Inside Gillette Blog

November is Epilepsy Awareness Month

Posted On: 11/12/2014

By: Shani Norberg, M.D., Pediatric Neurologist

November is Epilepsy Awareness Month. More than three million Americans of all ages have epilepsy and 30% of those are children. One in ten people will have a seizure at some point, and one in 100 people will develop epilepsy.

The International  League Against Epilepsy defines epilepsy as a disease of the brain defined by:

  1. At least two unprovoked seizures (meaning there isn’t an obvious cause of the seizure, e.g., a high fever) in which the seizures occur less than 24 hours apart
  2. One unprovoked seizure in a person who has other conditions that often lead to seizures, such as: genetic/metabolic disorders, specific epilepsy syndromes (i.e. Dravet or Lennox Gastaut ) or structural problems of the brain including insufficient oxygen to the brain at birth, trauma or brain injury,  developmental brain malformation , infections of the nervous system or stroke.

When a child is diagnosed with epilepsy, it is natural for a flood of worries and emotions to surface. The patient, parents and other family members may experience anxiety, anger, embarrassment, depression and general uncertainty. Families may worry about how epilepsy will affect the child’s relationships and activities. They may also worry about how epilepsy will affect their child’s brain function and the ability to learn, concentrate and memorize. Understanding new medical information, how to care for a child, new routines, missing school/work days and learning emergency interventions may all be overwhelming.

To support the child and family with all of these challenges, Gillette Children Specialty Healthcare’s neurologists, nurse practitioners, dedicated nursing staff, social workers, child life specialists, pharmacists, dieticians, neuropsychologists and child psychologists may all play a role in the epilepsy care team.

Deeply embedded in the history, philosophy and mission of Gillette is the practice of whole-child, family-centered care. At Gillette we have expertise and experience in caring for children with epilepsy across all of these disciplines.  Utilizing specialists from all of these disciplines, goals of Gillette’s epilepsy care include:

  • To provide skillful management of seizures through medications, dietary therapies, vagus nerve stimulation, and consideration of the need for further surgical treatment.
  • To ensure that we provide the necessary support and services to allow children to reach their fullest potential and to foster the overall well-being of children and their families.

In combining multi-specialty expertise with our long standing whole-child, family-centered practice philosophy, we strive to provide the utmost support for children and their families coping with a diagnosis of epilepsy.

Click here for more information.

How you can benefit from the Gillette Assistance Program

Posted On: 11/11/2014

What is the Gillette Assistance Program (GAP)?
The Gillette Assistance Program (GAP) is a program to help Gillette patients and families who are struggling to pay for their medical expenses. Although most people have insurance coverage these days, many plans require families to pay high deductibles or large coinsurance portions. 


For qualified patients, GAP can assist in paying the self-pay portions of their Gillette bill. The program has been in place at Gillette for many years under a variety of names.


Who qualifies for GAP?

Family size and income determine who qualifies for GAP. Discounts can be from 25 percent to 100 percent of balances for uninsured people (self-payers). We ask that our patients and families apply for state and/or government assistance before receiving GAP assistance.  Government programs also are likely to cover services at other health care organizations; GAP funds can only be used for care received at Gillette.


How do I apply for GAP?
Applying for GAP is straightforward and easy. Our GAP application is available (in both English and Spanish) on Gillette’s website at The GAP application forms are also available at each Gillette clinic site. Just ask a social worker or someone at the front desk for an application also.


Gillette has a long history of serving people who have special needs and of giving back to the community.  We are proud to be able to offer the GAP to help our patients and their families cover the costs of highly specialized medical care. 

If you have questions about GAP and would like more information or an application, please call 651-325-2177. Gillette’s Patient Accounting team will be happy to help you.

Double a Donation on Give to the Max Day

Posted On: 11/05/2014

Thursday, Nov. 13, is Give to the Max Day, a 24-hour online fundraising event hosted by This year Gillette will be sharing our “top-10 reasons to give to Gillette” throughout the week of Nov. 13 on social media, but you can get an exclusive sneak peek here! Hint: Help us make a splash!

Mike Frattallone of Frattallone's Ace Hardware Stores and Garden Centers has offered to match your donations dollar-for-dollar up to $30,000! Another generous donor has increased the match by offering an additional $20,000. If we can raise $50,000 on Nov. 13, we can put $100,000 to work for the kids at Gillette. Please help us meet our goal!

You can go to Gillette’s GiveMN page now to schedule your gift. Just follow that link to be taken to our page and begin filling out the donate form – it’s that easy! Your credit card won’t be charged until Nov. 13 so that your donation can be matched.

Let others know that you support Gillette on Give to the Max Day by changing your Facebook cover picture to one provided here. Simply click the image, save it on your computer and upload it onto your Facebook page. Whether you donate, tweet or post, your support will help make this year’s Give to the Max Day a successful one for the patients at Gillette.

Meet Us Monday- Suzanne Constantini, Manager APN/Dentistry and Orthodontia/Registration

Posted On: 11/03/2014

1. Please describe your roll in the military (for example, in what capacity did you serve in the US Military, what branch, how many years, etc.). I joined the Army Nurse Corps during my last year of college. The Army paid one year of my tuition and in return I agreed to serve three years.  I spent two years stateside working in pediatrics at large Army hospitals and I also served one year in Vietnam from March 1970 – 1971. While in Vietnam I worked in PACU, Surgical ICU and Neurosurgery ICU. This was an intense year of caring for American soldiers, allied troops and Vietnamese people who sustained war injuries. As a diversion, I took advantage of the occasions to work with children in clinics outside of the hospital compound.
2. What is your position and role at Gillette? My position at Gillette is an outpatient manager for Advanced Practice Nursing / Dentistry and Orthodontia / Registration.
3. Do you have a favorite Gillette story or memory? Every day I see children and their families or caregivers come for some level of service at Gillette Children's Specialty Healthcare. In my early career I worked in newborn ICU and often wondered who would provide the special care these children would need over the course of their lives. And now I know – it is truly very unique. So when I look at the lighted tree on the hill and watch the video of Ellie dance with her father, that is a wonder and very special.

4. What are some of your hobbies outside of work? I enjoy cooking, gardening, golfing, fly fishing and have taken up painting. Then there are times to just sit back a read a good novel.
5. Do you have any children or pets? I have a 9-year-old golden retriever named Bella. She is wonderful and spoiled.
6. If you could travel anywhere, where would you go? I have traveled to Scotland, England, Italy, Australia, Hong Kong and some special places in the US. I would like to go back to Italy and stay for a month.
7. What is one fun fact about you? I took up golf and fly fishing with my husband, and we are good partners at both!

Meet Us Monday- Brian Reilly, Seating and Adaptive Equipment Practitioner

Posted On: 11/03/2014

1. What is your position and role at Gillette? I am a “Seating & Adaptive Equipment Practitioner at Gillette Children’s Specialty Healthcare. My role at Gillette is to evaluate, design, fabricate, fit, adjust and repair adaptive equipment like custom wheelchair seating and other equipment that isn’t available, or needs to be modified for our patients. I’m pretty sure I have the coolest job here- I get help from physicians, nurses, orthotists, therapists, teachers, families and caregivers to create stuff that can have a profound and positive impact on the quality of life for children and adults who can really benefit from our coordinated services. Sometimes projects are simple and fun. Other times they can be very challenging and we have to try different things before we find a set-up that works. I’m so grateful Gillette gives us everything we need to get this great work done!

2. Do you have a favorite Gillette story or memory? My favorite memories are working with the super brave and funny kids and their parents. There is a FOX news story from a few years back that reminds me how much I enjoy my job:

3. What are some of your hobbies outside of work? I play guitar and sing in an acoustic Bluegrass / Newgrass folk rock band. I enjoy gardening a lot, cooking (and eating gourmet food), coaching youth sports and cheering for my favorite teams- The Wild and Syracuse Orange men’s basketball.

4. Do you have any children or pets? I have 4 children: 18, 16, 14 and 12. My dog Freida is super smart and loves to run around our backyard and wrestle. Our cat Claire is a lazy meat-loaf cutie.

5. If you could travel anywhere, where would you go? I want to go to a hot beach with crystal clear blue water. This winter would be great!

6. What is one fun fact about you? I’ve been to 43 of the 50 states (I followed a touring rock band around the country when I could when I was in college).

My Gillette Story by Mary Barsness

Posted On: 10/30/2014

On July 7, 2014, our 14-year-old son, Willi, fell off his longboard in the neighborhood. (A longboard is a type of skateboard that’s longer and faster than most boards.) What followed was the kind of night that parents fear. Willi had not been wearing a helmet. Despite no external injuries, he had cracked his skull, and his brain was bleeding in three places. Debbie Song, M.D., a pediatric neurosurgeon at Gillette, performed an emergency craniotomy that night, and Willi was admitted into Gillette’s Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU).

Those first few days were full of uncertainty and fear. Watching the doctors and nurses care for him in such an acute situation was amazing to us. They were consistently calm, respectful and efficient. And it wasn’t just Willi they were taking care of either. They made sure Willi’s father and I were eating and drinking, and they encouraged us to sleep. They were helping us manage our mental and physical health so that we could be as strong as possible for Willi. The nurses and doctors spent so much time answering our questions and comforting us. Never did we feel like anyone was rushing us, or bothered by our constant need for reassurance and comfort.

As we were working to wrap our minds around what had happened many staff members from Gillette’s well-oiled team came by to let us know what they had set up for us. Child Life helped us organize a time for Willi’s friends to come up to the hospital so they could be together and make cards for him. They also helped us navigate this new terrain with Willi’s little sisters. They gave us bears and coloring books to give the girls when they came to see him, as well as fantastic advice about how to get them ready for their first visit.

We were given a room at Ronald McDonald house that we used to rotate family through for naps and showers. We had hot, delicious meals provided by amazing volunteers. We met a social worker who helped us navigate all of the new information. She was always there for us when the new questions popped up, and she guided us through our stay in the PICU and our transition over to the rehab unit. We never asked for these services. In truth, we didn’t know they existed. Gillette anticipated our needs at every turn.

After a while, our friends and families had to go back to their children, their towns and their jobs. It was scary to think of being there “alone,” but we never were. I’m not sure when it happened, but it seemed all along that everyone at Gillette knew us and was part of the team taking care of our whole family. From the staff who always came in so respectfully to clean Willi’s room, to the desk managers at Ronald McDonald, everyone always asked how we were doing. Sometimes they got more than they bargained for, and even then, they would spend time reassuring us. For weeks, people hugged us and shared our joys and fears.

How do you say thank you to the doctors who saved your child’s life? How could we ever explain how much it meant that people said hello, hugged us without reservation when we needed it, and laughed with us in those impossibly amazing moments? Their openness to us made us feel safe in a time when nothing felt OK.

Daily we see people raising money for various charities that help people in crisis. I have thrown my change in the bucket in the drive-thru window for years to give to Gillette fundraisers, but not once did I ever consider I may someday be using those services. As you walk around Gillette, you see all the plaques of donors and fundraisers who raised money to offer these services and amazing facilities. By giving to Gillette, so many people have helped us through an event we never planned for. We are so grateful for all of the supports that Gillette has in place for the life’s unpredictable moments.

Willi is home and attending school full time. We call his recovery a miracle. We know it was a miracle carried out by many hands.

Pictured: Willi with Debbie Song, M.D. in Gillette's rehab unit and Willi with mom and dad.


Meet Us Monday- Meet Amanda Moen, M.D., Pediatric Neurologist

Posted On: 10/27/2014

1. What is your position and role at Gillette? I am a Pediatric Neurologist at Gillette Children's Specialty Healthcare, and take care of children with epilepsy, and other conditions of the nervous system.

2. Can you tell us a little about your education/career history? I received an M.D. from the University of Iowa’s Carver College of Medicine in Iowa City, Iowa, and completed a pediatric residency and a child neurology residency at The Children’s Hospital of Colorado in Denver. My professional interests include anti-NMDA receptor encephalitis, neuroimmunology, leukodystrophies and other metabolic and genetic neurological disorders. 

3. Do you have a favorite Gillette story or memory?  As a recent hire, one of my favorite memories is my first visit to Gillette and seeing a patient come up to one of his doctors with a big smile on his face for a hug in the hallway.  It was just one of the many little things that made me really want to work here.

4. What are some of your hobbies outside of work?  I am a self-proclaimed foodie and am enjoying exploring all of the great restaurants St. Paul has to offer.  In my quiet time, I also love to knit.

5. Do you have any children or pets?  I am “honorary” auntie to my godson Theo (6) and his little brother Henry (4).  I also have a low maintenance collection of house plants.

6. If you could travel anywhere, where would you go?  I look forward one day to being able to travel to New Zealand, but will settle in the short term for my next planned trip to go whale watching in Nova Scotia. 

7. What is one fun fact about you?  People commonly come up to me and ask me if I’m from Canada.  I don’t think I have an accent, but I did grow up a mere 25 miles from the North Dakota/Canadian border.

Celebrate Health Literacy Month

Posted On: 10/21/2014

October is Health Literacy Month, and Gillette is celebrating the efforts of staff who deliver health information to you!

What is health literacy? Here at Gillette Children's Specialty Healtchare, we like the Minnesota Health Literacy Partnership’s definition: A patient’s ability to obtain, understand and act on health information andThe capacity of health care providers and health care systems to communicate clearly, educate about health, and empower patients.

According to the Partnership, “this means that a health-literate individual is one who can access and use health information effectively, and that a health-literate provider is one who can deliver health information to patients effectively. The bottom line: Communication is a two-way street requiring an empowered patient and an empowering provider.”

At Gillette, content experts review our patient education materials to ensure you receive up-to-date information. We strive to use language that makes sense to you. We encourage lots of questions. And we use the teach-back method to make sure you understand the education we provide.

Each of us has a unique learning style. Some of us learn best by hearing information; others prefer reading information; and others need hands-on practice to fully understand a new process. When we use teach-back to support your learning, a doctor might explain a new treatment, followed by a nurse asking, “What do you understand about the plan for your child?” A social worker might give you a handout about available services, then ask which ones you’re interested in. An Assistive Technology orthotics specialist might demonstrate how to apply a brace, then ask you to try the process on your own. No matter what your learning style is, we’re here to provide information in a way that works well for you.

Happy Health Literacy Month! Let’s keep working together to make sure we communicate clearly with you, so you receive and understand health care information that’s important to your family!

Meet Us Monday- Dana Anderson, Speech-Language Pathologist

Posted On: 10/20/2014

1. What is your position and role at Gillette?  I am a speech-language pathologist at Gillette Children’s Specialty Healthcare’s Maple Grove clinic. I have been with Gillette for 10 years this past summer.

2. Do you have a favorite Gillette story or memory? My favorite memory is when I introduced a little girl to a communication device that helped her communicate for the first time. Following the session, her mother had taken her through the drive-thru at McDonald’s and ordered her daughter juice as she always did. But, from the back seat, this little girl used her communication device to say “Sprite” over and over again. She had always wanted Sprite but never had a way to communicate that—and she finally was able to!

3. What are some of your hobbies outside of work? I enjoy spending time with family and friends, being outside, walking, and doing Zumba.

4. Do you have any children or pets? I have a 2-year-old son, a dog, and a cat.

5. If you could travel anywhere, where would you go? Australia. I’ve always wanted to go “Down Under” and  see the Great Barrier Reef.

6. What is one fun fact about you? I am from Iowa, and when I came to Minnesota 11 years ago to complete my internship, I never had any intention of staying here. Now, 11 years later, Minnesota is my home!

Event Recap: Mankato Open House

Posted On: 10/16/2014

A good time was had by all as patients, doctors, nurses and community members filled Gillette Children's Specialty Healthcare Mankato Clinic this past weekend to celebrate its opening. Attendees enjoyed snacks, games and unique learning opportunities, including how to operate our communication device technology works. (The device uses eye blinks to command a computerized system to speak.)

"We are so excited to be in our new location and call Mankato home,” says Meagan Crary, a nurse practitioner at Gillette. “The community has been wonderful and we look forward to getting to know them even better."

Special guest, DFL state Rep. Clark Johnson (District 19A), also stopped by for a tour. Johnson was especially interested in learning more about how Gillette will provide the best care to its patients by closely partnering with the Mankato Pediatric Clinic and Pediatric Therapy Services. He met Gillette families and encouraged us to continue to be a strong voice for our patients at the legislative level.

Gillette Mankato Clinic provides a variety of services to children and teens who have disabilities and complex medical conditions. Located on the Wickersham Health Campus, our clinic offers convenient access to care for patients who live in southern Minnesota and northern Iowa. To see which doctors will work out of this clinic, click here.

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