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The Department of Education recently released a mandate stating that students who have disabilities should receive an equal opportunity to participate alongside their peers in after-school athletics and clubs. The Twin Cities and surrounding suburbs already have some amazing programs for children, teens and adults with disabilities, and this new mandate helps open the door even more.
The importance of involvement in sports, recreation and social opportunities at a young age is vital. Children between the ages of 4 and 6 years are actively learning the social skills that impact their whole lives. Participation in sports and recreation activities can benefit children of all abilities by promoting the development of leadership skills, sharing, conflict resolution, and, of course, physical fitness.
Participation in sports at a young age is important for kids who have disabilities, too. Many friendships and bonds are formed through youth sports and social opportunities. Kids get to interact with other kids who share similar interests. Additionally, active children are more likely to mature into physically active adults. Best of all, getting moving is fun!
For more information, visit the Therapeutic Recreation webpage or contact Child and Family Services at 651-229-3855.
What are some of your hobbies outside work?
Sports and video games. I love to watch all sports on TV, but the one I actually still play is volleyball. I was a collegiate volleyball coach for 7 years before entering the world of training. I was a setter in college and play in city leagues. I still play video games…until my wife scolds me.
How long have you worked at Gillette? Do you have a favorite story or memory?
I have worked at Gillette since June of 2012. When I was hired, my background was in adult learning and software training. I had no medical background. Since QCPR was a major focus of my job, I shadowed several physicians. Dr. Tenner Guillaume was the first to allow me to shadow him. Seeing how caring, passionate, and focused he was with the many families and children we saw was very inspiring. That experience really made me realize the impact we can have at Gillette. I know it made me more focused of the work I do, and appreciative of the opportunity I have at Gillette.
Do you have any kids or pets?
I have two boys. Jack is 2 ½ and Max is 5 months. I completely love playing with them and being a dad. I also have a 9lb dog named Doug!
If you could travel anywhere, where would you go?
I worked for 7 summers in Alaska, and while there met people from all over the world. The Australians that I met painted one beautiful picture of their home. I have always wanted to go. I was also an Art major in college, so Italy would be a dream to see so much of what I studied.
What is your favorite food?
Italian and Mexican are by far my favorite cuisines. I could easily live on pasta, pizza, enchiladas, and quesadillas.
Meet Tom Thiegs, an Education and Development Specialist at Gillette Children’s Specialty Healthcare. Tom provides training, education, and team-building to employees on a variety of topics including leadership, productivity, and personal development.
1. What are some of your hobbies outside work?
I love spending time outdoors and camping, fishing, and bonfires are some of my favorite activities. I also love photography and travelling.
2. How long have you worked at Gillette? Do you have a favorite story or memory?
Next month (in May) will be my 3-year anniversary at Gillette. I knew Gillette was the right place for me shortly after joining the team when I conducted my first training session. The employees were so welcoming and kind. People buy into the special work that we do here at Gillette, and that’s one of the things I love most about working here.
3. Do you have any kids or pets?
I’ve got two fantastic children, a great little dog, and a wonderful wife! My daughter is 6-months old and my son is turning 3 this month. My daughter is a very giggly and happy baby and my son is a whirlwind of positive energy.
4. If you could travel anywhere, where would you go?
My dream vacation is to travel to one of the islands in French Polynesia, either Moorea or Bora Bora. They’ve got some amazing snorkeling and scuba diving in their lagoons and staying in one of those huts built over the water would be really fun!
5. What is your favorite food?
I have lots of favorite foods including pad Thai and a good omelet, but after a long winter I can’t get my mind off grilling. I love to grill all sorts of foods, but eating some slow-cooked BBQ ribs on the deck sounds pretty nice.
Kendall’s Journey: A Year and A Day
By Christine Speck
After eighteen weeks, fourteen expansions and 155 ml of saline, Kendall’s medical marathon with tissue expansion was coming to an end. Getting ready for her second surgery meant preparing for change, once again.
As excited as we were about having her become nevus-free for the first time, I found myself being nervous about this very change that we had worked so hard to bring about.
It was change that turned my world upside down last fall. The realities of having a child who required medical attention and special care hit me full force, along with my own insecurities and apprehension of what this process would entail.
Our first meeting with Dr. Wood had been on February 10, 2012. And now, one year and one day later, February 11, 2013 became the final surgery date that would begin Kendall’s nevus-free future.
I realized that Kendall’s journey, unique like the journey of many other Gillette families, had little to do with tissue expansion and EVERYTHING to do with looking beyond ourselves and finding joy in the unexpected.
This new perspective, although difficult at first, has resulted in an amazing experience. It’s an unforgettable chapter in Kendall’s storybook of life—one that has inspired us and others to spread love and acceptance when the world tells us otherwise.
Happiness was no longer something that happened, but rather a choice made each day–through every struggle and triumph. When the journey seemed too much to handle, it became an opportunity to look back on the breathtaking view and see how far we had come.
I recognized the importance of focusing on the value of the individual and not letting differences define or misshape my views. And I realized that we all have all have special needs—some just more noticeable than others.
I began to understand the importance of parenting my children to instill values that encourage acceptance and love of those different from them—teaching them to treat others the way they would want to be treated.
And mostly, my heart filled with respect and compassion for other patients and families who faced medical circumstances FAR greater than ours. Their bravery and courage kept me motivated through some of the most challenging aspects of this procedure.
Looking back, there is nothing we would have done differently. We found peace knowing the decisions being made were in Kendall’s best interest and that she was receiving phenomenal care at Gillette. As a parent, there was no greater sense of relief.
When the morning of February 11th arrived, we made our way to Gillette for an early surgery. Kendall did great–she was walking the pre-op halls, saying hi to everyone and making people smile as she rocked her hospital gown in true baby girl fashion.
During the first hour, a stream of nurses and doctors came in to talk with us, including Dr. Wood.
As long as I had dreamed and waited for this day, I couldn’t believe that we were actually here and this was finally happening–it almost seemed surreal.
Our minister said a prayer over Kendall before anesthesiology took her back to the operating room.
Then we waited.
Over an hour went by before surgery was completed and Dr. Wood came in our room to speak with us. He told us that everything went well–that he was able to remove the entire nevus and all that was left was a U-shaped scar on her scalp. We were thrilled to hear that things went smoothly and relieved to know that Kendall was nevus-free for the first time in her life.
It wasn’t until she was moved to post-op that the nerves started getting to me. When the time came for us to be with her, I let my husband lead the way. I was literally shuffling my feet so slowly that the nurses were telling me it’s okay, she’s great, it’s okay, come on…
As we entered the post-op room, I put my hands over my mouth and started crying–but this time they were tears of pure JOY. Kendall was all bandaged up, but she looked amazing!
As one nurse handed her to my husband, the other nurse smiled and told me to sit down in the wheelchair–she told me this time I didn’t have to walk her up to the 4th floor.
This made me cry again.
I couldn’t believe the transformation. I felt that all the stress, all the weekly hospital visits and expansions, all the extra care and medical attention that she had required—everything led us to this exact moment in time.
It felt good.
When this process began, a year and a day ago, I was wallowing in self-pity, finding her circumstance to be unfortunate for all of us. But her journey turned into an incredible experience—transforming our entire family on multiple levels.
Kendall’s last surgery became less about marking the end of her medical marathon and more about celebrating a new beginning—going forward with a new perspective, a new attitude and confidence that has made us stronger and better for having accomplished it.
We’re looking forward to the journey ahead.
Gillette’s Center for Gait and Motion Analysis (Gait Lab) in St. Paul, Minnesota uses state-of-the-art computer technology to evaluate and develop effective treatments for walking problems.
Conditions involving the muscles, joints, nerves and bones frequently cause difficulty with walking and movement. Because movement issues are complex – and because every patient’s needs are unique – our team of experts uses a collaborative approach that puts families at the center of the care team. Our team includes technicians, engineers, physical therapists and orthopedic surgeons who are experts in the study of human movement.
An evaluation in our Center for Gait and Motion Analysis captures movements, muscle activity and forces that the eye can’t see. Although some people have similar walking patterns, the way their muscles and joints work together can be very different. Motion analysis helps a patient’s care team accurately identify problems specific to each patient, and therefore, be able to make recommendations regarding the best treatments for those problems. Options may include braces, medication, physical therapy and/or surgery.
- What are some of your hobbies outside work? Watching TV and playing games on my iPad.
- How long have you worked at Gillette? I have been at Gillette Lifetime for 8 years as a volunteer and 3 years as an employee.
- Do you have any kids or pets? I have a dog. Her name is Nicki.
- If you could choose a superpower, what would it be? If I could choose a superpower, I would choose to fly and to walk because then I could do anything I want to do and go anywhere I want to go.
- What is your favorite food? My favorite food is corn.
- If you could travel anywhere where would you go? I would go back to Aruba and go parasailing again.
- What is your favorite type of music? I like the oldies.
- What drew you to Gillette? I asked Dr. Gormley about the new Adult Clinic and told him I was interested in volunteering there. He sent me to the volunteer coordinator at Gillette and the rest is history.
- Do you have a favorite story/memory from Gillette? My favorite memory at Gillette would be my 50th Birthday. My co-workers bought me a cake and a gift card. It was a happy memory and they made me feel wonderful.
- What do you enjoy most about your job at Gillette? I enjoy working at Gillette Lifetime because the people here make me feel like I belong to the society and we have a program that helps patient’s with childhood onset disabilities.
At age seven, Ian Hoy was struck by a car while walking home with his brother. He sustained massive head injuries, spent three weeks in a coma at his local hospital and was transferred to Gillette Children’s Specialty Healthcare for inpatient rehabilitation. Doctors didn’t know if Ian would survive.
At Gillette, rehabilitation begins even before patients are fully conscious. “From the moment we arrived, they spoke to my son as though he could hear them,” said Robbi Hoy, Ian’s mom. “They smiled at me. They talked about the future. It was as though I had been in a dark room with no windows, and then Gillette turned on a light and opened a door.” Gillette’s optimistic approach made an impression on Robbi.
Ian underwent strength and flexibility exercises on his first day at Gillette. Eventually, his schedule included full days of intense therapy. Ian’s progress defied predictions that he needed six months of inpatient rehabilitation. Instead, he went home after only five weeks. Today at age 11, Ian continues to work on skills with therapists and teachers in his community.
Last year, Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals named Ian their 2012 Minnesota Champion child. The program honors children like Ian who have triumphed despite severe medical challenges and brings attention to the work being done at Children’s Miracle Network-affiliated hospitals, like Gillette, across the nation. In September, Ian traveled to Orlando and Washington, D.C. with other child ambassadors to meet with congressional leaders and Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals corporate partners.
“Ian came to Gillette a fragile boy, and left a fighter,” Robbi says. “Gillette brought that out in him — in all of us. Now I have my son back!”
Peyton Schuler is an active, outgoing 7th grader who, according to his mom Lisa, is always on the move. A sports lover, Peyton especially loves playing basketball and baseball. In fact, his family at first thought a football injury in 4th grade was to blame for his sore, swollen right thumb. But when the swelling worsened, then spread to other fingers, Lisa knew something more serious was going on. “At one point, Peyton couldn’t even get his fingers around a pencil to write,” she recalls.
Answers Come at Gillette
An Internet search and conversation with Peyton’s aunt Susan — who, coincidentally, works as a nurse at Gillette Children’s Specialty Healthcare — led the family to their pediatrician, who quickly diagnosed Peyton with polyarticular juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA). The condition is also referred to as juvenile rheumatoid arthritis in the U.S. He soon began seeing pediatric rheumatologist Evren Akin, M.D. and rheumatology nurse practitioner Patricia Erickson, C.N.P. “Dr. Akin and Nurse Patty are phenomenal — and so is Peyton’s entire team at Gillette,” says Lisa. “They talk to Peyton on his level, making sure he understands what is going on with his body. Since we see them on a regular basis, they have become like family to us since Peyton’s diagnosis in 2009.”
Just a month after Peyton began treatment at Gillette, his joint inflammation had already significantly improved — and that wasn’t all. Before his diagnosis, Peyton often had trouble getting up in the morning and needed support from the railing to get down the steps. But Lisa soon realized this was another symptom of JIA, as many children experience joint stiffness in the morning. “For the first time, we heard Peyton hopping and bounding down the stairs,” says Lisa. “While most parents may consider this a normal routine, we were so grateful for this simple activity.”
A Lifetime of Symptoms
Peyton has been able to drop down to just one weekly injection of medication that helps manage his arthritis by slowing its progression and preventing joint damage. (The natural course of arthritis is waxing and waning, with periods of flare-ups and remissions). By controlling inflammation, medication allows children, like Peyton, to grow and develop to their full potential. With his course of treatment, Peyton has now been inflammation-free in his joints for over a year now – a milestone that everyone is very thankful about!
Looking back, Lisa says that symptoms of Peyton’s joint pain had been present for most of his life. “He would wear out much sooner than most kids, and often would walk like an old man. Now we understand that he was trying to adjust his walk to minimize the pain he was experiencing.” The family also considered their medical history — relatives on both sides of Peyton’s family have some form of rheumatic condition. Though it’s not yet understood why some children develop JIA, genetics can play a role.
With Treatment, an Active Life
Today, Peyton is a thriving athlete. He plays on traveling basketball and baseball teams — even serving as one of the team’s starting pitchers, a small miracle when several years ago he couldn’t even reach his arm behind his head. He’s also grown much taller since beginning treatment, as his joints work to compensate for previously halted growth from the inflammation.
Lisa says Peyton’s experience has taught him to be an advocate for himself. “We don’t want him to feel like his arthritis is something to hide or hold him back from his goals. We’ve encouraged him to talk openly about the arthritis, and he does.” She says his team at Gillette has allowed him to do just that. “We’re so fortunate to have an amazing team of rheumatology specialists from Gillette at our fingertips and on Peyton’s team,” says Lisa. “Their goal is to help children like Peyton be as independent and as healthy as possible.”
- What are some of your hobbies outside work? Spending time with my friends, going out to eat at new places in the cities and going to concerts, if anyone I like is coming to town.
- How long have you worked at Gillette? I started on-call in 2009.
- Do you have any kids or pets? My roommate has a dog and she is more a human than a pet, and she loves hogging the bed!
- If you could choose a superpower, what would it be? Super Power, hands down would be teleportation! I hate how long it takes to get somewhere!
- What is your favorite food? Food that other people make! Cooking is not my favorite chore.
- If you could travel anywhere where would you go? North Carolina to see my boyfriend!
- What is your favorite musician/band/type of music? I love Power-Pop/ Punk but it’s hay-day is a few years ago. My favorites are All Time Low, Hey Monday, Capital Lights and FTSK (but only their Underdog Alma Mater (very important detail)).
- What drew you to Gillette? I have always loved to care for kids. I loved babysitting & playing with my little cousins at family functions. So once I found TR, Gillette was a no brainer!
- Do you have a favorite story/memory from Gillette? My very first day and very first patient at Gillette was a little boy maybe 4 or 5 he had these cute little thick rimmed light blue glasses, blonde curly hair and a gigantic smile. He was actually featured a month later in a Gillette family focus and I was able to say that he was MY patient. I won’t ever forget that, I was able to say, I in some way added in his recovery, even if it was just for a moment.
- What do you enjoy most about your job at Gillette? My co-workers, the patients and the families. I love interacting with all of them. Every day is different and at some point during the day, I am laughing because of it.
Q. What are some of your hobbies outside work?
A. I like socializing, kayaking, and hiking.
Q. How long have you worked at Gillette?
A. I’ve worked at Gillette for a little over three years.
Q. Do you have any kids or pets?
A. I have no pets and one little girl, Hannah who is 4 years old.
Q. As a child, which superhero did you admire?
A. I liked underdog and teenage mutant ninja turtles.
Q. What is your favorite food?
A. Spaghetti or pizza
Q. If you could travel anywhere where would you go?
A. I’d like to travel to Colorado to see where I was born.
Q. Do you have a favorite musician/band/type of music?
A. All…but lately enjoy contemporary christian music
Q. What drew you to Gillette Children’s Specialty Healthcare?
A. I always wanted to work at a children’s hospital
Q. Do you have a favorite story/memory from Gillette?
A. My favorite story is wanting to work here 10 years ago when I first moved here and actually getting hired a few years ago!
Q. What do you enjoy most about your job at Gillette?
A. I enjoy being part of a team, the variety of work and helping patients and families enjoy life through recreation and leisure…no matter the adaptations/changes that are needed.