Inside Gillette Blog

Lady Gaga’s Surprise Visit to Gillette Children’s Specialty Healthcare!

Posted On: 05/29/2014

Last Thursday began as an ordinary day for patients and employees at Gillette Children’s Specialty Healthcare.  But by the end of the day, it became one they’d never forget.

So how did Lady Gaga connect with Gillette? The background story is just as amazing as the visit itself!  Last year, Gaga befriended Gillette patient Emma Carroll, 20, after she reached out by sending the pop star a letter.  During her concert last Wednesday, Gaga recognized her friend publicly:

“I met Emma at the St. Paul show a year ago…she was a fan who needed me, but I had no idea how much I needed her. So, thank you, Emma, for inspiring me every day with everything you do. Emma has been in a wheelchair her whole life, and she has a better attitude than 99 percent of the people I know.”

The next day, Gaga surprised Emma—and everyone at Gillette—by paying an unexpected visit before her tour bus departed later that evening.  Gaga visited one-on-one with every inpatient and their family, sharing inspirational words, hugs, and even a cappella renditions of her hit song ‘Born This Way.’ 

In addition to touching the lives of dozens of patients with her kindness and compassion, Gaga also showed her support for Gillette’s CurePity® movement by signing the CurePity pledge (see photo – Gaga is pictured with Gillette CEO Barbara Joers and Emma).  CurePity is Gillette’s commitment to moving attitudes away from pity, and towards acceptance, of all people who have disabilities.  It’s a mission that echoes that of Lady Gaga’s Born This Way Foundation, which similarly encourages acceptance and empowerment.

We’re ecstatic to have Lady Gaga’s support of our CurePity movement—and incredibly grateful for this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for our patients. 

Click here to join Lady Gaga in signing the CurePity pledge!

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.”

Kendall’s Journey

Posted On: 01/21/2013

Christmas morning 2011, my water broke one week early, sending us scurrying to the hospital at 2 am and leaving behind our 2-year-old son with neighbors. Four hours later, as the rest of the world was waking up and opening their gifts, my husband and I delivered ours–Kendall Christine.

She was healthy and we celebrated our Christmas blessing–my heart was full of contentment and happiness only a newborn baby girl could fill.

Then the next day, a pediatrician came in with the blow. The “birthmark” on the top of Kendall’s head was actually a congenital nevus. Being in mama-heaven, this news didn’t faze me at first. Seeing my lack of concern, the pediatrician proceeded to tell me this is a big deal and we need a biopsy to make sure it’s not cancerous.

I thought, wait a minute now, don’t go throwing that “c” word into things. Life is perfect, can’t you see?  Leave us alone. Go away.

But it didn’t and it wouldn’t.

For me, pity began 6 weeks later with our first visit to see Dr. Wood. This was a defining moment, as I became aware that her nevus was an issue and that it would not be an easy or simple task to remove it. He explained to us the tissue expansion process, which entailed inserting an expander underneath the skin on her scalp and slowly, over the course of many months, injecting this with saline and stretching the skin to a large size. This newly-stretched skin would be used to cover where the mole was once it was removed.

Kendall seemed so fragile and I honestly couldn’t wrap my mind around the reality of this process, but Dr. Wood’s experience and confidence put me at ease. He recommended that we begin tissue expansion once she reached 9-months of age. We considered the options and made the decision to proceed–plans for October 15th were underway.

You could say that preparing for Kendall’s first surgery was much like training for a marathon–a marathon filled with obstacles and hurdles, that is. I knew going into it that I would have to pace myself, that this wasn’t a quick sprint and that we needed to find endurance for the long haul.

I had stayed strong and fought off pity pretty well–right up until the second I laid eyes on my daughter after her surgery. It consumed me in ways that I wasn’t prepared for, yelling at me your daughter looks different, and this isn’t fair!

Those first few days and weeks were painful–painful in ways that I can’t explain or am too embarrassed to tell. Pity told me different wasn’t as good and even different is just plain ugly. People’s doting words of beautiful quickly turned into looks of concerns and questions. I felt like I was constantly fighting off anger and tears that Kendall had to endure all of this and that we were in this situation.

We had a battle, me and pity.

When our 2-year-old son saw Kendall for the first time post-surgery, he looked at her with his big-brown saucer eyes in great concern. We explained to him that he could no longer play rough with sister and that she had an “owie” on her head that he couldn’t touch. I thought he would be upset or lose interest playing with her.

He just looked at me and asked, Can I kiss her?

He didn’t see the bump, or at least not like everyone else did. Our son was free of worldly stereotypes of what makes you accepted or look pretty–to him, sister was perfect.

This was the beginning of a new attitude for me, defining my own views on what beautiful and happiness mean. I was no longer seeking the world’s acceptance or approval because, as my son reminded me, she is already perfect. My perception began to change and over the next month, pity was replaced with confidence–a confidence that told me I was strong, that we were lucky to be in this treatable situation and to take this challenge and to turn it into something positive.

You see, pity did nothing but cripple me. It threatened to paralyze me and prevent me from making the positive response my daughter needed. Only by conquering my own pity was I able to provide strength for my daughter.

I gained confidence as I realized the things I once concerned myself with were no longer important. People’s words or reactions no longer mattered to me. I was reminded that I was being strong and bearing the burden for my daughter so she wouldn’t have to. And I realized that this process was a defining time for our family, but that it didn’t define who we are.

The past three months have involved weekly injections at Gillette Children’s to enlarge Kendall’s expander. I can’t say enough good things about the medical team that surrounded us–they have made this process smoother and easier in every way possible. The fourth floor has been a place of transformation for our family–physically and mentally. Doctors, nurses and other parents look into my child’s eyes and see that she is beautiful. It has been empowering and enabled me to shed my fear of judgment from others, along with judgment from myself.

I have such respect for the children that we see each week and deep admiration for the parents by their side. Whether a child is facing long or short term medical needs, life-changing or life-threatening, I believe what every parent wants is for their child to feel loved and accepted–to know that they can live and thrive through their uniqueness in this world.

Now here we are, in the last stretch of Kendall’s medical marathon. I once thought this journey was about crossing the finish line, but now realize it is about deciding to run.

The Cure Pity campaign gave me the strength and confidence to share Kendall’s journey. When the day comes, I’m excited to tell her how brave she was through all of this, how she rocked our world that Christmas morning and how she continues to teach us valuable lessons about the important things in life.

I hope that when you look at Kendall, you see past the bump and notice her gorgeous deep blue eyes and pink cabbage patch lips. I hope you see a one-year-old who is on the verge of walking, filled with a passion and determination in everything that she does. Ultimately, I hope you are able to look past the differences and see her through the eyes of a 2-year-old.

“I’m Happier Than I’ve Ever Been.” – Tasha Schuh, Ms. Wheelchair USA

Posted On: 01/10/2013

When Tasha Schuh noticed the Facebook page for Ms. Wheelchair USA, she clicked “Like” and thought little more about it.

“Some of my caregivers said, ‘You should get involved,’ Schuh recalls. “But I’m not the pageant type.” She was already busy, writing a book about her life after an accident paralyzed her from the chest down. In addition, she gives motivational speeches and volunteers as a mentor for people who’ve recently sustained spinal cord injuries.

It’s been a long journey since, a month before her 17th birthday, Schuh stepped backward on a high school stage—not realizing someone had opened a trap door. She fell 16 feet, breaking her neck and damaging her spinal cord on the cement floor.

“I know what it’s like to feel hopeless and want to quit,” Schuh recalls. “I got involved with Ms. Wheelchair USA because its vision isn’t about beauty. It’s about what women can accomplish in a wheelchair.”

A year after seeing that Facebook page, Schuh filled out a 20-page application for Ms. Wisconsin USA. She won the title on the strength of her application, then traveled to Ohio for a five-day national pageant. “It was amazing,” she says. “I got to meet wonderful women who had dreams and goals just like I did, whose stories were equally inspirational.” The contestants attended workshops about accessibility, advocacy and other disability issues. They made blankets to donate, attended a swing dance and interviewed with judges.

Each contestant gave a speech focusing on their “platform”—the main idea they were promoting—and on what they would do if selected. “My platform was the power of a positive attitude,” Schuh says. “When they said my name, at the end of all the awards, I was shocked—and so honored to be taking home the crown.”

Since the pageant, Schuh has appeared on news and talk shows throughout the U.S. “So many opportunities have opened up for me because of the title,” she says. Recently, she was named 2012 American Rehabilitation Champion by the Foundation for Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. She’s finishing her book and planning her wedding.

“My dream is to give hope to people by telling my story,” she says. “Attitude is huge. It’s so easy to focus on what you’ve lost, but we all have things we can be thankful for. Air to breathe. Hot running water. Freedom in America. It didn’t happen overnight, but when I stopped thinking of what I lost, I started living a life that’s good. Now I’m happier than I’ve ever been.”

Tasha Schuh’s book, My Last Step Backward, will be available soon. Check her website,, for more information.

Duluth CurePity Day

Posted On: 11/12/2012

On Monday, November 5, the Gillette Children’s Specialty Healthcare’s Duluth Clinic held a celebration to mark its 13th anniversary of offering specialty services to northern Minnesota children and families. To help raise awareness about the Gillette Duluth Clinic and to champion Gillette’s CurePity movement, the celebration included a media tour of Duluth print, TV and radio outlets, as well as the Great Lakes Aquarium. Duluth’s Mayor Don Ness proclaimed November 5, 2012 as “CurePity Day” in Duluth.

The public and media were invited to the Gillette Duluth Clinic’s event program that highlighted the clinic’s history and specialty services, a patient family sharing their experiences of services provided at the Gillette Duluth Clinic, an overview of the CurePity movement and a plaque presentation by the Duluth Area Chamber of Commerce Ambassadors. After the program, guests enjoyed light refreshments and were invited to sign the CurePity Pledge.






Imation CEO signs the CurePity pledge!

Posted On: 10/03/2012

‘At Imation, we place a special emphasis on assisting great community causes. When i heard about the pledge to help improve the lives of children who have disabilities, I immediately wanted to support it’. 

Imation is a Twin Cities-based based global storage and data security company. Our broad customer base spans commercial, government and retail markets in more than 100 companies worldwide. Our portfolio includes tiered storage and security offerings for business, and products designed to manage audio and video information in the home.  Imation, TDK Life on Record, XtremeMac and Memorex are among our well recognized brands.  Imation is committed to enhancing the communities in which we live and work, and we are proud of our employees’ dedication to volunteerism and community involvement.


Paralympic Athletes Sign the CurePity pledge and Win!

Posted On: 10/02/2012

Former Gillette patients Justin Zook of Plymouth, Anna Eames of Golden Valley and Jon Rydberg of Oakdale signed the pledge to CurePity prior to leaving for the 2012 Paralympics in London in August.

Zook won a gold medal and set a world record in the men’s swimming S10 100-meter backstroke. Eames, who was co-captain of the women’s swim team, anchored the 400-meter freestyle women’s swimming relay team and received a silver medal. Rydberg participated in the men’s wheelchair tennis singles and doubles, but did not receive a medal.

Why did these athletes take the pledge to CurePity? Children who have disabilities don’t need pity. They need hope, expert medical care and a world that gives them a chance. In short, they need people like you.

When you pledge to CurePity, you promise to reject pity and take action to improve the lives and health of children who have disabilities. Join these talented athletes and sign the CurePity pledge today!

Gillette Families, Staff Celebrating CurePity Day

Posted On: 10/02/2012

With Gillette’s CurePity movement in full swing — recent highlights have included the Minnesota Twins’ Joe Mauer and comic Martin Short signing the CurePity Pledge — today we’re kicking off October by celebrating the first-ever CurePity Day. Throughout today, we’re encouraging patient families and employees to stand with Gillette in choosing acceptance, taking action, and envisioning an even brighter future for children with disabilities.  Help us make CurePity day a success by signing the CurePity Pledge – then sharing it through Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest.

Gillette staff are proud to support CurePity!

Assistive Technology staff support CurePity!

Neurosciences Nurses Support CurePity!

Gillette staff Eric and Becky support CurePity!

Child Life supports CurePity!

Signing the CurePity Pledge

Gillette's audiology department supports CurePity!