Meet the Pet Therapy Team: Magnolia

Stacey always had a soft spot for animals, dogs in particular. She had a family dog growing up, but never imagined they could be anything more than a beloved family pet. That all changed when her dad lost his vision 15 years ago.

Magnolia, a friendly and energetic golden retriever, joined her family shortly thereafter. The puppy immediately took a liking to Stacey’s father, who found that the dog’s energy lifted his spirits and comforted him.

“We could see how she made him feel. He didn’t know that the rest of our family would stare at the two of them together, but we could see it working,” Stacey says. “Being around animals can be soothing for many people. It’s nice to see her be able to give that love away to people. It’s a very simple thing to put a dog on a bed, but it can have a powerful impact.”

pet therapy
Magnolia posing with her mom Stacey who is a CHOC volunteer, and her grandpa who was the inspiration behind her becoming a pet therapy dog.

Her father was already familiar with the pet therapy program at CHOC Children’s, and urged Stacey to pursue it as a “career” for Magnolia. As part of The Cherese Mari Laulhere Child Life Department, not only does the pet therapy program aim to minimize stress and anxiety for patients at CHOC, but it also offers a “normal-life” experience that lets hospitalized kids be kids.

“My dad knew how much time I love spending with Magnolia, and we had the opportunity to give back. CHOC saved my life when I got spinal meningitis at age four, and joining the pet therapy program is my way of giving back,” says Stacey, who still has the Choco bear she was given as a patient 43 years ago.

All pet therapy dogs at CHOC are extensively trained, and then later certified by Pet Partners, a national organization that registers the human/pet team once they pass an obedience test.

Having been a teacher for over 25 years, Stacey was familiar with sticking to a lesson plan and providing special one-on-one tutoring for a student needing extra help with a tricky subject. She just never imagined that her student would be her dog! She did all of Magnolia’s training leading up to her obedience test.

Now a certified pet therapy dog and proud member of the CHOC team, Magnolia makes 24 visits per year to CHOC Children’s Hospital. She spends her time at CHOC visiting patients in various inpatient units and the emergency department, but is on her best behavior whenever one of those patients happens to be one of Stacey’s kindergarten students.

“Magnolia is very different at the hospital than she is at home or with the kids in our neighborhood,” Stacey says. “She is energetic and silly at home. But as soon as she goes through the front doors of CHOC, she knows she is at work. She knows it is time to be mellow and calm.”

When she’s not at work, Magnolia enjoys running leash-free in the desert; shopping at dog-friendly malls; and watching bunnies, squirrels and ducks.





Learn more about CHOC's child life services




Related posts:

Importance of Stretching for the Young Athlete

By Victor Araiza, physical therapy assistant at CHOC Children’s

Stretching can often take a back seat to your general exercise routine and sport-related activities, but these are an essential part of any conditioning or physical therapy program. Stretching decreases the risk of injury or re-injury and promotes wellness.

Why is stretching so important?

Stretching the right way will help improve flexibility and make it easier for you to move. Stretching properly can increase and improve motion in your joints, increase blood flow, and decrease feelings of stiffness. Other potential benefits of stretching can include reducing delayed onset muscle soreness, increasing athletic performance and reducing the risk of tendon or muscle tears.

It is important to stretch correctly and know which muscle groups you want to stretch. Often, the muscles that tend to be tight are the hamstrings, hip flexors, quadriceps, calves and chest muscles. If proper technique is used when stretching, it will help improve flexibility and increase range of motion. This will increase blood flow and decrease stiffness, in turn decreasing the risk of injury or reinjury.

When to stretch

It is recommended that you perform static stretches after exercising, engaging in strenuous physical activity or participating in an athletic event. Static stretches target specific muscles based on the position you are in with the intent to elongate just past the point of a moderate pulling sensation. The static stretch should be held in the same position for 30-60 seconds and repeated two to three times. For an athlete, it is common to perform a dynamic warm-up prior to sport related activities and static stretches after activities. The American College of Sports Medicine guidelines recommends stretching activities be done at least two days per week. It is also important to know and understand which stretches would benefit you based on your limitations and desired activity participation.

Stretching is encouraged:

  •  When range of motion is limited.
  • Prior to or after vigorous exercises.
  • As a component of your sport-specific conditioning program, team warm-up/cool down and before/after a participation in a sporting event.

When is stretching not encouraged?

  • When someone has excessive movement in their joint(s)
  • An athlete who has experienced a recent fracture
  • After sudden onset of inflammation or swelling
  • When you feel a sharp pain when attempting to stretch

 Tips on how to stretch

It is important to remember that just because you perform stretches doesn’t mean that you will never get injured. Stretching won’t prevent an overuse injury that is predominant in sports that involve the repetition of similar movement patterns. There are other important factors such as strength and endurance training, essential to reducing the risk of injury. Please consult your pediatrician for a referral to physical therapy if you and your child need assistance with an exercise and stretching program.

Learn more about rehabilitation services at CHOC.

Related posts:

  • CHOC Physical Therapy Improves Quality of Life
    The American Physical Therapy Association declares the vision of the physical therapy profession as “transforming society by optimizing movement to improve the human experience.” The movement system is complex and ...
  • Olympic Medalist Turned Physical Therapist
    When athletes of any caliber come to physical therapy appointments, they often struggle with emotional hurdles as big as their physical challenges. Working with an expert who understands their struggles ...
  • Physical Therapy Increases Independence in Kids
    In honor of National Physical Therapy Month, we spoke to Lauren Bojorquez, PT, DPT, who has been a physical therapist at CHOC Children’s for six years. She works with children with ...

A Parent’s Guide to Understanding the Teen Brain

The mind of a teenager can be at times mysterious and illusive. A pediatric neurologist, a pediatric neuropsychologist and a pediatrician who works with adolescents at CHOC Children’s offer advice for parents on how to better understand and connect with their teen.

Navigating adolescence with a still-developing brain

Adolescents’ brains are not yet fully developed during their current stage of life. Physical development can start as early as 8 years old, but the tail end of brain development doesn’t occur until closer to age 25. The more your child is exposed to new things, skills or experiences, the more connections their brain will develop.

“The brain is constantly developing through young adulthood. Just like we wouldn’t expect a baby to be able to speak or a toddler to be able to understand certain consequences, we have to have appropriate expectations for our adolescents,” says Dr. Sharief Taraman, a pediatric neurologist.

Dr. Sharief Taraman offers advice on the teen brain
Dr. Sharief Taraman, a pediatric neurologist at CHOC Children’s

This constant development can lead to experimentation and in turn, a healthy decision making process.

“On the one hand, adolescents are more apt to experiment and make poor choices because their brains are still developing, but they are also more able than adults to learn from their mistakes and alter their perspectives,” says Dr. Jonathan Romain, a pediatric neuropsychologist. “I see adolescence as a period of great potential for growth and development.”

Dr. Jonathan Romain comments on the teen brain
Dr. Jonathan Romain, a pediatric neuropsychologist at CHOC Children’s

A parent’s role in teen brain development

The consequences of teens’ actions can help them link impulsive thinking with facts. This helps the brain make these connections and wires the brain to make this link more often. Parents play a crucial role in helping teens talk through consequences and decision making.

“Part of a parents’ role during this time in their child’s life is understanding that adolescents are practicing new reasoning skills they haven’t used before,” says Dr. Alexandra Roche, a pediatrician who works with adolescents. “Having abstract thinking is one new reasoning skill they need to practice. When they are trying to make a decision, it’s helpful for parents to let them explore various consequences.”

Dr. Alexandra Roche comments on the teen brain
Dr. Alexandra Roche, a pediatrician who works with adolescents at CHOC Children’s

The primary part of the brain developing during this time is the frontal lobe. As this area develops, teens are better equipped for abstract thinking and executive functioning, such as planning their day and making decisions. The frontal lobe is also involved with connections and how we socialize with people as well.

“They’re learning that if A happens, then B or C is going to happen after that. Parents get frustrated at how adolescents handle peer relationships and how extreme their feelings can be, but these may happen because those connections are being formulated. Talking through consequences helps good connections to form,” says Dr. Taraman. “Decision making takes practice. If you want to play guitar, you take lessons and practice, and it makes you better. If you only take one guitar lesson, you’re not going to learn how to play. Decision making is the same thing; it takes practice and it is never too early to start teaching our kids how to make good decisions.”

How to teach decision-making skills to your teen in an interactive way

Remember that you are a role model for your teen’s behavior. When it’s time to make a big decision, show them how to make a matrix, weigh the criteria of what is important to you and them, and teach the decision making process in an interactive way.

Modeling reasoning behavior with your teen will affect how they explore and understand downstream consequences, says Dr. Roche.

“If they approach you and want permission to do something, have them do research via respectable sources and find out what’s appropriate for their age. Involve them in the decision making process. That’s how you can give them good tools instead of just deciding things for them,” says Dr. Taraman.

Talking to your kids is essential in the digital age. It’s common for teens to want to be on their smartphone around-the-clock, but that can spur an extreme fear of missing out. Figuring out how to turn off both the devices and the need to be constantly plugged in is important.

“Try setting technology-free zones or times in your home, such as the dinner table. Take turns going around the table and sharing the highlight of your day. It can spark conversations about other things that happened during your day and how you dealt with them. Teens can learn by example,” says Taraman.

Your teen’s friends also play a crucial role in their development, but peer pressure is not always a bad thing.

“Peer pressure can be positive in many cases, like trying a new sport or joining a new club at school. Experimentation is the way adolescents learn how to interact with their environment and peers,” says Dr. Roche. “Kids should be curious and try different activities.”  Helping them plan ahead for unexpected events, such as being offered drugs or alcohol, can help your teen make the right choice when it counts.

How to calm an overly emotional teen

When teens are overly emotional and fixating on a problem they feel is the end of the world, there are several things parents can do to calm them down so they can start talking through their emotions.

“It’s very common for teens to be very dramatic. Whatever is happening in their world can seem like it’s the most important thing that has ever happened to them,” says Dr. Roche. “Help them identify the emotion they are feeling, and what is making them angry or excited, for example. Identifying the root cause of the emotion and then connecting that back to how that affects their decision making is important.”

Dr. Romain encourages parents to give their teen some space but remind them that you are available to listen.

“Not every problem needs a solution. Sometimes they just need someone to listen to them in a safe space. Encouraging journaling can also be a productive way of getting thoughts and feelings out,” he says.

Listen first and then expand on their statement.

“If they express hurt or disappointment, try to get them to more openly explain why something hurt their feelings,” says Dr. Roche. “Did they misinterpret a conversation?”

Allowing them to solve their own problems teaches independence and prepares them for adulthood.

“If you fix all their problems for them as a teen, then when they go off to college they won’t know how to deal with problems. We don’t just give them a driver’s license and tell them to hit the road. First they drive under supervision of a parent or guardian, and then they gradually gain more independence and responsibility,” says Dr. Taraman.

The power of positive reinforcement

Remind teens that they are resilient and competent. They may have trouble remembering past times they have overcome obstacles.

“Positive reinforcement helps encourage certain behaviors you’d like your teen to model,” says Dr. Taraman. “If they want to go to their friend’s house after school and they ask if that’s ok, say “no problem, thank you for asking.” And if they instead tell you they are going, say “Don’t you need to ask permission first?”

Positive reinforcement will also help them develop strong self-esteem. As they develop their identity, encourage your child to reflect on successes as well as challenges.

“During adolescence kids are coming up with self-identify, personal morals and ethics. This all relates to self-esteem. Comparing yourself to others is common but it can also set unwieldy expectations. Identify their unique strengths (for instance music, but not math) and focus on encouraging them to pursue those,” says Dr. Roche.

When to seek help for your teen

Adolescents are prone to addictive behaviors. If they use certain chemicals such as drugs and alcohol, it can hard wire their brain in a certain way. If they are experiencing anxiety or depression and it is not acknowledged and treated, they are more likely to experience those into adulthood.

“It is important to keep an eye out for symptoms of depression and anxiety that extend beyond normal grief and loss. Check in with your child periodically and be aware of changes in behavior pattern. Persistent irritability, sadness, disrupted sleep, and lack of interest and isolation are some things to look out for that likely warrant a check-in with a counselor or psychologist,” says Dr. Romain.

A few days of emotional outbursts might just be a normal sign of adolescence, but if they are persistently practicing abnormal behavior, it may be a sign to seek additional help. Remind your child that you are there for them, says Dr. Taraman, but also empower your teenager to explore the resources available to them, with or without their parents’ help. Suicide hotlines (1-800-Suicide) or adolescent clinics can help them obtain resources without the help of their parents.

“Because adolescents have so many obvious physical changes, it’s easy to forget the cognitive changes going on in this phase. It’s the most exciting change for kids but can be very frustrating for parents,” says Dr. Roche. “Remember to enjoy the experience of watching your kid develop into an adult.”





Learn more about Adolescent Medicine




Related posts:

How Much Do You Know About the Brain?

There’s no better time than Brain Awareness Week to get a little more familiar with your melon. Test your knowledge about the brain with this quiz.

  1. Which part of the brain is responsible for reasoning, planning, speech and movement, emotions and problem-solving?
    1. Frontal lobe
    2. Parietal lobe
    3. The spinal  cord
  2. This part of the brain handles the perception of stimuli like touch, pressure, temperature and pain.
    1. Temporal lobe
    2. Occipital lobe
    3. Parietal lobe
  3. The perception and recognition of sounds and memory are the responsibility of this part of the brain.
    1. Occipital lobe
    2. Temporal lobe
    3. Cerebellum
  4. Which part of the brain oversees vision?
    1. Spinal cord
    2. Cerebellum
    3. Occipital lobe
  5. Which is false about the brain stem?
    1. It’s responsible for the brain’s highest level of thinking and perception.
    2. It controls the flow of messages between the brain and the body.
    3. It consists of three parts: the medulla oblongata, pons and midbrain.
  6. What is true about the cerebrum?
    1. It’s named after its bell-like shape.
    2. It plays a large role in motor control.
    3. Common signs of cerebellum damage are related to vision.

Check your answers below!

brain quiz

 

  1. Which part of the brain is responsible for reasoning, planning, speech and movement, emotions and problem-solving?
    1. Frontal lobe. This is one of the brain’s four lobes, which comprise the cerebrum.
    2. Parietal lobe
    3. The spinal  cord
  2. This part of the brain handles the perception of stimuli like touch, pressure, temperature and pain.
    1. Temporal lobe
    2. Occipital lobe
    3. Parietal lobe- also responsible for understanding someone’s position in their environment.
  3. The perception and recognition of sounds and memory are the responsibility of this part of the brain.
    1. Occipital lobe
    2. Temporal lobe- also responsible for language and emotion.
    3. Cerebellum
  4. Which part of the brain oversees vision?
    1. Spinal cord
    2. Cerebellum
    3. Occipital lobe- the smallest of the brain’s four lobes. 
  5. Which is false about the brain stem?
    1. It’s responsible for the brain’s highest level of thinking and perception. False- while the upper parts of the brain tackle higher level matters, the brain stem is responsible for the most basic of body functions like breathing, food digestion and blood circulation. 
    2. It controls the flow of messages between the brain and the body.
    3. It consists of three parts: the medulla oblongata, pons and midbrain.
  6. What is true about the cerebrum?
    1. It’s named after its bell-like shape.
    2. It plays a large role in motor control. The cerebellum has some other minor roles, but it is chiefly tasked with movement and coordination. 
    3. Common signs of cerebellum damage are related to vision.

Learn more about neurology at CHOC  Children’s.

Related posts:

What Parents Need to Know About Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease

Hand, foot, and mouth disease (HFM) is a viral illness that usually affects infants and children younger than 10 years old, specifically those 1 to 5. We spoke to Dr. Jonathan Auth, a CHOC Children’s pediatrician on what to expect with this common condition.

hand foot and mouth disease
Dr. Jonathan Auth, a CHOC Children’s pediatrician, explains hand, foot and mouth disease

Q: Is HFM contagious?

A: Yes, it can be spread through contact with feces, saliva, or mucus. The virus is common year round but tends to cluster in the summer and fall.

Q: What are the symptoms?

A: A fever is usually the first sign of the virus, followed by a reduced appetite and sore throat, which can cause a child to feel achy and irritable. After a few days, painful sores (red-yellowish blisters) develop in the back of the roof of the mouth. A skin rash with red spots may appear in the palms of the hands and soles of the feet, as well as on the knees, elbows and buttocks area.

Q: What should a child with HFM eat?

A: Make sure your child drinks plenty of fluids, such as water or milk, to stay hydrated. How much water should your child drink? At CHOC Children’s, we recommend that children drink the amount of 8 ounce cups of water equal to their age, with a maximum of 64 ounces for children over the age of 8. Most children do not have much of an appetite during this time. Cold or soft foods, such as popsicles, ice cream, yogurt or jello, are the most soothing given the sores on the throat.

Q: How is HFM treated?  

A: HFM usually clears up within a week. While there is no medical cure or vaccination for HFM, your child’s pediatrician can recommend ways to make your child more comfortable while the illness runs its course. Acetaminophen or ibuprofen can be given to ease painful mouth sores or discomfort from the fever. Download a parent’s guide to acetaminophen for children.

Children with blisters on their hands, feet or rest of the body should keep the areas clean and uncovered. Wash the skin with lukewarm soap and water, and gently pat dry.

Everyone in the family should wash their hands often, especially after using the toilet or changing a diaper, and before preparing food. Shared toys should be cleaned often, as viruses can live on objects for a few days.

Call your child’s pediatrician if your child is sluggish, can’t be comforted or seems to be getting worse.

Q: Are there any complications?

A: Complications are rare. Occasionally, some complications could arise, such as dehydration, due to a child not eating well, or not being able to swallow enough liquids because of painful mouth sores. Sometimes the rash or sores on the body can be infected if there are breaks in the skin.

Want more health tips like these sent straight to your inbox?

Sign up for our KidsHealth e-newsletter.

Related posts:

Female Physicians, Hospital Leaders Observe International Women’s Day

As the world celebrates International Women’s Day, we are highlighting a few of our female physician and hospital leaders. They offer insight and words of encouragement to women seeking to pursue careers in medicine.

international women's day

Kerri Schiller, senior vice president and chief financial officer

Don’t ever be afraid to take a leap – work hard and do your best.  You can be and have whatever it is you strive for – you just have to be willing to work for it.

Find yourself a mentor – someone who you trust and admire.  Keep in touch and reach out when you need advice or just to say hello.

Striking a balance between career and family can be very difficult. Healthcare, in particular, is a profession where the dedication to the well-being of others is of great importance. Having good friends and/or a partner who accepts your role and who shares and supports responsibilities  allows for greater satisfaction both at home and at the job. And, of course, working with people you enjoy and like is critical to your ability to perform your job and love what you do.

Accept the fact that some days will be hard.  I keep a small folder of mementos, including expressions of thanks or acknowledgement I have received from others through the years.  Going through that folder reminds me of times of accomplishments and success, as well as recognition.  There are going to be days when you feel like there’s no one in your court; that’s the day to pull out your file and give yourself a boost.

international women's day

Dr. Maria Minon, vice president of medical affairs and chief medical officer

It is my hope that women professionals in healthcare and other career fields will use Women’s Day as a reminder to exceed expectations and aspire to excellence as the Professionals they are – measuring themselves against all their peers – not just a select group.

A favorite quote of mine is from Eleanor Roosevelt, “One’s philosophy is not best expressed in words; it is expressed in the choices one makes… and the choices we make are ultimately our responsibility.”

I encourage women to take responsibility for themselves and their choices and to rise above to become the great individuals they desire to be.

international women's day

Dr. Mary Zupanc, chair of neurology and director of the pediatric comprehensive epilepsy program

Reach for the stars!  Go for it!  Whatever you want to do, follow your passion and your heart.  Don’t settle for less.  Money should not be the significant driver.  Money does not buy happiness or satisfaction.  In medicine and other careers, it is about making a difference, making the world a better place.

international women's day

Dr. Georgie Pechulis, hospitalist

Follow your instincts. Block out anyone trying to convince you otherwise. At times, you may feel like you have to prove yourself as a woman. Persistence, focus, and determination will allow you to reach your goal, no matter how unattainable it seems.  Failure and picking yourself up to overcome is part of the process. Be patient and respectful, but also respect yourself. Always make time to do something good for yourself. Surround yourself with other strong women to reach out to.

international women's day

Dr. Christine Bixby, neonatologist and medical director of lactation services

My advice for women pursuing a career in medicine is that practicing medicine is a great joy and privilege. The hard work is well worth it. Having a medical career and family can be challenging but finding the right balance can be done with good planning and a great partner.

Go for it! Find what is your passion. Put your head down, do the work and you will definitely succeed.

When I began my career, I wish I would have known that I would find a group of wonderful, smart and supportive women who are always there (even at 2 a.m.) to pick you up and raise you up on the tough days.

Learn more about exploring a career at CHOC Children’s.





Explore career opportunities at CHOC.




Related posts:

  • CHOC Heart Surgery Patient Joins Security Team
    Daniel was just 13 when he had open heart surgery. Eight years later he returned to CHOC as a security officer, helping establish a calm and safe environment at the ...
  • Meet Dr. Mary Jane Piroutek
    CHOC Children’s wants its patients and families to get to know its specialists. Today, meet Dr. Mary Jane Piroutek, a pediatric emergency medicine specialist who has been on staff at ...
  • Meet Dr. Kushal Bhakta
    In recognition of prematurity awareness month, we’re highlighting Dr. Kushal Bhakta, medical director of CHOC Children’s Small Baby Unit (SBU). The Small Baby Unit – the first of its kind – ...

National Nutrition Month 2017: Put Your Best Fork Forward

By Stephanie Prideaux, Dietetic Technician, Registered

This National Nutrition Month, you can help your family put their best selves forward by creating personalized eating and physical activity styles that let you “put your best fork forward.” Try incorporating the following tips into your family’s habits.

Healthy Eating Style

Eating better does not have to be complicated. It can start with focusing on a variety of your favorite healthful foods and making small changes in what needs improvement. A healthy eating pattern focuses on vegetables, fruits, whole grains, oils, and a variety of protein sources, such as seafood, lean meats, poultry, eggs, low-fat dairy, beans, nuts, seeds, and soy products like tofu. As we increase these foods in our diets, we must decrease certain foods at the same time. Highly processed foods contain shockingly high amounts of sodium. It is also important to reduce foods that contain added saturated fat (such as cheese, meats and other animal products), trans fat (such as fried foods, baked goods, stick margarine, frozen pizzas) and sugar. Reading food labels and asking for nutrition information can help you to quickly identify foods to avoid. Small daily substitutions using healthy ingredients can add up over time to create a major shift in the way you eat.

new nutrition label

One technique to control your healthy eating style is by cooking more often at home. Packaged foods, restaurant foods, and take-home grocery store meals are notoriously high in the nutrients we need to avoid:  sodium, saturated fat, trans fat and added sugar. Experimenting with healthy substitutions at home can not only save money, but will allow you to ensure that all food groups are being represented as you create your personal healthy eating style.

Balance is also key when talking about style. We do not want to underdo it or go completely over the top. The same goes with our healthy eating style. In order to feel good, look good, and be ready to take on challenges, we must make sure to eat enough to meet our needs but not so much that we place ourselves at risk for chronic disease. This balance refers to both our total food intake for the day as well as the proportions of each food group on our meal plates. The MyPlate model shows a great visual way to balance our food groups:  fruits/vegetables are half the plate, protein is a quarter of the plate, and complex carbohydrates make up the last quarter.

nutrition

The MyPlate model shows a great visual way to balance our food groups.A simple way to personalize and monitor your total intake is to eat intuitively. Drink plenty of water, eat slowly, and listen to your body throughout the day. Respond to hunger with water, healthy snacks and balanced meals. When you begin to feel full, respect that too and stop eating. For more guidance, the MyPlate website’s SuperTracker tool can help you plan, analyze, and track your diet and physical activity.

Physical Activity Style

Exercise that is custom-tailored to your preferences and abilities is a key component of your health style. Being physically active most days of the week carries benefits for your entire body and future health. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report that regular physical activity improves your mental health and mood, strengthens your muscles and bones, and increases your chances of living longer. Regular exercise reduces the risk of many chronic diseases and can help you meet any weight goals you might have.

To cash in on these benefits, federal guidelines of the Healthy People 2020 program recommend that adults engage in at least 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity physical activity or 75 minutes per week of vigorous physical activity. That can sound like a lot, but broken up over five days per week, that would be only 15 to 30 minutes per day of vigorous to moderate-intensity exercise. If gyms are not your style, personalize your physical activity by turning up the intensity of activities you already love. This could be dancing, walking, bicycling, gardening, hiking and more. Jumping in to play along with children is a fun way to meet your goals while building fond memories.

Children and adolescents need even greater amounts of physical activity. The CDC recommends 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise every day that offers a variety of aerobic, muscle-strengthening and bone-strengthening activities. Young people should have their own unique health style that is enjoyable, age-appropriate, and offers a variety of options. Learn how to keep kids active when school is out of session.

Dietitians: Your Health Style Consultant

Teaming up with your primary care physician to meet with a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) can be a great way to set and meet health goals. RDNs can provide reliable, easy-to-follow personalized nutrition advice to meet your lifestyle, preferences, and health-related needs.

This March, let us celebrate National Nutrition Month by taking hold of the tools each one of us has to improve health now and into the future by creating healthy eating habits and engaging in regular exercise. Creating your personal eating and physical activity styles will help you “put your best fork forward” this month and for the years to come.

Want more nutrition tips like these sent straight to your inbox?

Sign up for our KidsHealth e-newsletter.

Related posts:

Meet the CHOC Follies Cast: Shawn

Now in its 20th year, the CHOC Follies has become one of Orange County’s most popular fund and friend-raising events. With a cast and crew of more than 100 enthusiastic members, all singing and dancing to raise much needed funds for CHOC Children’s, this original musical production is made up of one-of-a-kind individuals all coming together to benefit CHOC. Today meet Shawn, a 10-year cast member who is participating in weekly rehearsals- despite a recent relocation to northern California.

Q: What prompted your continued Follies participation even when you relocated to San Francisco and work in Mexico?

A: I’ve lived most of my adult life up in Orange County, but recently relocated to San Francisco for work. Follies is very important to me, and I couldn’t imagine missing it. Every year I look forward to the people, the energy of the cast, and having the chance to help kids at CHOC. Fortunately I fly a lot for work, and when I pass by Orange County, I stop off for rehearsals. Some of my best friends in the world I met by participating in Follies, and I stay with them when I am in town for rehearsals.

choc follies
CHOC Follies cast member Shawn, before a past performance.

Q: What goes into being a Follies cast member?

A: The cast spends every Saturday rehearsing for two and a half months leading up to the show. It sounds like a lot and maybe it is, but it doesn’t feel like work to me. Some parts of the cast rehearse on Wednesday evenings as well, but since I have relocated for work, I can’t make mid-week rehearsals. When I was living in Orange County, I was working full time and also going to school at night to study accounting, so I couldn’t make mid-week evening rehearsals. The directors understand that cast members have other obligations and support us.

I got started in the Follies when I was attending a lecture at Newport Beach Public Library 10 years ago. I met the Follies founder, Gloria Zigner, who invited me to a rehearsal, and the rest is history. Gloria’s passion for the Follies and what it does to help the kids at CHOC is so infectious, and that spirit permeates the cast. She has been doing this for 20 years, so it makes the 10 Saturdays I give up every spring seem like nothing.

Q: What does CHOC mean to you?

A:  Some people join the Follies because they have a personal history with CHOC or know someone who has a child that has been treated here. For me it’s a little bit different. I don’t have kids, and outside of people in the cast, I don’t directly know too many people who have needed to go to CHOC. But I adore children and I love my nieces and nephews, and just knowing what CHOC does every day is heartwarming. I have a coworker whose son who was diagnosed with cancer last year, and now he is cancer free.  Participating in the Follies has a more personal meaning this year now that I personally know someone who has received the amazing care that CHOC provides for children and teens in the community.

Q: What would you say to someone considering joining the Follies cast next year?

A: Do it! It will change your life. The people in the cast are such caring people, giving their time and energy. The cast has the biggest hearts and you’re doing it for an amazing cause. You get to help thousands of kids. I don’t sing, dance or act, but I do all of them in the show. You don’t have to a lifelong history in musical theater to be in the Follies.

Q: What is your favorite memory from your 10 years participating in Follies?

A: Being backstage before a show, especially the last show. You spend three months with these people, and you’re all nervous and want the show to go well. It always goes off without a hitch, and when they announce how much money we have raised, there’s just so much love and energy in the air. We are all there for one common cause. People from every background and walk of life come together to support CHOC and it’s a phenomenal feeling.



Come celebrate 20 years of singing and dancing for OC's kids. Buy your tickets now.




Related posts:

Heart Month: Ryden’s Story

At 27 weeks pregnant, Kayleen Enoka discovered her baby boy, Ryden, had hypoplastic left heart syndrome (HLHS), a birth defect where the left side of the heart does not form correctly and affects normal blood flow through the heart. As a young, first-time mom, she was overwhelmed by the news.

“I felt incredibly helpless. I felt that I couldn’t do anything to help my baby and I wondered what would happen to him. I also felt that I must have done something wrong during the pregnancy to cause his heart defect. I was reassured by the perinatologist and the cardiologist that his defect wasn’t because of something I had done wrong. My mother sat with me through the diagnosis and held my hand and hugged me as I cried,” Kayleen vividly remembers.

After Ryden was born, he was immediately transferred to CHOC Children’s Hospital to be cared for by our CHOC Heart Institute. Kayleen was a partner in her son’s care from the beginning. He had to undergo a series of three surgeries, performed by Dr. Richard Gates, pediatric cardiothoracic surgeon at CHOC, with the first one, the Norwood Procedure, at just five days old. During the surgery, Dr. Gates made Ryden’s right ventricle the main pumping chamber for blood flow to his body.  A shunt was also placed as a pathway for blood to flow into his lungs to receive oxygen.

heart month
Ryden was transferred to CHOC shortly after he was born for the first of three heart surgeries.

“My family and I all sat together waiting for news during the surgery. It was hard, but having so much support helped a lot. I remember when we walked into the room and everyone seemed to be moving so fast. When I asked how he was doing, I was told he was tenuous. That word has resonated with me over the years because I remember feeling that he wouldn’t survive the night. The doctors showed me where the bypass machine was and told me that it was there in case he needed it; again, I was frightened for my baby wondering if he would be strong enough to get through this. I believed in my heart that he was a fighter, but watching all the activity and how small he looked in his hospital bed, made it much harder to believe,” Kayleen says.

Ryden’s second surgery, the Glenn Shunt Procedure, performed when he was 6 months old, was just as scary because Ryden’s health was fragile, Kayleen recalls. The procedure created a direct connection between the pulmonary artery and the vessel returning oxygen-poor blood from the upper part of the body to the heart. After the surgery, Ryden had numerous complications and was hospitalized for 34 days.

heart month
Ryden at about 6 months of age following his second heart surgery, the Glenn Shunt Procedure.

By the time of Ryden’s third surgery, the Fontan when he was 4 years old, Kayleen was ready but apprehensive. “Since Ryden was a little older, I could be honest with him. I told him what was going to happen, and even though he was scared, he was aware and was still able to smile,” Kayleen says.

Dr. Gates connected Ryden’s pulmonary artery and the vessel returning oxygen-poor blood from the lower part of the body to the heart, which allowed the rest of the blood coming back from the body to go to the lungs.  Ryden spent ten days in the hospital.

heart month
After Ryden’s third heart surgery, his nurses gave him this heart pillow, signed by his care team.

Throughout the years, Ryden has experienced arrhythmias, is susceptible to colds, takes multiple medications, and was recently diagnosed with asthma. Kayleen has developed a close relationship with the CHOC Heart Institute team.

“I have always felt like I am a part of the team. In the beginning, I could never have too many questions; the doctors and nurses always took the time to make sure I understood what was happening. Now, when Ryden needs to be hospitalized, the care team always listens to my input. We work together because they understand that I know my son best,” she says.

Among the many experts involved in Ryden’s care, the Enokas have a special relationship with Dr. Anthony Chang, pediatric cardiologist at CHOC.

heart month
Ryden and his cardiologist, Dr. Anthony Chang.

“Dr. Chang has been amazing. I wouldn’t have chosen another cardiologist because he takes the time to care for his patients. Ryden really admires him and often says when he grows up he wants to work on hearts like him,” Kayleen says.

“Ever since I took care of a baby with HLHS in 1983, my passion to help children with congenital heart disease has never subsided. HLHS is a heart defect that requires the supreme dedication of both doctors and nurses in cardiology and cardiac surgery as well as intensive care. It is, however, parents like Kayleen who continue to inspire all of us to help these children, and humbles us in all that they do when these children are not in the hospital or clinic,” Dr. Chang says.

Kayleen’s appreciation for CHOC and its mission inspired her to become an employee. She works as a department assistant in the clinical education and professional development department. She also volunteers her time as a member of the Family Advisory Council, an important group of patients’ family members who provide input on decisions, initiatives and discussions at CHOC. In addition, Kayleen participates in the CHOC Walk every year with “Team Ryden,” including friends, family and cardiovascular intensive care unit (CVICU) nurses.

heart month
Ryden inspires a group of family and friends to participate in CHOC Walk every year in his honor.

Today, Ryden is a happy, fun-loving 7-year-old, who enjoys swimming and playing baseball. Throughout his journey, one thing that has remained unwavering, is Kayleen and Ryden’s close relationship. When Ryden has questions about his heart, Kayleen is always happy to talk openly and lovingly with her son, and reminds him that he has a “special heart.” His middle name — Pu’uwaikila — means “heart of steel,” and Kayleen’s little fighter is surely living up to the name.

heart month
Kayleen Enoka and her son Ryden.

As American Heart Month comes to a close, Kayleen offers parents of heart patients the following tried and true tips that have helped her along the way:

1. Trust your child to know his limits. I’ve always let Ryden push himself, while still keeping a close eye on him of course.

  1. When your child is developmetally ready, be open and honest about his condition. You might be worried you’ll scare him/her, but I’ve always felt that Ryden has the right to know what’s happening to him.
  2. Children with congenital heart diseases may have self-esteem issues (i.e. scars, lack of ability to keep up with other children.) Remember to let your child know that he/she is special and what makes them different is also what makes them amazing. I always tell Ryden that his scar on his chest is what shows his strength. And, that chicks dig scars – it’s an inside joke (he’s never allowed to date).



Help a patient like Ryden. Donate here.




Related posts:

CHOC Heart Surgery Patient Joins Security Team

As the only hospital in Orange County to perform open heart surgery on babies and children, CHOC Children’s and its Heart Institute team form special bonds with the patients entrusted to their care.

Many CHOC patients come back to visit and say thank you, some send holiday cards and share school photos so their care teams can see them grow up. A few even return to CHOC as employees, eager to be part of the organization that saved their lives.

Daniel Davis was just 13 years old when Dr. Richard Gates, surgeon-in-chief at CHOC and co-medical director of the Heart Institute, performed surgery on his heart. Eight years later Daniel returned to CHOC as a security officer, helping establish a calm and safe environment at the hospital that cared for him as a teen. He has biannual checkups with Dr. Anthony Chang, pediatric cardiologist at CHOC.

Daniel was born with a subaortic membrane, meaning that his heart had tissue growth below the aortic valve. This caused partial blood flow blockage from the left ventricle, which pumps blood to the rest of the body. This put stress on Daniel’s heart, and if left untreated, could have caused heart failure.  He had already gone through his first open- heart surgery at just three days old.

“I grew up in Orange County and wanted to return to CHOC for work because it’s so close to my heart,” he says. “Growing up I wanted to pursue a career in the military, so a security position was a first step, but now I’m pursuing my EMT certification and eventually a career in nursing.”

Daniel loves working in The Julia and George Argyros Emergency Department and observing the environment.

“I’m constantly impressed by the speed and efficiency of the emergency department staff, how they work at such a high level at such a great speed,” he says. “The emergency department is filled with the unexpected and it keeps you on your toes. Since the ED is so fast-paced, you have to be ready for anything.”

Part of Daniel’s job involves escorting patients and families on campus, as well as to and from the Orange County Ronald McDonald House. On more than one occasion, he’s been able to calm a flustered parent by sharing his story. Seeing an example of the great care CHOC provides is comforting to parents in what can be an otherwise stressful time, he has learned.

When not protecting the hallways of CHOC, he participates in Spartan races, an ultra-competitive obstacle course.

choc heart surgery
When not working at CHOC, Daniel competes in Spartan Races, an ultra-competitive obstacle course. He’s never let his heart condition or past surgeries keep him from completing his goals.

“I never used my heart condition as an excuse to get out of things like physical education class growing up,” he says. “I love being active whenever possible, and encouraging my friends and colleagues in their physical fitness goals as well.”

His commitment to fitness goals does not go unnoticed by his security teammates.

“The obstacle courses Daniel competes in require your body to be pushed to a whole new level,” says Steven Barreda, security services supervisor at CHOC. “Daniel and I work evenings, and on more than one occasion, we’ve worked overtime until 2:00 a.m. and even after a 12 -hour shift, he goes to the gym to train for his next race.”

For Daniel’s surgeons, seeing a former patient grow up to live a normal, healthy life is a joy. Being able to call him a colleague is even better.

“Daniel is fortunate to have a surgically curable condition that when treated properly and timely should allow him a completely healthy and long life, and it’s great that he leads such an athletic lifestyle,” Dr. Gates says. “We have a few patients and parents of patients who work at CHOC. It’s always great and inspiring to hear stories of how they are doing and getting along.”

Want more health and safety tips like these sent straight to your inbox?

Sign up for our KidsHealth e-newsletter.

Related posts:

  • Heart Month: Ryden’s Story
    Meet Ryden, a brave warrior who’s endured three heart surgeries at CHOC Children’s Hospital. His mom Kayleen shares his story in honor of heart month.
  • Electrophysiology Advances Restore Patient’s Quality of Life
    A teenaged patient’s longtime arrhythmia has been repaired and her quality of life dramatically improved thanks to emerging technology and the skill of a CHOC Children’s cardiologist. Lauren Flotman, 15, had ...
  • Living with Diabetes: One Child’s Perspective
    In honor of American Diabetes Month, CHOC Children’s patient Ava Hata sheds insight on living with the disease. Ava, who is 11, was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes when she ...