Inside Gillette Blog

Meet Us Monday- Meet Amy Lewis, Systems Analyst

Posted On: 07/18/2014

1. What is your position and role at Gillette? I am a systems analyst in the information systems department supporting Child & Family Services, Gait and Motion Analysis, laboratory and rehab therapies at Gillette Children’s Specialty Healthcare.

2. What are some of your hobbies outside of work? Pizza night with friends and their children, school projects with my son, running, and cooking.

3. Do you have any children or pets? I have two children, Owen is 6 years and Aria is 22 months.  We also have a dog named Sammy.

4. If you could travel anywhere, where would you go? I would love to visit Germany during Oktoberfest.

5. What is one fun fact about you? I have a very loud distinct laugh, I’ve been told that’s good, it makes others laugh.

Severe Epilepsy: How Gillette Clinicians are Improving Outcomes

Posted On: 07/18/2014

By Samuel Roiko, Clinical Scientist

As a regional leader in pediatric epilepsy management, Gillette Children’s Specialty Healthcare treats patients who have some of the most complex, and chronic, seizure disorders seen in children.  We offer our patients state-of-the-art treatments and services to help them achieve the best possible health, independence, and happiness.  Part of that commitment also includes research into things like SUDEP (Sudden Unexpected Death in Epilepsy).

As its name implies, SUDEP is a sudden, unexpected, non-traumatic death in a patient with epilepsy – without evidence of a structural or toxicological cause of death. The SUDEP rate is estimated to be 1.22 out of 1000 patients with epilepsy, but there are many factors that increase the risk of SUDEP. For example, the presence of an underlying central nervous system (CNS) disease, the age of the patient, and the age of onset of epilepsy all increase the risk for SUDEP. 

At Gillette, we believe that every child lost to SUDEP is one too many.  That’s why we were excited to participate in the 2014 PAME (Partners Against Mortality in Epilepsy) conference, held this June in Minneapolis (pictured above).  The goals of the conference were to foster knowledge, improve awareness, and hasten action around SUDEP. It was the second meeting of its kind, where clinical, basic science, and patient/family attendees came together to understand and support each other.

As clinical scientist for Gillette’s Center for Pediatric Neurosciences, I hoped to learn more about the state of the medical and research community regarding SUDEP.  How SUDEP happens is not known. The brain, heart, and lungs all form an intricate, intertwined network, and increased activity in certain areas of the brain can result in a lower rate of breathing, which can lower the heart rate, resulting in a spiraling loss of function. It is difficult to precisely determine what is the primary cause.

Many presentations gave hope with new advances. Serotonin and adenosine are two of many brain neurotransmitters in the brain that have been studied. Serotonin plays a role in heart rate and respiration, while adenosine is involved in wakefulness and arousal. Selective Serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), commonly prescribed drugs, are a potential therapeutic to prevent SUDEP. Adenosine activity increases in mouse models of SUDEP, and can be blocked by caffeine. These intriguing findings raised many questions – more indication that further research is needed.

My colleague, Beverly Wical, M.D. emphasized the importance of increasing the awareness of SUDEP, and that we at Gillette are involved in research studies regarding SUDEP. We are actively working with colleagues across the country to form a national consortium to study SUDEP and its prevention. We owe it to our patients!


Gillette Physicians Rank Among Twin Cities’ Best

Posted On: 07/16/2014

Each year, Minneapolis-St. Paul Magazine’s Top Doctors list honors the Twin Cities top-ranked physicians in more than 40 specialties.  We’re honored that, once again, the list includes a broad representation of Gillette Children’s Specialty Healthcare physicians. Click the links below to learn more about the 2014 honorees who practice at Gillette.

With world-renowned expertise in treating patients who have disabilities and complex conditions, our Gillette physicians are dedicated to helping patients maximize their independence, health and happiness.  They’re similarly committed to the highest standards of patient safety and care.  It’s because of all of these things that families seek out Gillette from every county in Minnesota, as well as throughout the nation and world, for exceptional care and unmatched expertise.

Sarah Jane Schwartzenberg

Beverly Wical

Nancy Mendelsohn

Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation
Mark Gormley, Jr.
Marshall Taniguchi

Elizabeth Reeve

Pulmonary Medicine
Paul Kubic

Richard Vehe

Surgery, Neurological
Michael Partington

Surgery, Orthopedic
Mark Dahl
Steven Koop
Tom Novacheck
Stephen Sundberg
Ann Van Heest 
Kevin Walker

Surgery, Pediatric
Robert Acton 
Daniel Saltzman

Sean Elliott
Joel Hutcheson
David Vandersteen
James Wolpert

Meet Us Monday- Erin Ingvalson, Speech Pathologist

Posted On: 07/11/2014

1. What is your role at Gillette? I am a speech language pathologist working in the St. Paul rehabilitation therapies department at Gillette Children’s Specialty Healthcare.  

2. What is your average day like at Gillette? I work primarily with inpatients from the rehabilitation unit.  My job entails helping kids regain skills needed to communicate effectively with others as well as to be able to participate in school.  I also work with kids who have difficulties with eating or swallowing.

3. Do you have a favorite story or memory? My favorite moments at Gillette are being able to help patients and families begin to connect again through communication.  A lot of the patients I see are very confused, disoriented or even not talking when they get to rehab.  There have been many moments where I get to witness patients responding to their parent’s voice by squeezing their hand or speaking their first words again. Those are always very powerful and memorable experiences.

4. What are some of your hobbies outside of work? I love working on home improvements and in my garden.  I also love going to movies, theatre and all kinds of musical performances.  It has been awhile but I hope to be able to be part of a choral group again someday – for now I am an avid shower and car singer!

5. What is one fun fact about you? I originally went to school as music major in vocal performance.   Although I did not pursue this major, the skills I learned have helped me tremendously with a lot of my speech therapy clients.

Gillette Families Advocate for Kids’ Health Care at Nation’s Capitol

Posted On: 07/09/2014

On June 24-25, families representing children’s hospitals throughout the U.S. took to Capitol Hill with a unified mission — to raise awareness, among members of Congress, of the important issues impacting children’s hospitals and pediatric health care today.  It was all part of Speak Now for Kids Family Advocacy Day, an annual initiative of the Children’s Hospital Association. We’re proud that two of those families, the Wittrock family of Burnsville, Minn. and the Harbarth family of Mankato, Minn., represented Gillette Children’s Specialty Healthcare.

The Wittrocks and Harbarths know firsthand the many issues that families of medically complex children often face.  Brandon Wittrock, 17, and Madison Harbarth, 7, are longtime patients of Gillette, a St. Paul-based hospital with outpatient sites throughout the state.  This made them ideal families to meet one-on-one with the state’s legislators, sharing their personal stories and stressing the important role Gillette plays as one of the nation’s only specialty care pediatric hospitals.

“Brandon was a million dollar baby by the time he was three days old,” Sheri Wittrock told members of Congress, referring to the cost of care when her son, Brandon, was born.  “Without Gillette, he wouldn’t be sitting here talking with you today.”

During their time in Washington D.C., the Wittrocks and Harbarths, along with Gillette representatives, received a warm reception from Senator Al Franken, Rep. Betty McCollum, and staff members from Senator Klobuchar and Rep. Tim Walz’s offices.  

They also had the opportunity to meet a national celebrity—Dr. Jennifer Arnold, a pediatric neonatologist and co-star of TLC’s The Little Couple, who participated in Family Advocacy Day with her husband and two children (Madison Harbarth is pictured with Dr. Arnold and her daughter, Zoey).  

Many thanks to our Minnesota representatives, Children’s Hospital Association staff, and our amazing patient families for a memorable and productive time in our nation’s capitol!

Meet Us Monday- Hilary Scherweit, Camp Get A-Well-A Director & Child Life Specialist

Posted On: 07/03/2014

Camp Get-A-Well-A brings the camp experience to kids in the hospital. In 2013, 382 kids from Gillette Children’s Specialty Healthcare participated in a weeklong camp at our St. Paul campus. In 2014, we hope to see even more kids thanks to two full weeks of camp!

1. What is your role at Gillette? My role at Gillette Children’s Specialty Healthcare is unique. I serve as the director for Camp Get-A-Well-A and I am also a child life specialist at the St. Paul campus one weekend a month. I enjoy working with the multidisciplinary team here at Gillette and learning something new every day!

2. What is your average day like at Gillette? Each day is different. During camp season, you can usually find me in the outpatient waiting room having fun with the campers. Otherwise, I spend a lot of time brainstorming and working out the details for perfect camp themed activities. 

3. Do you have a favorite story or memory? This year at Camp Get-A-Well-A we had an amazing campfire sing-along! Campers were rocking out to some of my favorite songs. This special evening was topped off with s’mores in the Ronald McDonald Family Room. I love bringing the magic of camp to the hospital setting.

4. What are some of your hobbies outside of work? I enjoy spending time with family at our cabin up north. When in the Twin Cities, I love exploring new festivals and restaurants. There is so much to do in our backyard!

5. What is one fun fact about you? I am a farm girl from North Dakota turned city slicker. I love the bustling city and also enjoy getting lost in the quiet, calm nature of the country when I visit home.

Check out more photos from this year’s Camp Get-A-Well-A here!

The Ronald McDonald Family Room Celebrates Three Year Anniversary!

Posted On: 07/01/2014

By: Kara Souther, Director of the Ronald McDonald Family Room

This year is special for the Ronald McDonald House Charities-Upper Midwest Chapter as we celebrate our 35th anniversary. Our chapter began serving families in 1979 after opening an eight bedroom fraternity house by the University of Minnesota. Over the years we’ve expanded into three unique programs that support over 5,000 families each year. Two of the programs, Ronald McDonald House-Oak St and Ronald McDonald House-Children’s, Minneapolis, are located in Minneapolis, and on July 1, 2011 we expanded our efforts across the river and launched a new program in St Paul – the Ronald McDonald Family Room.

The Ronald McDonald Family Room (RMFR) is located near the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit and provides a “home-away-from-home” for any inpatient family at Gillette Children’s Specialty Healthcare.  The program offers a kitchen, fully stocked pantry, living room, fireplace, laundry room and four overnight sleep rooms and families are never required to pay. Inpatient families can stop by any time between 9:00am to 9:00pm to grab something to eat, play games or take a moment to relax.

Our goal at the Ronald McDonald Family Room is to make a family’s hospital stay just a little easier so that they can focus on their child’s medical recovery. One way we do that is through our wonderful volunteer program called Cooks for Kids. The Cooks for Kids groups provide inpatient families with free home-made meals served nightly! Anyone can become a Cooks for Kids group; we’ve had past RMFR families, Gillette staff and even Saint Paul Mayor Chris Coleman come to serve a meal! For more information on becoming a Cooks for Kids group click here.

It is hard to believe the Ronald McDonald Family Room will be celebrating its third anniversary this July. The time has gone by so quickly and we have met so many amazing families (over 3,400!) that have made the RMFR a very special place. Thank you to everyone who has supported the Ronald McDonald Family Room with your donation of pantry items, household supplies, Cooks For Kids meals and pop tabs (yes, we still collect them).  It’s truly amazing to see the community of love and support that surrounds a family when they need it the most. We at the Ronald McDonald Family Room wish you and your family a safe and fun summer.