Tag Archives: Cardon Children’s Medical Center

Understanding life with asthma

Darius Collins tries to blow on his pretend air tube while his parents watch.

Try this. Roll up a piece of paper. Stuff it with cotton balls. Wrap the roll in tightly wound rubber bands to hold the cotton in place.

Then put  your mouth up to one end and try to breathe. That’s what it feels like when a child is in the throes of an acute asthma attack.

Understanding what asthma is — what it does to the body and how to respond — can help children cope with a disease that is not curable, but is in most cases completely controllable. That’s why Cardon Children’s Medical Center provides free asthma education and support programs for families in the East Valley and beyond.

One such event was held last Saturday in a classroom overlooking Tempe’s Kiwanis Recreation Center indoor wave pool. I was there with RAK multimedia journalist Vicki Balint, who was producing a video about the asthma support group and education program.

Certified asthma educator Diana Braskett, RN, CPNP, AE-C, was stationed at the first table families encountered after signing in. She pulled out a diagram of the lungs, answered questions and showed children how to make a pretend air tube.

Diana Braskett demonstrates the air tube activity.

“The cotton balls simulate the effect of swelling,” she explained. “The rubber bands are muscles constricting.”

Having asthma can be tedious. Braskett knows; she has a mild case herself. “You get tired of taking medicine,” she says. “I can relate. It’s especially hard for the little ones. They don’t understand.”

But understanding is key to the ability to carry on, to stay healthy, to participate in the activities a child enjoys.

Children must become familiar with their own particular asthma “triggers,” which may include dust, allergies, seasonal changes, rain, humidity, cold, exercise, upper respiratory infections and more, Braskett told me.

They must learn modifications to avoid those triggers — sometimes something as simple as knowing to stay indoors when the weather (or pollution) is bad. And they must follow their doctor’s treatment plan to the letter.

Each child’s treatment plan is different, of course, so no one approach applies across the board. (Learn more about asthma on Cardon Children’s website.)

Asthma educator Kim Reiners talks to Keegan Palmer about a peak flow meter.

Surprisingly, exercise is usually encouraged. Swimming, especially, can be good for children with asthma (if they are not sensitive to chlorine) because it forces rhythmic breathing and helps them develop upper-body strength. Children for whom exercise can be an asthma trigger may be taught to use their “rescue meds” before they participate, Baskett says.

“Some parents are afraid to let their kids exercise when it can be the best thing for them,” adds Kim Reiners, R.N., CPNP, AE-C, who pioneered the asthma support group and education effort at Cardon Children’s. Her station at the event allowed kids the chance to blow hard into a peak flow meter to measure their speed of expiration, or ability to breathe out.

At another station, Paula White, R.N., CNP, AE-C, was leading a board game. While it didn’t have the most enticing name (“The Breathe Easy Asthma Education Interactive Tool,” by Merck), the kids seemed to enjoy the opportunity to drive little cars around a “city,” landing on destinations like hospitals and parks to learn specific facts about asthma.

Paula White shows Isaiah and Issac Salter how to playan asthma education board game as their mom watches.

Families that attended the program were issued free wristbands for a swim in the wave pool after the event. So at times it seemed the greatest challenge they faced that morning was finding the patience to wait until the pool opened.


A celebration of cancer survivors

Sometimes a big cake isn’t about birthdays or graduations or weddings. Sometimes it’s about surviving — and celebrating life.

Sometimes your best friend joins you for an arts and crafts project. You have so much fun you almost forget that you are stringing Beads of Courage. But you never forget that your friend stood by you, even when you were the sickest you have ever been in your whole life.

Sometimes the doctor who helped you beat back your cancer has other talents you never knew about.

Sometimes you don’t feel that great on the day of the party but you come anyway. It’s how you say to your cancer, “I will not let you stop me and I will be back again for next year’s party without this mask and IV pole!”

Sometimes the child life specialist who patiently explained scary stuff to you and made you laugh, even when you were hurting, gets a chance to sign your “autograph hound” for graduation.

Sometimes a whole room of people who don’t really know each other feel united by a shared, and very joyful, milestone. One more year, and my child is still here.

Sometimes even a kid who is fighting cancer will fight for a piece of cake before it is served.

Sometimes she’ll get it. And sometimes, she’ll even get seconds.

Photos and memories from the Sunday, June 5 Cancer Survivors Day event I attended at Cardon Children’s Medical Center with RAK health editor and multimedia journalist Vicki Balint.

Watch Vicki’s video.

Being prepared for anything

Vicki shoots video of Laurie and Sam in their kitchen.

Laurie Ackerman of Gilbert says she’d “do anything” for Cardon Children’s Medical Center. I’m not sure this was what she had in mind.

Laurie agreed to open her home to us Monday for a RAK Video shoot, part of  our ongoing family health series with Cardon Children’s.  The topic? Being prepared for home emergencies. Multimedia journalist Vicki Louk Balint, editorial intern Veronica Jones and I showed up with Cardon Children’s Public Relations Specialist Lindsay Butler Carrillo at about 10. Emergency room physician Joseph Winchell, M.D. (who’d been up all night on a shift!) arrived a bit later. And for the next two hours, we pretty much took over the place.

Sam I am!

Vicki shot some video of Laurie and her 15-month-old son Sam, who then went outside to play in the backyard while Vicki interviewed Winchell. (I can’t even put a complete sentence together when I’ve been up all night but this guy was so articulate you’d think he did video appearances for a living.)

I’ll let you watch the video, scheduled to post Feb. 23, to learn what Winchell told us. What I will share is the reason Laurie Ackerman was so willing to make her home the venue for our shoot.

Sam was born in 2009, just before Thanksgiving. Laurie, who’d suffered from preeclampsia, took her healthy baby home, but by Thanksgiving Day she grew concerned that something was seriously wrong. Her son’s stools were bloody. In fact, he was bleeding. Her doctor told her to watch it for awhile. If it didn’t get better, she was told, take Sam to the emergency room.

Playing with Mom.

That’s how she and Sam ended up at Cardon Children’s, where newborn Sam was admitted for two weeks while he battled a life-threatening blood infection.

Ackerman says the medical staff at Cardon Children’s saved her son’s life. That may be all in a day’s work to a doctor like Winchell, but to Laurie, it was nothing short of miraculous.

Photos (except the one below) by Veronica Jones.

Veronica Jones and Vicki Balint take pictures of a first aid kit at Laurie Ackerman's Gilbert home. Laurie is in the background; Sam was taking a well-deserved nap.

Everything possible to minimize a child’s pain

Tommy Buisman (12) and child life specialist Erin Sinnema.

Tommy Buisman of Gilbert wasn’t expecting to be in the hospital that day. It was fall break, after all, and  and he should have been out doing something fun.

But 12-year-old Tommy has diabetes. And sometimes, despite everyone’s determined efforts to keep it under control, it gets the better of him.

Erin stands at the entrance to a private room at the hospital. The mural, a cityscape of Atlanta, and the home-like entrance are all part of a planned approach to reducing anxiety when children must be hospitalized.

We met Tommy and his mom, Cristina, toward the end of a two-hour video shoot at Cardon Children’s Medical Center. Multimedia journalist Vicki Balint and I were there to learn about pain management techniques available to blunt the physical and emotional backwash that can follow a painful medical procedure. We interviewed child life specialist Erin Sinnema, who talked about the longterm effects of a bad experience with pain. We talked to nurse practitioner Teri Reyburn-Orne, RN, MSN, CPNP-AC, who explained some of the techniques the hospital uses to mitigate pain. Teri demonstrated the J-Tip, a fairly new device (it’s been available only a year and a half or so) that allows medical staff to inject topical anesthetic without a needle so that the procedure to follow — a venipuncture (blood draw), for example — is not painful to the child.

Teri shared a story about her own, now-grown son, who vividly remembers the trauma he experienced as he was taken into surgery as a young child.

“It’s a myth that children forget pain,” Erin told us. She explained that untreated or undertreated pain causes permanent changes in the pathways that interpret pain, making the body more sensitive to pain. The body forms a permanent memory that changes forever how it responds to future painful experiences.

As Vicki was interviewing Teri, I met some people in the hallway who were there for a completely different video shoot. David Curran, M.D., is a pediatrician with East Valley Children’s Center in Tempe and chair of the pediatrics department at Cardon Children’s. He and his wife Tina are co-chairing “Stars of the Season,” an inaugural event to benefit the hospital’s Integrative Pain Management Program, on Friday, Dec. 3. They were at the hospital that day to be interviewed for a video about the event. Chester Bennington, lead singer of Linkin Park, was with them. His wife volunteers at the hospital as a dog therapist.

The Currans have three children of their own, ages 3, 7 and 9. They have wholeheartedly embraced the hospital’s commitment to offering cutting-edge pain-management therapies, even those that cut across traditional boundaries.

Each room at Cardon Children's has a whiteboard chart that includes sad or smiley faces that help children indicate how much pain they are experiencing.

When pain can be managed successfully, “children get better quicker,” says Dr. Currran.  So he is open to anything that works, and is leading efforts at the hospital to integrate alternative therapies — including acupuncture, massage, music, meditation, hypnosis, aroma and pet therapies — with high-tech contemporary medical approaches.

When he came into his position as department chair, Dr. Curran says, he asked the staff at Cardon to “give me three things you need. Number one on the list was an integrative approach to pain management.”

Unfortunately, alternative therapies provided by specially trained practitioners are not reimbursed by health care insurance. The fundraiser will raise money to ensure that children and families who could benefit from alternative pain management techniques are not denied access to them because they are unable to pay out-of-pocket.

So back to Tommy, who was a terrific sport about welcoming strangers with cameras into his treatment room at the Emergency Department. Though still woozy from the effects of his diabetic incident, Tommy managed to smile and patiently answer some questions. Tommy was hooked up to an IV, which meant he’d undergone a needle stick just moments before we entered his room.

Erin chatted with Tommy for awhile, asking him what grade he was in and quickly establishing a rapport. Gradually she got around to asking him what he’d felt like when the IV was administered.

“Was it scary?” she asked gently.

“No,” he said quietly. “It was comfortable.”

Watch RAK Video.

Getting an earful

Otolaryngologist Nate Page, M.D.

Nate Page, M.D., is one of the Valley’s newest otolaryngologists, which means he specializes in the diagnosis and management of all diseases of the ears, nose, throat and sinuses.

That makes him an expert on the subject of ear infections, which is why multimedia journalist Vicki Balint and I were in his office yesterday at noon, video camera in tow, prepared to drill him on questions we — and Raising Arizona Kids readers — have about that pesky, painful childhood malady. Vicki will post the video, part of a family health series we are co-producing over the next year with Cardon Children’s Medical Center, on our website next Wednesday.

Sarah, Nate and Jimmy Page. (Daughter Grace was in school.)

Nate and his wife Sarah moved to the Valley from San Diego just six weeks ago. He has been busy establishing a private practice through Arizona Otolaryngology Consultants, P.C., which has hospital privileges at Cardon Children’s. Sarah has been busy getting 8-year-old daughter Grace settled into third grade at Cochise Elementary School and 4 (excuse me, )-year-old son Jimmy comfortable in his preschool routine at Chaparral Christian Church. The family is renting a home in Scottsdale’s McCormick Park area. Jimmy loves trains, so they are looking forward to a visit to nearby McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park when the weather cools off a bit.

Nate’s parents live in Peoria, so the family had visited the Phoenix area often. After growing up experiencing Chicago winters, Sarah was an easy sell when the job offer came in from Phoenix. “We were visiting Nate’s parents one Christmas and we were out in the hot tub on a beautiful, sunny day, cool drink in hand, and I thought, ‘I could do this!'” she says.

Nate and Sarah met during their freshman year of college; they’ve been married for 12 years, which means they’ve navigated the challenges of medical school and residencies while sustaining a marriage and starting a family. It must be a tremendous relief to get to this point. Nate is excited about building his practice, which currently involves patients of all ages but will eventually focus solely on pediatric cases.

Dr. Page's colorful tie, with illustrations of a teddy bear doctor and various medical instruments, was a gift from his in-laws.

He didn’t set out to be an otolaryngologist. He wanted to be a surgeon. But after doing an ear/nose/throat rotation he found himself captivated by the field and the range of surgeries it offered — from a 10-minute ear tube insertion to complicated reconstructions that saw surgical teams working far into the night.

His decision to focus primarily on pediatrics came about because “that’s where I found I was happiest. I loved working with the kids. That’s where I always felt the best.”

Vicki asked Nate if Grace and Jimmy had experienced any difficulty with ear infections. Grace, we learned, escaped with only one. Jimmy had a lot of them between ages 1 and 2.

“He fit the profile,” Nate explained. “He’d be okay during day and then he’d be screaming and irritable most of the night. ” Thankfully, his son responded well to treatment with antibiotics and hasn’t had any problems since then.

It was onJimmy was a gracious and well-behaved model for an ear exam demonstration that will be on our video. So it was only fair that he got a chance to try out his dad's equipment after the shoot.

As they were preparing to come to Daddy’s office for the video shoot yesterday, Jimmy told his mom that he wanted to wear one very specific blue plaid button-down shirt. But when Sarah pulled it out of the dryer just before they left the house, she realized some of the buttons had popped off.

“Nate’s the surgeon; he’s the one who does all the sewing in our family,” she said. “But Nate was already gone — he had a surgery early this morning. So this was a shirt emergency.” Mothers, as we all know, are willing to make any sacrifice for their children. So Sarah pulled out a needle and thread and Jimmy got to wear his blue shirt to the video shoot.

Explaining to Grace that she would not be included was another challenge. “You could take me out of school…?” the Pages’ outgoing daughter suggested. Not surprisingly, her parents said no. Sorry, Grace! Maybe next time.

Dr. Nate Page uses an anatomical model to explain an ear tube surgery for our video, which will post next Wednesday.

No visit to Daddy's office is complete without a good spin around the exam room on the rolling stool.

Reassurance for new parents in an atmosphere of play

Marline Pena (left) during a home visit with Demaris and Gethzemany Chavez of Mesa.

Marline Pena has a play date once a month at the Chavez home in Mesa. It’s part of her job.

She’s a developmental specialist with the Child Development Department at Cardon Children’s Medical Center in Mesa. And while it may look like she’s just playing with baby Gethzemany (the “g” is pronounced like an “h”), her trained eye is doing much more.

She’s watching for signs that he’s on track in terms of physical development and communication skills. She’s modeling age-appropriate play techniques and adult-child interaction that nurtures a baby’s physical strength and emotional engagement. And she’s answering questions from Gethzemany’s proud mother, who seeks reassurance (as all mothers do) that her baby is doing exactly what he should be doing for his age.

Gethzemany Chavez and his mom, Demaris.

Gethzemany is the third child of Demaris Chavez of Mesa and her husband; they also have an 8-year-old daughter and a 6-year-old son whose portraits are displayed throughout the family’s cozy, immaculate home. The baby is 9½ months old, but because he was born prematurely, his developmental age is 8 months. That’s what flagged attention at Cardon Children’s and made his family eligible for participation in a First Things First-funded parent education program called Pregnancy, Parenting and Play.

I got to see the program in action yesterday, when I visited the Chavez home with Nick Calderone of Reel Stories, Multi Media Production and Training. I first met Nick nearly a decade ago, when he worked at KPNX-TV Channel 12 and was the multimedia journalist assigned to produce weekly “Raising Arizona Kids” segments. Now an independent journalist and film producer, he agreed to create the first video in a new family health series we will be co-producing over the next year with Cardon Children’s.

Gethzemany Chavez.

I don’t always go along on video shoots but I was eager to reconnect with Nick and see the home visit for myself. “I won’t get in your way,” I promised Nick. “But let me know if there is anything I can do to help.”

An unexpected challenge popped up during the shoot. Two of the Chavez family’s smoke detectors started chirping as Nick set up his equipment. Goldie LaPorte, manager of the Child Development Department at Cardon, ran to the store to buy some 9-volt batteries. Being a few inches taller, I volunteered to install them. It didn’t stop the chirping. Goldie got up on the stepstool and tried again. Still no luck. So Nick went about the shoot, getting some great footage of happy, gregarious Gethzemany, his mom and Marline playing and interacting on thick blankets on the floor.

Toward the end of the shoot, as we were interviewing Goldie, Nick got on the stepstool himself and discovered that I’d installed the batteries backwards. So much for my attempt to help!

Since it began a year ago, the Pregnancy, Parenting and Play program has provided a slew of support services for 250 families in Mesa, Gilbert and Queen Creek. The program caters to the needs of pregnant and parenting teens, parents of infants born prematurely and families in crisis.

Including the monthly home visits from developmental specialists like Marline, the program provides access to prenatal education, support for doctor visits, information about free resources for families, monthly support groups and more. You can’t help but wonder what would happen if every new parent could have this kind of supportive guidance — and an expert’s answers to the onslaught of questions we all face about the many other aspects of raising a healthy child.

Watch Nick’s piece on RAK Video.

Goldie LaPorte and Marline Pena of Cardon Children's Child Development Department.