Inside Gillette Blog

Meet Us Monday - Carol Sumerfelt, Physician Administrative Assistant

Posted On: 09/11/2015

What is your position and role at Gillette Children's Specialty Healthcare? I’m a physician administrative assistant in pediatric neurology.  One of my favorite activities is “punting!”  I love those days when parents are calling with their children’s needs, doctors need help with their work, administrative matters are pending,and I’m constantly triaging ongoing and ever-changing situations.  I’m not sure I’d want every day to be totally crazy, but I do enjoy it.  I’ve sometimes thought if I’d pursued a medical degree, I’d have gone into emergency medicine.  There’s a certain adrenaline rush to not knowing what to expect next, but knowing you have to deal with it.

Meet Us Monday - Carol Sumerfelt, Physician Administrative Assistant Do you have a favorite Gillette story or memory? I’d been here only five months when I attended an educational session Dr. Wical conducted on infantile spasms.  Less than two weeks later, I was working late one evening and received a call from a distraught mother dealing with this issue. I paged Dr. Wical, who determined  the child should be admitted the next morning.  At that point, I had absolutely no idea how to arrange an admission!  But we managed through it and the child was admitted and started on medication.  That Christmas her mother sent me a family picture. The child was completely back to being her normal self!

What do you like best about working at Gillette? The people and the purpose!  In the course of my many different careers, I’ve occasionally tried corporate life, but could never stay with it.  I’m only happy working with good people for a purpose that directly affects the wellbeing of those in need.  At Gillette, we have sincere, dedicated employees and we affect the lives of very vulnerable children who truly need us.  I’ve been here over ten years now and still love it.

Do you have any children or pets? Pets galore!  I have 17 parrotlets, one brotogeris parrot, eight society finches and three cats.  They’re a lot of work, but great fun.  Daisy is my tamest parrotlet and loves to have her head and neck scratched.  Then there’s Sunny, who loves conversations, Chip who pulls my hair and Max (the brotogeris) who’s always checking my hands for treats.  Among the cats, Chester swats magnets off my refrigerator and papers off the bulletin boards, and sticks his nose under stacks of paper, flips them up and watches them fly all over. My home is in constant chaos.

If you could travel anywhere, where would you go? Israel! I spent time in Israel some years ago and would love to go back.  I’d also like to visit my relatives in Belgium.  One of my grandfathers was sent to America during World War I when he was very young.  His older brother had a false wall in his shoe repair shop where he hid American flyers who were shot down and smuggled them to safety.  Grandpa was the youngest son but his birthdate was falsified to get him out of the country.

Why Accessible Care Matters When Kids Have Complex Conditions

Posted On: 09/09/2015

A new report by the Amherst H. Wilder Foundation says that nearly half of Minnesota children struggle with challenges ranging from poverty and inadequate health care to lack of childhood immunizations. The report, summarized in the Star Tribune on Sept. 8, pinpoints 15 counties throughout our state—most in greater Minnesota—where kids face the toughest obstacles.   

Such obstacles can prove even more detrimental to children who have complex or rare medical conditions and require care from multiple specialists. Often, accessing the care they need can mean hours of drive time, on a frequent basis, to an urban center. But barriers to care are sometimes more than just physical. Our families tell us that driving long distances isn’t the only problem. Many are uncomfortable driving in the city. And then there are travel expenses.

This is why Gillette brings Minnesota kids the care they need —in their home communities.  We operate 18 statewide Outreach Clinics, 15 of those in smaller cities or rural areas in greater Minnesota. It’s all part of our commitment to give children access to the specialty care they need to thrive—no matter where they live.  In fact, more than two-thirds of our families tell us they would have to drive more than 100 miles to receive care if it wasn’t for our Outreach Clinics.

Click here to learn more about Gillette’s Outreach services and view a map of clinic locations.

Changing Times, Unwavering Mission

Posted On: 09/07/2015

Watching the fire in a child’s eyes as he learns to walk again after a traumatic brain injury is inspirational. So is seeing a family rally around a child who has spinal muscular atrophy, celebrating her abilities as she charges through life in her wheelchair. It’s moving to listen to our community of supporters stand behind our kids and say to the world, “Embrace a person’s different abilities and you’ll understand that we’re all more alike than you might think.”

Our long history of treating children who have rare conditions, complex disabilities or traumatic injuries has made us resilient. Not only because we were the first. Not only because for a long time, we were the only. But because throughout the past 117 years, we’ve seen more patients who have rare and complex conditions than anyone else. That depth of experience means that we’re in a strong position to face the next century.

Our patients push us to do things a little differently at Gillette. Our providers integrate their efforts to meet the needs of each patient. We continuously seek ways to improve our specialty care model in order to efficiently provide the best, most patient-centered care. And we advocate on behalf of our patients and families in the community. 

We stay focused on those things that make us different, because they’re also the things that make us stronger.

Thank you for making a difference. Thank you for making us stronger.


Barbara Joers
President and CEO

Brad Keil
Board Chair

Editors Note: Learn more about how Gillette's differences make us stronger in our 2014 annual report.

Meet Us Monday - Paula Vanderschaaf, Occupational Therapist

Posted On: 09/04/2015

What is your position and role at Gillette Children’s Specialty Healthcare? I am an Occupational Therapist (with an Assistive Technology Practitioner credential) who works mainly with outpatients at our various sites.  I have been at Gillette for 23 years. I specialize in powered mobility— helping children and adults drive powered wheelchairs to gain independence in mobility.  Some of the children I work with have spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) or Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD), and need special controls. That might be something like a smaller joystick that doesn’t require as much force to push, or fiber optics which are little switches made of beams of light that make the chair drive when covered.  Other children use head controls to drive chairs or switches/buttons on a tray—we are only limited by our creativity!

Meet Us Monday - Paula Vanderschaaf, Occupational TherapistWhat does your average day look like? A normal day for me is anything but normal, as I see such a variety of patients.  I might be helping a patient learn to drive a powered wheelchair one moment, and helping another figure out the best type of bath chair to use to keep them safe the next moment.  I also create home programs for stretching to keep patients’ muscles from tightening up or becoming painful in between appointments. 

Talk a little about why you chose a career in healthcare, and why you chose to work at Gillette. I’ve always wanted to help people and have enjoyed working with children since I was young.  I just stumbled on the field of occupational therapy when I learned about it from my cousin who was a COTA (Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant) at the time.  When she explained what she did I immediately said, “That’s what I want to do!”  I pursued the degree and never turned back!  I’ve loved every minute of it with the amazing diversity of what we can do to help others.  I covered a maternity leave at Gillette and once the maternity leave was over, my dream was to work permanently here.  An open position came within a year. It was offered to me and I’m still here.

What has been one of your most rewarding moments at Gillette? Putting very young children into powered wheelchairs immediately provides a new level of independence for them. Whether it’s a patient driving off away from their parents saying, “Bye, mom!”, or driving up to a drinking fountain because they were thirsty and couldn’t verbalize it, it’s extremely rewarding. 

I’ve placed children under the age of two who have SMA into powered chairs, and it has always amazed me how quickly they pick it up and are zooming around the room!

What clinical development is on the horizon that you’re most excited about? Or is there anything new and exciting in your field/specialty? The technology keeps changing for powered wheelchairs to allow for greater independence in mobility and positioning.  I am hoping that insurance companies will soon realize that age should not be a factor in being able to drive a powered wheelchair. Anyone with the desire and demonstrated skills should be given the chance!

iPads with touch capability have opened the world for children who have SMA with limited movement and strength in their hands. I look forward to many more ways they can access their world through this upcoming technology!

What is one fun fact about you? I’ve been married 25 years, and we have 3 boys ages 17, 14, and 4 ½. We also added a Chinese exchange student last spring for a few months, and he just recently moved back to Minnesota to attend college.  Sky diving has been on and crossed off my bucket list!

What do you like to do in your free time?  I enjoy time with my kids doing fun things.  We enjoy playing cards as a family (the little one can even play UNO).  I enjoy sewing but don’t seem to have much time for that these days.

If you could travel anywhere, where would you go? Europe: Sweden and the Netherlands. I am of Swedish heritage and visited Sweden when I was 16. I would love to go back. My husband is Dutch and it would be great to visit and see all the tulips and windmills!

Editor's Note: Paula was featured in our 2015 ad campaign alongside Gillette patient, Chloe. See the two of them together.

What Our Level I Pediatric Trauma Center Means for Your Kids

Posted On: 09/03/2015

No parent expects their otherwise-healthy child to sustain a serious injury. But when the unthinkable does happen, it’s crucial kids receive the best care available in the fastest time possible.  That’s why in 2009, Regions Hospital and Gillette Children's Specialty Healthcare teamed up to operate Minnesota’s first Level 1 Pediatric Trauma Center. And we’re proud to share that, earlier this summer, the American College of Surgeons reverified our Level I Pediatric Trauma Center status.  Here’s why it matters to you.

#1: We team up for kids
Our Level 1 Pediatric Trauma Center is a collaborative effort between Regions and Gillette. This means seamless trauma care — from emergency services to the Twin Cities’ most qualified and experienced pediatric specialists available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.  We know that every minute counts when children need immediate medical care.

#2: We’re with your child all the way
From immediately after an accident to a much-anticipated homecoming, we offer the full spectrum of care for injured children and teens.  In some cases, kids need help rebuilding strength and regaining lost abilities after a serious accident. Gillette’s pediatric inpatient rehabilitation program is accredited by the prestigious Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF). Gillette is the only Twin Cities hospital to be both a CARF-accredited pediatric specialty program and a Level 1 Pediatric Trauma Center.

#3: We’re here for the whole family
Our trauma team understands how important it is to keep families together after an accident.  Because Regions Hospital operates a Level I Adult Pediatric Trauma Center, we’re able to care for children — and if needed, their loved ones — under one roof. We know togetherness helps the healing process.

Disabilities Aren’t Always What Meets the Eye

Posted On: 09/02/2015

By Richard DiPrima, PsyD, LP

Recently, a Colorado mother and her 10-year-old daughter, who has a genetic disorder, found an unpleasant note taped to their car windshield. The note accused them of pretending to need handicap-accessible parking, simply to take advantage of closer proximity to a retail store.  The note accused them of being lazy and idiotic.

I was both disappointed and surprised to hear this news. While many children who have complex conditions have visible symptoms or use adaptive devices like wheelchairs or walkers, countless others have disabilities that can’t be seen.  These children often need the same level of medical care—not to mention acceptance and support—as they work to overcome and live with their health challenges. 

Take, for example, a child who has a traumatic brain injury. Even if the individual is fortunate enough to recover his or her ability to walk, physical, cognitive and emotional challenges can remain for years after an accident. A child who has epilepsy may not appear any different from his or her peers unless in the midst of a seizure.  And an individual who has juvenile idiopathic arthritis may appear to move normally, but experience extreme pain while doing so.

Plato famously said:  “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”  In this spirit, let’s have some more compassion—and let’s spread some more kindness.  It will do us all a world of good.

Meet Us Monday - Tysley Taylor, Human Resources

Posted On: 08/31/2015

What is your position and role at Gillette? I am the newest Human Resources Generalist on the HR team.  I support 14 different departments at Gillette spanning three different VPs and all of the doctors. Among many other things,  I recruit new employees for my areas, answer employment questions, help managers with employee relations issues, and I make sure everyone in the organization gets a flu vaccine every year—I can’t believe I just admitted that! 

Meet Us Monday - Tysley Taylor, Human Resources Do you have a favorite Gillette story or memory? My favorite recent memory was ending a call with a new hire this winter who I had been corresponding with for a few weeks.  He was moving here from Tennessee and he had finally accepted our offer on one of the coldest days of the year in Minnesota.  At the end of the call, I asked if he had checked the weather in Minnesota that day and in his sweet southern accent he replied, “No, not today.”  I didn’t have the heart to tell him it was -10 with a -21 wind chill.  That young man is in fact employed with us today, probably because I kept my mouth shut!

What do you like best about working at Gillette? I like the amazing hearts of the people I get to work with.  You won’t find kinder people than those you see at Gillette and I am a better person because of it.  I recently met with someone who was retiring from Gillette after 25 years.  She was excited but it was also bittersweet because of all the friendships she had made.  I listened to her tell amazing stories about interviewing with former CEO, Margaret Perryman and starting the Quality Improvement department.  She talked about some of the patients she had gotten to know and how much they had influenced her work.  I could feel her love for this organization and it was a great moment in an otherwise crazy day to really reflect on a fantastic ride and enjoy her wonderful energy.  It is truly an honor to be in the presence of so many good people, especially when they wrap up or begin their careers at Gillette.

Do you have any children or pets? I have neither. But I do have an 18 month old black lab named Quickly who I am raising to be an assistance dog one day.  She’s not my pet because she is a working dog who will eventually serve as someone’s assistance dog or she will be a breeder for the program to provide more assistance dogs.  She has been training with me since she was 10 weeks old and she’s amazing!  I bring her to work with me sometimes and my team has to resist the urge to pet her when she’s wearing her cape.  They need more reminders to behave than she does.

If you could travel anywhere, where would you go? I would go back to the Cayman Islands.  That is my most favorite vacation spot and I think of it every single day from January to May.

What is one fun fact about you? In the last three months I have been to both the New Kids on the Block concert, which featured Nelly and TLC, AND the Salt-N-Pepa concert.  I feel like I’m in Middle School all over again!

What are some of your hobbies outside of work? I love to read and belong to a book club that actually reads the books that we get together to chat about.  I also enjoy yoga, travel, and I have a slight addiction to reality TV that I’m coming to terms with.

An Unbreakable Spirit: Taylor’s OI Story

Posted On: 08/20/2015

Trips and tumbles are a normal part of childhood. But what if every misstep brought the potential for weeks in a cast and months of physical therapy? That risk is Taylor’s reality — she has a condition called osteogenesis imperfecta, or brittle bone disease.

An x-ray soon confirmed Taylor’s broken femur. To her family’s shock, it also indicated a second break: her tibia bone had been fractured at an earlier time. Taylor’s x-rays were sent to Stephen Sundberg, M.D., a pediatric orthopedic surgeon at Gillette Children’s Specialty Healthcare, who discovered two more previous fractures and confirmed her diagnosis. Sundberg admitted her to Gillette that evening, and the next morning she’d been placed in a full-body Spica cast to allow her fragile bones to heal.

“We quickly learned that when Taylor broke a bone, we wouldn’t always know that something was wrong,” explains Kim. “X-rays can miss things. And Taylor’s high tolerance for pain means she won’t always complain if something hurts.”

Today, thanks largely to bone-strengthening infusions Taylor receives, her fractures have become less frequent and less severe. While effective, the treatment will never eliminate the risk of breaks. As a result, her family walks a fine line—giving Taylor the freedom to be independent while also instilling the importance of caution. “Taylor’s personality is such that she’d be frustrated by feeling limited,” says Kim. “We don’t want to put her in a bubble or make her feel different. OI is all she knows — it’s her normal.”

From frequent orthopedic care to physical therapy, Kim and Ethan say they’re grateful to their Gillette team for supporting them since the beginning. “They care about our family,” says Kim. “It amazes me how many people it takes to care for one child with Taylor’s condition.”

Taylor, at left, is pictured with her little sister Aubrey.

Meet Us Monday - Supreet Deshpande, M.D.

Posted On: 08/18/2015

What is your position and role at Gillette Children's Specialty Healthcare? I am a Pediatric Rehabilitation physician who works closely with children who have physical challenges. I spend most of my time in an outpatient clinic setting. My normal day at work starts early. I spend my day trying to help children be their best and live as typical a life as possible despite their challenges. A special part of my work month is the neuromuscular clinic. In the clinic, I get to work with children who have muscle diseases such as Duchenne muscular dystrophy, Becker muscular dystrophy and spinal muscle atrophy. Like so many of the children I meet, the kids who have SMA are inspirational. Many learn to drive a powered chair before they turn two (I was 18 before I figured a motorbike out)! They remind me that life is fun and worth enjoying. They brighten my day as they always seem so cheerful and go about life twirling around in their powered chairs; up for any challenge life throws their way. 

Meet Us Monday - Supreet Deshpande, M.DHow did you get into health care? I was always intrigued by the human body, even as a young child (per my mother). I am told I loved to play doctor when anyone was sick or with my toys. I am not quite sure when the “games” actually became a career interest, but quite honestly, I cannot think of a time when I wanted to do anything else.

Why did you choose to work at Gillette? That is easy; it is the most caring place for kids with disabilities. I first came to Gillette as a trainee. The first month was the hardest and longest month of my career thus far. My workdays were long and the patients were unique or very complex. Despite this, I saw the staff here worked hard to help each other so the kids could get the best care possible.

What has been one of your most rewarding moments at Gillette?  This is a tough one as most every day is rewarding! I guess I would say when a very pretty young lady with long golden braids jumped in front of me and said, “hello, doc”, and I couldn’t recognize her! She was a patient whom I had taken care of after a serious motor vehicle accident. When I had admitted her after a severe traumatic brain injury, her head was shaved for treatment. She had been unable to talk or walk, recognize her family, or even eat orally. To see her progress was remarkable.

What clinical development is on the horizon that you’re most excited about? Or is there anything new and exciting in your field/specialty? Researchers are working on emerging treatments to halt, diminish, or reverse muscle and nerve damage in muscular dystrophy and spinal muscle atrophy. 

What is one fun fact about you? I used to love to drive a motorbike as fast as it would let me go in a relatively conservative town. Every head turned and frowned to see a girl driving a bike!  I was also a badminton player who competed at the University level.

What do you like to do in your free time? Read, listen to music, enjoy the outdoors and spend time with my family.

What career would you like to have in your next life, if you couldn’t be a physician? A professional soccer player who could travel the world.

MDA Summer Camp Sets the Stage for Recreation Therapy

Posted On: 08/18/2015

By Heather Ott, Therapeutic Recreation Specialist

As a Therapeutic Recreation Specialist, I encourage our patients and families to attend summer camp. When I learned that Gillette (a camp supporter and sponsor), had an opportunity for me to attend MDA Camp as a volunteer, I quickly jumped at the chance. The MDA (Muscular Dystrophy Association) supports kids and families living with neuromuscular diseases such as Duchenne and Becker muscular dystrophy, and spinal muscular atrophy. MDA Camp gives kids with neuromuscular conditions an opportunity to spend a week participating in a wide variety of activities like horseback riding, swimming, and adaptive sports.

On the morning of camp I found myself becoming nervous, wondering what I should wear, what we would we be doing, and even, should I bring sunscreen? As I was thinking about this, I realized this must be what all first-time campers must be wondering! So, after packing extra clothes and sunscreen, I was ready for whatever MDA camp would throw at me.

As I was driving into camp, the land around me was beautiful—everything was green and the sun was shining. As the road wound in I saw the sign that said “MDA Camp” and I instantly became excited. I was met by Kristina, who gave me a nametag and assigned me to a bunk. She told me to walk down the hill to meet my group, “the Rotary bunk”.

What I encountered was wonderful—just kids being kids! I saw kids chasing each other in power wheelchairs through the grass, kids at tables working on creative projects, and kids in large groups laughing together. It was striking to see the campers moving around, all of them wearing their blue Gillette drawstring bags. It made me feel proud that Gillette helps to support such an amazing community program.

As I walked towards my group, I became nervous. I was supposed to play a game with my new bunkmates. I was to ask them questions to figure out what animal name I had been assigned during check-in. Fortunately, my bunkmates were skilled in giving clues, even if I wasn’t asking the right questions and my animal was quickly identified. Then, everyone in my bunk introduced themselves. I explained that I worked for the place on the blue bags, and several girls in my bunk said they were Gillette patients!MDA Summer Camp

Soon, it was time for root beer floats and water fun. As everyone quickly ate their treats, I asked the counselors how they got involved with the camp. Most were college students and some were professionals from the health field, but everyone I spoke with was retuning for their second or fourth year! 

The highlight of the day was the firemen bringing out a huge hose, creating a waterfall over a path on the steamy day (pictured right). Whether campers used AFOs, power or manual wheelchairs, as they raced back and forth the roar of laughter sounded the same by all after being sprayed with the cold water. No one sat out. No one was unable to access the area. All the barriers melted away.

At the end of the day, I took a tour of the camp. Not only was the camp accessible in almost every area, it was also had a basketball court and was located on a lake. It was amazing to see a camp so accessible for campers to participate no matter the ability level. I am so grateful for the day I got to spend with these kids at THEIR camp!

Visit and MDA Summer Camp for more information.

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