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Story Lines: How Social Workers Helped Save My Family

Family Favoriteby Andrea Aveytua
Alex, Sarah, Josh, & Nicole’s Mom

In 2013 Alex, Sarah, Josh, and Nicole suffered the loss of their father. He didn’t die from cancer or a horrible car accident. They lost their father because of his choice to be abusive.

The majority of the physical abuse was directed at me. Although I knew the fighting upset and hurt the children, I never realized how deep their pain was. In addition to the physical violence, I also discovered he had sexually exploited our daughter.

My children’s father was arrested and sent to prison. Unless he makes major changes, he will not see them until they are adults—if then. After he was gone I knew the children needed to get help and found Primary Children’s Safe and Healthy Families. All of my children began seeing therapists and these amazing people saved my children!

quoteMy children were withdrawn and depressed. Some were overcome with guilt, feeling they played a part in their father’s decisions. It was a very long process, but we all looked forward to our weekly meetings. It was a time and space that allowed all of us to heal. The wounds and scars left from their father’s actions are as real as any broken bone or laceration.

Along the way we were also introduced to a great program called DBT—Dialectic Behavior Therapy. My oldest was having issues with his anger and our therapist recommended this to help. It was a six month class where we met in a group environment to learn new skills. This class was specifically for me and my teenager. He and I learned so many wonderful skills that we still use every day.

After about a year in therapy it was time to help the children move on. Some of my children loved their therapist so much and were heartbroken at the idea of not seeing them again. We have been back a couple of times when they needed a little help and I’m so grateful they can return to the same therapist. Although the therapy was specifically for my children, I have reaped so many benefits through the process myself.

I am grateful that Primary Children’s recognized that there was a need in our community for those that have been injured by various forms of abuse and provided the help that children need. The scars are now smaller and their lives are full thanks to the social workers we worked with. I don’t think my family could ever thank them enough for all they have done for us.


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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Where in the World? Important Safety Tips for RV Travel

by Janet Brooksrv
Child Advocacy Manager

With the worst of winter behind us (what winter in Utah?) and warmer days ahead, many of us look forward to the treasured season of vacations and travel. Spring and summer provide excellent opportunities for families to get out and enjoy the stunning world we live in.

Some families conclude that the best way for them to travel is to use recreational vehicles or RVs. While this form of travel sounds fun and convenient, it can also create great concern among Child Passenger Safety Technicians. Why? It all seems so simple to load up the ‘coach’ and go! However, the safety of the rear passengers (including children) is uncertain due to variations in meeting Federal Motor Vehicle Safety seat belt requirements and lack of required crash testing.

We all know the importance of placing younger children in a car seat and for everyone in the vehicle to buckle up! But during a collision in an RV, wooden benches and cabinets can break apart and equipment and storage materials can become projectiles causing injury to those riding in that area. And, child safety seats are NEVER to be used in rear-facing or side-facing bench seating in any RV.

So, before heading out with those you love, think about the safest way to travel and seek additional assistance from a Nationally Certified Child Passenger Safety Technician by contacting Primary Children’s Hospital’s Car Seat Safety Team at (801) 662-6583 or visit www.primarychildrens.org.

I wonder “where in the world” I might see you this summer!


Janet has worked as the Child Advocacy Manager at Primary Children’s for 17 years. She manages the Hold On To Dear Life® educational and advocacy campaign. Janet is a Child Passenger Safety Technician Instructor and an instructor in transporting children with special health care needs. She enjoys spending time with her family, including her husband, five children, three in-laws, and six beautiful grandchildren.
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Primary Children’s is First to Receive New Low-Dose CT Scanner

ctscanner1Primary Children’s Imaging Department is excited to be the first, free-standing children’s hospital in the country equipped with the new GE Revolution CT Scanner. This brand new scanner reduces radiation exposure by as much as 82% through innovative Smart Dose Technologies. This contributes to more accurate diagnosis and lowers exposure for patients across standard and advanced exams.

The Revolution CT can scan the entire abdomen and pelvis in less than one second – reducing the need for sedation, and minimizing breath hold time for patients. It can also capture high resolution cardiac imaging at any heart rate.

“Having great partners, like GE, creating technology like this ensures our patient’s safety, health and comfort,” said Brian Davis, Imaging Manager. “Our entire team is committed to making imaging procedures less stressful for families, and limiting the exposure of patients to radiation. Having the latest technology available, helps us accomplish that.”

GE worked to design a scanner with more thought towards what the patients sees, hears, and feels. Additionally, Primary Children’s developed a fun, pirate island theme that will help kids feel less intimidated by the scanner. The powerfully quiet, split second scanning of the Revolution CT will be a welcome addition to Primary Children’s imaging team.

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What’s With All the Saints? The Meaning of St. Patrick’s Day

iStock_000013515628_Smallby David Pascoe
Chaplain, Primary Children’s Hospital

What’s with all the Saints? No, I don’t mean the Latter-day ones who made their home here in 1847. I mean the ones that show up on the calendar this time of year. St. Valentine’s Day. St. Patrick’s Day. What are we to make of these antiquated, sanctified characters that find their way to the greeting card and candy aisles in our grocery stores?

There was a time long ago when our calendar was full of saints: men and women down the ages whose lives (and deaths) were examples of faith. For example, January 20th was St. Sebastian, who miraculously survived being shot by dozens of arrows. February 3 was St. Blaise, who saved a child choking on a fish bone and became the one to pray to for a cure for a sore throat. There was St. Catherine on November 25, who was tortured by being tied to a wheel (hence the Catherine Wheel fireworks that spin as they burn). July 25 was St. Christopher, who became the patron saint of travelers. October 4 was St. Francis of Assisi, who could talk to the animals long before Doctor Dolittle. And so on, and so on, every day throughout the whole year. Very few have survived in 21st century American culture.

I grew up in Great Britain, where every country has its patron saint. March 1 is St. David’s Day, the patron saint of Wales. The English have St. George (who killed the dragon) on April 23. The Scots have St. Andrew’s Day on November 30. And the Irish have the most celebrated saint of all, St. Patrick, whose day is celebrated on March 17th.

It’s a shame that such an amazing individual as Patrick has become reduced to shamrocks, leprechauns and pots of gold at the ends of rainbows. Patrick was a man of drive, energy and vision – a real person from the 5th century who recorded this life in a book he called his Confessions. What a life he lived! He was captured by pirates as a boy and made a slave in Ireland, forced to herd his master’s pigs. Woken by a dream, he escaped on a ship, studied to become a Christian, then years later prompted by another dream, returned to Ireland as a Christian missionary. In the days before comic book Super Heroes, tales of Patrick’s miraculous powers must have enlivened many a cold night around the fireplace.

So is there anything of value for us beyond the shamrocks and green beer on St. Patrick’s Day? Certainly, a story of individual courage in the face of great adversity. Also, a firm belief in a mission of infinite value. And a deep faith in a Higher Power. Outside the realm of religion, these same principles inspired the American colonists who rose up against King George in 1776. They inspired those African Americans who crossed the bridge at Selma, Alabama, 50 years ago. Those same principles sustain parents I meet every day in our hospital. They also inspire the staff I work alongside, who often put in long, tiring hours fueled by their courage, their conviction, and their faith.

To all of you on St. Patrick’s Day:
May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind always be at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
and rains fall soft upon your fields.
And until we meet again,
May God hold you in the palm of His hand.

– Irish Blessing

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Six Ways Child Life Specialists Improve Your Child’s Hospital Stay

Primary3_JDA_0027While no parent wants their child to end up spending time in the hospital, Child Life Specialists are trained professionals who work to make the experience as positive as possible. Not every hospital has child life specialists. This is something that makes children’s hospitals unique.

Primary Children’s Hospital has 21 Certified Child Life Specialists at our main campus and four at our children’s unit in Riverton Hospital. Additionally, child life specialists assist in various clinics and outpatient procedures.

In honor of Child Life Week (March 8 – 14), here’s a look at some of the things a Child Life Specialists does to improve your child’s experience at the hospital:

  1. Ease a child’s fear and anxiety through therapeutic & recreational play activities. Child Life Specialists encourage healthy expression and discussion of feelings through various forms of play, including medical play.
  2.  Encourage understanding and cooperation by providing education, preparation and support for children undergoing tests, surgeries, and other medical procedures. Child life specialists are experts in using child friendly language to explain all aspects of hospitalization to children.
  3.  Facilitate non-medicinal pain management. These include use of guided imagery, distraction techniques, therapeutic essential oils, breathing techniques, and other pain interventions.
  4.  Engage children and families by providing special events, entertainment, and activities. Our hospital playroom, the Forever Young Zone, is coordinated by child life and is open daily from 9 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. with a variety of opportunities for play, arts and crafts, games and other therapeutic activities.
  5.  Foster a supportive environment by working to incorporate familiarization and emotional support.
  6.  Provide support for families including age-appropriate play for affected siblings and educational resources for families.

Child Life Specialists are child development experts who work to ensure that life remains as normal as possible for children in health care settings. In honor of Child Life Week, we’d like to recognize and thank these skilled professionals for the difference they make in the lives of our patients and their families.

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What You Should Know About Car Surfing

by Whitney Henry
Child Advocacy Specialist

Father handing son car keysAs a parent, you talk to your teenagers about safe driving all the time. You remind them to wear their seat belt, tell them not to use their cell phone, and make sure they know the rules of the road. But there is one danger of teenage driving that you may not be talking to your teens about: car surfing.

Car surfing is a thrill-seeking activity where a person rides on the exterior of the vehicle while it is being driven by another person. This is often done by a person standing on the hood or trunk of the car, or being pulled behind on a sofa, skateboard or sled. Your teenager may have seen videos of this dangerous activity on YouTube, popular video games or television.

Car surfing can turn deadly with just one wrong move on the driver’s or rider’s part. A 2008 study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found 58 car surfing deaths and 41 non-fatal injuries from 1990 through August 2008 with the majority of the victims between the ages of 15 and 19 years old. Seventy five percent of the deaths were caused by a bump or blow to the head and even those who did not die sustained serious, life-long injuries.

Even at speeds as slow as 5 mph, someone thrown from a moving vehicle can be seriously injured or killed, but incidents have also been recorded with teens going up to 80 miles per hour. Most injuries are caused by unanticipated movement of the car such as swerving or hard braking.

The good news is that there is something you can do. Talk to your teens today about the hazards of car surfing. Remind them that they are responsible for their own safety and the safety of their friends whether they are the driver or the passenger. Tell them that it’s okay to speak up if they feel that an activity is unsafe. It could save a life. It’s also a good idea to talk to the parents of your teen’s friends to make sure they know about car surfing so they can talk to their teens about it. With a little bit of time and some communication you can help your teen stay safe while they are away from home.

The Don’t Drive Stupid Website has tips for talking to your teen about safe driving and information about Graduated Driver Licensing Laws that can help you keep your kids safe on the road.


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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4 Ways to Help Kids Develop Heart Healthy Habits

valentineby Sara Bybee, LCSW
Center for Safe & Healthy Families

With Valentine’s Day around the corner, you’ve probably been helping your kids cut out heart-shaped valentines or decorate heart-shaped cookies for school. No doubt you’ll even be seeing heart shapes in your dreams by the time Valentine’s rolls around! But how can you make sure that your kids actually care for their hearts? Below are some ways you and your children can make small changes in everyday routines to foster a healthy heart, both physically and emotionally.

1. Encourage healthy eating

  • Model healthy eating, maintaining an appropriate weight and portion control. Kids learn from watching their parents so it’s important to practice what you preach.
  • Offer praise when kids reach for healthier, less sugary snacks and when they make healthy choices.

2. Encourage daily activity, even if it is small such as taking the stairs instead of the elevator

  • Take walks together as a family or suggest another physical activity instead of watching TV. Physical activity is not only good for the physical health of your heart, but can also release dopamine which causes us to feel happier. In addition, doing physical activity as a family stresses the importance of exercise and also encourages more emotional bonding.
  • Encourage and support your child’s interest in sports and other physical activities such as dancing, karate, skating, etc. Kids will be more apt to stick with an activity if they enjoy it, so be sure to praise their interests and encourage them to practice!

3. Discourage the use of nicotine and tobacco products

  • If you use these substances as a parent, now’s the time to quit! Kids learn by watching their parents model behavior so try to show them the choices you’d like them to make in the future.

4. Encourage emotional well-being

  • Show empathy to your children to model sensitivity, good listening, etc.
  • Be sure to talk to your children about feelings and work through difficult emotions they may feel such as rejection or grief.
  • Let your children know that it’s healthy and normal to experience a range of emotions and praise them for sharing their feelings.
  • Encourage your children to reach out to friends or family in need to offer their support.
  • Consider volunteering as a family for a cause you feel connected to; this will help your child learn the value of kindness and generosity.

Change doesn’t have to be drastic; by including some small changes in your child’s daily routines, you can help encourage him/her to maintain heart healthy habits for life!


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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