Inside Gillette Blog

Celebrating Those Who Have Spina Bifida

Posted On: 10/30/2013

Many people associate October with autumn, pumpkins, changing leaves, and Halloween. But here at Gillette Children’s Specialty Healthcare, when October rolls around, something else also comes to mind: National Spina Bifida Awareness Month. During this time, it’s an opportunity to learn about Spina Bifida and celebrate those living with this condition.

Spina bifida occurs in the first month of pregnancy, when the embryo’s spinal cord doesn’t develop properly. In mild cases, a child might not experience symptoms. In more severe cases, a baby might be born with part of the spinal cord outside the body, causing physical effects that can last a lifetime.

At Gillette, we provide services that directly help with the effects caused by spina bifida. Some of those include assistive technology, rehabilitation therapies, and therapeutic recreation. Because the condition lasts a lifetime, Gillette Lifetime Specialty Healthcare enables people who have spina bifida to receive care after age 18.

Recently, we’ve expanded our ability to care for people who have spina bifida by starting a Spina Bifida Clinic in Minnetonka, Minn. On the third Tuesday of each month at Gillette’s Minnetonka Clinic, patients can see specialty doctors in one location all on the same day. Specialists in neurosurgery, pediatric rehabilitation medicine, orthopedics and urology see patients there.

So this October, while you’re raking leaves, carving a pumpkin, or filling up your candy bucket, take a second to think of people who are living with spina bifida. Join us at Gillette in celebrating the accomplishments and successes throughout their lifetimes!


November Film Festival Highlights People Who Have Disabilities

Posted On: 10/30/2013

It's movie time at the St. Anthony Main theaters in Minneapolis!  Nov. 1 - 5, the theaters will showcase a series of movies focusing on people who have disabilities. 

For example, in Wampler's Ascent, Steve Wampler climbs El Capitan in Yosemite National Park a few inches at a time. Because he has cerebral palsy, he has to perform 20,000 pull-ups to complete the ascent! The film, which runs a little more than an hour, shows on Friday and Sunday evenings. Wampler will speak at both screenings.

Because Gillette is sponsoring the Sunday screening, Gillette families are eligible for a discounted ticket price of $7 on Sunday night. Just mention Gillette when you purchase your tickets. The  festival promotes awareness of the lives and artistic efforts of people who have disabilities. Click here for a schedule and to learn more. Some of the events include discussion sessions afterward.  

Note: St. Anthony Main has an attached parking ramp for easy access!

Meet Us Monday - Meet Janna Neher

Posted On: 10/28/2013

What is your position and role at Gillette? I am a physical therapist at Gillette Children's Specialty Healthcare.

2. What are some of your hobbies outside of work? I enjoy various forms of physical activity including soccer, lacrosse, yoga and HIIT training. I like finding new restaurants, socializing with family and friends, creating and enjoying art of many kinds, reading and  meeting new people.

3. If you could travel anywhere, where would you go? I would travel to India, Italy and Spain

5. What is one fun fact about you? I wish I could fly. I’d be a duck if I could be any animal…they swim and they fly. How neat!

Meet Us Monday - Meet Alison Rupert, Physical Therapist

Posted On: 10/21/2013

1. What is your position and role at Gillette? Do you have a favorite story or memory? I am a physical therapist at Gillette in St. Paul. I mainly work with the outpatient population and also do Lokomat and pool treatments. It is too hard to pick a favorite story or memory of working here! There are so many joys that come with working with the children/adults I see. It is amazing the perseverance and strength my patients have and seeing it every day is truly inspiring.

2. What are some of your hobbies outside of work? I love being active, hanging out with friends, reading, hiking and exploring new places. I recently took on the hobby of being a new home owner…way more work than I thought it would be! I also enjoy going up to “The Range” in northern Minnesota where I grew up to be with my family.

3. Do you have any children or pets? I currently have two dogs: Winston and Dudley, a Yorki and Maltese. They are the other men in my life. If you put them both together they weigh 14 pounds. I also am enjoying my role as “auntie” to 3 boys and 1 baby girl.

4. If you could travel anywhere, where would you go? Hawaii is a must! Have you Google imaged it lately?!

5. What is one fun fact about you? I was a figure skater for many years. I coached to help get me through college. Also…I eat a handful of peanut butter M&Ms’ almost  every morning right when I wake up.

Calling All Gamers: Extra Life Fundraiser is November 2!

Posted On: 10/18/2013

Do you like to game? If the answer is yes, why not play your favorite games for charity? On November 2nd, 2013 participate in the Extra Life gaming event. This is the biggest gaming charity of the year to raise money for Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals (in Minnesota and western Wisconsin, that’s Gillette Children’s Specialty Healthcare)!

Here’s how it works. Ask your friends and family to sponsor you with a monthly pledge or a one-time gift and on November 2nd, sit back, relax, and game for the next 25 hours. This can be any type of game — mobile devices, consoles, even board games all count. You can game by yourself, or in a group. No matter how you choose to play, you’re making a difference in the lives of children who receive care at Gillette.

A big supporter of Extra Life is mobile video-gaming company Game Truck.  Yesterday, the Minneapolis Game Truck visited Gillette to help recruit participants for this year’s Extra Life fundraiser. The truck opened its doors and welcomed all who were interested to game and learn more about the Extra Life event.

If you’re an avid gamer or just someone who enjoys playing video games, sign up and take the Extra Life challenge on November 2nd. To learn more visit, the Extra Life website.

Katie’s Story

Posted On: 10/18/2013

“You can’t diagnose a miracle,” says Katie’s mom, Edwina, when describing her extraordinary daughter. Katie’s medical journey is unique and, in many ways, still a mystery.

Healthy, pink and kicking at birth, Katie suddenly stopped breathing. Two days later, doctors told Edwina the outcome was grim. “Her brain scans were flat, indicating no activity,” remembers Edwina. “Those were tough days.”

But two days after that, Katie woke up—and, with her family’s help, her brain began the slow process of healing. “We read to her, talked to her, did everything we could to stimulate her,” says Edwina. “Her brain began to rewire itself.”  

As Katie continued her remarkable recovery, it became clear that she faced physical limitations. She was soon diagnosed with cerebral palsy, a form of brain damage that prevents her from moving as typically developing children do.  Though every child’s cerebral palsy results in different symptoms, Katie’s is especially unusual—it keeps her body in constant motion.

“Katie’s body is a mix of multiple movement disorders conflicting constantly with one another,” explains Edwina. “It’s like nothing doctors have seen before.”   

Katie has been coming to Gillette Children’s Specialty Healthcare for most of her life, where evaluation in the hospital’s Center for Gait and Motion Analysis has helped doctors better understand her unique combination of movement problems. Treatments and therapies have improved her muscle tone and strength, helping her gain independence. 

“Katie used to have to crawl around our home because her muscles were tight and painful,” says Edwina. “Today, my daughter can walk from room to room without fear of falling. It’s a blessing!”  

She adds that Gillette has been equally beneficial to Katie’s self-confidence. “We appreciate the friendships, the smiling faces,” explains Edwina. “Gillette gives children the ability to be themselves, to find out who they are.”

A bright and articulate sixth grader, Katie’s mission in life is helping people understand that children who have special needs are no different from other kids. “She realizes that her ability to speak brings tremendous opportunity to share what it’s like to live with a disability,” says Edwina.

The Healing Touch of a Pink Hippopotamus

Posted On: 10/16/2013

CaptionIf you could give the gift of healing to someone in need, what would it look like? Money? Food?  Clothing?

To Michelle and Pete Dankwerth, that gift came in the form of a children’s book, “Hope the Hip Hippo.”

When their daughter, Abbey, was just a few weeks old, she was diagnosed with congenital hip dysplasia. The special care nursery at their local hospital referred the family to Gillette Children’s Specialty Healthcare, where they have continued treatment for Abbey’s hip dysplasia ever since. Now 5 ½, Abbey has had a number of special X-rays, surgeries, and hip and leg casts at Gillette.

During Abbey’s journey, her parents struggled with how to talk to her about each surgery and how to respond to her questions. “We wanted to help her understand and cope with the events happening in her life,” Michelle explains. After one of Abbey’s surgeries in January 2013, Michelle stumbled upon “Hope the Hip Hippo” on the Internet. The book chronicles Hope’s journey with hip dysplasia. “I thought it looked interesting, so I bought it,” she says. “Abbey instantly loved it!”

The book represented something very special for Abbey and her parents. “It gave her an understanding of what she was going through and put it in kid’s terms,” Michelle continues. Not only was the book helpful for Abbey, but it helped her parents as well. “While reading with her, it was a way to spark a conversation, see where she was stuck and help her understand,” Michelle says.

Both Michelle and Pete say they appreciate the services they’ve found at Gillette. “From the time we sought treatment at Gillette, we’ve had an outstanding experience,” explains Michelle. “As much as it isn't what you expect when you bring your child into the world, we are thankful for the extended family we have at Gillette.” After the family’s experiences at Gillette, Michelle and Pete wanted to give back because of the support and care they’d received. At first, they weren’t quite sure how to do that. 

Because of how much the book had helped Abbey and their family cope and heal, they decided to donate copies of “Hope the Hip Hippo” to Gillette. Their vision with this donation is that other families whose child has hip dysplasia will take it home and continue to read it and have conversations with their child.

“The book is perfect to help kids like Abbey and often relates to a lot of different parts of her journey. It gave her an understanding of how she fits into this picture,” says Michelle. Starting this year, the family hopes to donate the books to Gillette every year to show their gratitude and to support other Gillette children and families. To learn more about the book, visit:

Meet Us Monday - Meet Katie Engel, Physical Therapist

Posted On: 10/14/2013

1. What is your position and role at Gillette?  I am an inpatient orthopedic phyiscal therapist in St. Paul as well as an outpatient physical therapist at our Burnsville clinic.
2. What are some of your hobbies outside of work?  I enjoy baking, spending lots of time outside in the sunshine, and traveling
3. Do you have any children or pets? No kids yet, but I have a 3 year old Cavalier King Charles Spaniel named Ellie.
4. If you could travel anywhere, where would you go? I would have to pick Greece for the beaches as well as the history.
5. What is one fun fact about you? My 2 best friends have the same name as I do.

Sleep Technologist Appreciation Week at Gillette Children’s!

Posted On: 10/11/2013

By John Garcia, M.D., Sleep Medicine Specialist

Sleep technologist appreciation week gives everyone an opportunity to celebrate the dedicated service provided by the Gillette Sleep Health technologists. 

Some do not know that four nights a week four technologists are caring for children in the sleep laboratory. During this time the sleep technologist do not take her eyes off the patient. This careful attention allows  for the accumulation of data that is not otherwise easily gathered. It is routine for the Gillette Sleep Health technologists to identify a severe breathing problem or seizure that had been hidden because parents appropriately are not able to stay up all night and gather the data as these trained professionals do.

In addition to providing clinical care Gillette Sleep Health technologists are involved in teaching, policy creation, advocacy, research, and technical applications.  They provide monthly in-service training integrating new technologies in the field.  Two of our group chose to attend the regional policy creation seminar to help begin to alleviate the burden of sleep deprivation on our state's teenagers by advocating for an 8:30 AM high school start time.. The policy and procedure manual integrates recent research into technological applications provided on a nightly basis. These new technologies include average volume assured pressure support, transcutaneous carbon dioxide monitoring and actigraphy to name a few.

The technologists have partnered with almost every clinical subgroup in the hospital here at Gillette including the craniofacial clinic, postoperative nursing group, information technology, and neuromuscular diseases group.  They are involved in ongoing data gathering for research with Rett syndrome, traumatic brain injury, and CPAP mask desensitization.

Together the group of sleep technologist represent over 100 years of total sleep technology experience. Over 1000 children and young adults have been served by the gillette sleep technologist since its inception six years ago. The dedicated service of the Gillette Sleep technologists is appropriately celebrated this week.

Dairy Queen Recognizes Manager’s Good Deed with Donation to Gillette Children’s

Posted On: 10/10/2013

Joey Prusak, the 19-year-old manager of a Hopkins, Minn., Dairy Queen store, had just finished serving one of his regular customers when he witnessed behavior best described as a random act of unkindness.  His customer, a visually impaired man, unknowingly dropped a $20 bill from his pocket.  A woman in line behind him quickly picked up the money and slipped it into her purse.  Prusak earned national acclaim when his good deed—refusing to serve the woman, then giving his customer $20 from his own wallet—exploded on the Internet. 

Prusak has since received praise from millions (including Dairy Queen owner Warren Buffett!) for his actions—a good deed he modestly describes as “the right thing to do.”  And this week, Dairy Queen honored Prusak in a way that’s in keeping with the spirit of his actions—presenting a $5,000 check in his name to Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals, the company’s charitable partner.  Locally, those funds will help thousands of children treated at St. Paul, Minn. based Gillette Children’s Specialty Healthcare.

Dairy Queen President and CEO John Gainor also presented Prusak with the company’s prestigious Red Spoon Award in recognition of his actions, which reflect the company’s commitment to integrity

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