Inside Gillette Blog

Kendall’s Journey: A Year and A Day by Christine Speck

Posted On: 03/26/2013

Kendall’s Journey: A Year and A Day

By Christine Speck

After eighteen weeks, fourteen expansions and 155 ml of saline, Kendall’s medical marathon with tissue expansion was coming to an end. Getting ready for her second surgery meant preparing for change, once again.

As excited as we were about having her become nevus-free for the first time, I found myself being nervous about this very change that we had worked so hard to bring about.

It was change that turned my world upside down last fall. The realities of having a child who required medical attention and special care hit me full force, along with my own insecurities and apprehension of what this process would entail.

Our first meeting with Dr. Wood had been on February 10, 2012. And now, one year and one day later, February 11, 2013 became the final surgery date that would begin Kendall’s nevus-free future.

I realized that Kendall’s journey, unique like the journey of many other Gillette families, had little to do with tissue expansion and EVERYTHING to do with looking beyond ourselves and finding joy in the unexpected.

This new perspective, although difficult at first, has resulted in an amazing experience. It’s an unforgettable chapter in Kendall’s storybook of life—one that has inspired us and others to spread love and acceptance when the world tells us otherwise.

Happiness was no longer something that happened, but rather a choice made each day–through every struggle and triumph. When the journey seemed too much to handle, it became an opportunity to look back on the breathtaking view and see how far we had come.


I recognized the importance of focusing on the value of the individual and not letting differences define or misshape my views. And I realized that we all have all have special needs—some just more noticeable than others.

I began to understand the importance of parenting my children to instill values that encourage acceptance and love of those different from them—teaching them to treat others the way they would want to be treated.

And mostly, my heart filled with respect and compassion for other patients and families who faced medical circumstances FAR greater than ours. Their bravery and courage kept me motivated through some of the most challenging aspects of this procedure.

Looking back, there is nothing we would have done differently. We found peace knowing the decisions being made were in Kendall’s best interest and that she was receiving phenomenal care at Gillette. As a parent, there was no greater sense of relief.

When the morning of February 11th arrived, we made our way to Gillette for an early surgery. Kendall did great–she was walking the pre-op halls, saying hi to everyone and making people smile as she rocked her hospital gown in true baby girl fashion.

During the first hour, a stream of nurses and doctors came in to talk with us, including Dr. Wood.

As long as I had dreamed and waited for this day, I couldn’t believe that we were actually here and this was finally happening–it almost seemed surreal.

Our minister said a prayer over Kendall before anesthesiology took her back to the operating room.

Then we waited.

Over an hour went by before surgery was completed and Dr. Wood came in our room to speak with us. He told us that everything went well–that he was able to remove the entire nevus and all that was left was a U-shaped scar on her scalp. We were thrilled to hear that things went smoothly and relieved to know that Kendall was nevus-free for the first time in her life.

It wasn’t until she was moved to post-op that the nerves started getting to me. When the time came for us to be with her, I let my husband lead the way. I was literally shuffling my feet so slowly that the nurses were telling me it’s okay, she’s great, it’s okay, come on…

As we entered the post-op room, I put my hands over my mouth and started crying–but this time they were tears of pure JOY. Kendall was all bandaged up, but she looked amazing!

As one nurse handed her to my husband, the other nurse smiled and told me to sit down in the wheelchair–she told me this time I didn’t have to walk her up to the 4th floor.

This made me cry again.

I couldn’t believe the transformation. I felt that all the stress, all the weekly hospital visits and expansions, all the extra care and medical attention that she had required—everything led us to this exact moment in time.

It felt good.

When this process began, a year and a day ago, I was wallowing in self-pity, finding her circumstance to be unfortunate for all of us. But her journey turned into an incredible experience—transforming our entire family on multiple levels.

Kendall’s last surgery became less about marking the end of her medical marathon and more about celebrating a new beginning—going forward with a new perspective, a new attitude and confidence that has made us stronger and better for having accomplished it.

We’re looking forward to the journey ahead.

How does Gait Analysis work?

Posted On: 03/25/2013

Gillette’s Center for Gait and Motion Analysis (Gait Lab) in St. Paul, Minnesota uses state-of-the-art computer technology to evaluate and develop effective treatments for walking problems.

Conditions involving the muscles, joints, nerves and bones frequently cause difficulty with walking and movement. Because movement issues are complex – and because every patient’s needs are unique – our team of experts uses a collaborative approach that puts families at the center of the care team. Our team includes technicians, engineers, physical therapists and orthopedic surgeons who are experts in the study of human movement.

An evaluation in our Center for Gait and Motion Analysis captures movements, muscle activity and forces that the eye can’t see. Although some people have similar walking patterns, the way their muscles and joints work together can be very different. Motion analysis helps a patient’s care team accurately identify problems specific to each patient, and therefore, be able to make recommendations regarding the best treatments for those problems. Options may include braces, medication, physical therapy and/or surgery.

Meet Us Monday – Meet Claudia Carlisle, Customer Relations Aid

Posted On: 03/24/2013

  1. What are some of your hobbies outside work? Watching TV and playing games on my iPad.
  2. How long have you worked at Gillette? I have been at Gillette Lifetime for 8 years as a volunteer and 3 years as an employee.
  3. Do you have any kids or pets? I have a dog. Her name is Nicki.
  4. If you could choose a superpower, what would it be? If I could choose a superpower, I would choose to fly and to walk because then I could do anything I want to do and go anywhere I want to go.
  5. What is your favorite food? My favorite food is corn.
  6. If you could travel anywhere where would you go? I would go back to Aruba and go parasailing again.
  7. What is your favorite type of music? I like the oldies.
  8. What drew you to Gillette? I asked Dr. Gormley about the new Adult Clinic and told him I was interested in volunteering there. He sent me to the volunteer coordinator at Gillette and the rest is history.
  9. Do you have a favorite story/memory from Gillette? My favorite memory at Gillette would be my 50th Birthday. My co-workers bought me a cake and a gift card. It was a happy memory and they made me feel wonderful.
  10. What do you enjoy most about your job at Gillette? I enjoy working at Gillette Lifetime because the people here make me feel like I belong to the society and we have a program  that helps patient’s with childhood onset disabilities.

Gillette Kid of the Day: Olive

Posted On: 03/20/2013

By: Dana Shelso

My daughter, Olive, was born with a congenital heart defect because of an extremely rare chromosome deletion that has never been reported before (17q11.2 micro-deletion).

Olive started visiting Gillette’s Feeding Clinic for therapy in 2011, at age 1 ½.  We liked it so much that we also started physical therapy, occupational therapy, and most recently speech therapy at Gillette’s Minnetonka Clinic. Her therapists are Chrissy, Leah, and Megan. Olive has made great progress and development in her therapy areas!

This past summer, we noticed global delays and were referred to pediatric neurologist Nicole Williams, M.D. for evaluation. Dr. Williams recommended an MRI, which revealed that Olive has a condition called Chiari 1 malformation. Basically, this means the back of her brain, called the cerebellum, pushes into the upper spinal canal. We also found out that Olive has a tethered spinal cord, meaning her spinal cord is abnormally attached to the tissues around her spine.

At that point, it was time to determine the best treatment plan for Olive, which included surgery. In December 2012, Olive had two neurosurgeries at Gillette. Pediatric neurosurgeon Peter Kim, M.D., performed a Chiari decompression while Debbie Song, M.D., released her tethered cord.  Soon after these surgeries, doctors also discovered Olive would need a third procedure—an emergency surgery to treat hydrocephalus, or excess fluid on the brain, with an implanted shunt.

Olive’s unexpected diagnosis of hydrocephalus was one of the most surreal, scary, and numbing moments I have experienced. I am so thankful Dr. Kim took the time to explain everything in detail and answer every question we had. It was quite a whirlwind evening but we knew that Olive was receiving great care.

Throughout Olive’s time at Gillette last December, we realized how truly awesome Gillette is — not that we didn’t think so before! All of the PICU staff were great. The nurses, nurse practitioners and surgeons treated us like we were part of the “Gillette family” and we were included in any and all treatment decisions that were made for Olive.

We truly love Gillette. Olive has come so far in her almost 4 years of life, and we owe much of this to the fabulous care she gets from her Gillette team!

Meet Us Monday – Krista Ash, Therapeutic Recreation Specialist

Posted On: 03/17/2013

Q. What are some of your hobbies outside work?

My biggest hobby right now is spending time with my family. I have a 2 ½ year old daughter that keeps me on my toes! I love gardening and landscaping. I can’t wait for spring!! I also love to go hunting with my husband, father and father-in-law.

Meet Us Monday - Krista Ash, Therapeutic Recreation Specialist at Gillette Children's Specialty Healthcare

Q. How long have you worked at Gillette?

I have been at Gillette Children’s Specialty Healthcare for almost 6 ½ years.

Q. Do you have any kids or pets?

I have a 2 ½ year old daughter, Samantha, and another baby due in July. I also have a sweet chocolate lab named Ruby.

Q. As a child, which superhero did you admire?

I was really into He-man and She-Ra for a while when I was younger. She-Ra had incredible strength and was extremely fast and acrobatic. She also had other abilities which were more nurturing in nature such as empathic understanding, mental communication with animals and healing. She-Ra was also largely non-violent and often preferred to outsmart her rivals.

Q. What is your favorite food?

I love Mexican food and anything with pasta.

Q. If you could travel anywhere where would you go?

I would love to go to Australia and also Alaska in the summertime.

Q. What is your favorite musician/band/type of music?

I like a variety of music from classic rock, alternative (not the screaming kind), and country.

Q. What drew you to Gillette?

I have always wanted to work with children as well as be in a healthcare setting. I found Therapeutic Recreation when I was in college at Winona my Sophomore year. This was a perfect degree for me as it would allow me to do both. I started working with kids and teens with disabilities in college and really enjoyed it. Once I graduated, I learned about Gillette Children’s Specialty Healthcare and applied as soon as there was an open position!

Q. Do you have a favorite story/memory from Gillette?

There are so many! The all time favorite memories I have are watching the patients I have worked with and helped come back to Gillette to tell me about their new adapted bike or new activity they have tried and love or that they have started college!

Q. What do you enjoy most about your job at Gillette?

I really enjoy teaming up with Courage Center every year for our Adapted Bike and Sports Expo. Being at Gillette, I get the opportunity o help patients and their families find ways to get involved and be active in their community and at home-but most of the time I never get to see the patient actually participating. At the expo, I actually get to see our patients participate in a rewarding activity and I also get to see the smiles on their faces light up when they get on a bike for the first time!

Epilepsy – Family Education Day

Posted On: 03/14/2013

Saturday, April 13, 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Wilder Center
451 Lexington Parkway North
St. Paul, Minnesota

Gillette and the Epilepsy Foundation of Minnesota invite you to learn more about a child’s stages of development and the effect of those stages on epilepsy. You’ll learn about living well with epilepsy and hear about these topics:

  • Life Stages and Epilepsy: Fostering Self-Efficacy Across the Life Span—Jen Maytum, doctor of nursing practice.
  • The Importance of Sleep in Children With Underlying Neurological Conditions—Laurel Wills, M.D.
  • Helping Children and Families Adjust to Seizures: What Parents Should Know—Katherine Buhrke, Ph.D.
  • Epilepsy Foundation of Minnesota: Resources and Report

This event is free and includes a box lunch. For more information, email Nikki Baker at To register, email

Life After Traumatic Brain Injury: Ian’s Story

Posted On: 03/12/2013

At age seven, Ian Hoy was struck by a car while walking home with his brother. He sustained massive head injuries, spent three weeks in a coma at his local hospital and was transferred to Gillette Children’s Specialty Healthcare for inpatient rehabilitation. Doctors didn’t know if Ian would survive.

At Gillette, rehabilitation begins even before patients are fully conscious. “From the moment we arrived, they spoke to my son as though he could hear them,” said Robbi Hoy, Ian’s mom. “They smiled at me. They talked about the future. It was as though I had been in a dark room with no windows, and then Gillette turned on a light and opened a door.” Gillette’s optimistic approach made an impression on Robbi.

Ian underwent strength and flexibility exercises on his first day at Gillette. Eventually, his schedule included full days of intense therapy. Ian’s progress defied predictions that he needed six months of inpatient rehabilitation. Instead, he went home after only five weeks. Today at age 11, Ian continues to work on skills with therapists and teachers in his community.

Last year, Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals named Ian their 2012 Minnesota Champion child. The program honors children like Ian who have triumphed despite severe medical challenges and brings attention to the work being done at Children’s Miracle Network-affiliated hospitals, like Gillette, across the nation. In September, Ian traveled to Orlando and Washington, D.C. with other child ambassadors to meet with congressional leaders and Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals corporate partners.

Ian Hoy, Today

“Ian came to Gillette a fragile boy, and left a fighter,” Robbi says. “Gillette brought that out in him — in all of us. Now I have my son back!”


Daylight Savings Time and Your Sleep Schedule

Posted On: 03/11/2013

Spring ahead!  If you and your child are natural early birds, you might feel better rested this week. On the other hand, moving to daylight savings time can be a tough adjustment for natural night owls; they have the advantage in autumn, when the clocks “fall back.”

How do these twice-a-year changes affect sleep patterns for children and teens?

For teenagers, who on average are already sleep deprived from early school starting times, this week is a particular challenge! When the bell rings at school, their brains will be jet-lagged for another hour.

So, what helps?

Understand if you or your kids feel a bit “off-kilter” this week. We all might be a bit drowsier or crankier as our brains and bodies adjust. Light exposure resets our body rhythms. Using dim lights and room-darkening shades at bedtime, and eliminating screen time (television, computers and texts) an hour before bedtime, can help. In the morning, bright lights can help you get moving.

Two bits of good news: the majority of kids adjust within a few days to a few weeks. And spring is just around the corner!

Laurel Wills, M.D.

 Laurel Wills, M.D., is board-certified in general pediatrics, developmental-behavioral pediatrics and sleep medicine. She has joined the Gillette Sleep Health Clinic as a specialist in pediatric and adolescent sleep medicine, with a particular focus on caring for children and youth with developmental disabilities.

Meet Us Monday – Meet Hannah Richardson, R.N.

Posted On: 03/10/2013

Q. What are some of your hobbies outside work?
A. Running, reading, photography, baking

Meet Us Monday - Meet Hannah Richardson, R.N.

Q. How long have you worked at Gillette?
Two years. I was hired Jan 3, 2011

Q. Do you have any kids or pets?
I have been married for 2 ½ years and we do not have any kids or pets yet. But once my husband and I have a yard we are going to get a lab and a labradoodle.


Q. If you could choose a superpower, what would it be?
I would want to be able to become invisible

Q. What is your favorite food?
Fried or Coconut Shrimp

Q. If you could travel anywhere where would you go?
The Caribbean or Africa

Q. What is your favorite musician/band/type of music?
Soft rock, folk, acoustic

Q. What drew you to Gillette?
Margaret Perryman went to the same college I did and is a part of the Alumni chapter. When my husband and I found out we were moving to MN we contacted her and she introduced me to Gillette. I was so impressed with how kind everyone was, the special mission Gillette’s employees stood by and how evident it was that Gillette valued their employees.

Q. What do you enjoy most about your job at Gillette?
I love that I never have the same day, I enjoy working with children and helping them improve their quality of life, and I love my coworkers.

Gymnast Triumphs Over Juvenile Arthritis

Posted On: 03/07/2013

At age 10, Olivia Measells has already developed a passion for gymnastics. “She’s a very active child,” says her mother, Jill. “But gymnastics is what she loves most.”

Watching Olivia perform cartwheels on the balance beam and fly between parallel bars, you might be surprised to learn that doctors at Gillette Children’s Specialty Healthcare diagnosed her with juvenile arthritis at age 3.

Olivia’s family first suspected something might be wrong when, during a family vacation, she began complaining of sore knees. Soon after, when one knee became swollen and warm to the touch, the family sought answers—first from their pediatrician, then from Gillette rheumatologist Evren Akin, M.D.

Dr. Akin immediately began treating Olivia with steroid injections to control the inflammation and swelling in her joints. Then, after more than two years in remission, Olivia’s arthritis flared up again—this time, in her knees and toe.

After another round of treatment, this time with methotrexate for 18 months, Olivia is once again in remission, off her medicine, and has experienced no additional flare-ups for almost one year—leaving her free to jump, leap and bend without discomfort. “It’s a day-by-day, month-by-month issue,” says Jill of Olivia’s arthritis. “She’ll always have it, but we don’t know when, or if, it will come back.”

Throughout Olivia’s journey with juvenile arthritis, her family has come to appreciate Gillette’s extra efforts to make kids feel comfortable.  “Dr. Akin takes her time with each patient, making sure the child—along with the parent—understands what is happening,” says Jill. “The Gillette staff is just fantastic!”

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