All posts by CHOC Children's

Dealing with a new epilepsy diagnosis: Frequently asked questions

When you’re a parent, you want the best for your child in every way.  We know an unexpected epilepsy diagnosis can be scary. At CHOC, we deal with the unexpected every day, and have helped many families navigate life after a new epilepsy diagnosis. Here, we share a list of some of the frequently asked questions our epileptologists receive from their patients’ families.

Question: How much notice do I need to give for getting my child’s prescription refilled?

Answer: Please allow for 5-7 days to complete the request, especially for special order medications or controlled substances. Medication refill request should be faxed by your pharmacy to (855) 246-2329.

Question: How much notice do I need to give for forms to be completed?

Answer: Please bring any school, IHSS (In Home Supportive Services) or state forms to the clinic visit for completion. On average, it takes two weeks to get your forms completed and returned to you.

Question: Are there things my child can’t do now?

Answer: When your child’s seizures are under good control, regular physical activity is good for them. However, your child should avoid sports that involve climbing to a high location or contact sports that may result in a head injury.

Question: Will my child be able to swim in the summer?

Answer: Your child may swim once their seizures are under control, but he or she will always need to have 1:1 adult supervision in the water. Your child should never engage in any type of water sports without adult supervision. The supervising adult should be able to swim and have the strength to carry your child out of the water if the need arises. If there is a lifeguard on duty, inform the lifeguard that your child has epilepsy.

Question: Can my child play video games?

Answer: For most children with epilepsy, playing a video game is not a problem. However, some children have seizures that are triggered by light. These are called photosensitive seizures. These seizures may be triggered by flashing lights, such as when playing a video game, watching certain television shows or simply driving past trees on a sunny day.  Ask your doctor if your child has photosensitive seizures.

Question: Can my child ride a bicycle, skateboard, or roller blade?

Answer: Once your child’s seizures are under control, they may participate in these activities. Your child should always wear a helmet when riding a bike or scooter, when rollerblading, roller skating, or skate boarding.

Question: Can my child drive?

Answer: If your child is of driving age, your doctor will sign the necessary paperwork for the DMV if:

  1. Your child has been seizure free for at least 6 months
  2. Consistently taking their medications.

*Frequent lab monitoring may be needed to maintain that your child is safe to drive

Question: What if I am unable to pay for medications, appointments, or testing?

Answer: We have a licensed social worker available to work specifically with the epilepsy team to assist with patient and family needs.

Question: Where do I go for help and support?

Answer: There are advocacy and support groups you can contact that offer help and assistance to families dealing with an epilepsy diagnosis. Please ask your child’s care team for a list of these organizations.

Question: Can my child take over-the-counter medications?

Answer:  Always speak with your primary care doctor before giving your child any over-the-counter medications. Some over-the-counter medications can lower your child’s seizure threshold (which means a seizure may occur). However, this does not happen with everyone, and there is no way to predict whether a seizure will occur.

Learn more about the CHOC Epilepsy Program

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How to spread joy to CHOC patients this holiday season

Illness and injury shouldn’t dim the brightness of the holidays for kids. Help us preserve the magic of childhood – year-round – for our patients by supporting CHOC Children’s the following ways this holiday season:

Donate: Give back through a one time, monthly or annual gift or make a tribute donation in honor of someone special. Donate now: www.choc.org/donate

Purchase KidsArt: Give one-of-a-kind greeting cards or gifts designed by CHOC patients. Shop now. www.choc.org/kidsart

Attend an Event: Get involved and come support CHOC Children’s mission. Click here to see which events are happening in your area! https://www.choc.org/content/fundraisingevents/

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One family, two NICU stays

Each year, one in 10 babies in the U.S. are born prematurely. For the Cushing family, that statistic is two in two. Eleanor and Spencer’s eldest son, James, was born at just 24 weeks gestation. Their newest addition, Walter, was born at 31 weeks.

Today, both boys are doing well, thanks to respective stays in the CHOC Children’s small baby unit (SBU), a special unit within the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) that focuses on caring for the unique needs of the smallest and sickest babies.

Big brother James

James Theodore was born at a local hospital weighing just 1 pound 6 ounces. He was transferred to CHOC when he was 1 day old and spent four and a half months in CHOC’s SBU.

james-birth-small-baby-unit
James, shortly after his birth.

James’ SBU stay – July to November – was filled with myriad health challenges, in addition to his goals of gaining weight and learning to breathe on his own. During his hospitalization, James fought off a bloodstream infection, was intubated multiple times to help him breathe, underwent a minor cardiac procedure and eye surgery, and worked through feeding challenges. By the time he graduated from the SBU, his weight was up to 6 pounds. He was discharged with supplemental oxygen and a pulse oximeter to monitor the oxygen levels in his blood and had multiple follow-up appointments to track his progress.

Throughout a lengthy hospitalization, CHOC staff made sure the Cushings still had the opportunity to celebrate traditional milestones with their new baby – including his first Halloween. He was dressed up as Winnie the Pooh – in a Build-A-Bear costume, since typical Halloween costumes were still too big for him. His parents and nurses donned coordinating outfits to round out the Hundred Acre Wood characters.

James is now 3 years old. He’s smaller than other kids his age and has a slight speech delay, along with a new prescription for glasses. But despite his early start in life, James is doing well.

Each year on James’ birthday, the Cushings return to CHOC’s SBU to visit the doctors and nurses who cared for him during his early days.

James visit_Dr. Bhakta
Each year on his birthday, James visits the CHOC staff who cared for him as an infant. He’s pictured here with his dad Spencer (left) and Dr. Kushal Bhakta, medical director of CHOC’s SBU.

“Despite James’ life-threatening obstacles, the SBU team was able to care for our son and save his life,” Eleanor says.

Little brother Walter

Due to her existing medical issues, Eleanor knew she would likely deliver early with any additional pregnancies. When she and Spencer were ready to add another child to their family, they switched medical plans so that she could eventually deliver at St. Joseph Hospital in Orange, right next door to CHOC’s expert neonatologists and other pediatric specialists.

Walter Rudolph was born at 31 weeks gestation and admitted to CHOC’s SBU, just like his older brother. At birth, he weighed just 3 pounds, 7 ounces. Walter’s goals in the SBU focused on growing and gaining weight. Six weeks after birth – and two weeks before his original due date – he was discharged from the hospital. In that time, he had grown to 5 pounds, 11 ounces.

walter_small baby unit
Eleanor holds her newborn son Walter, alongside smiling big brother James.

During Walter’s SBU stay, he was cared for by many of the same doctors, nurses, and developmental and respiratory therapists who cared for his older brother.

“When James was born, it was so nice to see so many familiar faces from our first SBU stay,” Eleanor says.

These familiar faces included Dr. Kushal Bhakta, medical director of CHOC’s SBU, and Dr. Michel Mikhael, a CHOC neonatologist.

“Our medical team was not only super smart, but they were also warm and compassionate,” Eleanor says. “There was always a theme with staff; they were always asking, ‘Do you have any questions? Can I get you anything?’”

Eleanor and Spencer are both nurses by trade, but at CHOC they got to focus on just being parents.

“Because of our medical backgrounds, we knew what the machines and monitors were doing, but we didn’t have to worry about any of that. We got to focus on just being parents,” Eleanor says.

walter-nicu-graduation
Walter, on his graduation day from CHOC’s NICU. His graduation cap was knit by CHOC volunteers, and his graduation certificate showcases his impressive growth in the NICU.

With two NICU stays behind her family, Eleanor’s message to CHOC staff is a simple one.

“Thank you to everyone who walked us through this journey,” she says. “We are a stronger family because of it.”

Learn more about CHOC's small baby unit

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CHOC resident follows in his father’s footsteps

Growing up, Tim Hicks fondly remembers seeing his dad come home from work with a smile. Despite his demanding job as physician, his dad, David, always remained positive and shared countless rewarding stories that he witnessed at the hospital.

It was that unwavering dedication that inspired Tim, now a chief resident at CHOC Children’s and UC Irvine, to pursue a career in medicine.

“Seeing how happy my dad has been, I wanted to be part of that,” he says.

As long as he can remember, Tim was interested in medicine. He was a curious child and enjoyed science and learning about the human body.

Similarly, his dad, Dr. David Hicks, a pulmonologist and neonatologist at CHOC for more than 40 years, had always been interested in medicine as well. David wanted to become a veterinarian initially, like his own father, but eventually went to medical school.

During his long and successful tenure at CHOC, David has enjoyed seeing the hospital’s growth and working alongside a compassionate and dedicated team.

“What’s most inspiring at CHOC is the desire of our nurses and doctors to treat their patients as if they were their own children. That, and when I see the smiles on parents’ faces when their kids get better, is what inspires me to continue to do this,” says the 74-year-old physician.

It’s that same drive that motivates Tim to follow in his dad’s footsteps.

“I really enjoy treating and hanging out with kids. They manage to smile even in a very difficult time. Their light-heartedness and innocent outlook are refreshing in many ways,” Tim says.

Tim’s relationship with CHOC goes back even further, however. His dad recalls the time when Tim, a teen then, was admitted to CHOC to be treated for a splenic fracture.

choc-childrens-hospital-resident-physician-father
Dr. Hicks with his son Tim at his white coat ceremony, where residents receive their white coats for the first time.

“Little did we know then that he would be back as a pediatric resident one day,” David says. “It was a few scary days in the PICU. Moments like that teach you that life is precious and that things can change very quickly.”

Tim completed his pediatric residency in July 2019 and became a board-certified pediatrician. His goal now is to go into pediatric pulmonary medicine, like his father.

“Pulmonary was one of my last rotations in residency, and I fell in love with it,” Tim says. “I guess I’m following my father’s footsteps even more closely now!”

Reflecting on his years as a resident, he knew becoming chief resident was the natural next step in his journey.

“I wanted to be a chief resident because I love the CHOC residency program. It’s an extra year where I take on more of an administrator role, a position that allows me to help make important improvements to our already wonderful program.”

Along with meetings, scheduling, seminars and other responsibilities that come along with the role, Tim appreciates the chance to become a teacher.

“The Chief Resident position is unique; as a liaison between the residents and administrators, I try to be the residents’ voice and empower them while getting insight into the workings of a large program of 90 residents working at three hospitals. Because of this, I will become a better teacher, communicator and leader.”

Both Tim and David point to CHOC as an ideal place for budding doctors to learn. Between a diverse patient population and a wide variety of cases, residents can expect to be challenged.

“Training at CHOC gives us a wealth of knowledge,” Tim says. “It’s a great foundation for any pediatric career that residents decide to pursue, whether it is general pediatrics or subspecialty medicine. The attendings at CHOC are wonderful, approachable and eager to teach. They really help foster a CHOC family atmosphere that feels very special to be a part of.”

Seeing his father work at CHOC for more than four decades has given Tim a unique perspective about what it means to be part of the CHOC family.

“As his son and as a former CHOC patient, I have learned how special the patient-physician relationship is. To be a physician and serve in the community I grew up in is something few people are lucky enough to experience.”

For Tim, that means occasionally encountering familiar faces.

“Some of the most special moments in residency have been when I have helped take care of my father’s patients,” Tim says.

It reinforces the impact of his dad’s work when those former patients – now parents of their own children – remember Dr. David Hicks fondly.

“My dad has given me great advice and taught me to treat each patient as a person – that it’s important to take care of their unique, individual needs with care and compassion.”

Tim – or “Hicks 2.0,” as he jokingly refers to himself – couldn’t be prouder to follow his dad’s path.

“My dad is an incredible role model and friend. I’m not only thankful for his guidance in life but also in medicine,” he says.

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Honoring the Veterans Among our Mighty Brigade

This Veterans Day, CHOC Children’s wants to acknowledge the military veterans among our mighty brigade of clinicians and staff, and extend our heartfelt thanks for their service to our country.

We asked our veterans to share how their history of service impacts their work at CHOC, and how it contributes to our mission to nurture, advance and protect the health and well-being of children.

Here are a few of their responses.

Bill Rohde

  • Sergeant (E4), U.S. Air Force
  • Vice president, finance, CHOC Children’s

“Veterans understand what it truly means to defend and protect, making them well qualified to be defenders of childhood and protectors of the health and well-being of children.”

Bill_Rhonde_CHOC

Teela Hernandez

  • Hospital corpsman, pediatric unit, U.S. Navy
  • Registered nurse, multispecialty unit, CHOC Children’s

“Because of my service, I know how to multi-task and roll with the punches. I work well under pressure.”

Teela Hernandez

Daniel Holloway

  • Petty Officer, U.S. Coast Guard
  • Marketing project manager, CHOC Children’s

“I joined the Coast Guard and served active duty for six years because I aligned with the mission to protect lives and the environment, provide life-saving care to those in distress and promote safety through law enforcement. Military service taught me teamwork and discipline to see things through. Transitioning to CHOC was a great fit for me as its mission and values are in alignment with protecting the health and well-being of children and everyone who comes through our doors. I am grateful to work in partnership with the most wonderful people doing incredible, life-saving work within our community. I am a proud veteran and CHOC employee.”

Daniel Holloway

Cortney McKinney

  • Medic, U.S. Army
  • Registered nurse, outpatient infusion center, CHOC Children’s

“While I was a medic in the Army, I found my love for medicine and helping people. I knew I wanted to be a nurse. The Army helped me realize that God gave me the heart of a servant. I now continue my service as a nurse caring for my patients here at CHOC.”

Courtney McKinney

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