Inside Gillette Blog

Kendall’s Last Surgery

Posted On: 05/22/2015

By Christine Speck, Kendall's mom

Kendall had her third surgery on March 16th at Gillette Children's Specialty Healthcare. Let me back up and explain that after her last surgery two years ago, Kendall was left with an 8" incision on the top of her head that, over the course of this time period, has stretched to a 12" line of scar tissue.

The scar healed well and looked really good, except in the back corner where it stretched under pressure, leaving Kendall with a noticeable bald spot since hair does not grow on the scar tissue. After meeting with Dr. Robert Wood last month, we knew it was time for her to have a scar revision surgery on this area, which would reduce the size of the scar significantly.

I had been telling myself this surgery wasn't a big deal, but when the team of doctors took Kendall into the operating room, all I could think was THIS IS A BIG DEAL! Thankfully, we go to Gillette. Gillette has THE BEST doctors, nurses, and hospital staff who make surgeries and hospital stays as easy as they can possibly get.

While we were getting ready in pre-op, Kendall was showered with coloring books, stickers, chap stick, a new teddy bear, her own iPad with FROZEN...I mean, c'mon. My husband Tony got scrubbed up and helped the medical team escort her back into the operating room. He said that once the head anesthesiologist put the mask on Kendall, she began gently caressing her face and whispering into her ear until she fell asleep.  Is that not the sweetest?!?!

Over an hour went by before we were called to post-op to see her.  She was moaning, crying, kicking...NOT happy. I quickly held her to calm her down. We could see the incision (about 3" long) and it looked really nice. The nurses explained to us that because of her past surgery history with high fevers, they kept her body temp lower than normal at 97.1 and they were continuing to keep her cooler. The fact that they addressed this concern so professionally and respectfully meant THE WORLD to us.

Once Kendall calmed down, she enjoyed popsicles, graham crackers and apple juice...all while being distracted during the removal of her IV. Since we didn't have to stay the night, we quickly worked on getting her to walk again so we could recuperate at home.

Two weeks later and the scar looks AMAZING, is healing well and we are very pleased with the revision results. Kendall will need to wear a hat outside over the next year, and thankfully I've found a way to style her hair that keeps the incision and most of the scar line covered without one.

We started this process over THREE YEARS ago. It's hard to believe it's been that long--we are so relieved to have this nevus removal process behind us, with a huge thanks to Dr. Wood and his talented team at Gillette for taking care of our girl!

Meet Us Monday – Lynne Washington, Environmental Services Supervisor

Posted On: 05/15/2015

What is your position and role at Gillette?
I am an Environmental Services shift supervisor. Prior to that, I was an Environmental Specialist who has worked all 3 shifts (day, evening and overnight).  I’m responsible with making sure all patient areas are kept safe and clean.  Because I’ve floated to many different departments, I’ve had the opportunity to meet many coworkers from around Gillette.

What do you like best about working at Gillette?
I am a big kid at heart and I love working around children. I also have some health issues myself. Seeing our patients’ courage and strength keeps me going and they make my day.

Do you have any children or pets?
I am the proud mother of two children, a grandmother to six and have two dogs, a German Shepherd and a Chiweenie, plus one cat.

What are your hobbies outside of work?
I am a videographer who has produced and won several awards. I play several instruments and write and produce beats for local Hip-Hop artists.  I also fix and repair computers, work in my garden and exercise regularly.  For more than 10 years, I directed a Drill Team Drum Corps with over 75 at-risk youth. We traveled around the Midwest competing and brought home many trophies.

What is one fun fact about you?
The one fun thing about me is that I always make you laugh and put a smile on your face. If I don’t have you smiling, I will surely have you laughing. I believe in having fun on the job. It makes the time go by faster and creates a healthy work atmosphere.

There’s More to Nursing than Meets the Eye

Posted On: 05/11/2015

Educator, leader, listener, and advocate.  These words describe just several of the many essential roles nurses play at Gillette in addition to their most visible role as caregiver.  As we continue celebrating National Nurses Week, let’s take a closer look at a Gillette nurse’s everyday tasks—and discover there’s far more to this profession than what you see on the surface.   

Action:  Giving a child a Popsicle after surgery

Nurse is also:

  •   Checking digestive function to make sure a child’s stomach is “waking up” after surgery
  •   Providing pain relief if a child’s throat is sore
  •   Assessing neurological status:  alertness, swallowing function, motor skills, cognition and pain level


Action: Repositioning a child to keep them comfortable 

Nurse is also:

  •   Keeping the child’s arms or legs elevated to reduce pain and swelling after surgery
  •   Preventing stiffness, skin breakdowns, or sore spots from developing
  •   Encouraging activity  
  •   Ensuring the child’s position optimizes breathing and lung function
  •   Preventing complications like blood clots


Action:  Asking a patient family if they are excited and ready to go home

Nurse is also:

  • Assessing comfort level and coping skills to ensure a good recovery after discharge
  • Creating an opportunity to educate the patient family about home care, what to expect, and what to do if problems arise



Action:  Helping a child fill out a menu for a meal

Nurse is also: 

  • Guiding nutritious choices to promote wound healing, recovering from surgery, hydration, blood sugar management, bowel management or weight management.
  • Educating the patient family about nutrition and goal-setting around food choices
  • Encouraging independence and self-confidence


Action: Listening to mom or dad talk about their child

Nurse is also:

  • Providing emotional support during a child’s hospitalization
  • Assessing where caregivers may be overburdened, overwhelmed or lacking resources at home and identifying ways to help
  • Establishing a partnership with the family in the care of their child
  • Identifying cultural or spiritual needs during the patient’s stay

Meet Us Monday – Rhonda Cady, Nursing Research Specialist

Posted On: 05/11/2015

What is your position and role at Gillette? I am a Nursing Research Specialist at Gillette Children's Specialty Healthcare. Nurses conduct research daily, collecting and analyzing patient data to formulate an assessment and plan. Helping frontline nurses convert this everyday process into formal research studies is the primary focus of a nursing research specialist at Gillette.  I help nurses and other clinical staff members identify and understand a practice problem, and build a research study that produces evidence to support or refute a change in practice.

Meet Us Monday - Rhonda Cady, Nursing Research SpecialistDo you have a favorite Gillette story or memory? I am a research geek. Shortly after joining Gillette, I learned that a leading care coordination researcher was interested in collaborating with Gillette. Not one to miss a research rock-star, I managed an invite to this meeting. Looking back, this was the beginning of my Gillette care coordination research journey, and one that I hope to continue for many more years.

What do you like best about being a nurse at Gillette? In my former position as an academic researcher at the University of Minnesota, I did not directly see how the research evidence we generated was used in ‘real life.’ A as nurse researcher at Gillette, I see this every day. That is what I love about being a nurse at Gillette.

What are your hobbies outside of work? When the weather is not too cold I like to cross-country ski. When the weather is warm, I like to garden and ride my bike as much as possible.  Whatever the weather, I love to travel.

Do you have any children or pets? I am an empty-nester, with two sons, Sam (22) and Will (19), and a dog named Jake.

If you could travel anywhere, where would you go? I would like to go to South America, especially Patagonia.

What is one fun fact about you? I am finally old enough to compete in the Minnesota Senior Games. Watch for me during the women’s cycling road race!

The Importance of Nurses in Gillette’s Care Model

Posted On: 05/07/2015

By: Karen Brill, Vice President of Patient Services

Ever since I was a very young girl, I felt a calling to become a nurse. There was a special person in my life who was a nurse, and I admired her greatly. She would speak to me about how she made a difference in the lives of the people she cared for. Sometimes those differences may have gone unnoticed by others, but because of her unique connections to those individuals she knew her efforts mattered. As a little girl those stories made an imprint on me. I knew this was a path I wanted to follow.

As I grew up, my passion never wavered. I studied hard and went to college to achieve my bachelor’s degree in nursing. Later I completed a master’s degree. I was driven to bring the key learnings of the mentors I’d had along the way with me as I began my nursing career. Over the years my approach to working with patients and families only became more grounded in seeing the uniqueness of each of them. Each day I was able to apply a truly holistic approach to caring for the patients and families. I relished my ability to take my time and make every patient interaction special.

Karen Brill, Gillette Children's Specialty HealtchareI recall my first few shifts at Gillette Children's Specialty Healthcare in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU) as the night charge nurse. I was admitting a young man who had just survived a devastating accident; unfortunately we discovered that he had sustained a spinal cord injury. It was difficult having those conversations side by side with our neurosurgeons and the family. When the young man was awake enough to hear and understand the news, I was fortunate to again be by his side with his family and the other key members of the health care team to help him through. It was a long journey for him. First he healed enough to move out of the PICU, and then he was off to our inpatient rehabilitation unit. I am happy to say that he had a wonderful recovery. He and his family made many adjustments along the way, but our entire team helped them get where they needed to go.

Over the years I have worked at a variety of health care organizations. None compares to Gillette in providing patients and families with a truly interdisciplinary approach to care. I am very proud of how our teams, often led by our nursing staff, come together to meet each patient’s needs, improve the quality of our care and work toward a positive outcome. This occurs at Gillette daily. As I walk the halls and meet with staff or patients and families, I can see evidence of the model of care we provide. Recently I spent some time in our St. Paul Clinic. I watched how our team of doctors, nurses, child life specialists, respiratory therapists and others came together to make sure our patients were as comfortable as possible as they underwent an invasive procedure that ultimately helped relieve their muscle tightness. It was an amazing testament to our care model. In the end the patients and families were very pleased, which makes all the difference.

During Nurses Week, I hope all nurses remember why they were called to the profession and what moments keep them grounded and refreshed. Those memories help us come back each day and offer our true selves to patients and families. Just the other day I spoke with a group of nurses and nursing assistants who cared for a patient who had chosen to receive end-of-life care with us. Although it is always hard to say goodbye to one of our patients, each of those staff members shared wonderful moments of how that patient and family touched their lives. That patient will always hold a very special place in their hearts. I know the family will always cherish the loving care we provided that young man when he needed it most.

Thank you for all you do to make a difference in the lives of the patients and families we serve. You live our organization’s mission every day.

Seven Important Things to Know About Osteogenesis Imperfecta or Brittle Bone Disease

Posted On: 05/04/2015

Editor’s note: National Osteogenesis Imperfecta Awareness Week takes place from May 2 – 9, 2015.

Imagine breaking a bone by rolling over in bed. Or fracturing your foot by taking a step.

For people who have osteogenesis imperfecta (sometimes called brittle bone disease or OI), daily life can be difficult. With the right treatment, however, many children and adults live full, satisfying lives while managing this rare condition.

Gillette Children’s Specialty Healthcare is the region’s only health care organization with deep expertise in osteogenesis imperfecta and its complications- offering a multidisciplinary team approach. We offer testing, surgical and other medical interventions, rehabilitation therapies, braces and splints, and more.

Q: What is brittle bone disease?

A: Osteogenesis imperfecta is a hereditary (genetic) condition that causes a defect in the bone protein collagen. As a result, the bones of people who have the condition break frequently. Some sustain dozens of breaks during childhood. And parents of children with undiagnosed osteogenesis imperfecta often are suspected—wrongly—of child abuse.

Q: Is it common?

A: No. It is a rare condition that ranges from relatively mild to severe. Although severe forms are obvious in infancy—some babies are so fragile their bones break during birth—milder forms might escape diagnosis until childhood or later.

Q: What are the symptoms?

A: The primary symptom is fragile bones that break from relatively little impact. Multiple fractures can cause the arms and legs to bow, which makes them more likely to fracture again.

Fractures of the middle ear bones can cause hearing loss early in life. Some patients have brittle teeth resulting from an abnormality of tooth dentin. Often, the sclera (whites of the eyes) appear blue, gray or purple.

Although people with milder forms of the condition usually reach an average height, those with more severe forms are often short of stature. Some patients develop scoliosis (an abnormally curved spine) and have triangular-shaped faces.

Q: How is osteogenesis imperfecta diagnosed?

A: We begin with a thorough family history, a physical exam and X-rays. Those results may lead to more specific diagnostic tests, such as genetic testing, a bone density scan, and a skin or bone biopsy.

Q: What treatments exist for osteogenesis imperfecta?

A: The goal of treatments is to minimize the effects of the condition. Surgery helps manage recurring breaks, bowed bones or an abnormally curved spine. For example, we might place rods within the bone canal to stabilize and realign bones.

Certain medications can help reduce bone pain, decrease the number of fractures, increase bone density and improve a patient’s ability to walk. Exercise in a heated pool is often a safe and effective option for strengthening muscles. Orthoses (braces and splints) can prevent fractures and provide support.

Q: What makes Gillette a good choice for people who have osteogenesis imperfecta?

A: Gillette has years of experience treating the condition—and we care for patients from childhood into adulthood. In addition to diagnosing and treating patients, we teach them how to avoid the most common complications of the disease.

Orthopedic surgeons, endocrinologists, geneticists and pediatric rehabilitation medicine physicians are among the specialists who collaborate on custom treatment plans for each patient. Our team also includes dentists and audiologists skilled in working with children and adults who have disabilities. Our Assistive Technology and casting specialists provide casts, orthoses, and custom seating and controls for people who need wheelchairs. Our physical and occupational therapists help people strengthen their muscles safely and improve their abilities.

Q: How can I learn more about osteogenesis imperfecta?

A: To learn more about Gillette and our options for people who have osteogenesis imperfecta, visit our website.

Stephen Sundberg, M.D., pediatric orthopedic surgeon; Kevin Sheridan, M.D., pediatrician specializing in endocrinology; and Nanette Aldahondo, M.D., pediatric rehabilitation medicine physician, collaborated on an article on osteogenesis imperfecta in A Pediatric Perspective, our newsletter for Gillette’s referring physicians. This blog post was adapted from that information.

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.    

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