Conference to Connect Medically Complex Teens, Parents with Peers

An upcoming CHOC Children’s conference will help teens with medically complex connective tissue disorders and their parents learn more about their diagnoses – and connect with others who have similar conditions.

The Dec. 3 and 4 “Connecting the Dots … Diagnosing and Treating Children and Adolescents with Medical Complexity” is geared for parents and their teens with a handful of conditions: Ehlers-Danlos syndrome; pain syndromes; postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTs); dysautonomia; and mast cell activation disorder.

“One of the goals of this conference is for parents and patients to have a better understanding of their condition, how the diagnosis is made, the symptoms as well as what treatments are available. It also gives patients and families a chance to meet others going through the same experiences and having the same or similar diagnoses” says Dr. Neda Zadeh, a CHOC geneticist who will participate in the conference.

medically complex

Because these conditions are rare and can often take a long time to diagnose, many patients experience feelings of isolation, she says.

“My experience has been that when you tell someone that they’re not alone, that there is a diagnosis, and that there are many other people with this same condition, you can see their body language change immediately usually to a form of relief,” Dr. Zadeh says.

“For many, it is incredibly cathartic for them to hear that there’s a name for this condition, and that it is a real diagnosis and a reason for all of the symptoms they have been experiencing for so many years without knowing or understanding why,” she adds.

Over the two-day conference, parents and teens will hear from a variety of specialists who treat aspects of these conditions, including cardiologists, allergists, pain specialists and anesthesiologists.

On Saturday afternoon, attendees will be broken into two tracks: one for parents and another for teens. During the teens’ break-out sessions, attendees will have an opportunity to anonymously ask specialists questions. The day will conclude with a pizza party, where parents and teens can meet peers who have similar diagnoses and experiences.

Sunday’s session will feature a panel of CHOC experts – including Dr. Zadeh, gastroenterologist Dr. Ashish Chogle, cardiologist Dr. Michael Recto and anesthesiologist and pain specialist Dr. Paul Yost – as well as breakout sessions covering advocacy issues and support systems for raising chronically ill children.

Parents and teens can register for the conference on CHOC’s website.

The conference has a Dec. 3 component solely for the education of medical providers. Parents who think their child’s physician might be interested can also find more information on CHOC’s website.

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It’s All About Comfort in CHOC’s Fully Integrated Operating Rooms

A child life specialist and young boy interact in the main lobby of the Tidwell Procedure Center, on the third floor of the Bill Holmes Tower.
A child life specialist and young boy interact in the main lobby of the Tidwell Procedure Center at CHOC Children’s Hospital.

Comfort comes in many forms at CHOC Children’s, and not all of them involve a prescription pad. And that’s important because pain management is highly complex and must be individualized for each patient’s physical, developmental and emotional needs.

Did you know the same distraction techniques used to re-direct children’s behavior are often used to enhance our patients’ comfort? That’s why an engrossing game of Mario Kart or a visit from a friendly pet therapy dog may be just what the doctor ordered.

“Our goal is to keep our patients as comfortable as possible,” said Dr. Paul Yost, a pediatric anesthesiologist at CHOC. “And sometimes we can use distraction in a way that is much more beneficial to our patients than pain medication. Distraction and other non-medication techniques may allow patients to leave the hospital sooner, with less discomfort and fewer complications.”

At CHOC you will find state-of-the-art inpatient and outpatient surgical care provided within a compassionate, family centered, all-pediatric environment. Our pediatric anesthesiologists are experts in the many techniques that provide comfort, while promoting faster healing and recovery.

Additionally, CHOC offers pain management consultation for all patients around the clock. Our pain management team includes Dr. Hai Nguyen, a fellowship-trained pediatric pain management specialist, and Cheryl Deters, a nationally certified pediatric nurse practitioner.

One of seven operating rooms in the Tidwell Procedure Center.
One of seven operating rooms in the Tidwell Procedure Center.

“For a child, fear and anxiety equal pain,” Dr. Yost said. “The mind plays a very important part in how the body responds to comfort, so we work very hard to minimize fear.”

Using a multi-disciplinary approach, the pain management team works closely with CHOC Psychology, Child Life and other medical specialties. In addition to distraction, non-medication pain management techniques may include guided imagery, traditional Chinese medicine, acupuncture, acupressure, massage, and art and music therapy.

“We have the skills and tools to help our patients cope, including many options that only a children’s hospital can provide,” Dr. Yost said. “Choosing to bring a child here is the most important decision a parent can make. We have the expertise to get our patients through situations as safely and comfortably as possible.”

To learn more about surgery services at CHOC, please click here.

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