Inside Gillette Blog

Meet Us Monday- Anne Keenan, Supervisor-Child Life, Child and Family Services

Posted On: 09/17/2014

Test Caption1. What is your position and role at Gillette? Half of my time involves providing Child Life support to patients at Gillette Children’s Specialty Healthcare.  The other half of my time is spent as a supervisor of my Child Life colleagues.

2. Do you have a favorite Gillette story or memory? On a daily basis, observing patients and their caregivers persevere amidst challenges is remarkable.  Our patients and families have taught me to support children for who they are and to be resilient under stress at the same time.  Other favorite memories include putting on events that bring joy to patients’ days—Cops-N-Kids, Firefighters’ Carnival, Trick-or-treating, Child Life Week, and other special events of which we are a part.

3. What are some of your hobbies outside of work? I am an avid hockey fan and have been playing on a women’s team for the past 14 years.  In the winter, if I’m not playing myself, I’m usually glued to Gopher and Wild games on TV.  Taking early morning walks, spending time with my family, and housecleaning (strange, I know) also are enjoyable in my spare time.

4. Do you have any children or pets? I have an 18-month old son and another child due mid-September.  We have a 10-year old black lab named Maggie.

5. If you could travel anywhere, where would you go? I would love to take road trips across the U.S. with my family.  There are many relatives, friends, and historic sites that I would love to visit.  Of course, visiting the ocean in the winter is also a dream vacation for me. 

6. What is one fun fact about you? I was a member of the inaugural women’s soccer team at the University of Minnesota.  Go Gophers!

Raising Spinal Cord Injury Awareness in a Kid-Friendly, Interactive Way

Posted On: 09/17/2014

Every 48 minutes, someone in the United States becomes paralyzed because of a spinal cord injury. September marks Spinal Cord Injury Awareness Month—a month focused on raising awareness about the need for better treatments, research and prevention of spinal cord injuries.

Teaching people about spinal cord injuries plays a big part in this month’s efforts to raise awareness about the condition, too. Approximately 200,000 people are living with spinal cord injuries in the United States. There is currently no cure for the paralysis caused by the condition. Depending on the location and severity of their injury, the changes and challenges faced by people who experience spinal cord injuries can range from mild to severe. For many of our spinal cord injury patients—including their family members and friends who are children—understanding how a spinal cord injury affects them or their loved one can be a difficult concept to grasp.

That’s why we’ve created a new interactive educational tool called “Exploring Your Brain and Spinal Cord”. The tool—specifically created with kids in mind—features a learning module all about spinal cord injuries. Kids can interact with and learn about different parts of the spinal column. We explain how certain types of spinal cord injuries affect the body in various ways and provide useful tips for interacting with people who've had spinal cord injuries.

You can try “Exploring Your Brain and Spinal Cord” here or visit Spinal Cord Injury and Related Neurotrauma to learn more about the care and services we provide for spinal cord injury patients at Gillette.

Hydrocephalus Awareness Month: Your Questions Answered

Posted On: 09/15/2014

By: Amanda Seeley, Neurosurgery Nurse Practitioner

Did you know that September is National Hydrocephalus Awareness Month? As one of four neurosurgery nurse practitioners at Gillette Children's Specialty Healthcare, I help our team take care of numerous patients with hydrocephalus, and answer many questions about this condition from patients, families and staff.  I also help lead the Hydrocephalus Association Walk at the Mall of America (photos below) to generate funds for research and create awareness! Here are the five most frequently asked questions about hydrocephalus and shunts.

This is my captionWhat causes hydrocephlaus?
Cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) is a water-based solution that flows in a certain path within our brain and spinal canal.  Usually, there is an even rate between how much CSF a person is making and how much CSF his/her body is absorbing.  Hydrocephalus occurs when there is a disruption in this balance or a block in the normal flow of CSF that naturally happens.  CSF can build up within the ventricles (fluid spaces) of the brain and can cause pressure to be dangerously high in the brain. There are many causes of hydrocephalus.  Babies can be born with congenital hydrocephalus.  Also, patients may have a high risk of developing hydrocephalus when they are babies because of an underlying diagnosis, such as spina bifida.  Other causes of hydrocephalus are acquired obstructions in CSF flow, like brain hemorrhage, brain tumor, or trauma.   

How is hydrocephalus treated?
Although there are a few medications that may temporarily treat hydrocephalus, the usual treatment involves surgery.  The most common treatment for hydrocephalus is a surgically implanted shunt.  This is a device that moves CSF from the ventricles of the brain to an area in the body where the patient can safely absorb it, most commonly within the sac that holds the abdominal organs, called the peritoneum. Working shunts can keep a patient’s brain at a normal pressure, but unfortunately can malfunction.  The average life of a shunt is about 5 years, but the range of shunt life is days to decades long.  The surgery to fix a non-working shunt is called a shunt revision.

My child has never had a shunt malfunction, how will I know if it isn’t working/what will it be like?
Every patient is different, but common symptoms of a shunt malfunction are headache, vomiting, sleepiness, and irritability.  I often tell patients, families, and caregivers to remember that it is not up to them to know if a shunt is working or not, it is up to them to let us know if they are concerned.  The neurosurgery team will help sort out if a patient’s symptoms are because of a shunt malfunction or something else.  Often times we use different imaging studies, like a head CT or brain MRI to get more information about the shunt’s function.   Remember that most episodes of vomiting and fever are not shunt related.

Will the doctor shave my child’s head during surgery?
Usually the pediatric neurosurgeons at Gillette Children's Specialty Healthcare do not need to shave a child’s hair for shunt placements or revisions.  Often, the surgeons will use dissolvable stitches that will not need to be removed after surgery as well.

Are there activity restrictions for patients that have shunts?

Our team generally does not recommend strict activity limitations for patients with shunts.  We do recommend avoiding scuba diving and sky diving due to the pressure dynamics, but otherwise encourage patients to be active and involved in the activities they wish to pursue.  Of course, we always remind patients and families to wear helmets appropriate for sports and activities as part of our general health recommendations.


Meet Us Monday- Beth Engelking, Music Therapist

Posted On: 09/09/2014

1. What is your position and role at Gillette? I am a music therapist. I see inpatients at Gillette Children’s Specialty Healthcare in St. Paul. I just started seeing adult patients at the Lifetime clinic.

2. Do you have a favorite Gillette story or memory? It’s hard to pick a particular story from all the great things that happen every day! It’s so rewarding to see patients light up when we start creating music, and it’s even better when the whole family makes music together. One patient wrote a song that she’d like to sing for the American Idol judges and asked me to accompany her at the audition someday. On the more serious side, I sang patient and family preferred songs at bedside for a young patient who was in the end stages of life. The patient visibly relaxed, and the experience was very meaningful to the family. It’s such an honor to be part of these patients’ lives! 

3. What are some of your hobbies outside of work? I’m really involved in the local Irish community – Irish Fair, Irish Music and Dance Association, Friends of St. Patrick. I also love practicing yoga, hiking, traveling, reading, playing my own music for fun, and playing board games.

4. Do you have any children or pets? Almost! Our first child is due in October.

5. If you could travel anywhere, where would you go? I’ve had the good fortune to travel at home and abroad quite a bit, and I’ve lived in Paris, France and Cashel, Ireland. Someday I’d love to visit the Pyramids of Egypt, Machu Picchu, and Niagara Falls.

6. What is one fun fact about you? I love to dance! I started ballet classes when I was two and went on to train professionally until I was 18. I have danced with a few professional ballet companies from around the country. After retiring my pointe shoes, I learned swing dancing and Irish dancing. I have even taken a few classes on Japanese and Korean pop dance.

My Gillette Story by Heather Wiberg, Westin’s Mom

Posted On: 09/09/2014

How would you describe your child to someone who hasn't met him or her?

Westin is a wild and fun-loving two-and-a-half year old who is full of life. He enjoys playing outside in his sandbox or driving his car. He also enjoys the zoo, drawing with chalk and helping his grandma in the garden.

How did your family come to find out about Gillette?
Westin was prenatally diagnosed with spina bifida and bilateral clubfoot at 20 weeks. After talking to other families of children with spina bifida, we found out about Gillette Children’s Specialty Healthcare from those families who were receiving their medical care there.  Westin is seen at Gillette’s spina bifida clinic in which he is evaluated by a physical therapist, a physical medicine and rehabilitation physician, a urologist, a neurosurgeon, and an orthopedic surgeon. He also has renal ultrasounds to continue to monitor the health of his bladder and kidneys.

What has your experience at Gillette been like for your child and family?
Our experience at Gillette had been amazing! Everyone is so friendly, helpful and knowledgeable. While everyone on the staff is great, we especially like working with Dr. David Vandersteen.  Because bowel/bladder management is something that Westin will deal with throughout his lifetime, I feel that this relationship is extremely important.

As an out-of-state family, why do you make the long drive so that Westin can receive care at Gillette?
When we received Westin’s diagnosis, we made a promise to him that we would always get him the best care possible. While Westin wasn't born at Gillette, we soon realized there had to be something better out there and that is what we found in Gillette.  When it comes to a diagnosis such as Westin’s, it is so important for everyone to be on the same page and have the same plan.  We choose to travel three hours for Westin’s appointments because we know he is receiving the best care at Gillette. As a parent that feeling is priceless. 

Why does Westin make you proud?
He is such a strong little boy. In his short little life he has been through so much and he does it all with a smile on his face. He doesn't let his disability define who he is.

Meet Us Monday- Nancy Thomas, Volunteer Coordinator

Posted On: 09/05/2014

1.) What is your position and role at Gillette? I am a Volunteer Coordinator, which allows me to interview, recruit, coordinate and supervise the volunteers at Gillette. I enjoy meeting new people and connecting with the staff at Gillette to schedule volunteers for positions!

2.) Do you have a favorite story or memory? I meet incredible people in the community who want to donate their time and energy to Gillette.  One example is a 7-year-old patient who wanted to give back to Gillette. He threw a birthday party in his hometown and instead of asking for gifts for himself, he asked everybody to bring an item from home (glue sticks, craft supplies, popsicle sticks, crayons, etc.). He used the items to create “Imagination Kits” for the children at Gillette, to keep them entertained while in the hospital. He brought in 299 imagination kits! Great things come in small packages!

3.) What are some of your hobbies outside of work? I am an avid Minnesota sports fan. Show me a Groupon for a new restaurant and I’m there! I also love grilling out and spending time with my family.

4.) Do you have any children or pets? My husband, Jeff and I have two sons, one daughter and one granddaughter. Cooper, our Cairn terrier, is 12 years old and is quite the crowd pleaser!

5.) If you could travel anywhere, where would you go? I hope to visit Albuquerque, New Mexico sometime in October for the International Balloon Fiesta.

6.) What is one fun fact about you? I have owned 14 different types of animals, everything from an iguana, ducks and homing pigeons to a guinea pig named Gumdrop!

What Miracle Treat Day Meant to my Family

Posted On: 08/29/2014

By Melissa Reich

Editor’s Note: Gillette Children’s Specialty Healthcare participated in Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals (CMN Hospitals) Miracle Treat Day on Thursday, August 14. The following is an open letter to the Coon Rapids Dairy Queen by Melissa Reich, Gillette Mom. Her family stoped by to greet staff, share their story and thank them for their donations to Gillette.

Dear DQ Crew,

My family and I would like to say a HUGE thank you for all you did during our Miracle Treat Day visit! My kids had so much fun and my husband and I were blown away by your hospitality. I would like to tell you a little more about my two kiddos that we celebrated with, Olivia and Elijah.

Olivia has Down Syndrome and a complication of that was a disorder called hip sublexation. Olivia spent over a week at Gillette this past January having reconstructive surgery on her left hip. While in the hospital recovering from her surgery, Olivia became quite ill which triggered a major asthma attack. We are so thankful  that we were in the hospital when this happened. I am unsure what Olivia’s outcome would have been if she were at home.

Olivia spent her recovery in a full body cast from chest to ankle for the next seven weeks. She also endured months of physical therapy re-learning how to walk. Unfortunately, this was not her first time in the full body cast and most likely won't be her last. Eventually she will need her right hip repaired..

Elijah was diagnosed with Epilepsy in October of 2013. He has been through a ringer of tests to find the cause of his seizures and the right medication.  Before his diagnosis at Gillette, he was having seizures almost every day. Due to the rarity of his seizure disorder, we had no clue he was even having seizures. Elijah became quite cognitively delayed due to the frequent seizure activity.  I am happy to report that he is doing much better with a new medication and is now starting to talk in full sentences. His brain is getting the rest it needs in order to focus on his development.

Both Olivia and Elijah have had a long and hard road. Their journey isn't over but my family is truly blessed to have an amazing facility like Gillette. We are eternally grateful to them and to amazing supporters such as Dairy Queen.

Thank you from the bottom of our hearts for you’re over the top generosity. We are very grateful for the smiles and laughs you gave our  kids!

The Reich Family; Kevin, Melissa, Cooper, Olivia, Elijah and Chance


Meet Us Monday- Chuck Cunnien, Materials Management Supervisor

Posted On: 08/28/2014

1.) What is your position and role at Gillette? I am the materials management storeroom supervisor located on the ground floor of the St. Paul—Phalen Clinic. I supervise and assist the materials storeroom staff with supplying the nursing units and outpatient clinic with a multitude of different products. We also supply products to all other departments in St. Paul.

2.) Do you have a favorite Gillette story or memory? My favorite part of my job is when I’m walking down the hallways and one of our patients smiles at me. Then I know they’re having a good day.

3.) What are some of your hobbies outside of work? After more than 30 years of coaching girls/women’s sports including soccer, basketball and fastpitch softball, I am now back to playing golf in a men’s league at Logger’s Trail in Stillwater and enjoying it.

4.) Do you have any children or pets? I have two grown daughters. Both of which are married. Kristin, my oldest, has three children: Gavin, 5, Declan, 3, and Asa is only three weeks old. They all call me Pop! Katie, my youngest, has a black lab named Lucky. My wife Lynn and I have a golden retriever named Lola.

5.) If you could travel anywhere, where would you go? To the North Shore—I love to hike those trails! There isn’t a better place for me to be.

6.) What is one fun fact about you? I was a DJ at a roller skating rink for 31 years.

Meet Us Monday- Natalie Jeanetta, Patient Care Technician

Posted On: 08/21/2014

1. What is your position and role at Gillette? I am a Patient Care Technician (PCT) in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit here at Gillette Children's Specialty Healthcare.

2. Do you have a favorite Gillette story or memory? Over the past 10 years at Gillette, I have made many memories. It is truly hard to think of just one. I have many fond memories of patients coming back and visiting.  I love seeing them conquer some of the hardest moments in their lives, and yet they always come back with a big smile on their face, and lots of stories to tell. It means a lot to me that they take the time out of their busy day of therapy and clinic appointments to stop by and say hi. To me, it means they had a great experience and can’t wait to tell us how well they are doing. I feel truly blessed to work at Gillette with such a passionate group of doctors and nurses.

3. What are some of your hobbies outside of work? I just recently started updating my house so I am officially a DIY’er, kayaking (which I am new at), and yoga.

4. Do you have any children or pets? I have a two kids and a dog. My son, Jacob, is 12 ½ going on 20. The newest addition is my daughter, Evelyn, at just 17 weeks. I also have a 5-year-old Yorky Maltese named Abby.

5. What is one fun fact about you? I love to sing! I tried out for American Idol six or seven years ago. It was not what I expected it to be but it was quite the experience!

Meet Us Monday- Nancy Hefko, Development Associate/Children’s Miracle Network

Posted On: 08/15/2014

1. What is your position and role at Gillette? I am a Development Associate in the Children's Miracle Network Hospitals department at Gillette Children’s Specialty Healthcare. I manage fundraising campaigns for national, regional and local Children’s Miracle Network Hospital sponsors as well as other supporters (individuals and businesses). I provide support to partners like Dairy Queen, Costco, RE/MAX, Wal-Mart and Sam's Club to enhance their fundraising opportunities. The most recent example would be the work I did with Dairy Queen and their Miracle Treat Day campaign for Children's Miracle Network Hospitals to build relationships with franchisees for participation and connecting them with Gillette patient families.

2. Do you have a favorite Gillette story or memory?  There are so many great stories. I have the privilege to work with the Minnesota Royal Ambassadors organization and Minnesota Twins for Sparkle Night. A portion of the ticket sales for the Sparkle Night Twins game is donated to Gillette. The Royal Ambassador organization invites those Gillette patient families attending the game to lead a pre-game royal parade on the field. T.C. joins the procession adding to the excitement for all the kids (and parents)! One patient mom sent me a message following the event about her daughter. Her daughter had expressed to her mother that attending this event as a Gillette ambassador gave her a way to celebrate who she is and helped to build her self-esteem. The pictures with smiles said it all. I love my job.

3. What are some of your hobbies outside of work? I enjoy cooking, baking, flower gardening and traveling.

4. Do you have any children or pets? We have five children, two grandchildren and a dog.

5. If you could travel anywhere, where would you go? I would love to go to Italy or New Zealand. I would not be disappointed with either one.

6. What is one fun fact about you? I love to bake, especially cakes. My kids get to pick their own birthday cake, which usually involves me Googling recipes. It has now become an unspoken competition between them to pick the best. I love it!

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