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140128EPA organdonationThe call came one weekend in the late afternoon. A neurosurgeon needed my help to manage a heart-breaking case of a little boy terribly injured in an accident. We needed to determine whether he was still alive, and could be life-flighted to Portland, or whether it was too late for further medical interventions.

As I raced into the intensive care waiting area, I introduced myself to his family, who was frantic, and explained the next step: A brain blood-flow scan to see if he was still circulating blood to his brain. His parents were not allowed to go into the radiology suite with him. I told them I was a mom and a pediatrician, and that I would be with him every moment.

I still remember the feeling of that little chubby hand suddenly going cold in mine as we were rolling down the hallway toward the scanner. I knew at that moment he had left us. The scan confirmed the tragic news, and I returned with my heart in my throat to talk to the crowd of friends and family in the waiting room.

What happened next was one of the most amazing evenings of my life as a physician. In general, when a child passes away, my role is to explain what happened to the family, answer their questions and give them space to grieve. These conversations are always horrible but usually quite brief. There are few words to say and few questions that matter in that moment. The family usually circles around each other to cry, and I go home to my own family to weep.

But this case was different. The mother sat with me for a long time, talking about her only child now departed, to reflect on the meaning of his life, to share our thoughts about what happens after a child dies, and to ask me about my kids.


131001kidsinjurypost1Concussion is a type of traumatic brain injury (TBI) that is increasingly common in kids. Consider the following statistics from the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention:

• Each year, U.S. emergency departments (EDs) treat an estimated 173,285 sports- and recreation-related TBIs, including concussions, among children and adolescents from birth to 19 years.
• During the last decade, ED visits for sports- and recreation-related TBIs, including concussions, among children and adolescents increased by 60 percent.
• Overall, the activities associated with the greatest number of TBI-related ED visits included bicycling, football, playground activities, basketball and soccer.

The physicians at Eugene Pediatric Associates are leading a citywide concussion initiative with the assistance of nationally recognized concussion expert Dr. Michael Koester at the Slocum Orthopedic Institute.

Dr. Koester and your doctors at EPA are hosting a symposium this November for pediatricians, emergency room physicians, family physicians, school trainers and administrators, psychologists, physical therapists and others professionals who interact with concussed students.

The goal is to create a community-wide standard of care for our kids when they suffer a concussion. Watch here for more information on concussions and our effort to help kids in our community play and be well.

130820blog2I’ll admit it. I'm afraid for my kids to fail. It's not that I want them to be perfect, overly accomplished or achieve the material affluence that can come with success. I just have this momma-bear instinct that I want to protect them from the disappointment and pain that comes from not succeeding.

But here's the problem: Kids will fail. And we need to teach them how to deal with it in a healthy way. Sometimes failure is the best teacher. As I reflect on my life, I realize some of the most blessed moments have been when God closed a door on me. I grew as a person or as a doctor. And something better usually came along that I had never imagined.

At times it feels to me that American society tries to convince kids and parents that failure is something to be feared. Everyone gets a trophy. Every opinion is accepted. Being told "no you can’t have" is framed as a huge defeat, a term of denial rather than of balance and acceptance.

It seems better and more realistic messages to our kids are
• Not everything works out every time.
• You cannot do or have everything you want — and that is OK!

Letting kids fail and stumble in the short term may feel uncomfortable for parents, but in the long term, kids develop resiliency and the skills to handle life’s wobbles.

shutterstock 102686954-small cropIn Oregon, we are blessed with beautiful rivers, lakes and ocean beaches, as well as sunny summer days that beckon water fun. But fun can quickly turn to tragedy when safety precautions are ignored.

Accidental injury is a leading cause of death for children in the United States – drowning being the most common, especially for teenagers and children ages 1-4.

For every death by drowning, 25 children are hospitalized and 925 are treated in emergency rooms for near-death incidents. Some are forever changed by brain injury due to prolonged lack of oxygen.

Roughly one-third of children who drown in Oregon perish in backyard pools; 80 percent die between May and October.

In my own practice, I’ve cared for children who’ve suffered traumatic water-related injuries.


Posted by on in News
Motor vehicle accidents are the leading cause of death and fifth leading cause of injury to kids in the U.S. Unfortunately, many parents choose not to follow suggested guidelines for child safety seats. 

Car seat recommendations are as follows:
•    Babies should be rear facing in an infant car seat until age 2.
•    Toddlers over 2 years should be in a 5-point safety seat until they outgrow the upper weight limit of the seat.
•    Children should be in a booster seat until they are 4 foot 9 inches tall.
•    Children should not sit in the front passenger seat until age 13.

These recommendations are expected to become law in Oregon soon. Until then, we strongly urge you to follow them; they may save your child’s life. Sadly, many parents don’t follow these guidelines.

Here’s what studies have shown:
•    Keeping toddlers ages 1-2 years in a rear-facing position reduces the risk of dying or having a serious head or neck injury by 75 percent.
•    Children ages 5 and older are 50 percent less likely to die in a car accident if properly retrained.
•    A survey found that 41 percent of kids age 5, 23 percent of kids age 6, and 12 percent of kids age 7 were not properly restrained.

The reasons parents don’t follow the recommendations vary, but some of the common ones we hear are: “Her legs look cramped” or “He doesn’t like his car seat.”

The fact is, baby legs have multiple joints that will absorb the impact of a crash. And parents should never leave it up to their children to decide.
Because no matter how good of a driver you are, you can never predict when a car accident might happen.

For more car seat and booster basics, child seat recalls, installation tips and instructional videos, visit The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration website.