, so some patients have to be sedated for their exams. One of my favorite memories actually happened recently.  There are some patients who I have been scanning in CT or MRI for more than 10 years.  It’s nice to be able to see them and talk with their families.  About a month ago one of the patients who I have known for 11 years came down for a CT scan.  After her exam was over, her mom told me that she still has one of the stuffed animals I gave her up on a shelf in her bedroom.  It’s those moments that make working at a Gillette so special. 

2. What are some of your hobbies outside of work? I love photography.  I always have my cameras with me.  I recently started golfing, but am still trying to catch up to my husband’s skills.  I also love playing volleyball.  I am one of the biggest MN Wild fans, the games are always on at our house or on the radio.  

3. Do you have any children or pets? I have a stepdaughter Autumn, who is 6 and a son, Dominic, who is 7 months old.  We have “outdoor pets” as Autumn likes to say.  Someday we will probably get a dog, but for now it’s just the bunnies, birds, and squirrels.

4. If you could travel anywhere, where would you go? I would love to go to Iceland or Ireland.  I would love to photograph all the beautiful waterfalls, lagoons, and glaciers. It looks so beautiful there. But, if my husband has his way we will go to Ireland so he can golf. 

5. What is one fun fact about you? I married my third-grade boyfriend after not seeing each other for eight years!


Meet Us Monday- Meet Andrea Zehrer, Spanish Interpreter

Posted On: 02/24/2014

1. What is your position and role at Gillette? Do you have a favorite story or memory? I am an in-house Spanish Interpreter. I started working at Gillette Children's Specialty Healthcare in October of 2011.

2. What are some of your hobbies outside of work? I have several hobbies; I love to travel, go shopping, take my dogs on walks, try new restaurants, go salsa dancing, and spend time with my family.  In the summer I like going to the lake, waterskiing, and relaxing with a good book in my hammock.  I like doing fun things and enjoy life to the fullest.

3. Do you have any children or pets? We have two kids, Bruno (19 years old) and Sophia (11 years old) and two yellow labs, Macy and Ella.

4. If you could travel anywhere, where would you go? I would love to travel to China and hike the Great Wall of China. Also, I would like to travel to Ecuador and Honduras and volunteer as an interpreter in the hospitals.

5. What is one fun fact about you? I am from Mexico City, and I love to tease my husband with Spanish words that he doesn’t know.


My Gillette Story by Shelley Potter

Posted On: 02/18/2014

Alivia is a happy 4-year-old who is spunky and determined. Livie loves and responds to all types of music. She hears a song one day and will be singing it the next. She recently has been plucking out songs on the keyboard by ear. Livie really enjoys her iPad, her early childhood class, and her grandparents.  We are so proud of all the obstacles she had faced and conquered. She shows true courage and determination.  

Livie was born with many congenital anomalies.  She has hydrocephalus, absent radius bones on both arms, scoliosis, cleft lip and palate, and mild kidney issues.  Livie and her twin brother were born at a local children's hospital where she was admitted into the NICU.  I was so impressed at how many doctors were coming in to see my Livie; doctors from Gillette Children’s Specialty Healthcare were already coming to assess her and talk about follow up plans. I remember being so thankful for their knowledge and their ability to help my daughter.  

When Livie was just two days old, Dr. Michael Partington placed a VP shunt to treat her hydrocephalus. I remember looking to him with concern and he said to me, "It will be okay mom, I will take care of her, don't worry." He was right—and from then on, I have trusted him completely with my little girl.  Dr. Ann Van Heest has also seen Livie since she was born. She has performed multiple surgeries on her hands and arms to help her establish full function.  She truly has Livie's best interest at heart. Dr. John Lonstein and most recently Dr. Tenner Guillaume have been wonderful in directing care for her scoliosis. Dr. Guillaume was very sincere and encouraging to a broken down mama at our last appointment. It means so much when our team at Gillette not only supports the patient, but also the whole family.  

Gillette’s Assistive Technology department has been wonderful. Livie dislikes going in there but we know that ultimately, all of her bracing and adjusting will improve her quality of life.  She has also had a CranioCap, multiple wrist/hand braces, and currently has a back brace for her scoliosis.  She has had many X-rays, CT scans, and MRIs. Gillette’s imaging department is absolutely amazing!  

We look forward to coming to Gillette not only because of the incredible staff, but also for the amazing volunteers and activities they have available for the kids. We love to see what the craft of the day will be. It takes Livie's mind off of her appointments and focuses it on something fun and interactive. Livie's brothers also enjoy the many actives available while waiting for their “sissy” to finish her appointments. As a mother of a special needs child, I can't begin to explain how wonderful it is to have such an amazing hospital and clinic so close to home. We’ve been blessed with knowledgeable doctors and specialists to help our little Alivia thrive, and for that we say thank you Gillette Children’s Specialty Healthcare!


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