Enabling Speech, Transforming Lives

speech-therapy-readingBy Karen Tessler, PhD

As the speech language pathologist at the Rush Craniofacial Center, I have the great honor of working with patients and families who are coping with birth defects that affect the head and face. These families give new and true meaning to the concept of beauty.

Cleft lip and palate is the most common birth defect, affecting about 1 in 800 births per year. In the Craniofacial Center, we see children with those as well as other less common craniofacial anomalies, such as Apert’s syndrome, which affects skull and facial growth, fingers, toes and the palate.

These congenital defects not only cause irregular appearance, they also result in speech deficits such as hypernasality and articulation disorders. These difficulties affect the ability for these patients to produce speech that others will easily understand.

By using assessment techniques and instituting resonance and articulation therapy, speech pathologists help their patients achieve normal or greatly improved speaking ability. This function, which most of us take for granted, is crucial to a child’s cognitive development, social acceptance and educational success.

Continue reading

Nurses: ‘Extraordinary’ Caregivers, ‘Worst’ Patients

exner-familyBy Katie Exner, MSN

There’s a saying that nurses make the worst patients. Now I understand why, and it makes me even prouder of my fellow nurses and the work we do every day.

I’m an advanced practice nurse who has worked in Rush for the past three years. I also recently gave birth to my twin sons at Rush.

I was admitted to the hospital in November for gestational hypertension (pregnancy-induced high blood pressure). I was at such risk for pre-eclampsia — a kind of hypertension disorder that’s a leading cause of maternal and infant death — that my doctors determined I needed to deliver a few days after I was admitted. I was 35 weeks pregnant at the time.

Continue reading

Mom, Baby Benefit From Breastfeeding Support

michelle-hodgesBy Michelle Hodges

I knew I wanted to breastfeed long before I became pregnant. However, I would be the first woman in my family to breastfeed for many generations, so I knew I had a lot to learn.

I had the opportunity to watch my best friend successfully breastfeed her daughter to a year old and beyond. I researched breastfeeding on the Internet, and I read The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding. I even attended Rush’s breastfeeding class while I was pregnant.

My daughter was born happy and healthy, but early. Delivered at just 36 weeks, she was considered preterm, a word I’d never heard before. It was not unusual in my family for babies to come early. All four of my sister’s kids were born two to five weeks early.

My preterm baby had a healthy appetite, but a shallow latch due to her size and early gestation. She gained weight slowly at first, which was very frightening to me as a new mom who was new to breastfeeding as well.

Continue reading

Being a Hero for Frightened Kids

Child-Life-Month-2By Shira Miller

Being in the hospital is hard. It can be especially hard on sick children and their families. Kids often are frightened about what’s going to happen to them, unable to fully understand their diagnoses, and in a strange, unfamiliar surroundings away from family and friends.

In addition, hospitalization can cause children to fall behind in school, feel isolated, become more dependent on their parents and miss social opportunities. These issues in turn can jeopardize a child’s physical, emotional and intellectual growth.

The Child Life Services program at Rush — like similar programs at other hospitals — helps children and families cope with the stress of health care experiences. March is Child Life Month, a time to celebrate child life professionals and educate people about their work.

Promoting development, providing reassurance

Child life specialists are experts in child development who work in the hospital setting. Through preparation, education, advocacy, emotional support, play and self-expression activities, their work encourages the optimal development of children facing a broad range of challenges, particularly those related to illness and hospitalization.

Continue reading

Allergy-Free Trick-or-Treating With the Teal Pumpkin

teal-pumpkin-projectBy Susan Fox

Halloween is a time for dressing-up, trick-or-treating and eating delicious food at Halloween parties. For kids with food allergies and their parents, however, this day can cause a lot of anxiety due to potential exposure to common food allergens such as peanut, tree nuts, milk, eggs, wheat and soy.

Parents have to be vigilant about the candy that their children collect, often having to say no to most candies that are offered. The mother of one of my patients said that they often have to forgo candy because it contains multiple ingredients that her son is allergic to.

If this candy is accidentally eaten, the reaction can be fatal. “We have gotten used to picking and choosing the candies that we know are safe,” she says.

Continue reading

Shear Success for St. Baldrick’s Day at Rush

There’s a lot less hair around Rush University Medical Center after it hosted the annual St. Baldrick’s fundraising event last week. Nearly 50 students, faculty and staff members shed their locks for this year’s campaign, which raised about $28,000 for pediatric cancer research.

A ‘Minuscule’ Sacrifice to Help Fight Pediatric Cancer

10506655_10152634864171441_3601000187279877683_oBy Tanya Friese

I consciously joined the Navy just before the first Gulf War because I had no children and did not see the need for those who had families to risk the consequences of service. Friends and colleagues came back diagnosed (as adults) with pediatric cancers. They did not receive medals, rather a diagnosis that typically resulted in an amputated limb.

I went back to school, as a disabled veteran, to become a nurse to care for those who often have little voice in their prognosis. In the pediatric ICU at Rush, I have cared for children dealing with the ramifications of a cancer diagnosis. I encounter these brave souls as I teach our nursing students in the community.

In the military, one obviously faces danger and encounters enemies both foreign and domestic — often on a daily basis. That is what we signed up for — what we pledged our loyalty to. Children (and their families, however defined) never enlisted in a diagnosis that begins with the big “C.”

Continue reading

Shaving Heads to Fight Pediatric Cancer

St Baldricks Roving0593By Joanna Hui

In the United States, cancer is the leading cause of death by disease past infancy. One out of 285 U.S. children are diagnosed with cancer before they turn 20 years old. In 2015, about 10,380 children under the age of 15 in the United States alone will be diagnosed with cancer.

I don’t know about you, but for me that’s a heartbreaking statistic. It’s hard to think that so many families will be faced with the possible reality of losing their child before they have a chance to graduate high school, get married, or have children of their own.

Even if pediatric cancer patients successfully fight their cancer, two-thirds of them must endure long-term effects of treatment such as hearing loss, learning disabilities, infertility, heart disease, second cancers, and the list goes on.

Another unpalatable reality is the fact that less than 4 percent of funds for cancer research is allotted specifically toward pediatric cancer research.

Continue reading