Longtime CHOC Pediatrician Retires

Dr. Michael Shannon can’t walk through the lobby of Sea View Pediatrics without at least one parent coming in for a hug.

After nearly 45 years in pediatric health care in Orange County, he’s earned more than a few fans – and the respect is mutual.

“Much of what a pediatrician learns is after training,” Dr. Shannon says.

Bring on the hugs though: At the end of this month, the 73-year-old will retire, completing a career that has spanned more than four decades and thousands of patients.

Born in Kansas, Dr. Shannon crisscrossed the country as a youth and young adult before ultimately attending medical school at Northwestern University in Illinois.

Dr. Shannon pursued a career in medicine following a childhood with frequent visits to doctors’ offices.

“I had bad allergies as a kid, an early tonsillectomy, a hernia at 7, appendicitis and asthma,” he says. “I was in the doctor’s office quite a bit. My parents seemed to like him, so I thought that would be a good thing to do.”

When it came to choosing his specialty, Dr. Shannon settled on pediatrics because he enjoyed the innocent nature of children.

“I always liked kids. Children don’t judge you, and their charts were really thin,” he says with a laugh.

When it came time for his residency and internship, Dr. Shannon and his wife, who’d long grown tired of cold Midwestern winters, headed west to California.

Ultimately, the pair settled in Orange County, where Dr. Shannon began a private pediatrics practice in July 1973. He practiced near Mission Hospital until 1995, when he joined Sea View Pediatrics, now a part of the CHOC Children’s Network.

Over more than four decades of practice, Dr. Shannon has treated thousands of Orange County children.

“I remember him being a cool doctor,” says Steve Concialdi, a patient of Dr. Shannon’s as a child and who is now a captain with the Orange County Fire Authority. “He was hip and he was fun.”

choc-pediatrician-dr-michael-shannon-with-steven-concialdi
Steve Concialdi with Dr. Michael Shannon, who cared for him as a child and now cares for the next generation of Steve’s family.

The doctor reached an icon status for a young Steve when he was about 10. He’d been battling a cold and his mother thought he should skip a school whale watching trip. After hearing Dr. Shannon’s opinion, mom Bonnie was swayed and Steve went on the trip.

“I went and I had a blast,” he says. “I ended up throwing up, but that’s because I got sea sick. But I just remember as little boy, what a cool doctor he was. We saw Dr. Shannon for years.”

And so, when Steve and his sister, Carrie, started their own families, Dr. Shannon was a clear choice for their children’s pediatrician – and Bonnie agreed.

choc-pediatrician-dr-michael-shannon-with-patients
Dr. Shannon with Gracie Concialdi at her first appointment; her father, Steve Concialdi; grandmother, Bonnie; and her brother, Andy Concialdi.

“I told them, you’ve got to go to Dr. Shannon,” she said. “I wouldn’t stand for anyone else. I went to their first appointments too. I wanted to see Dr. Shannon because I missed him.”

The Concialdis are just one of many families in Orange County that have had generations of children see Dr. Shannon. The phenomenon is a testimony to Dr. Shannon’s long career and strong relationships with his patients and families.

And that bond was never more evident than in March 2011, when he was seriously injured in a car accident. His patients and families – past and present – showed an outpouring of concern for him during a long recovery period.

The swell of support clarified for Dr. Shannon the impact his career had made on patients and families.

“The accident made me feel even more than ever before that I didn’t want anything happening to my babies,” he says of his patients.

And now, nearly seven years later, Dr. Shannon says he’s ready to hang up his stethoscope and entrust the care of his babies to the other Sea View physicians.

Dr. Shannon plans to spend his retirement traveling and focusing on his grandchildren. His future trips include travel to Louisville, Ky., to visit his daughter, Vanessa, and Ireland and Spain.

Looking for a pediatrician? Find one near you.

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From CHOC Neurosurgery Parent to CHOC Chaplain

The first time Chaplain Steve came to CHOC Children’s, he had just found out his daughter Catie needed an emergency neurosurgery. Now, he’s back for good― as the newest chaplain on CHOC’s spiritual care team.

Chaplain Steve and Choco Bear
Chaplain Steve is the newest member of CHOC’s spiritual care team. But first, he was a CHOC parent.

Ever since pre-school, Catie had experienced difficulties with body awareness, some motor skills, coordination, attentiveness in school and other challenges that didn’t seem to fit her developmental stage.

For five years, Steve and his wife Claudia explored everything: psychiatry, ophthalmology, behavior modification, medication, coaching, neurofeedback and more. Finally, when she was 8 years old they advocated for a referral to a pediatric neurologist, rule out the possibility that there was something wrong with her brain. Even though Catie didn’t show any of the physical symptoms typically associated with a mass in her brain, such as headaches, seizures, fainting or major motor problems, their neurologist ordered an MRI just to be safe.

After five years of trying new therapies and hitting dead ends, Steve and Claudia didn’t know what to expect from Catie’s MRI results, or if they were finally about to get answers.

Catie’s scans revealed that she had a large arachnoid cyst in her brain. The fluid-filled sac measured 10 centimeters, about the size of a baseball.

“I was in shock” Steve says of the moment his wife called him with the results. “I remember exactly where I was and exactly what I was doing at that time. I remember begging my wife, “Please tell me you’re kidding. Please tell me you’re kidding.”

Dr. William Loudon, a pediatric neurosurgeon at CHOC Children’s came to The Julia and George Argyros Emergency Department to meet the family, who was trying to process a lot of information at once.

Dr. William Loudon CHOC pediatric neurosurgeon
Dr. William Loudon, a pediatric neurosurgeon at CHOC Children’s.

“He told us that this was serious, but that they were going to take care of it right away,” Steve recalls. “He explained very clearly what he was going to do to drain the cyst and how he was going to do it.”

Steve and Claudia didn’t understand how a cyst could have been growing for years inside her skull undetected.

“Although Catie hadn’t yet shown physical side effects, she inevitably would have begun to decompensate, which would’ve greatly increased her risk of injury,” said Dr. Loudon.

Since Catie is the oldest child in her family and the first to undergo a major surgery, her parents were naturally worried, about everything from anesthesia to recovery

“Dr. Loudon told us that he would care for our daughter as if she were his own child,” Steve says. “Since working at CHOC, I’ve heard him tell other families in the emergency department the same thing. I know that he means it every time.”

Dr. Loudon performed a series of surgeries to open the cyst and allow it to drain internally, a procedure known as endoscopic cyst fenestration. He made a small cut in her skull and then punctured a tiny hole on either side of the cyst to allow the fluid to drain internally over a period of time.

Dr. Loudon’s commitment to Catie’s safety was deeply appreciated by her parents.

“I saw the way his team acted, and how they interacted with my daughter,” Steve recalls. “Dr. Loudon takes his job very seriously and he goes after the problem. We knew she was in good hands.”

Catie recovering from neurosurgery at CHOC
Catie recovering from neurosurgery at CHOC

With every hospital stay, Steve found that his own natural instinct was to offer support to other parents, whether it be in the waiting room or the pediatric intensive care unit (PICU). By this point, Steve had been a chaplain in a hospice setting for six years.

“Even while we were the ones receiving care, my first reaction was always to rush to other families in need, but since I was there as a parent, there was only so much I could do,” he says.

Now that Chaplain Steve has officially joined the spiritual care team at CHOC, he is able to offer spiritual and emotional support to patients and families.

“I have my own beliefs and faith traditions, but these come secondary to what a family needs in a time of crisis,” Steve says.

Today, Catie is a high school student who loves science, space and kids. She hasn’t been hospitalized since her last surgery, although a few years ago she came back to CHOC with a broken foot that she got “pretending to be a ninja,” as her dad says. She still treasures the Choco bear that she received when she was a patient, but sometimes loans him to her little brother if he’s feeling under the weather.

Chaplain Steve and family
Catie’s family is happy to report that she has not been hospitalized in the last five years.
Learn more about neurosurgery at CHOC

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Veteran Nurse to Help Lead CHOC Mental Health Inpatient Center

After spending time with a relative with a mental illness, Dani Milliken knew as early as age 6 that she wanted to help people who struggle with mental illness when she grew up.

“From that point on, I dreamed of working as a psychiatric nurse,” Dani says. “I am so fortunate that I get to come to work every day and love what I do. My passion in life is psychiatric nursing; it always has been and it always will be.”

mental health nurse
Dani Milliken. clinical director of CHOC’s inpatient mental health center

Dani will put that passion – as well as a wealth of experience in establishing a pediatric inpatient mental health unit – to good use as clinical director of the CHOC Children’s Mental Health Inpatient Center, set to open next spring.

Before joining CHOC in June, Dani helped design and operationalize a pediatric inpatient mental health unit at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio. Previously, she spent four years at Twin Valley Behavioral Healthcare, a state-owned and -operated inpatient psychiatric hospital in Ohio. There for four years, she served in a variety of roles, most recently as assistant director of nursing.

Dani hopes her work at CHOC will set the standard of care for psychiatric nursing across the country, as well as help remove a stigma that persists around patients with mental illness and the clinicians who treat them.

“Unfortunately, there can be incredible amounts of stigma surrounding not only the patients on an inpatient psychiatric unit, but also the staff that works there,” she says. “I look forward to teaching everyone about quality psychiatric treatment, and what it means to be a real psychiatric nurse.”

Dani earned her bachelor’s degree in nursing from Mount Carmel College of Nursing, and went on to receive her master’s degree in nursing administration. She is currently working toward a doctorate in health care administration.

Though much of her free time is spent getting settled in Orange County after a cross-country move, Dani looks forward to hiking and biking with her husband and dog, as well as quilting and sewing.

In her short time at CHOC, Dani already has been impressed with the culture of collaboration, accountability and respect.

“I am inspired at the amount of teamwork, collaboration and respect that I have encountered during meetings with various disciplines,” she says. “All of these things speak loudly about the level of quality care being delivered to patients here at CHOC. I am thrilled to be a part of this amazing team!”

Upon its opening, CHOC Children’s Mental Health Inpatient Center will be the first pediatric inpatient mental health center in Orange County to accommodate children younger than 12.

With 18 private rooms in a secure and healing environment, the center will provide a safe, nurturing place for children ages 3 to 18, and specialty programming for children younger than 12.

The center is the cornerstone of CHOC’s efforts to create a pediatric system of care for children, teens and young adults in Orange County with mental illness. One in five children – about 150,000 in Orange County – will experience a diagnosable mental health problem.

Stay Informed about Mental Health

CHOC Children’s has made the commitment to take a leadership role in meeting the need for more mental health services in Orange County. Sign up today to keep informed about this important initiative.

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Surgical Team Gives Back Through CHOC Walk

Known as CHOC’s most anticipated event, the CHOC Walk in the Park presented by Disneyland Resort is set for August 27 this year. Many of our employees — among the more than 15,000 people expected to attend — will be proudly walking for CHOC in support of our patients and their families.

We spoke to Christina Portugal, unit assistant, surgical unit, and team captain of CHOC Walk’s team 3E Suture Heroes, who shared what inspires her to participate in this beloved tradition.

choc walk
Team Suture Heroes at last year’s CHOC Walk in the Park

Q: What inspired you to become part of CHOC Walk? How long have you been participating?

A: I was inspired to participate in the CHOC Walk in the Park when I was a volunteer, before I joined the staff. I was inspired to be a volunteer after losing my dad to cancer eight years ago. I was moved by all the health care professionals who treated my dad with such kindness and compassion. Through my dad’s illness I gained a profound passion for the healthcare industry and wanted to find a way to give back so I chose to volunteer at CHOC. As my volunteer journey began, little did I know this would be the place where I would give to others and in turn heal from my loss. Volunteering I meet so many brave children fighting through the most difficult times and still standing strong heroically, our true super heroes of this world, teaching me that I could also be strong. I decided after a few years of volunteering that I would make a career move into the healthcare industry and joined the 3E surgical unit. I am grateful to be amongst a team of hardworking, warm kindhearted people who care about helping others. When I started walking in the CHOC Walk in the Park as a volunteer it was another way to say thank you and now I continue to say thank you to CHOC for giving me more than I can possibly put into words. Team Suture Heroes of 3E has grown and last year we were 38 members strong and raised over $4,000!

Q: There are many ways that associates can support CHOC. Why do you participate in CHOC Walk every year?

A: I participate every year because it affords me an opportunity to raise funds that make an immediate impact on families at CHOC Children’s. I walk for HOPE and get to do so alongside my coworkers and community. It is a privilege.

Q: What is your favorite memory from a previous CHOC Walk?

A: Being amongst the thousands of people in our community all affected by and or supporting our families of CHOC is surreal. Walking alongside patients, families and teams supporting one another is what makes this event so memorable. Seeing the hundreds of banners, cheering crowds and smiling faces all walking with grateful happy hearts is an experience like no other.

Q: As a veteran of past CHOC Walks and leader of an experienced CHOC Walk team, what “insider tips” would you offer to someone participating in their first CHOC Walk this year?

A: When you register, you will be given your own CHOC Walk personal page. I would encourage everyone to post this right away on all their social media sites. With a click of a button your friends and family can donate toward your fundraising efforts. Another helpful tool is the CHOC Walk FUNdraiser app which makes it easy and fun to track your progress in real time. For the morning of the CHOC Walk in the Park I would suggest you come extra early and give yourself enough time to walk to the entrance of the park since there are no trams running that morning. The parking can get quite congested and crowded and can delay your arrival to the CHOC Walk and you don’t want to miss out on the opening festivities.

Q: What would you say to a community member or fellow CHOC associate to encourage them to participate in their first CHOC Walk?

A: There is something very special about coming together to benefit others.  You gain a sense of hope in humanity. The quote that inspired me to not only participate in the CHOC Walk but to also begin my journey as an employee at CHOC was, “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” – Mahatma Gandhi

Q: What inspires you most about the care being delivered at CHOC?

A: I am continually amazed by the medical teams at CHOC and the outstanding care they provide our families. When I walk across the bridge from the parking structure into the hospital, I have a grateful heart that I can be a part of a loving, giving and supportive community. I am thankful for what CHOC has taught me― how to be a better human and to appreciate what you have in this world.

Register Now!

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My Journey to Becoming a NICU Nurse: April’s Story

By April Bell, registered nurse at CHOC Children’s and mother of CHOC NICU graduates Mikayla and Emma

I’ve been a nurse at CHOC for 15 years. I started working here as a nurse aide while I was in nursing school and after graduation, I entered the RN Residency program as a nurse in the medical/surgical unit. I learned a lot about time management and honed my nursing skills starting IVs, inserting feeding tubes and catheters, and giving medications. I enjoyed the time I spent on that unit, but after about five years I was looking for another challenge. The new pediatric intensive care unit (PICU) and new cardiovascular intensive care unit (CVICU) had just opened on the sixth floor, and I was considering a nurse fellowship in the PICU. However, before I could start that process, I found out I was pregnant with twins.

Not only twins, but very high-risk twins called monoamniotic-monochorionic, or “MoMo.” These types of twins share one amniotic sac and the risk is that their umbilical cords could become tangled and/or compressed. These rare twins have a 50 percent survival rate. I knew they would most likely be delivered early; my OB-GYN did not want to deliver past 32 weeks gestation. We ended up making it only to 28 weeks, as their cords were knotted together twice and wrapped around my daughter, Mikayla’s neck, twice.

Mikayla weighed only one pound, 13 ounces when she was born. Emma was two pounds, six ounces.

nicu nurse
April was a registered nurse in the medical/surgical unit at CHOC Children’s when her twins were born premature. Their family’s experience in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) inspired her to become a NICU nurse.

From the moment the twins were delivered, the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) team that was in my delivery room made a huge impression on me including the neonatologist who was present at the delivery, Dr. Daryoush Bassiri. I met Dr. Bassiri the week before my twins were born, when I was admitted to St. Joseph’s Hospital, next door to CHOC. He told me what I could expect if they were born at 27, 28, 29, 30 weeks, etc. The nurses who were at the delivery were also very supportive and kept me informed about what the plan was for the babies.

Both of my daughters need to be intubated right after delivery, but the nurses made sure I could see them briefly before they left for the NICU. The next few days were quite a roller-coaster, starting when Emma became very sick. Because her lungs were not fully developed, she was placed on a ventilator to help her breathe. The pressure of the ventilator caused her lungs to collapse. She needed two chest tubes to resolve her collapsed lungs. Her lungs also developed pulmonary hypertension (a type of high blood pressure) and pulmonary interstitial emphysema (where air collects outside the normal air space). All of Emma’s lung problems are common conditions in premature babies, but it was still a very scary time. I wasn’t sure if she was going to make it. She was given nitric oxide, a medication to treat breathing problems in premature babies, and finally she started to slowly improve. She took a turn for the better, only to face another setback: she was diagnosed with a heart defect called patent ductus arteriosus (PDA). In some premature babies, the opening between the aorta and the pulmonary artery does not close, as it does in most children.

Her sister, Mikayla, although smaller, was doing much better. She only needed to be intubated for about a day and a half and was on bubble CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure), non-invasive ventilation support for newborns. Mikayla had the same PDA diagnosis as her sister, and received medication to close her PDA. Emma could not get the medication because the doctors were worried about her kidneys, after how sick she had been. So the doctors decided that a surgical repair know as PDA ligation was the way to go. Once again, we were worried about her. She had an excellent surgeon, Dr. Brian Palafox, who explained everything to me and Emma’s dad. Although he told us what possible complications could come from the surgery, everything went very smoothly.

The next few months were filled with more ups and downs, but nothing quite as scary as the first few days. After they mastered breathing on their own, working on feedings was another struggle. They had an amazing team of developmental therapists, lactation consultants and of course, their bedside nurses. I learned so much from everyone that took care of my twins. As a medical/surgical nurse, I had floated to the NICU before, but I had no idea what each preemie went through.

Emma spent 75 days and Mikayla spent 77 days in the NICU. Towards the end of my twins’ NICU stay, I realized that the NICU was where I wanted to be as a nurse. I spoke with one of the NICU managers and told her I was interested in transferring to the NICU. I was surprised to learn that they were, in fact, just starting a nurse fellowship program. When I started my NICU fellowship, I went with the RN Residents to a special NICU consortium taught by the NICU educator at the University of California Irvine. We were there with nurses from NICUs all over Southern California. I finished the NICU fellowship when my daughters were just about 1 year old. I feel like the classes really helped me understand so much more about the development of the neonate and how to care for them.

During the last seven years in the NICU, I have taken care of a variety of babies, from small micro-preemies to babies who have undergone surgery, and babies with heart defects. I helped open the CHOC Children’s NICU at St. Joseph’s Hospital. I have also had the privilege to care for babies in our Small Baby Unit.

After having two micro preemies of my own, I feel I can really relate to a lot of the parents. I have been on the other side of it and know how frustrating and worrisome it can feel.

I enjoy sharing my story with my patient’s families. I have seen firsthand how strong and resilient these babies can be.

I was working the night that we opened the new, all private room NICU. At the end of my night shift, I helped transfer my patients upstairs and get them settled into their new rooms. It was amazing to see how smoothly everything went that morning. It was also exciting to see the babies in their own rooms. My twins were always with other babies in a pod, and it would have been so nice to have a private room. I would’ve loved to have been able to stay overnight and sleep right next to my babies when they were in the NICU, like the parents can do now in our new NICU. It was hard to leave the NICU when my daughters were there. The noise in the pods could get loud at times, and occasionally a baby would be sick and need sterile procedures which meant all non-clinical staff had to leave the unit. The patients did not always have privacy. I am excited for the patients and families that will benefit from our new private room NICU.

Looking at my daughters today, you would never know what they have been through. They are almost 8 years old and they are just about to start second grade. They’re very smart and are excelling in school. They started reading in pre-kindergarten and have been reading at an advanced level ever since; they almost read better than their older brother, Joey. The only long-term effect from being born so premature and facing a mountain of health challenges has been with Emma, who has a raspy voice from left vocal cord paralysis, a common complication from the surgery. I am so grateful to have two healthy girls.

I am also very grateful for the way the CHOC NICU cared for my own children, and I am extremely proud to be part of it as a caregiver.

Take a virtual tour of our new NICU

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