Inside Gillette Blog

Meet Us Monday- Meet Kristine Greer, Physical Therapist

Posted On: 03/31/2014

1. What is your position and role at Gillette? Do you have a favorite story or memory? I have been working as an outpatient physical therapist with Gillette Children’s Specialty Healthcare for the past 8 years.   I currently work at the Maple Grove clinic. I have been privileged to work with such amazing people who continuously teach me about the importance of perseverance, compassion and hard work.   As a therapist, my most thrilling experiences include witnessing the first independent steps of a child.      

2. What are some of your hobbies outside of work? My most treasured moments are spending time with my family and friends in our boat.  I love swimming, skiing and enjoying the beautiful Minnesota summers! Other hobbies include reading, golfing and exercising. 

3. Do you have any children or pets? I just celebrated my 10th wedding anniversary with my husband Troy. We have seven year old twins, Braden and Isabella.    I also have a dog “Cheeria” who is a labradoodle. 

4. If you could travel anywhere, where would you go? I would love to go on an African Safari!

5. What is one fun fact about you? I once had a basset hound named "Flash" as in the "Dukes of Hazard"


My Gillette Story by Megan Hoelzel, Elaina’s Mom

Posted On: 03/27/2014

Upon first meeting our three-year-old daughter Elaina, it would never occur to you she has juvenile arthritis. All you see is an active, imaginative, and determined three-year-old little girl that will not let anything stand in the way of keeping up with her six-year-old brother, Zach. Anything he does she wants to do too. She refuses to be left out of anything, stomping her foot and saying “me too! ME TOO!” 

Our juvenile arthritis journey starts at Elaina’s two-year well-child visit in November of 2012 with a swollen right index finger. We thought it could be from her sucking on her fingers because we took her pacifier away. Then, a few months later, her right knee became so inflamed and swollen she limped and no longer wanted to walk.  We continued to look for answers with Elaina’s pediatrician, running blood tests, physical exams, and x-rays to discover the root cause of the inflammation and pain she was experiencing. It pained my husband Dave and I to see our active little girl preferring to sit things out and watch because she was in pain.

In June 2013, we were connected with Gillette Children’s Specialty Healthcare to see a pediatric rheumatologist. Prior to our appointment, Dr. Richard Vehe and his team reviewed and evaluated Elaina’s case. As a parent, I was so appreciative this was conducted “off-line” without my having to bring Elaina into the office just to see if she needed to see a rheumatologist. It’s not always a pleasant adventure bringing a two-year-old to see the doctor.

Elaina’s first appointment at Gillette blew me away. As we all sat on the floor of the evaluation room, enjoying a tea party with Elaina and her doll, Dr. Vehe and Nurse Patty explained her diagnosis of persistent oligoarthritis and what this meant for our little girl going forward.  It was a lot to take in. They answered all of our questions – and we had many after our online searches about juvenile arthritis. Just so you know, Dr. Google was wrong – kids do not grow out of juvenile arthritis. Dang it! 

They explained juvenile arthritis is an autoimmune disease. Our daughter’s own immune system, the thing that is supposed to keep her healthy and safe from disease, is actually malfunctioning and mistaking her joints as the enemy and attacking them; leading to swollen, painful joints and Elaina saying with outstretched arms, “Mommy knee owie, carry me! UP!”

They walked us through the various treatment options to reduce the swelling in Elaina’s joints. Believe it or not, the treatment for juvenile arthritis can involve some pretty hard core medications. Some are the same ones used for chemotherapy (but in lower doses). Another common treatment is steroid injections directly into the affected joint(s). Together we worked out a treatment plan of approach for Elaina, and Dr. Vehe and his team connected us with valuable resources and support in the community so we knew we were not alone.

We are now eight months into our journey with Gillette; Elaina is relatively pain free and we are hopefully on the road to remission. It is very apparent to me that Dr. Vehe and his team truly care and get to know their patients and families. Our family walked in the Juvenile Arthritis March (JAM) on March 1, 2014 and we saw Nurse Patty – she knew who we were, and there were no charts or reminders to queue her. You need to remember that Dr. Vehe, Nurse Patty, and their team see kids from all over Minnesota as there are only pediatric rheumatologists in Minneapolis/St. Paul and Rochester. 

For Nurse Patty to remember Elaina, my husband, and I and her excitement to meet Zach, outside of the clinic setting, warms my heart and tells me we are truly part of the Gillette family.  



Meet Us Monday- Meet Katie Wilkins, Physical Therapist

Posted On: 03/24/2014

1. What is your position and role at Gillette? Do you have a favorite story or memory? I am an outpatient physical therapist at Gillette Children’s Specialty Healthcare at the Minnetonka Therapies clinic. My favorite memories at Gillette are developing long term relationships with amazing patients and families, and watching kids grow up! One of my favorite stories was seeing a young child in a wheelchair for the first time. After twenty minutes in the wheelchair, the young child had already figured out how to wheel down the hallway and had the biggest smile. I feel so fortunate to work with the most amazing colleagues and have so much fun every day in the job I love.

2. What are some of your hobbies outside of work? I enjoy traveling to new places and photography – I always have my camera with me. My husband and I especially love travelling back to Montana (his home state) to go downhill skiing, backpacking, camping and hiking. Every fall my husband and I backpack into the Boundary Waters with friends. In the summer we enjoy spending time with friends and family, boating, and spending time at the lake. I also enjoy running and rock climbing any chance I can. 

3. Do you have any children or pets? I have twin boys, Jack and Sam who were born in October 2013. 

4. If you could travel anywhere, where would you go? I have been very fortunate to travel to some amazing places and have many more on the wish list. I have never taken a “beach vacation,” and would love to try it out, Saint Lucia or Hawaii look amazing!

5. What is one fun fact about you? I was a collegiate gymnast at University of Wisconsin – La Crosse.


Gillette’s Simulation Center Featured in Pioneer Press

Posted On: 03/20/2014

Gillette's surgical simulation center, which opened in 2012, is a state-of-the-art facility located adjacent to our hospital's surgical suites and imaging center. Our medical staff use the space to rehearse complex surgical procedures in a real-life surgical environment - and as part of training for new residents and fellows. The surgical simulation center is also used to educate science-minded high school students about potential careers in the medical field through hands-on learning. That role was recently highlighted in the March 16 edition of the Pioneer Press 'Education Notes,' a weekly round-up of happenings at Twin Cities-area schools. See below for more - or, read the story on the Pioneer Press website.

More than 50 students from the biomedical sciences program at East Ridge High School in Woodbury visited Gillette Children's Specialty Healthcare as part of their medical interventions class. The students worked with biomedical professionals and used the surgical simulation lab where doctors and nurses are trained. East Ridge has more than 250 students in the program.

Meet Us Monday- Meet Linda Hoffman, Registered Nurse

Posted On: 03/17/2014

1. What is your position and role at Gillette? Do you have a favorite story or memory? I'm an RN here at Gillette Children’s Specialty Healthcare.  I work with rheumatology and orthopedics as well as doing infusion therapy in the outpatient department of St. Paul clinic. I started as a nurse intern on the orthopedics unit in June 1991. I have so many heartwarming stories with the wonderful patients we are able to meet and care for.  When I was working as an inpatient nurse, I had one patient for over a week and he was saddened to hear I was going on vacation. His question to me was: “Now who is going to wash my hair?” I still see him at Gillette when he comes for appointments, and I still get a big hug from both him and his mom.

2. What are some of your hobbies outside of work? I have a wide variety of hobbies. My family and I enjoy snowmobiling, four-wheeling, boating, and fishing. I love to garden, bake, and cook as well.

3. Do you have any children or pets? I have two grown children and my grandson is almost 18 years old and a senior in high school (already!).  We no longer have any pets, but when my children were young they each had a horse.

4. If you could travel anywhere, where would you go? I have a “bucket list” that I’m working on now, but I have done a fair amount of traveling with my family, which is priceless.

5. What is one fun fact about you? A fun fact is that I became a certified scuba diver, along with my husband and children at the same time. We have taken many trips together where we were able to scuba dive as a family! 


Wanted: Volunteers Who Love to Laugh

Posted On: 03/12/2014

This fall, Gillette will host our third annual Laugh Out Loud Twin Cities (LOLTC) comedy event, benefiting Gillette. Last year, headliner Howie Mandel entertained more than 500 people, and the evening’s activities raised more than $250,000!

We are recruiting committee members to volunteer their time and talents to plan and execute this year’s event, which will take place Saturday, Sept. 27, at the Hilton Hotel in downtown Minneapolis.

What does it mean to serve on this committee? Once a month, you’ll meet with a group of passionate and committed individuals who want to help make LOLTC fun for everyone who attends. From planning fundraising activities like the “mystery box” or “wine toss,” to decorating the venue for the event, there are lots of ways we can use your help.

We ask that committee members be available for the majority of monthly meetings (twice each month as the event date comes closer) and be available to volunteer at and attend the event on Sept. 27.

For more information about this special volunteer opportunity, please contact Jenny Floria at 651-229-1766 or at  You can also go to and provide us with your contact information. Someone will get in touch with you.

My Gillette Story by Melanie Hendrickson, Lincoln’s mom

Posted On: 03/11/2014

How would you describe Lincoln to someone who hasn't met him? Lincoln is a sweet little boy. He smiles all the time and is a very happy. He loves to laugh, really hard, and his laugh is contagious! He is also very determined. He works hard despite his challenges. Lincoln has a look in his eye that melts your heart. He is a gift that teaches others how to love.

What are Lincoln's favorite thing(s) to do? Read books, listen to music (mostly country!) swim, knock things over, play with other kids, and go for walks outside.

What is Lincoln’s medical condition? Lincoln has spastic quadriplegic cerebral palsy, epilepsy, cortical vision impairment, global developmental delays and hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy, or HIE (an injury to his brain caused by lack of oxygen at birth). 

How did your family come to find out about Gillette? Several Gillette neurologists, one of which included Dr. Timothy Feyma, visited Lincoln in the NICU after his birth to evaluate his MRI, CT scans and EEGs. That is when we were given Lincoln’s “news” which was the start of our journey. After his discharge from the NICU, Lincoln has been followed closely by his Gillette care team of doctors, seating specialists, and therapists.

What treatments and services has Lincoln received at Gillette? Lincoln has visited Gillette for a variety of services, including neurodiagnostics, neurology and rehabilitation medicine appointments, hip X-Rays, rehabilitation therapies including physical, occupational and speech therapy, assistive technology, and injections of botulinum toxin (Botox) and Pheno to address his spasticity (overly tight muscles). He also spent a few days in the hospital after developing infantile spasms (seizures) and received treatments of Adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) injections.

What has your experience at Gillette been like for Lincoln and your family? Words cannot express how grateful we are to all Gillette staff.  The doctors, therapists, nurses, EEG technicians, and receptionists have helped Lincoln tremendously. They have shared with us news that a parent dreads; news that broke our hearts. They have also lifted us up during those tough times and given us hope. Lincoln always receives top notch care at Gillette! We have complete trust in all of his doctors and they continue to help Lincoln reach his full potential.

Does your child have a favorite doctor, nurse, therapist or other caregiver? Lincoln has many favorites!  Some include Dr. Beverly Wical (pediatric neurologist), Stephanie (physical therapist), Jennifer (speech therapist), Kathy (occupational therapist), Bill (orthotist), Brian (seating and adaptive equipment),  and Tina (EEG technician). They are ALL FABULOUS! TRUE ANGELS!

What about your child makes you most proud? Lincoln is a little warrior. He works very hard and will not give up despite all of his challenges.  He is happy and teaches those around him what is truly important in life.

Note: Sadly, Lincoln passed away in August 2014.

Meet Us Monday- Meet Ashley Zwiefel, Registered Nurse/Perianesthesia

Posted On: 03/10/2014

1. What is your position and role at Gillette? Do you have a favorite story or memory? I have been a Registered Nurse at Gillette Children’s Specialty Healthcare for 5 years in the Operating Room and recently transitioned to a position in the Perianesthesia department and love it! Some of my favorite memories are from the many fundraisers and Gillette sponsored events I have participated in! From volunteering at the State Fair and Ronald McDonald house to doing the Polar Plunge and playing on the Gillette softball team, I love spreading the word about Gillette and also interacting with co-workers and patients outside the hospital setting!

2. What are some of your hobbies outside of work? Most of my time is spent with my fiancé and family on the lake in the summer, going to movies, exploring new places and restaurants, and one of my favorite hobbies is baking and decorating cakes! Currently most of my time outside of work is spent planning my wedding coming this June!

3. Do you have any children or pets? I have a toy poodle named Bentley.

4. If you could travel anywhere, where would you go? I have been very fortunate to travel to some of my "dream destinations" like Germany, Italy and Africa but my all-time dream would be to visit beautiful Bora Bora!

5. What is one fun fact about you? My favorite color is teal!


Defying Predictions: Mary Kate’s Story

Posted On: 03/06/2014

Mary Kate is a social butterfly and animal enthusiast with a passion for music and dance. Her spirited personality—combined with a lifetime of care at Gillette Children’s Specialty Healthcare—has helped her achieve things that some might call “impossible” for the bubbly 12-year-old.

Search for Answers Leads to Difficult Diagnosis

Mary Kate’s mom, Donna, first suspected something wasn’t right when her daughter seemed noticeably weaker than most babies.  A physical therapist by training, Donna immediately began searching for answers.  She remembers the day a community therapist described Mary Kate’s symptoms as hallmarks of spinal muscular atrophy (SMA). “A light came on,” she says. “And I just knew.”

A progressive disorder characterized by muscle weakness, SMA can lead to complex health issues. Mary Kate received an official diagnosis of SMA I, the most severe form, at 6 months. She’s been coming to Gillette ever since for comprehensive neuromuscular care, including pediatric rehabilitation medicine, pulmonology and seating services. That care has helped her defy predictions that she wouldn’t live past age 2.

Meeting Mary Kate’s Needs

In addition to addressing Mary Kate’s physical well-being, Gillette has also supported her social and emotional development. “Neuropsychology emphasized the importance of friendships, of keeping strong connections with peers,” says Donna.  “When they say Gillette offers comprehensive care, they mean it!”

Because of Mary Kate’s muscle weakness, she relies on a complex seating system to keep her mobile and independent.  That includes adaptive ballet, which Mary Kate participates in from her power chair. When the need for special modifications arise—most recently, a device allowing Mary Kate to show her pet goat, Oreo, in the county fair—the family calls on Gillette seating specialist Brian Reilly. “Brian lives by the Gillette philosophy of doing everything he can to help kids be kids,” says Donna.

A New Kind of ‘Normal’

Despite Mary Kate’s physical limitations, her family is committed to giving her the same opportunities as any other child. “For us to see her taking part in activities, and having girlfriends, is so rewarding,” says Donna.  “Our ‘normal’ is different, but it doesn’t mean a lesser quality of life.”

Meet Us Monday- Meet Briana Jacobson, MRI Technologist

Posted On: 03/03/2014

1. What is your position and role at Gillette? Do you have a favorite story or memory? I am a MRI Technologist in the Imaging Department at Gillette Children’s Specialty Healthcare.  I also work in CT occasionally.  In MRI, we work with a powerful magnet that helps get images of the body.  The MRI exams last from 7 minutes to a couple of hours, so some patients have to be sedated for their exams. One of my favorite memories actually happened recently.  There are some patients who I have been scanning in CT or MRI for more than 10 years.  It’s nice to be able to see them and talk with their families.  About a month ago one of the patients who I have known for 11 years came down for a CT scan.  After her exam was over, her mom told me that she still has one of the stuffed animals I gave her up on a shelf in her bedroom.  It’s those moments that make working at a Gillette so special. 

2. What are some of your hobbies outside of work? I love photography.  I always have my cameras with me.  I recently started golfing, but am still trying to catch up to my husband’s skills.  I also love playing volleyball.  I am one of the biggest MN Wild fans, the games are always on at our house or on the radio.  

3. Do you have any children or pets? I have a stepdaughter Autumn, who is 6 and a son, Dominic, who is 7 months old.  We have “outdoor pets” as Autumn likes to say.  Someday we will probably get a dog, but for now it’s just the bunnies, birds, and squirrels.

4. If you could travel anywhere, where would you go? I would love to go to Iceland or Ireland.  I would love to photograph all the beautiful waterfalls, lagoons, and glaciers. It looks so beautiful there. But, if my husband has his way we will go to Ireland so he can golf. 

5. What is one fun fact about you? I married my third-grade boyfriend after not seeing each other for eight years!