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Teen Pregnancy Prevention Month: What Parents Should Know

By Dr. Rachel Watson, pediatric resident at CHOC Children’s

Pregnancy during the teenage years can be a significant source of social, economic and interpersonal stress for an adolescent and their family. Only 40 percent of teen mothers earn their high school diploma by age 22, as opposed to 90 percent of women who do not give birth during their teenage years. Less than 2 percent of teen mothers graduate from college by age 30.

In the U.S., teen pregnancy has been steadily declining over the past decade. Although the reasons are not entirely clear, it is thought that the largest contributors are increased access to sexual health information and increases of prescription written for and use of birth control have contributed to this decline. The U.S. has seen a decline in teen birth rates in all 50 states and among all racial and ethnic groups. However, each year more than 200,000 teens will give birth in this country.


Teen birth rates are higher in individuals who are living in poverty, living in a single-parent household, in foster care, and/or facing racial discrimination.

What can parents do to prevent teen pregnancy?

Have open, honest discussions with your teen about sex, sexuality, and healthy relationships.

  • Be honest. Let your teen know that talking about sex isn’t easy, but that it is important that information about sex comes from you.
  • Be available and keep all lines of communication open with your teen. They may not want to discuss these topics with you initially, but let them know that it’s important to have these discussions to avoid potentially harmful situations.
  • Give your teen a chance to talk and ask questions.
  • Leave behind judgement. Instead, be curious.
  • Show your love and support.
  • If you are having a difficult time with these conversations, consider asking a pediatrician/medical provider, trusted family member, or priest, minister or rabbi for help.

Start these conversations early

  • Fifteen percent of 15-year-olds report sexual activity in the past.
  • Lay the groundwork before the onset of puberty.
  • Answer their questions truthfully at any age. This will build trust, starting in toddlerhood.

Schedule regular appointments with your teen’s medical provider.

  • Doctors and nurses use this opportunity to discuss the advantages and disadvantages of different contraceptive methods, sexually transmitted infections, and what steps your teen can take to protect themselves.

Know where your teen is and what they are doing, particularly after school.

Know your teen’s friends.

Be aware of your teen’s use of social media

What can educators to do prevent teen pregnancy?

Discuss normal sexual development and sexuality.

Earlier implementation of comprehensive sexual education in schools.

  • 8 in 10 teens did not receive sexual education before their first sexual encounter. Include conversations on how LGBTQ youth can have safe relationships as most sexual education focuses on heterosexual relationships. Your medical provider can help with this, too.

Talk about how to use condoms correctly and stress the importance of using a condom every time to prevent sexually transmitted diseases

Visit these resources for additional information, or speak to your child’s primary care physician:

Learn more about adolescent medicine at CHOC.

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Six-year-old Beats the Odds Thanks to Life-Saving Brain Surgery at CHOC

At just 6 years old, Madison Morrison has earned the nickname “Miracle Maddy” after recovering from life-saving surgery at CHOC Children’s. The spunky girl, who loves listening to music and drawing, defied the odds of survival when the flu caused encephalitis (viral meningitis with life-threatening brain swelling). Within 48 hours of being taken to the Julia and George Argyros Emergency Department at CHOC Children’s Hospital, Maddy underwent emergency brain surgery and was placed in a medically induced coma. For the next two months, her parents remained by her bedside in the pediatric intensive care unit (PICU).

Mike, Maddy’s dad, says February 4 marked the beginning of their journey. He and his wife Angel never imagined a trip to the emergency department for vomiting would end with their youngest child fighting for her life. On the evening of her admission, Maddy’s nurse immediately noticed when her patient became unresponsive and her pupils became fixed and dilated – grave findings suggestive of dangerous brain swelling. Maddy was intubated, placed in a coma and underwent surgery to have a device placed in her brain to measure and help reduce the pressure inside her skull. Given the fixed volume of the skull, there is little room to accommodate for brain swelling. As it does, the pressure in the skull increases. Seizures, strokes and even death can occur if the pressure rises significantly.

The pressure inside Maddy’s skull remained very high. Her physicians feared she would not survive. After all medical interventions failed to control the brain swelling and lower the pressure in her skull, and after a scan revealed Maddy was at imminent risk of death, CHOC neurosurgeon Dr. William Loudon presented Mike and Angel with one final measure:  a  decompressive craniectomy, a surgery in which part of the skull is removed to allow a swelling brain to expand beyond the normal confines of the closed skull.

Miracle Maddy and her pediatric neurosurgeon, Dr. William Loudon

“Dr. Loudon patiently explained everything, including the risks, and assured us he’d care for Maddy as though she was his own daughter,” recalls Mike. “We were naturally frightened, but we had confidence in him and trusted he would do everything in his control to save her.”

Mike adds, “He kept his word. We will forever be grateful to him.”

Maddy remained in a coma as she continued to heal. Her PICU care team became, in her parents’ words, “the protectors.”

“Without ever hearing her voice or experiencing her outgoing personality, the team stood by Maddy’s side to not only protect her and save her life, but to love her. The people in CHOC’s PICU are special. There’s no way to understand the emotion and bonds created in that unit unless you’ve been there and experienced the passion within the entire team and the love they have for their jobs, their patients and their parents,” shares Mike.

The PICU team rallied with Mike and Angel when Maddy came out of the coma. She still had a tough recovery ahead, but with the help of CHOC’s speech, physical and occupational therapists, she relearned to walk, talk and eat.

Miracle Maddy recovering after brain surgery at CHOC.

The day Maddy was discharged from the PICU was bittersweet. Her parents were thrilled to be taking her home but sad to say goodbye to the staff who had become part of their family.

Angel explains, “Not only did the people in the PICU save Madison’s life, they were smiling faces to us day in and day out. They were a big part of our encouragement, while sharing in our hope and our worry. I was grateful to leave the PICU but sad to leave so many amazing people.”

Shortly after arriving home, Maddy was living up to her nickname. Walking laps around her home, dancing to her favorite songs and enjoying some Snapchat fun, she was putting her hospital stay behind her and focusing on the joys of childhood. And her CHOC family wouldn’t want it any other way for their “Miracle Maddy.”

Learn more about neurosurgery at CHOC

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Breathmobile Celebrates 15 Years Serving Orange County Kids

Just in time for National Asthma and Allergy Awareness Month, CHOC Children’s is pleased to celebrate the CHOC Breathmobile’s 15 years of service to the community. As the only mobile asthma clinic dedicated to serving preschool and school-aged children in Orange County, this important resource removes barriers for children and their families who may be unable to access preventive asthma care. Additionally, the program is provided on certain days inside four of our CHOC primary care clinics for the convenience of our patients and families.

The Breathmobile team is currently working on a telehealth asthma consultation program to improve care for underserved children with asthma in pediatric practices throughout Orange County. The Breathmobile also serves as a training site for residents, fellows, nursing students and pharmacy residents.

CHOC Children's Breathmobile Anniversary Statistics

CHOC Children’s is grateful to Dr. Stanley Galant, medical director of CHOC’s Breathmobile, and the entire CHOC Breathmobile team for your unwavering commitment and dedication to your field and to our patient and their families.

Learn more about CHOC's Breathmobile

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Benefits of a Mediterranean Diet for your Family

By Monica Evans, clinical dietitian at CHOC Children’s

If there’s one diet that most dietitians agree is healthy and good for the whole family, it’s the Mediterranean diet. Chock-full of plant-based foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, and nuts, the Mediterranean diet has all the makings of nutritious and sustainable way of eating. Research in adults has shown that the traditional Mediterranean diet reduces the risk of heart disease, some cancers, as well as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases. In children, the abundance of fruits, vegetables and whole grains in the diet provide important vitamins and minerals that help support growth and development.

Here are some Mediterranean diet basics to get you started:

  1. Center most of your meals on plant-based foods rather than a heavy protein food, like meat. The typical American meal is often created around a higher-fat meat. Switching that meat to a vegetable, bean or whole grain can deliver a healthy dose of fiber and take away the unhealthy saturated fats that can eventually lead to heart disease.
  2. Eat more beans! Red meat is discouraged in the Mediterranean diet, but when you’re craving something similar, try beans. They are full of protein and fiber and are low in fat.
  3. More fish please! Seafood is high in heart-healthy omega 3 fatty acids and protein. Another benefit of fish is that it typically takes less time to cook than chicken, turkey or beef.
  4. Replace butter with olive oil, which contains monounsaturated fat and can help reduce LDL (or bad) cholesterol levels.
  5. Have nuts as a snack or add them on to meals. Small amounts of nuts can help keep you full throughout the day and give your body a hefty dose of heart-healthy fats.
  6. Limit red meat consumption to only a few times per month. Beef, lamb and pork are typically high in saturated fat and the Mediterranean diet discourages consuming them often.
  7. Enjoy low-fat dairy. Dairy products can be high in saturated fat, but choosing lower-fat milk and cheese products allows you to receive the same essential vitamins and minerals important for growth and development without the high levels of unhealthy fat.

The best way to incorporate a new way of eating is to do it slowly and intentionally. Analyze your family’s diet and identify foods that you could easily swap out for healthier, more Mediterranean diet-friendly foods.

Easy ways to incorporate the Mediterranean diet into your lifestyle:

  • If you like cucumbers with ranch dressing, try dipping cucumber in hummus
  • Instead of serving spaghetti with buttered garlic toast, cook whole grain spaghetti served with bread dipped in olive oil and minced garlic
  • Swap beef tacos with tortilla chips for fish tacos with black beans

Try homemade trail mix with nuts and dried fruit for a snack

Mediterranean-friendly family recipes:

Easy Hummus Recipe

  • 1 15 oz can garbanzo beans/chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 tbsp water
  • ½ tsp ground cumin
  • ¼ tsp salt

Place beans, garlic, lemon juice, oil, and water into food processor. Blend to desired consistency. Season with cumin and salt. Enjoy with whole grain crackers or fresh vegetables.

Adapted from

Fig & Honey Yogurt

  • 2/3 cup low-fat plain Greek yogurt
  • 3 dried figs, sliced
  • 2 tsp honey

Top yogurt with fig slices and honey. Enjoy!

Recipe via

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CHOC Nurse Follows in His Mom’s Footsteps

Growing up, Tony often heard his mom Sam talk about her job at CHOC Children’s Hospital. As a respiratory therapist, he knew that she played an important part in helping to make critically ill patients better.

When he was in fourth grade, Tony was tasked with writing a paper about what he wanted to be when he grew up. He told his mom he wanted to either join the military and be a sniper, or become a registered nurse (RN).

“I told him he was too tall to be a sniper and that he should definitely become a pediatric RN. He never wavered after that,” Sam recalls.

Fast forward to his high school biology class, when he connected with his mom over his coursework on different body systems, and some of the diseases she had seen in her 30-year career at CHOC.

“When I was younger, I would see my mom come home after work exhausted, but always with a smile on her face. She was doing what she loved and was proud that she was a CHOC employee,” Tony says. “As I got older, I saw friends’ parents stop enjoying their jobs, while my mom was still coming home happy.”

While pursuing his nursing degree, Tony was hired at CHOC as a unit assistant in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). On the 3:00 p.m.-11:00 p.m. shift, he interacted with day shift and night shift nurses and physicians, and occasionally floated to other units. He felt a strong pull towards the pediatric intensive care unit (PICU) for the complex and diverse patients they care for on a regular basis.

“Initially I did feel bad for Tony because the majority of his coworkers knew him as my son, and had heard stories about him when he was growing up,” Sam recalls. “I work the day shift, and I remember the day a nurse who had just switched from the night shift asked me, ‘Are you Tony’s mom?’ I said, ‘No, Tony is my son!’ I had worked here for over 25 years at the time and he had only worked here for six months! Since then, everyone on night shift has called me Tony’s mom.”

Clinical rotations in nursing school reaffirmed Tony’s commitment to pursuing a career at CHOC.

“When I was at other hospitals, I noticed a difference in both the care team and the way they interacted with patients,” Tony says. “Later, when I was halfway through the nursing residency program at CHOC, I had a sense of pride as I bragged to my old classmates from nursing school about how amazing CHOC was and how great PICU was. I knew I had found my home.”

Sam, a respiratory therapist at CHOC Children’s and her son Tony, a registered nurse in the pediatric intensive care unit

The RN Residency Program at CHOC Children’s is an intensive 17-week program designed for new nursing graduates to help them successfully transition to becoming a professional pediatric nurse.

Since graduating from the residency program last year, Tony has already made a lasting impression on patients in the PICU and their families.

Patient and family-centered care means a lot to me. I chose pediatrics to work closely with the patient as well as the family during their scary time,” Tony says. “I tell every parent as I take care of their child, that if they feel something is wrong to tell me and we’ll explore every avenue together. I always encourage them to participate as physicians are making rounds so they feel a part of the team. Working night shift, it’s important to me that my patients’ parents trust me enough to rest and take care of themselves, as I watch over their child.”

Even though Sam knew that Tony would be a great registered nurse from the time he was young, seeing him in action has filled her with an even greater sense of pride.

“Tony has always demonstrated a strong sense of compassion and a willingness to take care of others. He has a strong work ethic and an outstanding moral compass,” she says. “When I am approached by people who have just learned he is my son and they tell me how much they love working with him, it makes my heart sing.”

In their family, the admiration goes both ways.

“Knowing that my mom is a hard worker and well-respected at CHOC makes me want to live up to her standard,” Tony says. “There have been a couple of instances where we’ve worked together and it’s exciting because I’ve long heard how amazing she is as a respiratory therapist, but I’ve gotten to see it firsthand.”

Although Sam works days and Tony is just arriving for his shift as she is heading home for the night, she takes loves whenever she has a chance to see her son in action.

“I see him at change of shift receiving reports and my smile is instantaneous. He is a delightful young man and I am proud to be his mom, thrilled to work with him and honored that he chose a profession that helps others.”

Explore a career at CHOC

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