What we’re thankful for this year: 2019

The  physicians, nurses, staff and patients that make up the CHOC Children’s healthcare community have much to be thankful for this year. In addition to celebrating our 55th anniversary, expanding our Primary Care Network and preparing to open the Thompson Autism Center, we’re grateful to be able to offer best-in-class care to kids in Orange County and beyond. A few members of the CHOC community share what they are most thankful for this year.

KimberlyChavalasCripe
Kimberly Chavalas Cripe, president and CEO, CHOC Children’s

Kimberly Chavalas Cripe, president and CEO, CHOC Children’s

“I have the privilege of experiencing the magic of the holidays through the eyes of our patients.  Their courage, strength, and optimism inspire our team year-round, and drive us to push the limits of what is possible to ensure the very best outcomes for our community’s children.  From bringing preventive care closer to home, to expanding access to mental health services, CHOC’s mighty brigade is dedicated to keeping kids happy and healthy. And for that, I am especially grateful.”

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Chris Furman, chairman, CHOC Children’s Board of Directors

Chris Furman, chairman, CHOC Children’s Board of Directors

“I am grateful for serving as chairman of CHOC’s board of directors.  It’s incredibly heartwarming for me and the entire board to help CHOC’s physicians, staff, volunteers and donors preserve the magic of childhood for thousands of children in Orange County and beyond.”

Emma_Sandhu
Emma Sandhu, vice president, administrator and chief nursing officer, CHOC Children’s at Mission Hospital

Emma Sandhu, vice president, administrator and chief nursing officer, CHOC Children’s at Mission Hospital

“I make an effort to live each day with gratitude. I am especially thankful for my family and for having the opportunity to be together this Thanksgiving. I am grateful for the things that I learn each day that help me to be the leader that this amazing organization deserves. Anyone that knows me knows how much I love CCMH and how blessed I feel to be a part of CHOC Children’s. A mighty brigade of passionate associates working side by side each day to serve our most precious gifts, our children.”

Isabella Valdovinos
Isabella, age 10

Isabella Valdovinos, age 10, CHOC Children’s patient

“I’m thankful for my mom, and the nurses and doctors at CHOC who took out my appendix and took such good care of me. I’m looking forward to a healthy and happy Thanksgiving with my family – especially the mashed potatoes and gravy.”

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Liz Hawkins, volunteer, Mental Health Inpatient Center

Liz Hawkins, volunteer, Mental Health Inpatient Center

“As the first volunteer in CHOC’s Mental Health Inpatient Center, I’m humbled to be of service in the simplest of ways, be it a warm smile, a cup of juice, a compassionate ear or a shared laugh with our patients, families and staff. I’m grateful for all of the little things that I experience with our patients; from painting nails, to working on a puzzle, to learning a new game and even just acting silly by rolling around in the grass in our outdoor play area. I’m honored to be embraced so warmly by our patients and incredible staff as a part of the MHIC “Dream Team.” My husband Ryan and I are thankful for our entire MHIC’s dedication to treating our patients with dignity and respect every day and resetting the standard of care for pediatric mental health in this country. We are making history every day at CHOC. Lastly, I am grateful for all of the lessons our MHIC patients teach me: to face challenges head-on, to develop resiliency and self-awareness, to remember that you are never alone and most importantly, that the little things are always the big things. ”

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Ralph and Sue Stern, CHOC Children’s supporters

Sue and Ralph Stern, CHOC Children’s supporters

“As the grandparents of 10 grandchildren ages 5 – 17 years and all residing in Orange County, we are so grateful to have CHOC in our backyard. To us CHOC is not just a children’s hospital, it’s a healthcare system staffed by superb physicians, along with caring and attentive nurses, technicians and administrative staff. Each time one of our grandchildren has been admitted to CHOC Children’s Hospital as a patient, he or she has been discharged in much better condition. Our gratitude to Kim Cripe, CHOC’s president and CEO, for providing outstanding leadership and to Kara Kipp , CHOC Foundation assistant vice president, and Brianne Ortiz, manager of the Cherese Mari Laulhere Child Life Department, and the rest of the child life team for the impact of their work.”

Liam Katz
Liam, age 5

Liam Katz, age 5, CHOC Children’s patient
“I am thankful for CHOC, child life, the playroom, the treasure chests, all the doctors and nurses, and the wonderful families and friends we have met.”

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Dr. Tom Megerian, pediatric neurologist and medical director, Thompson Autism Center at CHOC Children’s

Dr. Tom Megerian, pediatric neurologist and medical director, Thompson Autism Center at CHOC Children’s

“I am so grateful for the opportunity that the CHOC executive leadership team and the Thompson Family Foundation have given us to open a state-of-the-art autism center. This will allow us to provide a medical home for families and children suffering from Autism Spectrum Disorders. My team and I are thankful that we will be able to promote early diagnosis, treatment of co-occurring disorders, education and research for families suffering from ASD.

I am especially appreciative for the gift and privilege of working with colleagues across the CHOC healthcare system in helping make the Thompson Autism Center a reality. Everyone from rehabilitation services, CHOC Children’s Specialists, neurology, psychology, information services, project management, the CHOC Foundation, marketing, and my newfound family within the Thompson Autism Center who have been so supportive and single-minded in their dedication to our patients. Finally, I am grateful to the families who, every day, put their faith and trust in us to care for their children. Thank you for enriching our lives by helping us aspire to be better clinicians, caregivers and citizens.”

Kimberly Burks
Kimberly Burks, charge nurse, neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), CHOC Children’s at Mission Hospital

Kimberly Burks, charge nurse, neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), CHOC Children’s at Mission Hospital

“As we near the end of 2019, I feel so thankful for my CHOC Children’s at Mission Hospital family. Each member of the team — from our volunteers to our managers — is an integral part of our goal to provide excellent patient care. When things get busy, our team pulls together and works hard to get the job done. I am thankful to work in a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) that values patient- centered care and infant developmental care so much.”

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2019-2020 chief residents

Dr. Timothy Hicks, Dr. Stephanie Lee, Dr. Majid Husain, Dr. Amanda Schafenacker, chief residents

“For the past three years we have had the honor and privilege of learning from the incredible patients, physicians and medical staff at CHOC Children’s as part of the UC Irvine-CHOC Pediatric Residency Program. This year, we are thankful to be serving as the Pediatric Chief Residents. We are especially thankful for our 90+ residents who serve as the frontline providers taking care of the children of Orange County and beyond, our attending physicians and administrative staff for their commitment to education and teaching, and CHOC leadership for their unyielding support and dedication to our training program. Lastly, as pediatricians, we are grateful have the opportunity to partake in CHOC’s mission to nurture, advance and protect the health and well-being of our children.”

Jessica Ochoa, emergency department admitting representative

“I am thankful for the opportunity to work here at CHOC. I am thankful for all of my coworkers and all of the nurses because without them we would not be able to make a difference in these families’ lives. I am thankful for all the wonderful families that I have been able to meet while working here and last but not least, I am thankful for all the children that come in and continue to brighten our day with all of their little personalities. Happy Thanksgiving to all CHOC employees and CHOC families.”

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What We’re Thankful for This Year: 2018

The  physicians, nurses, staff and patients that make up the CHOC Children’s healthcare community have much to be thankful for this year. In addition to opening our Mental Health Inpatient Center and expanding our Primary Care Network, we’re grateful to be able to offer best-in-class care to kids in Orange County and beyond. A few members of the CHOC community share what they are most thankful for this year.

kimberly-chavalas-cripe
Kimberly Chavalas Cripe

Kimberly Chavalas Cripe, president & CEO, CHOC Children’s

“This Thanksgiving – and always – I am grateful for our mighty brigade of physicians, staff, volunteers, donors and community members who are committed to keeping childhood alive and well.  The holiday season is a time of wonderment for kids, and illness or injury shouldn’t dim the brightness of the holidays for our patients and their families.  Thank you to our team for working tirelessly to preserve the magic of childhood.”

chris-furman
Chris Furman

Chris Furman, chairman, CHOC Children’s Board of Directors

“This year, I am thankful for the opportunity to serve as the incoming chairman of CHOC’s board of directors. Our entire board is dedicated to furthering CHOC’s mission to nurture, advance and protect the health and well-being of children in Orange County and beyond. We are honored to support CHOC’s passionate team of physicians and staff and privileged to play a part in bringing world-class care to children and families.”

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Cynthia Neiman

Cynthia Neiman, chief marketing officer

“There are so many things that I am thankful for this year! I am so thankful to be working here at CHOC alongside a “mighty brigade” of passionate clinicians, associates, and my amazing team who are all dedicated to preserving the magic of childhood. I am thankful to wake up every morning and do something that I love with people who have a shared mission. This year, I am especially thankful for my family and that all of us will be together in the same city to enjoy the holiday together.”

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Dr. Maryam Gholizadeh

Dr. Maryam Gholizadeh, pediatric general and thoracic surgeon

“I am grateful for many blessings in my life. To name a few: I am thankful to be part of CHOC Children’s, one of the best children’s hospitals, and have the opportunity to do what I love the most, and that is to take care of children. Second, it is truly an honor and privilege to be a surgeon and have the trust of families with their most precious gifts on earth, their children. And finally, I am grateful for the support of my wonderful colleagues and all the staff at CHOC Children’s that allows me to do my job the best way I can.”

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Amanda Webb

Amanda Webb, emergency department charge nurse

“I am thankful to serve children and families who come to the Julia and George Argyros Emergency Department at CHOC Children’s. It’s my privilege to be a source of calm and care for our patients and families during a daunting and scary time. I’m also so grateful to work with a truly transformational leadership team, and alongside dedicated and compassionate staff who make up the best group I’ve collaborated with during my career.”

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Annette and Richard Symons

Annette and Richard Symons, CHOC Champions

“I am grateful that CHOC has given me the opportunity to build upon my parents’ legacy of giving. CHOC helped my husband and me realize our desire to establish a spiritual care endowment—walking alongside us throughout the entire process, putting our philanthropic goals first and working hard to make everything easy for us. As a long-time member of the Small World Guild, I’ve been fortunate to see the incredible healing and support that CHOC provides children and families. I’ve come to find that the more you get involved at CHOC, the more you learn just how amazing it is.”       -Annette Symons

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Dr. Charlie Golden

Dr. Charlie Golden, executive medical director, CHOC Children’s primary care network

“With each year that passes, all of us experience the many trials and blessings of life. As a father and a husband, I am truly thankful for my family, and am reminded every day by them of the true purpose of life. As a physician, I am thankful for my patients and staff, as they enlist me for advice, confide in me their most sacred concerns, and place their trust in me. As a physician executive, I am thankful for the skilled team of physicians and leaders that I work with who share a vision and work tirelessly to provide the highest quality healthcare to all children. Finally, I’m so very grateful for CHOC Children’s, and our vision to be a leading destination for children’s health.”

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Christian and his dad Bernabe

Christian, age 8, patient

“I’m thankful for my dad for making my favorite foods. I’m thankful for my mom because when I can’t sleep she climbs in my bed and lays with me until I fall asleep.”

Bernabe, Christian’s dad

“Thank you to every doctor and nurse for the special care they provide to Christian. I’m thankful for Jody, an oncology nurse practitioner because my son lights up whenever she comes into his room to check on him. Jody and Christian have a special bond.”

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Mallorie Boeing

Mallorie Boeing, pediatric intensive care unit registered nurse, CHOC Children’s at Mission Hospital

“This year and every year for the past four years since I became a member of the CHOC organization, I am thankful for my CHOC Children’s at Mission Hospital family. From our unit assistants, electroencephalogram (EEG)  techs, child life specialists and volunteers, to our doctors and nurses both at CHOC Mission and Mission Hospital, I am thankful to be a part of such an amazing and passionate team of individuals. I am especially thankful this year for CHOC’s ability to provide tuition assistance while I obtain my master’s degree and for creating such a fun and positive work environment. I am also thankful for CHOC’s continued dedication to providing safe, high-quality, patient-and-family-centered care to all of Orange County’s smallest residents.”

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Dr. Kelly Davis

Dr. Kelly Davis, pediatric sports medicine specialist

“I was a resident at CHOC several years ago and am so thankful to be a part of the CHOC community again. I am thankful for all of my colleagues who help me continue to grow and learn as a physician. I am thankful for my patients who are the young budding athletes of the future. They entrust me with their pains and concerns and allow me to care for them and help them stay healthy while they achieve their sports dreams. Being at CHOC as a resident taught me so much and significantly shaped the doctor that I am today. I am most thankful to now be able to give back and pass on my love for teaching and our healthcare system to the next generation of doctors.”

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Dr. Joffre Olaya

Dr. Joffre Olaya, pediatric neurosurgeon

“I am so grateful for the privilege of working at CHOC Children’s and the chance to be part of a premiere clinical team within CHOC’s Neuroscience Institute. I take pride in working alongside such an incredible team of healthcare providers who understand that we care for the most vulnerable population. Shouldering this responsibility propels us to strive to deliver the best possible care to our patients facing neurological disorders. I’m humbled that parents entrust us every day with their children’s medical care.”

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Danielle Frausto with CHOC colleagues’ daughters

Danielle Frausto, registered nurse, neonatal intensive care unit

“CHOC has given me the opportunity to do what I love most. It is an honor to come to work every day and take care of our fragile patients.”

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Lisa Schneider

Lisa Schneider, nurse manager, mental health inpatient center

“I am very thankful for everyone who has warmly welcomed me into the CHOC family and also for CHOC’s dedication to pediatric mental healthcare. This is the first organization that I have encountered that is so passionate about de-stigmatizing mental illness and prioritizing mental health prevention, recognition and treatment in children. We are truly impacting the children in our area and are setting a higher standard for mental health care across the country.”

Support CHOC to show your gratitude this holiday season

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Healthy Thanksgiving Recipe Ideas

By Kelsey Childs, clinical dietitian at CHOC Children’s

Thanksgiving is a time for family and friends to come together and celebrate over a delicious meal. While most look forward to sitting down at the table to begin the feast, few enjoy getting up from the table feeling overly stuffed. Estimates from the Calorie Control Council suggest a traditional Thanksgiving meal may contain as many as 3,000 calories, and once appetizers and beverages are included, the total can climb to a whopping 4,500 calories!

This Thanksgiving, use whole food ingredients in place of processed products to boost the nutrient content of your dishes and lighten the calorie load. Swapping full fat dairy products with reduced fat versions can further cut back on calories without impacting flavor. Check out the healthy Thanksgiving recipe ideas below to see if one of these delicious dishes might have a place at your table this year.

Roasted Green Beans with Cranberries

Instead of relying on canned soups to flavor traditional green bean casseroles, try this recipe made from whole food ingredients. Cranberries, garlic, lemon, and balsamic vinegar combine to pair perfectly with roasted turkey.

Ingredients:

  • 2 pounds fresh green beans, stem ends trimmed
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced into quarters
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest, from one lemon
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice, from one lemon
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/2 cup walnuts (toasted if desired, see note)

Instructions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with heavy duty aluminum foil.
  2. toss  green beans with garlic, olive oil, salt, pepper and sugar directly on the prepared baking sheet. Roast the beans for 15 minutes, then stir with a spatula to promote even cooking. Continue roasting until the beans are tender, slightly browned and just starting to shrivel, about 10 minutes more. Add lemon zest, lemon juice, cranberries and walnuts and toss well. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt, pepper and more lemon juice if desired.
  3. Note: to toast the walnuts, bake them on a sheet pan in a 350-degree oven until fragrant, about 10 minutes.

Recipe source: Once Upon a Chef

Garlic Mashed Potatoes

Use a combination of reduced fat milk and sour cream as mashed potato mixers to yield a creamy product without the need for large amounts of butter or cream.

  • 2 lbs. (4 medium) Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and cubed
  • 4 large garlic cloves, peeled and halved
  • 1/4 cup light sour cream
  • 1/2 cup reduced sodium chicken broth
  • 1/4 cup reduced fat milk
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoon fresh chives, chopped

Directions:

  1. Put potatoes and garlic in large pot with enough water to cover. Bring to a boil.
  2. Drain and return potatoes and garlic to pan. Add remaining ingredients. Mash until smooth.
  3. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Recipe adapted from Skinny Taste.

Roasted Sweet Potatoes with Honey and Cinnamon

Instead of smothering sweet potatoes in butter and brown sugar, try roasting your potatoes. The natural flavor of the sweet potatoes is complemented by the simple coating of olive oil, honey and cinnamon.

Ingredients:

  • 4 sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 2  teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • salt and pepper to taste

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Lay the sweet potatoes out in a single layer on a roasting tray. Drizzle the oil, honey, cinnamon, salt and pepper over the potatoes.  Roast for 25-45 minutes in the oven, or until tender.

Recipe source: Food Network

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What We’re Thankful for this Year: 2017

In celebration of Thanksgiving, members of the CHOC Children’s pediatric health care system express what they’re most grateful for this year.

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Chloe Krikac, child life specialist

“I am so grateful to work for an organization that I love, and am truly honored and humbled that I get to walk into these halls every day. I am grateful to the parents of our little ones at CHOC for their trust and for giving us the opportunity to serve them. This year, I am especially thankful for my amazing team of child life specialists. I could not imagine this journey without their loyalty, laughter and unconditional support. Happy Thanksgiving CHOC and thank you for giving me the opportunity to do what I love.” – Chloe Krikac, child life specialist

“I am so very thankful to be a nurse here at CHOC, one of the leaders in children’s healthcare. The hard work, dedication and compassion that I see in the NICU makes me proud to be a part of such a wonderful organization. I am humbled and thankful to the parents and families that allow me to care for their most precious gifts each, and every day.” – Bridgette Glass, RN, neonatal intensive care unit

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Dr. Angela Dangvu, CHOC Children’s pediatrician

“As we at Pediatric & Adult Medicine reach the first anniversary of having joined CHOC Children’s Primary Care Network, I am grateful to be part of a health care system that is dedicated to providing the best care for children. When I came to CHOC Children’s 20 years ago as a resident, I knew it was a special place for patients, their families and the people that worked there. Though the hospital and the services that we are able to provide have expanded beyond what I could have imagined, it remains a special place for children and the people who care for them.” – Dr. Angela Dangvu, CHOC Children’s pediatrician

Dani-Milliken
Dani Miliken, RN, clinical director of CHOC’s mental health inpatient center

“There are so many things to be thankful for this year! I am incredibly thankful that I was able to become a part of the amazing CHOC Children’s health care system this year. I am thankful to get to work with the extremely dedicated care providers here who have such a passion for helping children and families. I am also immensely thankful for the community involvement in developing the new Mental Health Inpatient Center. With such strong community support and CHOC leadership commitment around the Mental Health initiative I get to be a part of something very special and for that I am truly thankful!” –Dani Miliken, RN, clinical director of CHOC’s mental health inpatient center

“I am so thankful that CHOC Children’s help to provide me the opportunity to earn my BSN this past year. I look forward to applying this knowledge to be able to better care for my patients for many years to come.” –Barbara Mazurek, RN, hematology/oncology unit

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David Dukes- Chair, CHOC Children’s Board of Directors

“I am thankful, honored and humbled to serve as Chairman of the Board of Directors of CHOC Children’s Hospital. Our Board of Directors is passionately committed to see CHOC Children’s continue its rapid ascent as one of the premier children’s hospitals in the United States.  Driven by a highly talented, dedicated and passionate team of doctors, nurses and staff, CHOC provides exceptional and innovative care for every child we serve.” –David Dukes- Chair, CHOC Children’s Board of Directors

chris-larry-laulhere-2“We’re thankful to CHOC for helping to create The Cherese Mari Laulhere Child Life Department. After we met the child life specialists and saw the way they help patients navigate changes in their young lives, and the way patients interact with child life’s specialty services such as pet therapy dogs and Red Nose Docs, we knew this was the perfect gift from Cherese. If she can see what a difference she is making we think she is smiling. We have since become closer with The CHOC Foundation staff and the Child Life Department staff. Our hearts overflow with gratitude and thankfulness every time someone thanks us for Cherese’s gift.” –Chris and Larry Laulhere, who on behalf of The Cherese Mari Laulhere Foundation, generously donated $5 million to CHOC’s child life department

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Brianna Miller

“This year I am thankful for CHOC for so many reasons- this has been one of the hardest years of my life, being diagnosed with and treated for Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. My care team at CHOC has been nothing short of amazing. My oncologist, Dr. Kirov, has done a great job treating my stubborn cancer and working with things often not going the way he expects. My social worker and case coordinator have done everything they possibly can to connect me to scholarships, foundations, etc. so that I can take advantage of all the resources available to me. And I’m especially thankful for Kara and the rest of the child life department for putting on fun events and always brightening my day by coming to visit me!” –Brianna Miller, patient

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Dr. Jessica McMichael, pediatric orthopaedic surgeon

“Working at CHOC has been a dream I didn’t even know I had. I’m unspeakably grateful for my family, our health, and the abundance of opportunity in our lives. I try to remind myself of this every day in little ways…like if there a pile of dirty laundry on the floor that is actually awesome because it means we all have clothes on our backs. I’m grateful for my patients who show me grace, kindness, patience and humor everyday…even when they have their own struggles and frustrations. I’m grateful for the colleagues in my practice for providing me with an opportunity to grow a medical practice and serve the community. I’m also grateful for the heart work and diligence of our orthopedic residents, who I get to teach every day.” –Dr. Jessica McMichael, pediatric orthopaedic surgeon

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Dr. Yigit Guner, pediatric general and thoracic surgeon

“I am thankful for the trust of our patients and families. With the strong support of many highly trained pediatric specialists, our newly-opened all private room neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) is proud to offer, among other services, lifesaving surgeries for premature infants in Orange County.” –Dr. Yigit Guner, pediatric general and thoracic surgeon

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Dr. Kenneth Kwon, a pediatric emergency medicine specialist

“I am grateful to be part of an integrated pediatric and general hospital where child-specific and family-centered care is so greatly emphasized. I am especially thankful to those CHOC staff members working where both children and adults are seen (emergency department, radiology department, and operating rooms), and for making quality care for children in these shared service areas such a high priority.” –Dr. Kenneth Kwon, director of pediatric emergency services at Mission Hospital, and chief of staff at CHOC Children’s at Mission Hospital 

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Why One Mom Is Thankful for CHOC This Year

By Karen Stapleton, CHOC parent and mom of Noah

Happy Thanksgiving! My name is Karen Stapleton, and my son Noah is a patient at CHOC Children’s. As I prepare to celebrate the holidays with my family, I’m grateful we can be together since we have so much to celebrate. I’m also grateful for Noah’s many doctors and nurses at CHOC because without them, my son wouldn’t be alive.

Noah’s birth story

When I was 29 weeks pregnant with Noah, we learned that he had Down syndrome. Another prenatal ultrasound showed an abnormality in his heart, and we were referred to Dr. Pierangelo Renella, a pediatric cardiologist at CHOC, who diagnosed Noah with tetralogy of fallot, a serious heart defect that causes poor oxygenated blood flow from the heart to the rest of the body. I was scared, but having been a CHOC patient myself as a child, I knew my son would be in good hands.

Karen and Noah in the NICU, shortly after Noah was born
Karen and Noah in the NICU, shortly after Noah was born

On July 27 of last year our lives changed forever— Noah was born! I chose to deliver at St. Joseph Hospital in Orange so that my son could be as close to CHOC as possible. When he was born, there were so many doctors and nurses around. I saw Noah quickly enough to give him a kiss before he was whisked away to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at CHOC.

Shortly after birth, Noah’s care team also diagnosed him with Apert syndrome, a rare genetic form of craniosynostosis, the early fusion of skull bones. Noah’s toes and fingers were partially fused together as well.

A series of surgeries begins at 3 days old

Noah’s first surgery happened just three days after he was born. Due to the complexity of Noah’s conditions, the surgery was a team effort from multiple CHOC specialties. Noah’s gastroenterologist Dr. Jeffrey Ho; his team of cardiologists Dr. Renella, Dr. Michael Recto, Dr. Anthony McCanta, and Dr. Gira Morchi; his pulmonologist Dr. Amy Harrison; his otolaryngologist Dr. Felizardo Camilon; and the entire NICU team came together to prepare him and get him through that surgery.

It was a success, and 31 days after he was born, Noah finally came home! Weekly trips back to CHOC’s clinics included visits to gastroenterology, pulmonary, cardiology and craniofacial specialists. It was another team effort to prepare Noah for a second open heart surgery that he would eventually need.

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Noah and his cardiothoracic surgeon, Dr. Richard Gates

But a few weeks later, Noah had respiratory complications, which lead to an emergency open heart surgery at just 2 ½ months old. Thanks to Noah’s cardiothoracic surgeon, Dr. Richard Gates, and Noah’s fighting spirit, he was able to come home shortly after surgery.

Celebrating Christmas at CHOC

Just days before Christmas last year, Noah had to be admitted to CHOC for respiratory failure. It was scary to see my baby sedated for 19 days. Dr. Juliette Hunt, a critical care specialist, recommended that Noah undergo a tracheostomy, where a small opening is made in his windpipe and a tube is inserted to help him breathe. Making a decision like that is hard and scary for a mom, but I had complete trust in Noah’s team, and if they knew it would help Noah breathe easier, then I knew it was the right thing to do.

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Noah celebrated his first Christmas at CHOC

After that, Noah started to thrive. He gained weight and became strong enough for his next open heart surgery with Dr. Gates. After a mere six days in the Cardiovascular Intensive Care Unit following this surgery, Noah got to come home again!

Even when Noah is doing well, sometimes it can be scary to care for him when he’s at home. During one of our hospital stays, I confided this fear in one of Noah’s favorite nurses, Karissa. She gave me specific tips on what to do during his tummy time and baths, and gave me the courage to care for my son. She encouraged me, and reminded me that CHOC wouldn’t advise me to do anything that wasn’t safe.

Noah and Karissa, a registered nurse at CHOC

Noah’s first birthday

All of this is a lot for a little baby to go through before his first birthday, but Noah has always surprised us and pulled through. Celebrating his first birthday meant more than celebrating his first year of life; it meant celebrating every fight Noah had won over the last year, and it meant appreciating a milestone that at times we thought we might never reach. We decided a super hero theme was perfect for his party because we think of Noah as our little super hero.

Noah celebrating his first birthday

After his birthday, Noah continued to flourish and grow! He started rolling over and actively playing, and he has not stopped smiling.

This progress allowed us to prepare for his next major surgery, a frontal orbital advancement, to reshape his skull and forehead that has fused too early due to Apert syndrome.

Before surgery could begin, the doctors needed to cut Noah’s hair to make a safe incision in his skull. We marked another one of Noah’s milestones at CHOC— his first haircut!

Noah received his very first haircut at CHOC from his neurosurgeon Dr. Michael Muhonen, prior to a skull surgery.
Noah’s very first haircut happened at CHOC. He received it from his neurosurgeon Dr. Michael Muhonen, prior to skull surgery.

With the expertise of his neurosurgeon Dr. Michael Muhonen and his plastic surgeon Dr. Raj Vyas, and a very short stay in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit, Noah came home again! After yet another successful surgery at CHOC, his brain can now continue to grow.

Noah has more hurdles and additional surgeries ahead of him, but even with how much he’s fought, he continues to smile. He’s not cranky and he doesn’t cry. He’s enjoying every single day he gets to be here – and that’s the life he has taught me to live too.

If Noah’s care team ever needs a reminder of why they do what you do, I tell them: My son would not be here today if it were not for each and every one of them here at CHOC. And for that, my family will be forever grateful.

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