#GivingTuesday: Michael’s Story

This #GivingTuesday, you have the power to make more tomorrows possible …

michael-ramsdell-and-mother-amanndaMichael was born three months before his due date. At that age, a baby faces dire health challenges and Michael was no exception, weighing just 2 pounds, 2 ounces. This beautiful little boy underwent multiple brain surgeries, experienced bleeding in his lungs and was diagnosed with cerebral palsy.

Michael faced life threatening challenges at every turn but because of the caliber of care he received at Connecticut Children’s Medical Center, went home with his parents after 3 months in intensive care. Today, Michael is doing great, starting to crawl and learning to stand. “He continues to be happy and is getting stronger each day” says his mother, Amannda.

You have the power to make miracles happen for children like Michael and mothers like Amannda. Today, #GivingTuesday, make a child’s tomorrow possible. Every dollar can make a difference. Learn more at www.connecticutchildrensfoundation.org/givingtuesday.

#GivingTuesday: Dylan’s Story

Today is #GivingTuesday, a global event where people make donations and show support for nonprofit organizations working to improve our world…organizations like Connecticut Children’s Medical Center. Whether it’s a little girl with a rare blood disease, a newborn with a heart defect or a seven-year-old boy facing cancer, there is hope here because you were there when they needed you. At Connecticut Children’s that’s what #GivingTuesday is all about: making a difference, saving lives, and delivering dreams—giving children a brighter tomorrow.

dylan-coutu-4Born 15 weeks early and weighing 1 pound, 11 ounces, Dylan’s life was threatened at every turn. In his very first moments, his tiny, frail body suffered from brain bleeds, lung failure, a perforated intestine and a heart attack, in which he coded before being revived. This inspiring little boy continued to face one crisis after another.

But the dedicated doctors, nurses and specialists at Connecticut Children’s were there for Dylan every step of the way and managed every one of his issues. Today, 10 months later, Dylan weighs more than 13 pounds, is eating solid foods and loves Cookie Monster and the Count from Sesame Street. “He talks and laughs non-stop and is truly a happy baby!” says his mother, Kathryn.

Dylan’s happy ending is just one example of the kind of difference you can make in celebration of #GivingTuesday. Today people around the world will make donations to non-profit organizations that help make the world a better place. By making a donation to Connecticut Children’s and sharing this post, you can make a child’s tomorrow possible – children throughout the region like Dylan. Donate now at www.connecticutchildrensfoundation.org/givingtuesday.

#GetSmart About Antibiotics

By Nick Bennett, MBBChir, PhD, co-director of Antimicrobial Stewardship at Connecticut Children’s Medical Center

get-smart-week_group-photoThis week is “Get Smart” week, the annual CDC-led effort to help us all “Get Smart” about the use of antibiotics. As an infectious disease doctor I get to use antibiotics all the time – in fact I get to use some antibiotics that NO-ONE ELSE gets to use! But I also spend a considerable amount of my time working with colleagues to reduce their use of antibiotics. So why the contradiction?

Antibiotics are a modern luxury – without them something as simple as an ear infection could lead to meningitis, or a simple cut could lead to sepsis and never mind trying to perform complex abdominal surgery without antibiotics! We have become complacent about them though, and year by year we have been faced with more and more bacteria becoming resistant to the antibiotics. This means that the infections have become more difficult to treat, and more people have become sick as a result. The path to new antibiotic development has proven very difficult and slow, and so we have to protect what drugs we have left and reduce the rise of resistant bacteria. By one estimate, 23,000 people die every year in the United States from resistant infections.

Antibiotics work by either killing or slowing down the bacteria. They work together with a healthy immune system – which is why people with lower immune systems tend to get more infections. If an antibiotic stops working it’s not because the patient has become resistant to the antibiotic – it’s because the wimpy bacteria have all been killed off and only the resistant ones are left. There are several ways antibiotics can affect bacteria; by affecting their protein production, their DNA replication or directly damaging their cell wall. Unfortunately, we don’t have a lot of new ideas on how to kill bacteria – a big problem in the development of new drugs over the last few decades.

One downside of using antibiotics is of course resistance, but they have other side effects too. Rashes and other allergies can happen; diarrhea is a common problem and can be serious (especially in older adults); some antibiotics used in hospitals can even damage the kidneys or affect blood counts. These are all reasons to avoid using them unless absolutely necessary!

Sometimes it is hard to distinguish a viral infection (an infection that doesn’t need antibiotics) from a bacterial infection (an infection that often does). Ear infections, pneumonia, sore throat – can all be caused by BOTH viruses and bacteria. Sometimes it’s okay to watch, wait and see what happens – I joke that ear infections often get better in 7 days with an antibiotic, and a whole week without one!

Parents can join the fight against antibiotic resistance by not requesting antibiotics for things like runny noses or mild cough (almost always viral), and instead asking their doctor for a “Wait and see prescription,” which is only filled if the family is concerned about their child not getting better. The WASP has been shown to reduce antibiotic use by half for ear infections, with no increase in length of symptoms.

Immunizations can also play a helpful role when it comes to antibiotic-resistance. In fact, when a child is immunized they are at a MUCH lower risk of catching bacterial infections. In fact, at least one vaccine was designed specifically to reduce antibiotic-resistant infections that cause pneumonia.

Of course, I would be very happy if there was no more antibiotic-resistance, but as long as we continue to use antibiotics there will be antibiotic-resistant bacteria. We all have to work together to protect ourselves from ourselves!

Anthony’s Story

By Jessie, Anthony’s Mother

anthony_babyAfter having a near perfect pregnancy, I went to the hospital with labor pains at 34 weeks.  I completely expected to be sent home, thinking it was a false alarm.  After multiple attempts to stop labor, I was shocked when the doctor told us they couldn’t do anything else and the baby would be born in the next few hours.

They assured me he would have to go to the NICU but would be just fine.  As new parents we were terrified.  We were thrown a curve ball when the doctor told us there weren’t any beds left in the Connecticut Children’s NICU and the baby would have to be transported to another hospital and we would stay behind until I recovered.  He quickly said “I will see what I can do,” then came back within a few minutes and told us they had a bed in the Connecticut Children’s NICU with our name on it.  Our son, Anthony, was born a few hours later.

Although he was relatively healthy and considered late pre-term, he had bradycardia which would cause his heart rate to drop.  We were quickly jolted into the NICU life of monitors and beeps and awaiting the doctors’ rounds each morning.   Thanks to the rooms available to NICU parents, I basically moved into the hospital.

There were so many great nurses and doctors, like Dr. Marilyn Sanders, that not only gave our child great care but helped us through one of the most tumultuous times in our life.  They released our son on Christmas Day in 2012 – by far the best gift we could have ever gotten!  He came home on a heart rate monitor and stayed on it for four months.

anthonyI looked forward to our checkups with Connecticut Children’s and could not have been more thrilled when I got the final call that he was cleared and that we didn’t need to carry the clunky heart rate monitor around.  He is now a happy and healthy, almost 4 year old. The NICU experience is one that I will never, ever forget.  Although it was one of the toughest times in my life, I am forever grateful for the care provided by Connecticut Children’s.


Courage, Heart and Brains…Garrett’s Story

By Dr. Kristan Pierz, Medical Director of  the Center for Motion Analysis at Connecticut Children’s


Garrett Molinari is the epitome of courage, heart and brains, the theme of Connecticut Children’s upcoming 20th Anniversary Gala. Since he was born, this inspiring young boy has undergone 4 surgeries and various procedures, received numerous diagnoses and is currently treated by multiple specialties at Connecticut Children’s. All the while, Garrett remains strong-willed, dry-witted and positive in the face of adversity.

In 2006, Garrett went into septic shock from strep and attained a heart infection that spread throughout his body and to his brain. After his heart valve replacement he was placed on an anticoagulation treatment which resulted in his brain hemorrhages. He underwent brain surgery to relieve the pressure and though the surgery was effective, suffered a stroke in the left occipital lobe of his brain which has left Garrett unable to see anything to his right.

garrett-1Just two years ago, Garrett received an unexpected diagnosis of Crohn’s Disease. His mother, Dr. Kristan Pierz, Medical Director of the Center for Motion Analysis at Connecticut Children’s Medical Center, recalls her son’s very words after receiving the shocking news.

“I remember him once saying, I can handle my heart issues, I can handle my brain problems, but I can’t handle Crohn’s.’  Fortunately, he has learned how to handle that too.  He has a dry sense of humor and jokes about his luck.”

But just as he always does, Garrett overcame and conquered. Now 12 years old, he continues to showcase his bravery, managing his health conditions with a smile on his face and warmth in his heart.

garrett-3“Our family has relied a lot on our faith.  We are blessed to have such supportive family and friends.  When Garrett was in the hospital and we weren’t sure if he would survive, our friends & neighbors quickly put together a “call schedule” to see who would be available each night to pick up our other son Ryan from daycare & make sure he was safe.  My work partners pitched in to see my patients.  Everyone rallied to support us and we are forever grateful.”


To learn more about Connecticut Children’s Gala, please visit http://connecticutchildrensfoundation.org/gala or browse the online auction at https://connecticutchildrensgala.auction-bid.org/microsite/. 

Nicholas the Brave

Nicholas’s father joins our blog to share his son’s story and help raise awareness of epilepsy.

nicholasThe boy in the picture is my son Nicholas. He is 7 years old and was diagnosed with infantile spasms around 6 months of age. He had 50 to 60+ seizures a day for about 2 1/2 years straight. The doctors tried every possible medication available at the time to control them with no luck. Finally after a tough 3 years and medication, he was seizure free.

That was until 6 months ago when the seizures came back. He was hospitalized and we were told that they have come back in a different form. We were told this could happen but had hoped it wouldn’t.. Everything had been going so well but they kept coming back.

Unfortunately, the seizures have set him back developmentally. He doesn’t eat solid food and his main source of nutrition is Pediasure. He lost the ability to eat solid foods when he was put on the ketogenic diet to stop the seizures. Since then he will not touch food. Communication is also a problem. As I stated, he is about one year old developmentally. His speech is very limited and he does not talk much. He can say mommy and daddy and knows his colors. He is learning but has a long road ahead. He also suffers from cerebral palsy on his right side… doctors don’t know when or how this happened either but it limits his function on his right side.

Throughout all this he smiles every day, loves music, NASCAR, WWE, monster trucks and watching his brother play hockey. We have learned a lot as a family and dealing with this disease. It’s not easy but if Nicholas can smile so can we.

We never know what tomorrow brings and making plans is hard to do, but my intention is to raise so much awareness and let others know that they are not alone. We have been there and are still there. I’m looking forward to sharing Nick’s story and helping others in future. We will not give up.

Help us raise awareness and share Nick’s story!