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Choosing Safe Toys for Christmas

kiddoby Whitney Henrie
Child Advocacy Specialist

My 5-year-old nephew was writing a letter to Santa recently. It went something like this:

“Dear Santa,

I have been good. How’s Mrs. Santa? How are the elves? Now, can we get to the list?”

He then proceeded to write a very long list of toys that he would like to see under the tree on Christmas morning.

Like my nephew, I’m sure that your kids have a pretty good idea of what they’d like to get this holiday season, but it’s important to keep safety in mind when shopping for toys. Each year, many children are treated in hospital emergency departments for toy-related injuries. Here are some general guidelines to keep in mind when shopping for toys:

  • Toys made of fabric should be labeled as flame resistant or flame retardant.
  • Stuffed toys should be washable.
  • Painted toys should be covered with lead-free paint.
  • Art materials should say non-toxic.
  • Crayons and paints should say ASTM D-4236 on the package. This means they’ve been evaluated by the American Society for Testing and Materials and found safe.

It is also important to make sure the toy you buy is appropriate for your child’s age. Many toys have labels on them with a suggested age range but use your best judgment and consider your child’s temperament, habits, and behavior when you buy a toy.

Here are some guidelines to keep in mind:

  • Think large. Make sure all toy parts are larger than your child’s mouth to prevent choking or other injuries. Be sure if you are buying a small toy for an older child that it stays out of the reach of younger children.
  • Avoid toys that are too loud and could cause damage to your child’s hearing.
  • Stay away from toys with sharp edges or points and toys with cords and strings. The cord can become wrapped around a child’s neck, creating a strangulation hazard.
  • Electric toys should be UL approved. Check the label to be sure.
  • If you buy your child a bike, scooter, skateboard or other toy they can ride, make sure you also get them a helmet and the proper protective gear.
  • Do not buy toys that contain powerful neodymium magnets. These can cause serious injury and death if ingested. It’s also important make sure that if a toy contains small “button” batteries, that they cannot be easily removed from the toy and swallowed.

You can check the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s website for the latest information about toy recalls or call their hotline at (800) 638-CPSC to report a toy you think is unsafe.

When it’s time to “get to the presents,” I hope that the children in your life will find fun and safe toys under the tree this year.

Whitney-HenrieWhitney has a degree in Health Promotion from Weber State University. She has been working in the Child Advocacy Department at Primary Children’s for almost 2 years. She is a certified Child Passenger Safety Technician, and loves the opportunity she has to help educate others about injury prevention. Whitney loves to read, travel, and spend time with her family.
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Holiday Happenings: 2014 Festival of Trees


After suffering a stroke at only nine days old, Jack is now a healthy, happy five-year-old.

Sleigh bells ring, are you listening? Explore a winter wonderland at the Festival of Trees and give hope to thousands of children throughout the Intermountain West. Referred to as a “Gift of Love,” many patient families use Festival of Trees as an opportunity to honor their loved ones and give back to Primary Children’s Hospital.

This year, a small, Lego-themed tree entitled, “Life’s Building Bricks,” has been donated by a family from Spanish Fork. Five years ago, their seemingly healthy baby boy, Jack, was born. Nine days later Jack suffered a stroke. He was taken to the local hospital where he was intubated and transported by Life Flight to Primary Children’s Hospital. Jack had a blood clot pressing on his brain stem that was one fourth the size of his brain. Dr. Brockmeyer, a neurosurgeon at Primary Children’s Hospital, removed the clot and Jack’s parents credit him with saving their son’s life. Today, Jack is a healthy, happy five-year-old. He was the inspiration for the Lego tree, and even insisted on including a hospital Lego set underneath the tree.

I don't know what these things are, but they have something to do with the story.

These lego ornaments will decorate Jack’s tree at this year’s festival.

The Festival of Trees has something for everyone. There are over 800 trees, each with its own unique style – ornate, trendy, whimsical, creative, humorous, and sentimental. The Festival also features wreaths, centerpieces, gingerbread creations, backyard playhouses, quilts, gifts, treats, activities for children, and holiday entertainment. Please join us and walk through a winter wonderland and hear sleigh bells ring at the 2014 Festival of Trees!

This year’s Festival of Trees will be held at the South Towne Expo Center from 10 a.m. – 10 p.m., December 3 – 6, 2014. Tickets are available at the door for $5/adults; $3/children ages 2 – 11; and $4/senior citizens. Wednesday, December 3, is “Family Day,” where six immediate family members are admitted for $15.00. Every penny raised goes to the patients and families at Primary Children’s Hospital.

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Instilling an Attitude of Gratitude in Your Kids

thankfulboyby Sara Bybee, LCSW
Center for Safe & Healthy Families

Now that October has come and gone and the days are colder and shorter, it’s easy to fall into a rut or feel pessimistic. However, November brings Thanksgiving and a time for us to remember what we’re grateful for. Adopting an “attitude of gratitude” can help put to rest those negative feelings and remind us what’s truly important.

In a study published by the Journal of School Psychology, children were asked to list five things they were grateful for every day for two weeks. Researchers found that these children (compared with those assigned to list five hassles) had a better outlook on school and greater life satisfaction just three weeks later.

In fact, cultivating gratitude can increase happiness levels by around 25 percent, as well as improve empathy and optimism, according to the study. So how can we teach our kids the value of gratitude? Here are some tips for incorporating gratitude  into their everyday lives:

  • Schedule gratitude into your daily routine. Go around the dinner table and have everyone say one thing they are grateful for or appreciated that day or encourage nightly prayers.
  • Have children draw or write thank you notes for every gift received. This teaches them to appreciate what they receive-and that they will make someone else happy who receives their note.
  • Work gratitude into everyday conversations. Try modeling gratitude for your children by frequently stating what you are grateful for or things that you appreciate. This will help reinforce the idea of gratitude.
  • Assign household chores such as feeding the dog or stacking dishes. Having kids help around the house helps them realize all that you do on a daily basis and they will appreciate your efforts more; Be sure to thank your children for doing their chores.
  • Encourage generosity. Donate gently used toys/clothes with your children or bake a cake for a sick neighbor. Kids will usually be excited to have the opportunity to help others—especially if you talk about how grateful the recipient will be for their generosity.
  • Practice saying “No” to your kids. If you say yes every time your child asks for toys, candy, or more TV time, it will be difficult for them to feel grateful for the small things. Saying “No” makes the times you say “Yes” so much sweeter.

By modeling and encouraging gratitude, you help foster happier, conscientious children who aim to make a difference in the lives of others.

Sara graduated with her Master’s in Social Work from Portland State University and moved to Salt Lake City in 2012. Since then, she has been working with Safe & Healthy Families and has been enjoying all that the Southwest has to offer. In her free time, she loves hiking, biking, running, taking her dogs to the park, speaking Spanish, learning about other cultures, cooking, and baking.
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Story Lines: An Unexpected Challenge Becomes a Parent’s Blessing

peytonby Kylie Mecham
Peyton’s Mom, Grace, ID

A Perfectly Normal Pregnancy

I was overjoyed when I found out I was expecting my third baby boy.  He was 18 weeks and right on schedule.

This pregnancy was no different than my previous two. I gained 45 pounds, measured correctly the entire time, and had no reason for multiple ultrasounds or other diagnostic tests.

I talked my doctor into delivering the baby two weeks early. My husband would have six days off and I needed the extra help with our two other kids at home while I recovered in the hospital. The doctor decided it would be okay, as I had no complications and my other boys had been healthy, eight pound babies.

Peyton is Born

Peyton James was born on Feb. 7, 2014 via C-Section. He weighed only 3 lbs 15 oz. His umbilical cord was the size of the straw. While I had been eating for two, Peyton had been getting very little nutrition from me. That was one of the most heartbreaking things I learned that day. We survived the night, but he spent a lot of it under the warmer. He couldn’t keep his temperature up and his blood sugar was a roller coaster.

Our doctor said we needed to go to Primary Children’s Hospital in Salt Lake City, UT.  We live in Grace, Idaho, which is about two and a half hours away. At 8 a.m., we were told the NICU team from Portneuf Medical was coming to transport Peyton by ambulance to Primary Children’s. My husband was able to ride with him. I have never left any of my babies before they were 5 months old and now I had to let my one day old baby go. My doctor was kind enough to discharge me with promises that I would take care of myself after the C-Section. My in-laws drove me to a Salt Lake City and my parents watched our two other boys.

At the Hospital

peyton2Primary Children’s Hospital would be Peyton’s home for the next 73 days. We met with endocrinologists, nephrologists, and geneticists the first week. The doctors unofficially diagnosed my baby with Neonatal Diabetes while they sent his blood work to a lab in the United Kingdom that specializes in Neonatal Diabetes.

Peyton didn’t have enough energy to finish his bottles, so he had an NG tube inserted to help him get enough nutrients. Every time the nurses tried to inject him with insulin it would just ooze out. He had no body fat and had already lost weight. At this point, he only weighed 3 lbs 9 oz. Next, Peyton had a PICC line (peripherally inserted central catheter) that kept constant low doses of insulin going into his bloodstream.

From day one, Peyton’s glucose levels were a roller coaster, ranging anywhere from 40 to 400 mg/dL. (A normal level is considered to between 80-110 mg/dL). I have never been around a diabetic and had no idea what to do or what to expect. Our lowest moment came when Peyton’s glucose level spiked to 600. He stopped breathing twice and the nurses had to put him on oxygen. That was the worst night of my life, knowing I could lose my little boy.

We got Peyton’s results back from the UK and he was diagnosed with 6q24 Transient Neonatal Diabetes Mellitus. The diabetes is intermittent and will likely go away when he is 3-6 months old and then return permanently when he hits puberty. The way his endocrinologist describes it, his pancreas will be healthy when he is healthy and sick when he is sick.

Brighter Days

Days finally became more positive. Peyton gained weight and we learned how to check his levels with a glucometer and how to do insulin injections.

peyton3I’m so happy to say that on April 22, 2014 Peyton was discharged from the hospital. He is now 9 months old and thriving. Most people have no idea what his first 2.5 months of life were like. He is small for his age, but in time he will catch up.

If someone had asked me five years ago what I though my life would be like, it wouldn’t be this, and yet I am extremely grateful for this trial. I am a stronger person and parent because of it. Peyton started out as a survivor and will always be a fighter. Without the help of our parents and wonderful community, we would not have been able to drive back and forth to see Peyton. Primary Children’s and their amazing NICU nurses saved my baby and took the best care possible of him when I couldn’t be there.

I have a completely different outlook on life now. God could have taken Peyton as his angel, but instead He gave us one of the most special babies and granted us the blessing of being his parents.

Story Lines is a feature on Play Ground telling the personal stories and experiences of people cared for at the hospital. If you would like to share your experience on the blog, please contact us.

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10 Ways to Help Siblings of Cancer Patients

siblingsA cancer diagnosis in a child affects the entire family. Out of necessity, the sick child gets more attention from parents and often receives special treatment or gifts. The sick child’s siblings are very aware of this shift in the family dynamic and are impacted by the emotional turmoil.

Young children may regress in their behavioral development, potty training, and sleeping habits. Older kids may experience feelings of jealously and resentment toward their sibling, or feel a sense of guilt for being well. They may even feel that their sibling’s illness is somehow their fault. Siblings of cancer patients may also feel pressure to take on added responsibilities in an attempt to reduce the stress that the cancer has placed on the family. In many cases, worries become internalized and causes siblings to feel isolated from their peers. These children often have a hard time concentrating in school.

Primary Children’s cancer team understands the ripple effects that cancer has on families. Our Social Workers and Child Life Specialists can provide parents with information that will help them have productive discussions that can benefit the whole family.

As an important part of a family’s treatment plan, parents may also consider a “Sibling Session.” Sibling Sessions provide all members of the family with the opportunity to discuss difficult emotions and family changes. The sessions allow children to openly communicate their feelings about having a brother or sister with a life-threatening disease. By freely sharing their fears and concerns with others, the siblings of cancer patients can more effectively work through their emotions and can increase acceptance of the new family dynamic—and possibly prevent future problems. It can also help to clear up any misconceptions about the illness with age-appropriate teaching.

One key issue centers on communication between well siblings and the child with cancer. Well siblings should be encouraged to maintain communication with the sick sibling, but should be given the choice whether or not to visit the hospital. If the well children want to visit, prepare them beforehand about the state of the sick child and what they will see at the hospital. Use words they understand, but use correct terms like cancer, leukemia, and chemotherapy. Using the proper words makes the situation less scary. If a well sibling does not want to visit, don’t push it. However, you should encourage some form of communication, such as letters, text messages, or using Facetime/Skype.

Other Ways Parents Can Support Siblings of Cancer Patients:

  1. Be open and honest with them about the seriousness of the situation.
  2. Give them permission to express feelings of guilt, jealously, anger, sadness, fear, and love—and validate these feelings.
  3. Spend as much time with the well children as possible—by phone, at the hospital, or in extra one-on-one time at home.
  4. Continue daily routines as much as possible. Maintain the same boundaries and same rules for both the sick and well children. Continue to talk with well children about what’s going on in their lives, including everyday things.
  5. Reassure them that just because their sibling is sick, they won’t become sick as well. And, assure them that this is not their fault and they did nothing to cause the illness.
  6. Keep school teachers informed about the situation so that they will be sensitive about the well children’s feelings and concerns.
  7. Stress the healthy aspects of the sick child, such as his/her sense of humor, interests, and talents.
  8. Be careful not to burden well children with extra duties and thank them for their help.
  9. Give well children permission not to talk just about their sick sibling with others. They may be getting asked a lot about their sibling and this gives them permission to talk about themselves and their accomplishments as well.
  10. Ask friends who want to give the sick child a gift to make it a family present so all siblings will reap the benefits of a caring family and community.

Don’t Thank Me for Curing Your Child: Perspectives of a Pediatric Oncologist

by Mark Fluchel, MD
Pediatric Oncologist

As a pediatric oncologist, every patient I treat has a potentially life threatening illness. Although we have a long way to go before we can cure all cancers, pediatric oncology has enjoyed some of the most dramatic improvements in all of medicine over the last 50 years. For many previously incurable diseases, we now enter into therapy with a realistic expectation of a cure.

To play a part in the treatment of a child battling cancer, no matter what the outcome, is truly an honor. As a patient’s primary oncologist, I am fortunate enough to gain the trust of families during one of the most difficult times of their lives, and I watch children grow up over the course of their therapy and follow up. When therapy is completed–and it’s clear  the child is cancer free–the parents will often thank me for curing their child. As much as I would love to take the credit, to be completely honest, it wasn’t me.

Who Deserves the Credit?

“The cure” started over 70 years ago with brilliant, forward-thinking scientists who, early on, chose to study what made cancer cells different from other cells, what made them act in a malignant manner, and most importantly, what made them susceptible and weak. These scientists were the first to develop the precursors to modern chemotherapy–one of our most powerful weapons against cancer.

But their contributions alone weren’t enough to provide a cure for most cancers. It was also the pioneering physicians and scientists who have since set out to develop and test a variety of chemotherapy combinations and schedules for each of the hundreds of different types of cancer. These scientists have dedicated their lives to slowly, over generations, finding better and better therapies with each successive clinical trial.

Clinical trials can’t exist without patients. So “the cure” also comes from the thousands of brave cancer patients and their families who are willing to undergo novel–often untested–therapies. Those patients who share their medical stories with researchers help move the field of cancer care forward.

While the therapies got more and more successful in ridding patients of cancer, they also got more dangerous and more toxic to give, leading to more and more deaths from the therapy itself. And so “the cure” was helped along by equally innovative advances in supportive care, such as broad-spectrum antibiotics, intensive care units, transfusions, nutritional support, anti-nausea medications and pain control, making it possible to forge on with curative, but intense, chemotherapy regimens.

Successful Treatment Comes Down to This

The tools to provide a cure have been developed by intelligent and dedicated people over the last few generations. But for every individual patient, the chance for a cure comes down to the nuts and bolts of safely delivering the best possible cancer therapy, while protecting them from side effects of that care.


Successful treatment depends on pathologists who can properly distinguish one type of cancer cell from another, allowing the proper regimen to be used. It depends on the surgeons to provide central lines or to remove tumors and on radiologists to help us track down tumors, infections, clots and other ailments that aim to do our patients harm. It depends on the care and study coordinators and the schedulers who keep the physicians and patients on track during very long and complicated treatment regimens. It depends on the social workers and translators that make it possible for families to go through such difficult times while keeping the rest of their lives intact. It depends on the diligent and detail-oriented pharmacists and pharmacy techs checking and double-checking their work to safely make up powerful drugs. It depends on the nurses who learn to safely administer these drugs that have so many potential side effects and then provide the minute-to-minute bedside care required for such complicated patients. For our immune-compromised patients, the cure also depends on hospital staff who maintain a sterile and safe environment for our inpatients.

Most importantly, “the cure” depends on the very people who are usually offering their thanks. First, it is the patient who, while wise beyond their years, refuses to let cancer keep them from being a child. The patient, who withstands countless procedures, nausea provoking medicines, infections, mouth sores, endless nights in the hospital and, of course, the fear of dying, to forge through therapy. Second, the cure depends on his or her parents and other family members who endure–not only the rigorous schedule of therapy, the ER visits, the hospital admissions, the clinic visits, the blood draws, the scans, the daily side effects of therapy–but also, what would likely be even more difficult, the stress, the anxiety, and the fear that comes along with having their child suffer through a life threatening illness. These patients and their families serve as the inspiration for everyone else who plays a part in the care of a child with cancer. And, no matter the eventual outcome of therapy, it is they who deserve the greatest recognition.

When I tell parents, “I didn’t cure your child,” that’s not to say I’m not proud of the part I play. I cherish my role as a guide for the patients and their family and as a liaison between them and the world of cancer care, and I am grateful to the entire team of people that also play a part.

Mark is a Pediatric Hematologist-Oncologist here at Primary Childrens Hospital. He received his undergraduate degree at Miami University his medical degree at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine. He completed a pediatrics residency at Seattle Childrens Hospital followed by a Hematology-Oncology fellowship at the Childrens Hospital of Philadelphia. He enjoys spending time with his family, cycling, mountain biking, skiing, anything soccer, camping and travel.
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A Game Plan to Beat the Flu

flu.jpbThe approach of autumn may bring thoughts of football to mind, but it’s also a time to prepare for the upcoming influenza season. Just as football teams draw up strategies in preparation to play and defeat their opponents, the same approach may be taken with Influenza by preparing a game plan of your own.

Here are some of the best strategies you can use to protect you and your family against influenza:

1. Know Your Opponent

Coaches scout their opponents before the season starts so they know what they will be facing when game day arrives. Knowing what Influenza is and how we can fight it is a great weapon for us. Many people think influenza (flu) is “stomach flu”, but influenza is a respiratory infection caused by a virus. The flu virus can cause severe illness and spreads easily from person to person. Influenza generally causes the following symptoms:

  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Headache/muscle aches
  • Tiredness
  • Sore throat
  • Dry cough

Children may also experience nausea and vomiting. Antiviral medications are available to fight influenza, but they work best when given early in the illness.

2. Defense Wins the Game

While scoring points is critical to winning games, preventing the opponent from scoring is just as important. Score points of your own and build up a good defense against influenza by doing the following:

  • Get vaccinated – The CDC recommends that everyone ages 6 months and older receive an annual flu vaccination. The vaccine is available as a shot and as a nasal mist.
  • Wash your hands – This is the best way to prevent the spread of infections. The flu virus is spread mainly from people sick with influenza when they cough, sneeze or talk. You can also get influenza by touching surfaces like doorknobs and countertops where the flu virus has landed, and then by touching your mouth, nose, eyes.
  • Avoid those who are sick and stay home from school or work if you do get sick with influenza.

3. Prepare in Advance for Your Opponent

Teams begin planning strategies against opponents well in advance of game day. Seasonal outbreaks of influenza can start in October, with peak flu activity usually seen in January or later. The CDC recommends that you get vaccinated as soon as it is available to you. The vaccine will protect you against influenza throughout the entire flu season; however, it takes about two weeks after you get the vaccine to fully develop that protection. There is no truth to concerns about getting a flu shot too early in the year … don’t wait until it is too late!

4. Teamwork is essential

Even one member of a football team who fails to do their part may result in the quarterback being sacked!  Similarly, the family is best protected when each member who is able to do so, receives the flu vaccine. Certain people are at high-risk for developing complications from influenza, including:

  • People with medical conditions, including asthma or other chronic lung disease, neurological disorders, heart disease, liver and kidney disorders, metabolic and endocrine disorders, blood disorders, those with weakened immune systems, and those who are morbidly obese, among others.
  • Those who are under 5 years of age, and particularly those less than 2 years of age.
  • Women who are pregnant.
  • Adults over the age of 65.

Children less than 6 months of age are too young to be immunized, so it is very important for all other family members to be immunized in order to prevent spreading the illness to young infants.

A common fear is that the flu vaccine causes influenza. The flu vaccine does not contain live flu virus, so you cannot get the flu from this vaccine.

Flu vaccines are offered at most doctor’s offices or clinics, through local health departments, at most pharmacies and at many workplaces. This vaccine locator can help you find a place near you where you may be able to get a flu shot.


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