Inside Gillette Blog

Representing Gillette in Our Nation’s Capital

Posted On: 07/21/2015

By Melissa Zeleny

This past June, our family had the opportunity to represent Gillette Children’s Specialty Healthcare in Washington, D.C. as a part of Speak Now for Kids Family Advocacy Day, an annual initiative of the Children’s Hospital Association.  Hayden was one of 42 children from across the country that traveled to our nation’s Capitol with a unified mission:  to raise awareness, among members of Congress, of the important issues impacting children’s hospitals and pediatric health care today.

Our first official event was a lunch where we met families and children from across the U.S.  During the lunch they also had mock meetings where kids got to role play and see what their congressional visits might be like.  After the lunch, we took a bus tour of some of Washington’s landmarks. It was pretty exciting to see icons like the Lincoln Memorial and Korean War Memorial. Hayden stood in the exact same spot Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his famous speech and raised her arms with a great smile as she remembered being honored for her essay on her own dream:  that all kids are treated the same, regardless of their disability.

The next morning we headed over to the Capitol.  Our first appointment was with Senator Amy Klobuchar. Hayden was nervous but told her story well and covered all of her speaking points. After taking a group photo, Senator Klobuchar noticed Hayden’s Vivo fit and the two compared steps and talked about how much walking there is around the Capitol.  One of Hayden’s goals with her cerebral palsy is to stay active, so her Vivo was an early birthday present. She was proud to be able to count her steps with a Senator.

Next we headed over to see Representative Betty McCollum who we found very welcoming. She also showed us some eggs from the annual White House Easter Egg hunt that the kids thought were pretty neat. We ended our day with Senator Al Franken. Franken entered the room with his trademark smile and immediately had the kids engaged and laughing.  My father and I are old school Saturday Night Live fans and although he is past his comedian days, Senator Franken did not disappoint.

Throughout the day Hayden did a great job of representing Gillette and being sure her message was heard. We left the Capitol feeling like we achieved our mission of highlighting the importance of specialty health care for every child. We were proud to be chosen to represent Gillette.

Hayden has always said she wants to be a nurse or child life specialist when she grows up. After her time on the Hill, she now says she could see a career as a lobbyist or in politics. We say GO HAYDEN!

Editor’s note:  Read Hayden’s story here.

Gillette Care Without a Road Trip Means More Time as a Family

Posted On: 07/15/2015

Pam Harbarth, a Gillette mom, knows that Gillette’s Marcie Ward, M.D., has an advanced medical degree and a lengthy title.

“But that’s not how I think of her,” Pam says. “I call her Dr. Makes-My-Life-Easier. No matter what we need—from a disability parking permit to a prescription for physical therapy—she’s there for us.”

A Rare Syndrome

Dr. Ward and other Gillette specialists have been treating Pam’s daughter, Madison, since Madison was a baby. For years, the family made the long drive from their Mankato home to Gillette’s St. Paul campus for care.

Madison was born with a rare condition called caudal regression syndrome or sacral agenesis syndrome. Her spine stopped developing partway down her back, and she’s missing its lower section—including her tailbone. Her feet and legs also developed improperly. As a result, she has bowel and bladder issues and uses a wheelchair.

“When Madison was born, we didn’t know what her syndrome was,” Pam recalls. “Our doctor referred us to Gillette, and she had her first appointment a week later.” Gillette’s specialists confirmed that Madison would need continuing care in areas including orthopedics and spine, rehabilitation medicine and urology.

Easing the Strain

Before Gillette opened our clinic in Mankato, Madison’s family regularly drove three hours round-trip to St. Paul or nearly as far to our Burnsville Clinic. “The amount of strain on our family was enormous,” Pam says. “Madison was missing several days of school a month, and my husband and I had exhausted our vacation and sick days.”

That changed when the Gillette Mankato Clinic opened. Now Madison sees most of her specialists—including “Dr. Makes-My-Life-Easier”—close to home. And the Gillette Mankato Clinic’s benefits go far beyond easy parking and a lack of traffic. “We’ve been able to get our lives back to normal,” Pam explains.  “Normal for us means more time at home as a family.”

Collaboration in the Community

 The Gillette Mankato Clinic is a boon not only to local families, but also to people throughout southern Minnesota and northern Iowa. And because Gillette is next door to the privately owned Mankato Clinic and Pediatric Therapy Services, our Mankato location offers another benefit: close collaboration with community providers.

“We love how closely everyone works together,” Pam says. For example, if Dr. Ward suggests physical or occupational therapy, it’s easy to set Madison up with a therapist at Pediatric Therapy Services. Gillette urologist, David Vandersteen, M.D., connected the family to a pediatric gastroenterologist at the Mankato Clinic.

“The coordination that happens at Gillette and the Mankato Clinic is amazing,” Pam says. “Everyone speaks the same language. We get the same Gillette experience—but in Mankato!”

Meet Us Monday - Bethann Nikolova, Radiologic Technologist

Posted On: 07/13/2015

What is your position and role at Gillette Children’s Specialty Healthcare? I am a Radiologic Technologist II, or Rad Tech.  My daily activities can vary but my primarily responsibility is ensuring patient comfort while performing accurate x-ray exams.  I also work in diagnostic imaging and am one of two technologists that work in bone density scans (DXA).  I am also a member of Gillette’s internal wellness committee – WOW (Wild On Wellness) Committee.

Do you have a favorite Gillette story or memory? It is hard to pick a single memory, but I have one that always gets me through a rough day. A patient with severe clubfeet was going through a long andMeet Us Monday - Bethann Nikolova, Radiologic Technologist often painful process with external fixation devices to correct her condition.  One day after imaging her progress she looked up at me and said “Tank You, I Lubba You!”  She really didn’t speak English and it was too cute for words.  A few months later at her last appointment, I saw her playing tag with another child in the hall.  I knew there was no place else for me.

What do you like best about working at Gillette? Working at Gillette has given me the courage to say that I know I can handle anything life throws my way.

Do you have any children or pets? I have two children, Tyler is 14 years old and and EvaKate is 8.  We have a dog “Charlie” aka Charles Xavier, aka Charles Barkley, aka Charlie the goat.  We also have a fish and my daughter is currently asking what other pets we can have.

If you could travel anywhere, where would you go? I have found I am not a good traveler but I have always wanted to go to Boston and Montana.

What are some of your hobbies outside of work? I mostly try to keep up with my house and kids but I absolutely love having parties. I am currently on hiatus, but am a red belt in Taekwondo and am looking forward to starting my training again and earning my black belt. 

From Juvenile Arthritis to Miss Teen Minnesota

Posted On: 07/06/2015

By Nicole Doyle, Miss Teen Minnesota 2015

As a three-year-old at the pediatrician’s office, I did not know what was going on.  But I remember this day distinctly.  I remember my doctor extending, bending, and checking all of my joints.  The next thing I remember is entering a lab while holding my big purple stuffed bunny and squeezing tight.  I did not want to be poked and prodded, but I had to.  From Juvenile Arthritis to Miss Teen Minnesota

This blood test forever changed my life.  “I’m sorry to tell you this but your daughter has juvenile rheumatoid arthritis,” said the doctor.  My parents were clueless: “kids can get arthritis?” Shortly after my diagnosis, we were sent to Gillette Children’s Specialty Healthcare. They care for children and teens like me who have a broad range of rheumatic and inflammatory conditions. We were also sent because at this time, they were the only facility with pediatric rheumatologists in Minnesota. Thanks to the knowledgeable doctors at Gillette, I started an intense treatment plan to get this disease under control with a drug called methotrexate.  

The treatment was okay at the start, but then I started to get sick. I was soon old enough to know what the medication led to:  sickness, nausea, vomiting, and me missing school and activities. I remember being a little spitfire: sneaking upstairs claiming that I would only drink my medicine “alone,” yet secretly I was pouring it down the sink. Soon after, though, I would experience continuous flair-ups.  Dr. Richard Vehe educated me on the importance of From Juvenile Arthritis to Miss Teen Minnesotataking my medication consistently. I learned some valuable things that I’d like to share with other children and families dealing with this diagnosis.

For Kids and Teens:  You are not alone!  Treatment may stink at times, and side effects may be difficult, but it is very important! In fact, early drug treatment can prevent serious, permanent damage to your joints. And I encourage you to find a way to overcome arthritis through your strength and your hobbies, something that you like. It could be sports, artwork, blogging, anything. Find your “thing” and don’t let your diagnosis define you.

For Parents:  Be your child’s support system. Stand by them, listen to them, and do your best to help them! Early drug treatment can prevent serious joint damage, enabling to your child to live an active, full childhood despite juvenile arthritis.

Believe it or not, this disease started as a negative for my family and me. But thanks to the encouragement from the wonderful staff at Gillette Children’s Specialty Healthcare and my own willpower, I have now turned my diagnosis into a positive! I have learned to live with this disease, and fight it too! I am living proof that anyone can overcome JRA.  I even played hockey and lacrosse for Lakeville South High School. From Juvenile Arthritis to Miss Teen Minnesota

One of the biggest things that helped me overcome JRA is pageants.  I recently entered Miss Teen Minnesota International because I wanted a weekend to be myself, get glammed up, have fun, meet new people, but most importantly spread the word that “Kids get arthritis too!” Little did I know I would now have a whole year of being able to raise awareness!

As Miss Teen Minnesota, I am honored to speak at schools, events, fundraisers, and even with children and their families. Sharing my story and informing others about this disease is one of my favorite things to do—and I encourage other children living with arthritis to do the same.  Join the Juvenile Arthritis Walk, make a team, talk about it, raise money to find a cure, and spread the word.

For more information about me and my story please visit my website

Meet Us Monday - Melissa Pettyjohn, Ultrasound Technologist

Posted On: 07/06/2015

What is your position and role at Gillette? What are some of your daily activities? I am an ultrasound technologist at Gillette Children's Specialty Healthcare.  I scan the major organs of the body, veins and nerves.  The benefits of ultrasounds are that it does not require sedation and has no radiation, so it is a good option for children and people that need to be imaged often.  It’s also a “dynamic” modality showing real time motion like blood flow, stones moving, and muscles contracting.  It’s fun (and informative) to watch!

Meet Us Monday - Melissa Pettyjohn, Ultrasound Technologist Do you have a favorite Gillette story or memory? Getting to know my patients brings me joy. I have been scanning the same people for the last seven years. It has been great to build relationships and watch them grow!  We catch up with their latest accomplishments, challenges, and life in general while I scan.

What do you like best about working at Gillette?  Gillette challenges employees to grow and supports us as we do. That is a rare and wonderful thing! I came to Gillette as a relatively new ultrasound tech. I was allowed to develop job duties and scan protocols that best served the patients and providers.  I have also been able to work with providers to learn and develop new scans that are not commonly offered at other facilities, such as infant shoulders, intraoperative spinal canals and peripheral nerves. 

 Do you have any children or pets? My husband and I have a son, Jack, who is 12 – almost a teenager! We also have a rescue dog and cat that keep us entertained.  I am a pushover for rescue animals, if we had more room I would have adopted a whole zoo by now.

If you could travel anywhere, where would you go?  That changes all the time because I want to travel everywhere.  Right now, I’d love to spend time in Costa Rica.  Beaches, jungles, volcanoes – Cost Rica has it all!

 What are some of your hobbies outside of work?  I love spending time with my family and traveling when I can.  I am a voracious reader and can read 300+ pages a night if the book is interesting.  We bought a fixer-upper that needed a few more fixes than we were aware of, so that is our main hobby.  We have definitely improved our carpentry, electrical, and plumbing skills.

Exceptional Patient Care—In Any Language!

Posted On: 07/02/2015

By Ana Gregg, Supervisor of Interpretation Services

From frequent appointments to diagnostic tests and surgical procedures, a child’s complex medical needs can be a challenging experience for any parent or family member.  Families who speak limited English or are hard-of-hearing may encounter additional challenges as they navigate communication barriers.  At Gillette, families can count on receiving compassionate and respectful care from our expert providers—no matter the language they speak. 

Gillette offers interpretation services to all families who need them, free-of-charge.  Our trained medical interpreters help bridge communication barriers by clearly, calmly and concisely conveying information in a language and cultural framework that both our families and medical staff can understand. Families can receive our services face-to-face, via phone, or via our latest advancement: Video Remote Interpreting.

The four most common non-English languages spoken by Gillette families are Spanish, Somali, Karen and Hmong.  We provide interpreters for these languages—and more than 30 others languages spoken by our patients—through both in-house staff and contractual relationships with interpreter agencies (these agencies are equipped to interpret over 200 different languages)!  We’re committed to meeting all of our patients’ language needs, every day. 

Interpretation services meet a vital and growing need among Gillette families.  In an average month, interpreter services assist with 750 patient visits—that’s between 1,000 and 1,500 hours!  Besides having an interpreter available to meet family language needs, Gillette has many vital documents, such as consents and release of information forms, translated to the most common languages needed. Gillette also translates many patient education materials that are used frequently in our clinics and inpatient units. 

Being a medical interpreter is such a rewarding profession!  It is a big professional responsibility to make sure our patients and providers accurately understand each other—taking into consideration not only their language differences, but also their cultural background and the cultural framework of each side of the conversation. 

(Photo: Gillette patient Kimberly Vasquez and her mother pictured with Ana Gregg).

Meet Us Monday - Therese Krug, Imaging Systems Administrator

Posted On: 06/29/2015

What is your position and role at Gillette Children’s Specialty Healthcare? I started at Gillette in 2002 as an X-ray Technologist.  In my time at Gillette, I’ve seen our department move from x-rays taken with film and developed in a darkroom to, today, sophisticated digital imaging.  It’s been an exciting shift!  I monitor and maintain the imaging computer systems that allow us to sync each patient’s information with our imaging equipment, document the details of each imaging exam, and track both data and results from each exam.  Gillette’s complex patient population has unique imaging needs and I consider it a privilege to be part of the team that helps meet those needs.

Do you have a favorite Gillette story or memory? There was a patient of Dr. Mark Dahl’s that came to Gillette from a Honduras orphanage with very severe lower extremity deformities. When she arrived, she was sad and a little withdrawn.  I performed some of her first imaging exams and she told me that the two things she really wanted to do was run and swim.  Dr. Dahl performed several surgeries and I watched her grow into a happier and more outgoing person as she gained increased use of her legs. She learned English, went to school, and shared stories of the good times with her host Meet Us Monday - Therese Krug, Imaging Systems Administratorfamily.  On her last day at Gillette, she asked me with a big smile, “Do you want to see me run down the hall?” I replied “yes” and she did just that – she ran down the hall.  She came back to me and said, “I can go swimming now too.” She gave me a hug and told me she was going home soon and would miss everyone at Gillette.

What do you like best about working at Gillette? The patients! We all face challenges in our lives, but our patients face their challenges every hour of every day.  Yet they have a great sense of humor, with a smile on their face (most days), have a new joke to tell, and they keep climbing the mountain.  We can all learn something from them.

If you could travel anywhere, where would you go? Switzerland.  I hear the country is beautiful.

What is one fun fact about you? I was the first female firefighter captain in my hometown county in Illinois. I am very proud of that accomplishment.

What are some of your hobbies outside of work? I love to cook.  I especially love to have big groups of people over for a meal and share in the friendship.  I also love to travel and have a group of friends from all over the country who travel to a new place each year. This year we are going to Hilton Head.

Rebuilding Rachel’s Language Bridge

Posted On: 06/25/2015

By: Melissa Castino Reid, Rachel’s mom    

Back in 2011, my daughter, Rachel Reid, aged 4, began occupational, physical, and speech therapy in response to her pair of strokes. Her future looked dim as the light faded from her blue eyes. Would I ever see the original girl I gave birth to in 2006?

Gillette’s rehabilitation therapy team is a part of that answer, and in particular, I’d like to highlight Sue Ellen, a speech professional who helped at the very beginning. She taught lessons about recovery and offered hope.

I met Sue at the beginning when we landed at Gillette Children’s Specialty Healthcare in St. Paul. With her frosty blond hair, petite form, and large spirit and heart, she worked tirelessly with Rachel on swallowing and speech. One thing I loved about Sue was that she never treated Rachel as “differently abled,” but rather “perfectly able.”

This was hard for me to accept; here was Rachel, unable to talk, yet Sue’s energetic spirit and patience forced me to believe things would improve.

With a toy microphone in her hand, Sue leaned in close to my kid and said, “Rachel, let’s sing A, B, C. OK, ready? A, B, C, D….” She held the phone to Rachel’s mouth. Nothing came out, yet she opened it in an effort to give us E, F, G.

My body was tense and tight as I held my breath in those early stages of her recovery. How could I have hope in moments like this? As I felt such despair, there was Sue, offering the light of possibility: “I know you can do it! Come on, Rachel. You know the next letters…” Sue always believed that Rachel’s ability was “in there.”

I’ll never forget the first flicker of optimism I felt. While Rachel never lost the ability to protect her airwaves, her swallowing skills switched off, which meant she needed a feeding tube.

“Sue, how do we get her to swallow again?” I asked, my face pinched with worry.

“Well, sometimes you just gotta give her the right motivation, and it just happens,” she said, as she wheeled her chair close to Rachel with a lollipop. “Alright Miss Rachel. I have a lollipop, and I want you to give it a good lick…and then swallow. OK? Here we go…”

Within seconds, Rachel licked and swallowed, just like that. What I thought might take years took place right away thanks to Sue. Shortly thereafter, we removed Rachel’s feeding tube so that she could eat real food.

Finally, the sentence that stuck with me from Sue was this: “Rachel’s language is preserved.” She explained apraxia’s terrain; my daughter’s language likely never left, but the ability to speak was disabled. Like a bridge that connects the brain to the mouth, that connection had collapsed thanks to the strokes. Yet, Sue saw that we could rebuild it with the help of therapy.

Now, Rachel can speak hundreds of words and string together sentences to communicate. Rachel can greet her by saying, “Hi Sue.” 

To Sue, I say “thank you.”

 Editor’s note: Read more about Rachel’s journey here.

Meet Us Monday - Emily Syverson, Registered Nurse

Posted On: 06/15/2015

What is your position and role at Gillette Children’s Specialty Healthcare? I am a registered nurse on the Inpatient Rehabilitation Unit. I could not imagine working anywhere else. From the doctors, nurses, therapists, social workers, etc. everyone's hearts are all in to make sure each individual child's needs are being met.

Meet Us Monday - Emily Syverson, Registered Nurse What do you like best about working at Gillette? I am inspired on a daily basis with each patient I care for and each family I meet. It is never easy seeing a child suffer, but their innocence and resilience help them overcome the struggles in a beautiful way. These kids are the toughest kids I have EVER met. They will never know the incredible impact they have made on my life.

 Do you have a favorite Gillette story or memory? One that stands out is when I met a patient who had injuries so severe she was told she might never walk again. But she worked hard at her therapy and proved everyone wrong!  On the day of her discharge from Gillette, I was honored to be the nurse that held onto her gait belt as she walked out of the hospital. One of her doctors played the song "Girl on Fire" by Alicia Keys – there was a lot of lot of cheering and tears.

What are some of your hobbies outside of work? I enjoy running – especially outdoors, reading a good book and meeting up with friends. I also love ice cream, so trying to find the best ice cream place in the Twin Cities keeps me pretty busy!

What is one fun fact about you? I love to travel! I have been to nine different countries for both pleasure and mission purposes. I have taken a piece of each country with me every time I have left. I enjoy the history and learning about cultures, as well as experiencing a different way of life. Through these travels I have learned that selflessness and simplicity are the keys to happiness.

As a world traveler, where would you go next? I would go to Greece. The history of the country fascinates me. Also, Santorini is said to have beautiful sunsets. I love watching sunsets!

5 Reasons Why Gillette Is Among Nation’s Best Children’s Hospitals in Orthopedics

Posted On: 06/09/2015

U.S. News & World Report today ranked Gillette among the Best Children’s Hospitals in the nation. We’re ranked 22nd in pediatric orthopedics, an increase from our ranking of 23rd in 2014.  The Best Children’s Hospitals list recognizes hospitals that demonstrate exceptional outcomes and a commitment to quality and safety. What makes Gillette a leader in pediatric orthopedics—and, more importantly, what does this mean for our patients?

1. Our Gait Lab keeps kids moving.  Gillette’s James R. Gage Center for Gait and Motion Analysis draws patients from throughout the nation and world for advanced diagnostic testing and treatment of movement disorders.  Our motion analysis technology means improved mobility — and greater independence — for patients. 

2.  Our expertise leads to extraordinary outcomes. Gillette’s pediatric orthopedic surgeons treat children who have complex, rare and traumatic conditions on a daily basis. They also subspecialize—becoming experts in disorders affecting the spine, upper and lower extremities, and in techniques like limb-lengthening.  Patients and families can feel confident knowing they’re receiving exceptional care from a highly skilled team.

3. We’re training the next generation of world-class surgeons.  As the pediatric orthopedics residency site for the University of Minnesota and Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, Gillette trains the physicians of the future.  It takes the best to train the best.  And at Gillette, our expert surgeons bring their best to every patient, every day. 

4. We’ve been helping kids thrive for 117 years.  Orthopedics has always been a focus for Gillette. Our founder, Dr. Arthur Gillette, was Minnesota’s first pediatric orthopedic surgeon. We’ve spent more than 100 years honing our expertise in treating complex and rare disorders.  Our experience, advanced technology, and innovative techniques lead to the greatest possible surgical outcomes.

5.  Care doesn’t end with orthopedics.  At Gillette, we know that orthopedic surgery is just one aspect of the comprehensive care our patients require. That’s why our orthopedists team up with colleagues in neurology, neurosurgery, rehabilitation medicine, and dozens of other specialties to provide integrated and personalized care.  This type of care model is unique — and ultimately, designed to help patients and families improve all aspects of their health and well-being.

The Best Children’s Hospitals rankings list the top 50 hospitals in 10 areas of pediatrics. As a specialty care children’s hospital, Gillette does not participate in the full Best Children’s Hospitals survey, instead focusing on areas, like orthopedics, that are most relevant to the patients we serve.  To learn more about the Best Children’s Hospitals rankings methodology, click here.

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