Inside Gillette Blog

Rebuilding Rachel’s Language Bridge

Posted On: 06/25/2015

By: Melissa Castino Reid, Rachel’s mom    

Back in 2011, my daughter, Rachel Reid, aged 4, began occupational, physical, and speech therapy in response to her pair of strokes. Her future looked dim as the light faded from her blue eyes. Would I ever see the original girl I gave birth to in 2006?

Gillette’s rehabilitation therapy team is a part of that answer, and in particular, I’d like to highlight Sue Ellen, a speech professional who helped at the very beginning. She taught lessons about recovery and offered hope.

I met Sue at the beginning when we landed at Gillette Children’s Specialty Healthcare in St. Paul. With her frosty blond hair, petite form, and large spirit and heart, she worked tirelessly with Rachel on swallowing and speech. One thing I loved about Sue was that she never treated Rachel as “differently abled,” but rather “perfectly able.”

This was hard for me to accept; here was Rachel, unable to talk, yet Sue’s energetic spirit and patience forced me to believe things would improve.

With a toy microphone in her hand, Sue leaned in close to my kid and said, “Rachel, let’s sing A, B, C. OK, ready? A, B, C, D….” She held the phone to Rachel’s mouth. Nothing came out, yet she opened it in an effort to give us E, F, G.

My body was tense and tight as I held my breath in those early stages of her recovery. How could I have hope in moments like this? As I felt such despair, there was Sue, offering the light of possibility: “I know you can do it! Come on, Rachel. You know the next letters…” Sue always believed that Rachel’s ability was “in there.”

I’ll never forget the first flicker of optimism I felt. While Rachel never lost the ability to protect her airwaves, her swallowing skills switched off, which meant she needed a feeding tube.

“Sue, how do we get her to swallow again?” I asked, my face pinched with worry.

“Well, sometimes you just gotta give her the right motivation, and it just happens,” she said, as she wheeled her chair close to Rachel with a lollipop. “Alright Miss Rachel. I have a lollipop, and I want you to give it a good lick…and then swallow. OK? Here we go…”

Within seconds, Rachel licked and swallowed, just like that. What I thought might take years took place right away thanks to Sue. Shortly thereafter, we removed Rachel’s feeding tube so that she could eat real food.

Finally, the sentence that stuck with me from Sue was this: “Rachel’s language is preserved.” She explained apraxia’s terrain; my daughter’s language likely never left, but the ability to speak was disabled. Like a bridge that connects the brain to the mouth, that connection had collapsed thanks to the strokes. Yet, Sue saw that we could rebuild it with the help of therapy.

Now, Rachel can speak hundreds of words and string together sentences to communicate. Rachel can greet her by saying, “Hi Sue.” 

To Sue, I say “thank you.”

 Editor’s note: Read more about Rachel’s journey here.

Meet Us Monday - Emily Syverson, Registered Nurse

Posted On: 06/15/2015

What is your position and role at Gillette Children’s Specialty Healthcare? I am a registered nurse on the Inpatient Rehabilitation Unit. I could not imagine working anywhere else. From the doctors, nurses, therapists, social workers, etc. everyone's hearts are all in to make sure each individual child's needs are being met.

Meet Us Monday - Emily Syverson, Registered Nurse What do you like best about working at Gillette? I am inspired on a daily basis with each patient I care for and each family I meet. It is never easy seeing a child suffer, but their innocence and resilience help them overcome the struggles in a beautiful way. These kids are the toughest kids I have EVER met. They will never know the incredible impact they have made on my life.

 Do you have a favorite Gillette story or memory? One that stands out is when I met a patient who had injuries so severe she was told she might never walk again. But she worked hard at her therapy and proved everyone wrong!  On the day of her discharge from Gillette, I was honored to be the nurse that held onto her gait belt as she walked out of the hospital. One of her doctors played the song "Girl on Fire" by Alicia Keys – there was a lot of lot of cheering and tears.

What are some of your hobbies outside of work? I enjoy running – especially outdoors, reading a good book and meeting up with friends. I also love ice cream, so trying to find the best ice cream place in the Twin Cities keeps me pretty busy!

What is one fun fact about you? I love to travel! I have been to nine different countries for both pleasure and mission purposes. I have taken a piece of each country with me every time I have left. I enjoy the history and learning about cultures, as well as experiencing a different way of life. Through these travels I have learned that selflessness and simplicity are the keys to happiness.

As a world traveler, where would you go next? I would go to Greece. The history of the country fascinates me. Also, Santorini is said to have beautiful sunsets. I love watching sunsets!

5 Reasons Why Gillette Is Among Nation’s Best Children’s Hospitals in Orthopedics

Posted On: 06/09/2015

U.S. News & World Report today ranked Gillette among the Best Children’s Hospitals in the nation. We’re ranked 22nd in pediatric orthopedics, an increase from our ranking of 23rd in 2014.  The Best Children’s Hospitals list recognizes hospitals that demonstrate exceptional outcomes and a commitment to quality and safety. What makes Gillette a leader in pediatric orthopedics—and, more importantly, what does this mean for our patients?

1. Our Gait Lab keeps kids moving.  Gillette’s James R. Gage Center for Gait and Motion Analysis draws patients from throughout the nation and world for advanced diagnostic testing and treatment of movement disorders.  Our motion analysis technology means improved mobility — and greater independence — for patients. 

2.  Our expertise leads to extraordinary outcomes. Gillette’s pediatric orthopedic surgeons treat children who have complex, rare and traumatic conditions on a daily basis. They also subspecialize—becoming experts in disorders affecting the spine, upper and lower extremities, and in techniques like limb-lengthening.  Patients and families can feel confident knowing they’re receiving exceptional care from a highly skilled team.

3. We’re training the next generation of world-class surgeons.  As the pediatric orthopedics residency site for the University of Minnesota and Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, Gillette trains the physicians of the future.  It takes the best to train the best.  And at Gillette, our expert surgeons bring their best to every patient, every day. 

4. We’ve been helping kids thrive for 117 years.  Orthopedics has always been a focus for Gillette. Our founder, Dr. Arthur Gillette, was Minnesota’s first pediatric orthopedic surgeon. We’ve spent more than 100 years honing our expertise in treating complex and rare disorders.  Our experience, advanced technology, and innovative techniques lead to the greatest possible surgical outcomes.

5.  Care doesn’t end with orthopedics.  At Gillette, we know that orthopedic surgery is just one aspect of the comprehensive care our patients require. That’s why our orthopedists team up with colleagues in neurology, neurosurgery, rehabilitation medicine, and dozens of other specialties to provide integrated and personalized care.  This type of care model is unique — and ultimately, designed to help patients and families improve all aspects of their health and well-being.

The Best Children’s Hospitals rankings list the top 50 hospitals in 10 areas of pediatrics. As a specialty care children’s hospital, Gillette does not participate in the full Best Children’s Hospitals survey, instead focusing on areas, like orthopedics, that are most relevant to the patients we serve.  To learn more about the Best Children’s Hospitals rankings methodology, click here.

Meet Us Monday - Elizabeth Weber, M.D., Pediatric Orthopedic Surgeon

Posted On: 06/08/2015

What is your position and role at Gillette Children's Specialty Healthcare? I am a pediatric orthopedist.  My specialty in medicine is focused on fixing bones and my particular focus is on the bones of children.  On some days, I run clinics in St. Paul or in satellites during which I visit with families of children who have issues with their bones.  Some of those children will require surgery for their bones and on other days, my job as a surgeon is to fix them.  I feel lucky to be in the position to help families understand what is wrong with the bone and what I can do to help. 

Why did you choose to go into health care? Why did you choose to go into health care? Prior to becoming a doctor, I spent many years in the United States Air Force as a combat pilot (pictured).  During those years, I was proud of my skills and of my service.  At the end of Desert Storm, I reflected on my time in the military and concluded that the high points were those occasions when I made a direct contribution to saving lives.  After I left the military, it made some sense to investigate my aptitude for medicine—a field I had never previously considered.  This was no small undertaking because I graduated with a bachelor’s degree in political science.   In medical school, my passion for surgery became evident immediately and the choice of Orthopedics was easy when I thought of it as a combination of architectural planning and carpentry.

Why did you choose to come to Gillette? I came to Gillette from a children’s hospital on the east coast.  I was presented with the opportunity to be part of Gillette's team and join their proud tradition of working in the oldest freestanding special needs hospital in the country.  The patient population at Gillette is among the most complex known to medicine. At the same time, the esteemed collection of surgeons preceding me who have developed the techniques and protocols to treat these children is humbling.  To be invited to practice with this group of experts and to care for these children is an honor.

 What has been one of your most rewarding moments at Gillette?  All of my moments at Gillette have been memorable.  I have the honor of working with the most dedicated, gracious, committed caregivers anywhere on earth.  The loving, welcoming environment at Gillette makes it a pleasure to come to work every day.  With patients, any child that I get to help is a blessing.  I would say that the most rewarding moments are when I bond with patients who have a chronic condition and their families. Some surgeries seem very overwhelming to kids and their families.  When I can make a connection with a family and put them at ease, not only is it very rewarding, but I have a friend for life.

What clinical development is on the horizon that you’re most excited about? One of my great passions is limb-length inequality. That’s when one leg isn’t as long as the other.  If the inequality is great enough, you can develop back pain or hip pain and disability as an adult.  There are many techniques of equalizing lengths at skeletal maturity. To me, the most fascinating technique is an implantable, telescoping nail that fits INSIDE the bone and is gradually lengthened by a magnet applied to your leg daily.  You literally make your own leg longer!

What is one fun fact about you? Aside from my years flying planes in the military, I have been a competitive dragon boat racer as well as an expert marksman.

Gillette Hosts Global Experts in Gait and Motion Analysis

Posted On: 06/03/2015

By: Mike Schwartz, Director of Bioengineering

Editors Note: Mike Schwartz (pictured right), a Clinical Scientist and the Director of Bioengineering Research at the James R. Gage Center for Gait and Motion Analysis, and an Associate Professor in the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery at the University of Minnesota reflects on Gillette’s recent clinical gait course, Clinical Gait Analysis: A Focus on Interpretation. During this annual conference, which is hosted by Gillette every third year, participants from across the globe (pictured left) gathered to collaborate and learn. This year, attendees hailed from 10 different countries! Mike Schwartz, Gillette Children's Specialty Healthcare

There is a rapidly emerging view of medicine that research, patient care, and education are all intertwined. This is definitely the case in the treatment of gait disorders in children. Research conducted at the James R. Gage Center for Gait and Motion Analysis spans biology, technology, treatment, and outcomes. Our research is focused on four key areas:

  • Biology: Our understanding of how humans walk and move
  • Technology: How we can better measure human movement
  • Treatment: Using the data we acquire to prescribe and perform optimal surgeries
  • Outcomes: How to measure and improve our patient’s gait, function, and overall well-being

Events like last month’s gait analysis course give us a chance to share our research findings and patient care innovations with our peers from around the world. In addition to disseminating knowledge, events like this also give us a chance to gain valuable insights from others. The gait course is one of many educational settings that our staff engages in. We often present at international scientific conferences, give lectures, conduct tutorials, and host visiting scholars and clinicians at Gillette.

The attendees of the gait course reflect the fact that science and medicine are global pursuits. The gait course is a great example of the collaborative spirit of our field. Our local team and our far-flung colleagues pull together every year for the past 25 years to deliver information that helps all of us provide optimal care to our patients. It is easy to fall into a narrow way of thinking about patients and treatments based on what we see going on in St. Paul. However, when we exchange ideas and results with our colleagues from around the world, we often see that there are an abundance of ideas about the best way to improve children’s’ gait.

Gillette Children's Specialty Healthcare has a well-deserved reputation for delivering outstanding care for children with cerebral palsy. This reputation is built on decades of effort by countless members of the Gillette team – including physicians, nurses, therapists, scientists, bioengineers, and other allied health professionals. Part of this reputation is derived from the research we conduct – a considerable amount of which emanates from the James R. Gage Center for Gait and Motion Analysis. Our center has been at the forefront of a number of important developments in the field, including the development of outcome measures that are used around the world [Citation], methods that make the data we produce more accurate and patient-specific [Citation], computer simulations that help explain the causes of certain gait patterns [Citation], and analytical methods that can predict which patients will have the best outcomes from a variety of surgeries [Citation, Citation].

I chose to work at Gillette, with its world-renowned Center for Gait and Motion Analysis, because it offers a setting where I can conduct research with clinical contact and relevance. Gillette offers a unique opportunity, maintaining a clear focus on patient care, while simultaneously supporting the efforts of researchers and scientists. To learn more about this research project and other initiatives, click here.

Meet Us Monday – Meghan Munger, Research Coordinator

Posted On: 06/01/2015

What is your position and role at Gillette? I work at Gillette Children's Specialty Healthcare as a research coordinator. I manage our Summer Research Internship Program which introduces young adults to clinical research. Students are paired with a Gillette mentor, work on a research project, and attend twice weekly seminars on a variety of research topics. I also support the Gait and Motion Analysis Lab in their research efforts. They are a very active group of researchers at Gillette and I help coordinate their studies from start to finish. This includes organizing study logistics, conversing with patients about potential research studies, and helping to summarize study findings at the close of a project.Meet Us Monday – Meghan Munger, Research Coordinator

Do you have a favorite Gillette story or memory? When I first started, I shadowed many patients visiting the gait lab. It was, and still is, so impressive to learn about how they utilize motion capture technology for clinical decision making.

What do you like best about working at Gillette? There are many things I enjoy about my job. With my internship program, I love having the chance to introduce clinical research to students early in their education. My hope is that students will understand the importance of research, seek out additional training, and utilize these skills during their future careers as healthcare professionals. I also love working with the researchers in the Gait and Motion Analysis lab. These researchers are world-renowned in their field. It is rewarding to be a part of their work in influencing the outcomes of children with gait disorders.

Do you have any children or pets? I have two boys, ages 2 and 4 years.

What are your hobbies outside of work? I love to cook and be active outdoors with my family. Right now, I climb a lot of trees and play superheroes with my boys!

If you could travel anywhere, where would you go? I love to travel but haven’t done much since having children. I would like to go to Turkey, which is where my brother-in-law is from. There is also much of the United States that I hope to see, including the Northwest. We have our first family trip planned and are headed to Seattle at the end of the summer. I can’t wait!

Progressing From Concussion to Classroom With Speech and Language Therapy

Posted On: 05/28/2015

Editor’s Note: Read part one of this two part series: Progression from Concussion to Classroom With Occupational Therapy

By Erin Ingvalson, Speech Clinical Educator - Rehabilitation Therapies

A concussion is a type of traumatic brain injury. It’s caused by a blow to the head or body, a fall, or another injury that jars or shakes the brain inside the skull. Following a concussion, your child may experience physical symptoms including headache, dizziness, fatigue, and balance or vision problems.  Progressing From Concussion to Classroom With Speech and Language Therapy

In addition, your child might experience cognitive symptoms such as slow or foggy thinking, difficulty concentrating, and memory problems. Those physical and cognitive symptoms can make it challenging to return to school following a concussion. You and your child might notice increased difficulties with language needed to participate in class activities and interact with teachers and peers. 

Specific difficulties your child might have at school include:

  • Struggling to make it through an entire day of school
  • Difficulty concentrating or paying attention
  • Difficulty learning new information
  • Difficulty understanding or remembering directions
  • Difficulty understanding or remembering what he or she has read
  • Difficulty coming up with words or losing a train of thought in conversation
  • Difficulty organizing thoughts for writing

If your child is experiencing any of those difficulties, a speech and language pathologist can help. Our team at Gillette is made up of experts who help children and their families manage cognitive symptoms that affect language and communication. We also work with your child’s team to help ensure a successful return to school following a concussion.

Your visit with a speech and language pathologist includes a thorough history of your child’s development and challenges following injury. We’ll provide testing to identify specific problems and, if necessary, develop an individualized care plan to target areas of concern. If ongoing speech therapy is recommended, your therapist will target the following:

  • Recovery of skills. We might have your child participate in computer and board games targeting speech and language skills (for example, if your child is having difficulties coming up with words during conversation or having difficulties following directions)
  • Compensation strategies when symptoms are present. We might teach your child how to know when the body needs rest and when to take a break (for example, if activities such as reading are causing headaches or frustration).
  • Recommendations to ensure a successful return to school. Regular communication with your child’s school staff—through phone calls and/or email—is essential to making sure that your child can transfer skills learned in therapy to an environment like school.

Learn more about speech and language therapy.

Kendall’s Last Surgery

Posted On: 05/22/2015

By Christine Speck, Kendall's mom

Kendall had her third surgery on March 16th at Gillette Children's Specialty Healthcare. Let me back up and explain that after her last surgery two years ago, Kendall was left with an 8" incision on the top of her head that, over the course of this time period, has stretched to a 12" line of scar tissue.

The scar healed well and looked really good, except in the back corner where it stretched under pressure, leaving Kendall with a noticeable bald spot since hair does not grow on the scar tissue. After meeting with Dr. Robert Wood last month, we knew it was time for her to have a scar revision surgery on this area, which would reduce the size of the scar significantly.

I had been telling myself this surgery wasn't a big deal, but when the team of doctors took Kendall into the operating room, all I could think was THIS IS A BIG DEAL! Thankfully, we go to Gillette. Gillette has THE BEST doctors, nurses, and hospital staff who make surgeries and hospital stays as easy as they can possibly get.

While we were getting ready in pre-op, Kendall was showered with coloring books, stickers, chap stick, a new teddy bear, her own iPad with FROZEN...I mean, c'mon. My husband Tony got scrubbed up and helped the medical team escort her back into the operating room. He said that once the head anesthesiologist put the mask on Kendall, she began gently caressing her face and whispering into her ear until she fell asleep.  Is that not the sweetest?!?!

Over an hour went by before we were called to post-op to see her.  She was moaning, crying, kicking...NOT happy. I quickly held her to calm her down. We could see the incision (about 3" long) and it looked really nice. The nurses explained to us that because of her past surgery history with high fevers, they kept her body temp lower than normal at 97.1 and they were continuing to keep her cooler. The fact that they addressed this concern so professionally and respectfully meant THE WORLD to us.

Once Kendall calmed down, she enjoyed popsicles, graham crackers and apple juice...all while being distracted during the removal of her IV. Since we didn't have to stay the night, we quickly worked on getting her to walk again so we could recuperate at home.

Two weeks later and the scar looks AMAZING, is healing well and we are very pleased with the revision results. Kendall will need to wear a hat outside over the next year, and thankfully I've found a way to style her hair that keeps the incision and most of the scar line covered without one.

We started this process over THREE YEARS ago. It's hard to believe it's been that long--we are so relieved to have this nevus removal process behind us, with a huge thanks to Dr. Wood and his talented team at Gillette for taking care of our girl!

Meet Us Monday – Lynne Washington, Environmental Services Supervisor

Posted On: 05/15/2015

What is your position and role at Gillette?
I am an Environmental Services shift supervisor. Prior to that, I was an Environmental Specialist who has worked all 3 shifts (day, evening and overnight).  I’m responsible with making sure all patient areas are kept safe and clean.  Because I’ve floated to many different departments, I’ve had the opportunity to meet many coworkers from around Gillette.

What do you like best about working at Gillette?
I am a big kid at heart and I love working around children. I also have some health issues myself. Seeing our patients’ courage and strength keeps me going and they make my day.

Do you have any children or pets?
I am the proud mother of two children, a grandmother to six and have two dogs, a German Shepherd and a Chiweenie, plus one cat.

What are your hobbies outside of work?
I am a videographer who has produced and won several awards. I play several instruments and write and produce beats for local Hip-Hop artists.  I also fix and repair computers, work in my garden and exercise regularly.  For more than 10 years, I directed a Drill Team Drum Corps with over 75 at-risk youth. We traveled around the Midwest competing and brought home many trophies.

What is one fun fact about you?
The one fun thing about me is that I always make you laugh and put a smile on your face. If I don’t have you smiling, I will surely have you laughing. I believe in having fun on the job. It makes the time go by faster and creates a healthy work atmosphere.

There’s More to Nursing than Meets the Eye

Posted On: 05/11/2015

Educator, leader, listener, and advocate.  These words describe just several of the many essential roles nurses play at Gillette in addition to their most visible role as caregiver.  As we continue celebrating National Nurses Week, let’s take a closer look at a Gillette nurse’s everyday tasks—and discover there’s far more to this profession than what you see on the surface.   

Action:  Giving a child a Popsicle after surgery

Nurse is also:

  •   Checking digestive function to make sure a child’s stomach is “waking up” after surgery
  •   Providing pain relief if a child’s throat is sore
  •   Assessing neurological status:  alertness, swallowing function, motor skills, cognition and pain level


Action: Repositioning a child to keep them comfortable 

Nurse is also:

  •   Keeping the child’s arms or legs elevated to reduce pain and swelling after surgery
  •   Preventing stiffness, skin breakdowns, or sore spots from developing
  •   Encouraging activity  
  •   Ensuring the child’s position optimizes breathing and lung function
  •   Preventing complications like blood clots


Action:  Asking a patient family if they are excited and ready to go home

Nurse is also:

  • Assessing comfort level and coping skills to ensure a good recovery after discharge
  • Creating an opportunity to educate the patient family about home care, what to expect, and what to do if problems arise



Action:  Helping a child fill out a menu for a meal

Nurse is also: 

  • Guiding nutritious choices to promote wound healing, recovering from surgery, hydration, blood sugar management, bowel management or weight management.
  • Educating the patient family about nutrition and goal-setting around food choices
  • Encouraging independence and self-confidence


Action: Listening to mom or dad talk about their child

Nurse is also:

  • Providing emotional support during a child’s hospitalization
  • Assessing where caregivers may be overburdened, overwhelmed or lacking resources at home and identifying ways to help
  • Establishing a partnership with the family in the care of their child
  • Identifying cultural or spiritual needs during the patient’s stay

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