Inside Gillette Blog

Spotlight on Sports Concussions, from Young Athletes to Pros

Posted On: 07/20/2010

From Wild hockey star Pierre Marc Bouchard to, more recently, Twins first baseman Justin Morneau, it seems that concussions among pro-sports players have been in the news with growing frequency. Sports-related brain injuries have gained attention on a national level, too. Only weeks ago, the New York Times reported that deceased Cincinnati Bengals football player Chris Henry, 26, had already developed chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a progressive brain disease that’s been discovered in a number of retired NFL players.

What does all of this mean for young athletes? It’s a sobering reminder of just how serious sports-related head trauma can be — and of the importance of post-injury rest time to preventing long-term damage.

16-year-old football player Brett Pierce, pictured below with his mom and Gillette brain injury specialist Leslie Larson, C.N.P., can speak firsthand to the importance of appropriate rest time following a brain injury. Just yesterday, he shared his own experience of receiving two concussions just six months apart, with WCCO reporter Dennis Douda.

Click here to watch WCCO’s segment, Morneau’s Injury Raises Concussion Awareness.

At Gillette, Brett took an easy and affordable (just $4 per athlete!) brain test called ImPACT (Immediate Post-Concussion Assessment and Cognitive Testing) that can help players, parents and coaches determine when it’s safe to return to play. Through a series of computerized exercises, ImPACT can identify changes in brain function, evaluate post-injury condition, and help track recovery.  Learn more about ImPACT.

Brett’s mom, Leslie Pierce, is already working to broaden ImPACT to Brett’s entire football team. In the meantime, Brett received the news he was hoping for at his appointment today: he can rejoin his teammates at Holy Angels Academy, who are already practicing for the upcoming season.

Brain injury specialist Leslie Larson helped Brett and Leslie Pierce understand the serious implications of sports-concussions — and administered the ImPACT test to help determine when Brett could safely return to play.

Helmets: An Essential Part of Summer!

Posted On: 07/14/2010

This post kicks off our “Ask the Expert” series, which will answer your questions and bring you timely information from a variety of Gillette experts. Do you have a question or topic for one of our experts? Leave a comment or e-mail us at

Summertime means wheeling around the neighborhood on bicycles, skateboards, scooters and in-line skates. But while you’re out enjoying the fresh air, don’t forget your helmet! Below are the answers to some questions I hear most often from parents about helmets.

What if my child won’t wear a helmet?
This is a common question, and I have a simple response: No helmet, no wheels! Here are some tips to enforce this basic family rule:
•  Start young. Children should grow up knowing that a helmet is part of safety on wheels.
•  Be a role model. Always wear your own helmet when riding.
•  Get your child involved. Let your child pick his or her own helmet. Some children also like to decorate the outside of their helmets with stickers.
•  Make sure it fits. Helmets should be snug, level and stable.
•  Explain what’s at stake. Tell them why you want them to protect their heads. (“I love you and want you to stay safe.” “I want to protect your head so that you stay smart.”)

Do I have to buy an expensive helmet?
No. Research shows that protection doesn’t increase with price. Stores such as Walmart and Target sell bicycle helmets starting at $15.

What should I look for in a bicycle helmet?
Choose a bicycle helmet certified by the Consumer Products and Safety Commission (CPSC). There should be a sticker inside the helmet that notes this certification.

What should I look for in a skateboarding helmet?
Choose a skateboarding helmet certified by American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM F1492). There should be a sticker inside the helmet that notes this certification.

Can my child wear the same helmet for cycling and skateboarding?
Yes — if the helmet is dual certified for both bicycling and skateboarding. Look inside the helmet for two stickers to indicate dual certification by CPSC and ASTM F1492. All helmets should fit well — meaning that they’re snug, level and stable.

Additional Resources
Check out these kid-friendly videos about helmets and bike safety. The first, Wear Your Helmet, was produced by Gillette. The second, Bike Safe – Bike Smart, was produced by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

And here’s a link to Bike Safe – Bike Smart.

Do You Have a Question About Safety and Brain Injury Prevention?

Leave a comment here or e-mail us at  Your question just might inspire our next post!

Leslie Larson is a Gillette nurse practitioner who specializes in brain injuries.  She works with children who have developmental delays, cerebral palsy and traumatic brain injuries. She is a Credentialed ImPACT Consultant and a Certified Brain Injury Specialist.

Firefighters Bring the Carnival to Gillette Kids

Posted On: 07/14/2010

All firefighters are everyday heroes. And today, a group of local firefighters went above and beyond the call of duty for kids at Gillette by hosting a carnival (yes, a carnival!) at our St. Paul hospital.  St. Paul firefighters filled an entire floor of our parking ramp with games, food, balloons, face painting, and more.  For our patients — many who can’t attend a community carnival because they’re recovering from surgeries or have complex disabilities — today was a day to “just be a kid.”

The Firefighters Carnival is a summertime favorite. It’s also an annual tradition here at Gillette, and it’s all thanks to a grateful family. At the height of the Polio epidemic in the 1950s, Saint Paul Fire Captain Burt Behr’s two young sons contracted the disease and were treated at Gillette. To thank us for the care his sons received, Burt planned a fun-filled carnival, just for our patients.

Through the years, Burt’s idea has grown…and grown…from games, food and prizes to also include pony rides and appearances by local celebrities and athletes. For example, today’s guests of honor included Minnesota Twins mascot T.C., Miss Minnesota, and the Minnesota Vikings cheerleaders. Current and past Gillette patients of all ages are welcome. Best of all, the carnival travels room-to-room so patients unable to leave their rooms can still join in the fun.

Here’s a few photos of today’s festivities. For more, check out our Facebook page.

A Colorful Celebration of Our Growth

Posted On: 07/12/2010

When you’re next at our St. Paul clinic, you’ll notice a bright splash of color nearby the construction activity in Margaret Perryman’s former office. It’s all because of a vibrant new mural created specially for Gillette by attorney and artist Karolyn Stirewalt. But the 16- by 7-foot mural is more than a pretty picture — it’s a celebration of Gillette’s expansion and recognizes the patients, staff, and supporters who mean so much to our hospital.

Wondering what inspired Karolyn to donate her artwork to Gillette? Curious what kinds of things you’ll spot in the mural? Watch this video message from the artist herself.

As you just heard from Karolyn, our mural includes things — real things, like doctors, therapy dogs, and volunteers — that you might spot at Gillette. For example, here’s a patient favorite: therapy dog Sasha.

And here are a few nearby St. Paul landmarks.

Click here to read Minnesota Medicine’s online story about how our mural came to Gillette. To see more of Karolyn’s colorful work, visit her website or join the Splash of Red Studio group on Facebook.

Gillette Nurses Are Transforming Care at the Bedside!

Posted On: 07/11/2010

If you picked up the Star Tribune this morning, chances are good that you noticed a front-page story about an exciting national initiative, Transforming Care at the Bedside (TCAB), aimed at increasing the time nurses spend with patients by improving organization and efficiency. You may have also noticed that our post-surgical unit, also known as 4 West, was prominently featured in the article. That’s because Gillette’s 4 West nurses were among the first in Minnesota to adopt TCAB — with visible success!

The TCAB team displays the 4 West nurses' bulletin board of achievements.

We kicked off TCAB last August, with nurses brainstorming things they’d like to improve on their unit. They prioritized the ideas and began to test them out. To date, improvements have included (but aren’t limited to) things like:

•  Creating respiratory response baskets so nurses can immediately access supplies to care for patients in need of oxygen.
•  Adding computers on wheels (nicknamed “COWS”) to improve nurses’ ability to practice real-time charting — entering medications into a patient’s file as soon as they’ve been administered.
•  Converting a patient room into storage space for wheelchairs and other supplies, giving nurses easy access to equipment. Nurses also gained a staff bathroom, which saved them a walk away from the unit.
•  Changing the way families receive patient education materials. Instead of giving out copies to each family, a patient education binder is now permanently housed in each room and encased in plastic for easy cleaning.
•  Adding whiteboards to patient rooms with information like the nurses’ first name, and when procedures like x-rays are scheduled. Whiteboards even have space for families to write down their questions.
•  Testing new ways to make patient “hand-offs” between nurses at shift change more efficient.
•  Creating locked supply cabinets in each patient room, saving nurses trips to-and from the room for supplies — and increasing the time spent with patients.

So what does TCAB mean for Gillette?  Happy nurses, satisfied families and, most importantly, more time spent at the bedside with the people who matter most — our patients.

If you missed the link to the Star Tribune article above, click here to read the story.

A Fourth of July Safety Reminder from Gillette

Posted On: 07/01/2010

Fourth of July weekend means grilling hot dogs and burgers, flying the American flag, and spending time with friends and family.  And for many Minnesota families, it also means using fireworks. Fireworks are bright, exciting, and a holiday tradition — but they’re not all fun and games. In fact, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, last year there were two reports fireworks-related deaths in the U.S., and an estimated 9,000 hospital emergency room visits because of fireworks injuries.

Of course, the safest way to celebrate with fireworks is to visit a local park and watch a professional show — where you’re assured of being a safe distance away from any possible dangers. Click here for a list of public fireworks shows in the Twin Cities and beyond.

But if you’re planning to purchase your own, read these important safety guidelines from the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

From all of us here at Gillette, have a fun and safe Fourth of July!