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From the candy to the costumes, Halloween is always a fun-filled time for kids and parents alike. But it can pose dangers to young revelers.

To help make tonight’s festivity a trick-free treat, follow these simple safety tips:



– Choose a light-colored costume because these are easily seen at night. Add reflective tape or glow-in-the-dark tape to the front and back of the costume and to the trick-or-treat bag.

– Only buy a costume that is labeled “flame-retardant.” This means the material won’t burn. If you are making your own costume, use nylon or polyester materials, which are flame-retardant.

– Make sure wigs and beards don’t cover your kids’ eyes, noses, or mouths.

– Kids shouldn’t wear masks — they can make it difficult for them to see and breathe. Instead, use nontoxic face paint or makeup. Have younger kids draw pictures of what they want to look like. Older kids will have fun putting the makeup on themselves. Test the face paint or makeup on your child’s arm or hand before applying to make sure the paint doesn’t irritate the skin.

– Avoid colored or decorative contact lenses, unless they have been prescribed by an eye doctor for your child.

– Put a nametag — with your phone number — on your children’s costumes.

– Avoid oversized and high-heeled shoes that could cause kids to trip. Make sure the rest of the costume fits well, too, which can help prevent trips and falls.

– Make sure that any props your kids carry, such as wands or swords, are short and flexible.


– Keep kids at a safe distance while you’re carving the pumpkin so that they don’t distract you or get in the way of sharp objects.

– Don’t let kids use knives. Have them draw their designs on the pumpkin with a black marker — then you or an older sibling can do the carving.

– Remove pumpkin guts safely. If your children beg to remove the guts of the pumpkin — as many kids do — don’t hand over a knife to do it. Instead, let your little ones get messy by scooping out pumpkin flesh with their hands or an ice cream scoop.

– Clean up the mess. Pumpkin flesh is slippery and can cause falls and injuries when dropped on the floor. Layer newspaper or old cloths under your carving workspace and clean up spills right away so no one slips or trips.

– Skip the candles, which may cause fires. A burning candle in a pumpkin may become a blazing fire if left unattended. Instead, use a glow stick (available in many colors) or flameless candle to safely illuminate your jack-o’-lantern.

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– Accompany young children (under age 12). Make sure they know how to call 911 in case they get lost. Check to make sure they know their home phone number.

– For older kids who are trick-or-treating on their own, find out the route they’ll be taking and when they’ll be coming home. Also be sure that they:

  • carry a cell phone, if possible
  • go in a group and stay together
  • only go to houses with porch lights on and walk on sidewalks on lit streets (never walk through alleys or across lawns)
  • walk from house to house (never run) and always walk facing traffic when walking on roads
  • stay away from candles and other flames
  • know to never go into strangers’ homes or cars
  • cross the street at crosswalks and never assume that vehicles will stop

– Give kids flashlights with new batteries. Kids may also enjoy wearing glow sticks as bracelets or necklaces.

– Limit trick-or-treating to your neighborhood and the homes of people you and your children know.

– When your kids get home, check all treats to make sure they’re sealed. Throw out candy with torn packages or holes in the packages, spoiled items, and any homemade treats that haven’t been made by someone you know.

– Don’t allow young children to have hard candy or gum that could cause choking.

– Make sure trick-or-treaters will be safe when visiting your home, too. Remove anything that could cause kids to trip or fall on your walkway or lawn. Make sure the lights are on outside your house and light the walkway to your door, if possible. Keep family pets away from trick-or-treaters, even if they seem harmless to you.

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– Offer a filling meal before your kids head out to trick-or-treat so they won’t scarf down too much of their haul.

– Consider purchasing Halloween treats other than candy. Stickers, erasers, crayons, pencils, coloring books, and sealed packages of raisins and dried fruits are good choices.

– Know how much candy your kids have collected and store it somewhere other than their bedrooms. Consider being somewhat lenient about candy eating on Halloween, within reason, and talk about how the rest of the candy will be handled. Let kids have one or two treats a day instead of leaving candy out in big bags or bowls for kids to sample at will. Consider giving some of the treats away.


Take these quick and easy precautions to help your little ghosts and goblins have a hauntingly happy and safe Halloween.  HAPPY HALLOWEEN ALL!


The dreaded “E” words: One parent’s questions answered

ebola cdc

Ebola Virus

enterovirus d68

Enterovirus D-68



If I suspect that my child is sick and I take her to the hospital, how can I ensure that healthcare workers will test her right away for either of the viruses (i.e. how do I ensure that insurance/hospital protocols, or the lack thereof, do not interfere with immediate testing and treatment)?


Dr. Nick Bennett, Infectious Diseases: Insurance is never an issue, it simply isn’t. Testing is performed by the CDC for free.

Diagnosis for enterovirus D68 is unnecessary because treatment remains the same whether you have a confirmed case or not, and except for evaluating cases of possible EV D68-associated neurologic illness, Connecticut Children’s is not sending specimens any more. Turnaround time for results is days to weeks. Remember that enterovirus is a virus that we see every summer but it never makes the headlines – EV D68 is just another strain that can cause excessive wheezing in kids, but your family probably gets an enterovirus infection at least once a year.

Diagnosis of Ebola is a clinical emergency. Patients at-risk of Ebola are being detected even before they see a nurse or doctor by front-desk staff performing screening. Any patient who may be at risk of Ebola who is detected at any CT Children’s site (including off-site clinics) will be IMMEDIATELY roomed and isolated (again, before seeing a doctor). A dedicated “Team Ebola” will be activated, which includes security, health and safety, hospital administration, the emergency room, ICU, Infectious Disease and infection prevention. The patient and family will be questioned on specific symptoms and risk factors, probably by telephone while they are in the isolation room. A member of Team Ebola will, if necessary, travel to the clinical site to oversee the process in person. Patients suspected of having Ebola will not be permitted to leave the area until they are cleared, by law. This may take some time (hours). Do NOT show up asking to be tested for Ebola unless you really think you have Ebola.

If it is determined that the patient might have Ebola, they will be admitted to CT Children’s. At CT Children’s we have a very specific process in place for isolation of patients who might have Ebola, focusing on the protection of other patients and staff. Testing will be performed for several infections, including Ebola. Results should be back in 1-2 days.


Will washing hands with soap and water kill/remove either one of the viruses from one’s hands, or should we be washing our hands with some sort of bleach? If so, what type of bleach cleaner is used by healthcare workers?


Dr. Nick Bennett: Regular hand washing will remove enterovirus. Dilute bleach is recommended for Ebola as it is a far more infectious disease. It is highly unlikely that anyone in the community will ever be exposed to Ebola unless they meet someone who has Ebola and is exposed to their bodily fluids. Healthcare workers most commonly use alcohol hand gel for routine cleaning, or liquid soap and water. Both are extremely effective at preventing illness.


The plasma used to treat Ebola patients is blood “type” specific — correct? If so, is it worth determining our blood types in advance; and how do I go about determining if the plasma is available in our area?


Dr. Nick Bennett: The plasma donated for treatment of some patients with Ebola is blood type specific. It’s always a good idea to know your blood type in case of any emergency, but you don’t need to specifically find out just because of Ebola. If it is determined that a patient does have Ebola, testing will be performed under very specific conditions to ensure the safety of the laboratory technicians. People who truly think they have been exposed to Ebola and who have symptoms should report and identify themselves to a place where they can be isolated safely and evaluated by experts in infectious diseases while keeping all the patients, doctors, nurses and other healthcare staff safe. There is no plasma available in any area of the United States – it is donated on an as-needed basis and flown to wherever the patients need it.


What are the names of any and all experimental drugs being used to treat either virus (i.e. Ebola and the Enterovirus)?


Dr. Nick Bennett: There are no experimental drugs being used to treat Enterovirus D68 – it doesn’t need to be treated directly. We do treat secondary issues of wheezing associated with Enterovirus D68 and any neurological issues that may or may not be associated with the virus. An older experimental drug, Pleconaril, is no longer in production and all available doses expired years ago.

There are several experimental therapies that have been tried or could be tried for Ebola – a list is at http://abcnews.go.com/Health/experimental-treatments-stop-ebola/story?id=26267815. None have been properly tested in humans. CT Children’s has already developed a process by which we could obtain experimental Ebola therapies, if needed. Such therapies can only be obtained on a “named patient” basis, meaning that we can only initiate the process once we have a proven case.


How long will the viruses survive on inanimate objects (i.e. is it prudent to carry some type of wipes to clean surfaces in public areas)?


Dr. Nick Bennett: Survival of viruses, like enteroviruses, are probably in the order of several hours on some surfaces.

Ebola is probably less but, again, you’d have to be exposed to the secretions of someone who has active Ebola. The only people who have ever caught Ebola from someone else have been (1) household caregivers of sick and dying patients with Ebola (2) doctors and nurses taking care of sick and dying patients with Ebola (3) people handling dead bodies of Ebola victims. If you haven’t touched the bodily fluids of someone with Ebola or helped bury someone with Ebola, you probably don’t have Ebola. Mr. Duncan, the man who died in Texas, lived with his fiancée for days before going back to the hospital and she hasn’t shown any signs of having the virus. After the Ebola patients left the hospital at Emory they performed testing of surfaces in the room and didn’t find any virus.

It is probably prudent to carry wipes to protect yourself from the flu, or better yet get a flu shot. Influenza kills thousands of Americans every year and can be caught at your local grocery store. 90% of all children who died from influenza last year were not vaccinated.


Nicholas Bennett, MD, is the Medical Director of Immunology & Infectious Diseases at Connecticut Children’s



Coming Home: Jalyssa


Written by Nick and Jalyssa S.

On September 11, 2013, my daughter called me in tears.

“Dad I can’t take the pain anymore.”

I rushed from work and took her to New Britain General Hospital. The doctors ran tests and found that her appendix had ruptured. I was told that my daughter would need to have surgery. Our lives changed from here on and the next three weeks would be very difficult.

Jalyssa was in tears and so nervous. She was admitted and on September 12, 2013 we were informed that she’d be transferred to Connecticut Children’s Medical Center. Once we arrived, my stomach was in knots and I was so worried about my daughter. In my heart I knew we were at the best hospital for kids.

After check-in, were placed in our room and all the nurses and doctors came in to introduce themselves. We were so welcomed and it made the two of us feel so good. Jalyssa was so nervous about having surgery, but all the nurses and doctors reassured her that everything was going to be ok. Everyone was so good to us that I needed to do something special. I called South End Bakery on Franklin Ave and ordered pizza and Italian cookies for them. They were all so thankful, as was I. I told them, “I can’t thank you guys enough for all you are doing to get my daughter healthy.”

When it was time to bring Jalyssa down to the surgery room, it was so scary. I wanted to cry but I couldn’t. I had to stay strong for Jalyssa who was crying like crazy. Everyone grabbed her hand and said “Don’t worry. Everything is going to be ok.” And it was.

Below, Jalyssa shares her feelings about her experience…


I never knew what it was like to experience such excruciating pain as I did the week before September 11, 2013 – the sleepless nights, struggling to stand and walk, and a pain I had never felt before.

I was nauseous, constantly throwing up, crying my eyes out and no medicine could help me. I tried my hardest to stay strong and positive and deal with the pain, but I just couldn’t take it anymore. I called my Dad and asked if he could call my doctor.

Dr. Geddis asked me questions through the phone till she finally told me to go to the emergency room. I burst into tears and was so nervous. My Dad picked me up and the hospital ran several tests. That’s when I received the bad news…I had appendicitis. Tears streamed down my face like a river. I was told that I would be having surgery and my heart felt broken. After one night at New Britain General, I was admitted to Connecticut Children’s Medical Center.

I was happier than ever to be admitted to Connecticut Children’s because I knew they would do everything they could to keep me happy and strong. However, I still couldn’t bare the fact that I had to have surgery.

But without that surgery, I wouldn’t be standing here today.

When it was time for surgery, I couldn’t stop crying. All the nurses, surgeons, doctors and anesthesiologists told me not to panic and that everything was going to be fine. I trusted them and because of that trust, I knew everything really was going to be fine.

When surgery was finally over I was shivering cold and they comforted me with a blanket. After a few days of being in bed, my nurses allowed me to attend activities in the playroom. Being able to get up and interact with other kids was amazing. Working with kids with all different issues made me feel really good.

When my nurses saw me walking, they pushed me, encouraged me and had a lot of faith in me. Although I was still in pain, they knew I was strong enough to walk a little more each day. With the comfort my nurses gave me I felt like I was at home and even though it wasn’t the same as going out to places I wouldn’t have chosen a different hospital. The experience there was amazing and all the workers that I had did a wonderful job.

Connecticut Children’s is an amazing place to attend when you are a kid in the hospital.
Thank you Connecticut Children’s for all you did for me. I truly appreciate it. After three weeks of being in the hospital and two months of recovery, today, I am standing strong and healthy as can be.

Healthy, Beautiful, Strong.

Yup, His Arm Is Broken

By: Robin Fecso, Nathaneal’s mom and blogger for Runitlikeamom.com

I would like to officially write off September from ever existing, this year. Lots of crummy days, busy, sad and stressful days…so you could only imagine my slow exhale of relief as I started to count down the last squares on the calendar. My favorite month is right around the corner, I thought. Oh, how I love October. The air starts to get chilly and crisp, with a subtle hint of campfire all around you. Halloween, the coolest holiday ever, makes its creepy arrival with house decorations scattered throughout the neighborhood. (Clapping hands.) Yes, things are starting to look up.

So, on the 26th day of this crappy, awful, month of September, I watched my kid fall after missing the monkey bars, at the park, and land on his arm wrong. I saw the scene play out right in front of me (in slow motion) and down he stayed. Then his friends looked up at me…oh God, I knew… I came rushing over to my son crying in pain and there it was, his arm. Nathanael was offering to me his, now jagged, arm.

Yup, his arm is broken.

We headed to the Connecticut Children’s Medical Center right after a quick visit from the pediatrician – just to double check that I wasn’t seeing things with my crazy mommy brain. “Yup, his arm is broken,” the doctor said, echoing the same words I thought at the playground. A security guard greeted us at the ER doors. He took one look at Nathanael’s arm and then rushed to get a wheelchair, while I was signing in. A couple quick questions at the front desk and then we were in the hospital room, waiting to be seen by the next available doctor.

its broken 1Stickers from the friendly x-ray technicians. Nathanael smiled really nice for the x-ray camera (wink!) Do not use without permission.

After some friendly visits from nurses and a hospital coordinator, there was some talk of a possible reset to my son’s arm. This meant that Nathanael would be sedated and an IV (Intravenous) line, be put in. Ugh, my poor baby!

The next staff member to walk through the door was someone I have never heard of before – a children’s hospital teacher. What a great idea this is! The hospital educator came in with some medical and toy props to show Nathanael what an IV line was. My son got to touch the IV line prop and see that it wasn’t scary. He got to see, on the doll prop, where the IV would go and why we got them put in our arms. After she was done, she asked Nathanael if there was anything she could get him. “Lego Movie, please,” was his response and away she went.

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The hospital teacher is giving a lesson on how non-scary the IV line is. (The man in the white shirt in the back round was the nice security guard that came in with the gift later.) Do not use without permission.

Soon after, the security guard that greeted us at the ER doors, came back in. (Remember him?) He came to the room to check on my son and gave him a digger toy to play with and keep. (So nice!) Soon after that, the teacher came back with a Batman Lego movie in her hand. Wow, does this place deliver!

When the PA (physician assistant) entered the room, and he immediately pulled up the X-rays that were taken of Nathanael’s arm, right on the computer monitor in our hospital room (technology never ceases to amaze me) which showed all of us the breaks in his bones and what the best course of action will be. The doctor decided against the sedation and thought the bones were in a good position to just manipulate them while placing on the cast. Nathanael piped up and asked, “Can I get a red cast?” With a smile, the doctor told my son that he will see what he can do. This is a pretty tall order to ask of the PA, so I told Nathanael that white might be the color he gets. My son looked down at his digger and sadly said, “OK…”

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The PA showing us the x-rays right in the hospital room (gotta love technology!) Do not use without permission.

The doctor came back in the room with all the tools for the cast and showed Nathanael the color of the wrap – RED! I shook my head in amazement and was so happy to see a smile on Nathanael’s face when he saw the cast color, just for him.

Then, it was on to the cast application:

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Step One: The doctor and nurse mama (that’s me!) applied the under-wrap to Nathanael’s arm. Do not use without permission.


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Step Two: Nurse mama holds the fingers in place while the doctor wraps the first layer of cast around my son’s arm. (This was when he applied pressure to the cast to straighten the broken area.) Do not use without permission.


its broken 6Step Three: The final cast layer and look here… it’s red! (The doctor told me it was the last one in stock – we were so lucky!) Do not use without permission.


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Step Four: It’s all over and Nathanael is rewarded a red popsicle to match his cast. Awe, there’s a nice smile – love you buddy! Do not use without permission.

Not only was I impressed with the excellent ER visit, I was also impressed with the out-pouring of love and support from friends and family in the form of Facebook messages, texts, calls, visits and even gluten-free cupcakes (Thank you Auntie Debbie!)

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A fun visit from Uncle Derek to cheer Nathanael up, complete with a nighttime book reading! Do not use without permission.

Of course Nathanael, being a 5 year old boy, has been running around since (and giving his poor mom a heart attack in the process) like he doesn’t even have a broken arm. It just goes to show that nothing can keep this kid down! Yup, his arm is broken…but my son is on the quick mend.

its broken 9A very special thank you to Jenn Witt for lending me their super-cool pirate cast sling. He is “the talk” of his school! Do not use without permission.

“Coming Home” commercial set to launch on-air today

We know no matter how far we go for your kids, it’s the trip home that truly heals. It’s a simple, yet poignant message that will most certainly resonate with any parent who has endured a hospital visit with their child.

In fact, this philosophy is at the center of Connecticut Children’s recently launched branding campaign. There’s no question parents love their families and will do just about anything for their kids. They work hard, sense their child’s vulnerabilities, place a high value on trust and don’t want to make any compromises when it comes to their child’s medical care.

“We really feel the storyline of this commercial is symbolic of all we offer at Connecticut Children’s,” said Dean Rapoza, senior vice-president of strategic planning, marketing and business development. “Specifically, it features the high tech and high touch environment of care that we provide children and families every day.”

Much went into bringing the hospital’s mission to life. From the initial concept to filming the final edits, the desire to make Connecticut children the healthiest in the nation was at the center of it all.

In August, P2P Media took over MS 6 to bring our vision to life. The production crew brought in props and set up lights inside one of our patient rooms and the playroom. More than 8 hours of filming went into creating the 30-second spot that follows a little boy who comes to Connecticut Children’s for surgery and ultimately goes home.

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“We want to be top of mind,” said Rapoza. “We hope parents will see this and realize that when they need healthcare for their children, Connecticut Children’s is the right place for them.”

In the spot, Connecticut Children’s hospitalist Anand Sekaran, MD, is seen talking with the little boy and his parents inside their hospital room and offering a reassuring smile. It was the first time Dr. Sekaran had ever been in a commercial spot. He admits there are some similarities between acting and his professional life.

“I was impressed with the professionalism of the people involved, from our media team to the director and producer on the shoot. I was also struck by how much preparation is involved even in putting on a relatively short commercial such as this. There is so much going on behind the scenes, and I’m sure much more work will occur even after the actual shooting,” said Dr. Sekaran. “Though obviously this was a unique experience for me, it was actually similar to my professional life in two important ways – first, just like in the hospital as we care for patients, it really is a team effort. There may be a lead person, but there are so many others who help the process to come together. Second, like in my professional life at work, the child is at the center and is the most important aspect to focus on.”

Because at Connecticut Children’s we realize there are no limits to what you do for your child or what we’ll do to make them well.

Please click here to watch our newest commercial “Coming Home.” And stay tuned in coming weeks for some amazing “Coming Home” stories from our patients and staff!

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Riley’s Journey

Riley Pickering photo (2)

Written by Jen & Jared P., Riley’s parents

One in every 691 babies in the U.S. is born with Down syndrome, making it the most common chromosomal condition. In honor of Down syndrome Awareness Month, Jen shares the inspiring story of her brave and determined 5-year-old son Riley.

Riley was born on October 19th, 2009 in Manchester, CT. We learned of his diagnosis of Down syndrome the next afternoon, when his Pediatrician came to visit us at the hospital. While Riley did give us a few scares with a low oxygen level and a few other issues early on, he rebounded quickly and was released 6 days after his birth.

Riley was born with a Ventricular Septal Defect (VSD), so our first appointment at Connecticut Children’s Medical Center was with Dr. Heller in Cardiology. We also met with Dr. Robert Greenstein, geneticist and expert on Down syndrome. Riley also failed his newborn hearing screen, so he visited the Audiology department as well. Several months went by, with Riley being nothing but a typical baby. He was diagnosed with mild hearing loss and in July of 2010 he visited Connecticut Children’s to have hearing tubes put in.

In October of 2010, just after his 1st birthday, we began to notice odd behavior, such as rolling his eyes back and dropping his head suddenly. We were referred to Neurologist, Dr. Ionita in November of 2010. After an initial EEG, we were given the horrifying news that Riley had Infantile Spasms, a rare and devastating form of childhood epilepsy. Riley was immediately admitted to Connecticut Children’s that night and was administered a drug that was going to be his best chance at beating the IS. After several days, we went home and for the next 2-3 months, we administered the drugs at home along with several follow-up EEG’s with Dr. Ionita. It was a very stressful time for Riley; he gained a lot of weight and his blood pressure was very, very high. In February of 2011, Riley was finally clear of the IS.

Early in 2012, we began to notice strange behaviors in Riley once again, similar to what we had seen at the initial diagnosis of his IS. Upon a visit to Dr. Ionita and a few 24-hour long EEG’s, it was determined that Riley’s IS had returned. We were devastated, but at the same time knew we needed to act immediately to give Riley the best chance to battle the disease. Riley was admitted again and given high doses of steroids and a few days later was sent home, where we continued his treatment. Riley continued to be monitored closely and had several follow up EEG’s that lasted from 24-48 hours. While the EEG was not completely clear, it was determined that the Infantile Spasms were gone. However, Riley was left on medication to essentially treat Epilepsy. He again was released home. Riley continues to be monitored periodically by EEG to determine the level of abnormality and adjust his medications if necessary.

Riley has also visited Connecticut Children’s for respiratory issues due to sickness. He was diagnosed with Asthma and is currently treated by Dr. Collins. He is also treated by Dr. Bennett in the Infectious Disease Clinic. In November of 2012, following a routine blood test, Dr. Bennett determined that Riley was Immunoglobulin deficient. Shortly after, Riley began receiving monthly Intravenous Immunoglobulin Replacement Therapies at Connecticut Children’s. We were soon able to administer subcutaneous Immunoglobulin Replacement Therapies to Riley at home; it has become the Sunday morning routine!

There have been many other issues that have required Riley to visit Connecticut Children’s during the first 5 years of his life. Most recently, Riley has been diagnosed with autism. In addition to the physicians mentioned above, Riley also sees Dr. Greenstein at the Down Syndrome Clinic, Dr. DeMirci in Endocrinology, Dr. Lee in Orthopedics and Dr. Schoem in ENT. As Riley continues to grow and develop we will continue to look to our outstanding team of professionals to assess and adjust his medical care as necessary.

Although there have been many reasons for us to visit Connecticut Children’s Medical Center, one common experience about all of our visits, from the easy 30 minute follow-ups, to Emergency Room visits, to the tough multiple-day admitting’s, is that everyone at Connecticut Children’s has always gone out of their way to make each experience the best that it can be. We feel confident in the care Riley receives and are very lucky to have Connecticut Children’s.

Riley is blessed with all of the specialists who have done so much for him in just 5 short years.