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Healthy Kids
Eugene teen working to raise awareness about organ, eye and tissue donation

Jarod Doerner of Eugene smiled with pride as he stood inside Oregon Governor Kate Brown's office and watched her sign a bill into law that he helped create.

"It's something I've been working on since October," the 16-year-old says. "This is something I believe in, something worth talking about."

The law, part of Jarod's Eagle Scout Service Project, designates the second week of April in Oregon as Organ, Eye and Tissue Donor Awareness Week—an issue that is close to the Willamette High School student's heart. During Mother's Day weekend in 2014, his health took a drastic turn. Doctors initially thought Jarod might have pneumonia, but it quickly became apparent that it was much more serious. Jarod's heart was failing.

"They told us, 'Your son will not survive without a heart transplant,'" recalls Jarod's mom, Candace. "It was surreal. In the span of one week, we went from thinking, 'Oh, it's pneumonia or maybe the flu' to 'He needs a heart transplant.' That was difficult to process."

Jarod and his family flew to Lucille Packard Children's Hospital Stanford in Palo Alto, California, and prayed that Jarod could get a new heart before it was too late. It was a frightening time for the Dorners.

"There were times when I thought, I'm going to lose him," Candace says.

Jarod was fortunate. Eight days after being placed on the donor list, a heart became available and his transplant was a success. Jarod and his mom remained in California for five months while he recovered, meanwhile Jarod's dad, Dan, traveled back and forth from Oregon while he cared for Jarod's younger sister, Peyton, and continued working to help pay the family's bills.

"We were initially told that Jarod could wait 12-24 months for a heart," Dan says. "We were extremely lucky, and we're grateful to everybody at how fast it happened for us, but there were people at the hospital in Stanford who were waiting for an organ for months before we got there and were still waiting when we left."

Jarod's pediatrician, Dr. Pilar Bradshaw, says organ donation is often something people don't think about in advance, but she encourages adults to consider it, for themselves and for their children.

"The last time I saw Jarod before his transplant, I was listening to his failing heart," Dr. Bradshaw says. "The very next time I had my stethoscope on his chest, I was listening to someone else's heart beating inside him and giving him life. I had tears in my eyes. There were tears in the eyes of everyone in the clinic that day."

Become a designated donor
There are currently over 117,000 children and adults waiting for an organ transplant in the U.S., including 800 in Oregon. Another person is added to the waiting list every 10 minutes.

According to Donate Life Northwest, one organ donor can save up to eight people, and a single tissue donor can enhance the lives of more than 50 people. In addition, over 46,000 corneal transplants, the most common type of transplant, occur in the United States every year.

Adding a donor designation to your driver's license is important, and it can be done through the DMV, but it's not enough. Make sure your family members know you want to be a donor, since they will likely be the ones asked to give permission. You can also register to be an organ, eye, and tissue donor online at donatelifenw.org.

Paying it forward
The Doerners have never met the family of Jarod's donor. They hope one day they will get that chance, but one thing's for certain—they are forever grateful for the gift he received.

"When I look at my brother and what he's done with his life, honestly, I think it's just a miracle, that he could have such a tragic condition, but be saved by just one person," says Peyton.

"I have my family back," Candace says. "My son is here because someone gave back to a stranger. Lives will be saved if people choose to be an organ donor."

That's the message Jarod is now working to share, through legislation and education; he regularly gives public presentations on the importance of organ donation.

"It gives me a story," he says. "I'm almost an Eagle Scout. I've made a law. And I'm alive."

 

 
Assessing developmental delays

Childhood is a time of significant developmental milestones, and it can be worrisome to parents if their child falls behind. Regular well-checkups allow your pediatrician to track your child's development, from birth through adolescence, to identify and assess possible issues or delays, and help correct them.

Physical delays can affect children emotionally
Five-year-old Andrew Bell was born with severe vision problems, which has led to developmental delays in his fine and gross motor skills.

"What was most alarming to me, as a mom, was that because of those struggles, he had a hard time emotionally. It affected his self-esteem and his confidence level," says Andrew's mom, Alison Bell.

"Parents are often terrified when they compare their child to other kids and realize their child is behind, or they perceive their son or daughter might not be doing well in a specific area," says Dr. Pilar Bradshaw. "If that's the case, parents need to know that there's help available."

Assessing delays
A child's development is divided into five main categories:

  • Big body movement (gross motor) skills
  • Hand movement (fine motor) skills
  • Communication skills
  • Personal/social skills
  • Problem-solving skills

Regular screenings are designed to help identify kids who may need extra support in one or more of these categories. All well-child checkups should include specific questions about your child's development and behavior.

"It's one of the reasons we use a standardized tool called the Ages & Stages Questionnaire, the ASQ, because it asks parents specific questions about their child's development that they can complete prior to their child's appointment," Dr. Bradshaw says.

"Once we have that information, we can grade it, and then we know which kids we should be concerned about. We can ask more detailed questions at the checkup and then put an appropriate referral in place, if needed."

Treating delays
If a screening or a parent's concern shows that a child is at risk for a developmental disorder, he or she should be referred to an early intervention program. Dr. Bradshaw referred Andrew to Connect the Dots Pediatric Therapy (CTD), which specializes in occupational, physical and speech therapy services for children birth-18.

"Using scissors was hard for Andrew. Climbing hand-over-hand on a rope, putting on pants, using zippers and fastening snaps – all of that was hard for him," says Stephanie Wagers, an occupational therapist who owns and operates CTD with her husband, Lee. "So, we started right where Andrew was at, we built on that, and we do it all through play."

Once a week, through a series of activities and games, Stephanie and the Connect the Dots staff work with Andrew on building up the intrinsic muscles of his hands, improving his flexibility and strengthening his core.

"We work a lot on core stability, because we know as occupational therapists that when we strengthen the core, it promotes fine motor development out to their fingers."

An integral part of CTD's holistic approach focuses on developing treatment and skill building plans with realistic goals, involving the parents throughout the process and giving them exercises to do with their children at home.

"Our family motto is 'Bells don't quit, and we can do hard things,'" says Alison. "But those words are meaningless if Andrew doesn't have the skills to do hard things. Connect the Dots is giving him the skills and confidence to do hard things, to achieve those difficult goals. I'm blown away by how much he's progressed in just a few months."

When Andrew first started his therapy play sessions at CTD, he couldn't cut a straight line with scissors. Now, he's doing that and so much more with ease.

"I always tell parents, there's absolutely no kid that will not improve over time with the correct help," says Dr. Bradshaw.

Talk with your pediatrician if you have concerns
Every child has a unique skill set and develops at different rates. Parents should not assume that their child is developmentally delayed if he or she has yet to master the milestones suggested for their age. Parents know their kids best, so if you have concerns about your child's development, contact your pediatrician.

 

 

 
Parenting a child with ADHD

At Thrive Behavioral Health in Eugene, child psychiatrist Dr. Jennifer Schumann often diagnoses and treats children who have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD—a condition that makes it difficult for young brains to focus.

"One way I describe it to families is that the filter is just not there," she says. "Whereas, someone without ADHD can sit and talk to somebody and focus on what that person is saying, someone with ADHD is going to focus on what they're saying, the light coming in from outside, the feeling of the sock on their foot, sounds from outside. They all have equal priority in their brain."

Diagnosing ADHD
It's estimated that about 7-14 percent of children ages 4-to-17 have one of three types of ADHD and these behaviors often display themselves in the following ways:

  • Inattentive type: getting distracted, having poor concentration and organizational skills.
  • Hyperactive-impulsive type: interrupting, taking risks.
  • Combination type: never seeming to slow down, talking and fidgeting, difficulties staying on task. This is the most common type of ADHD.

This inability to focus or sit still often creates disruptions in the classroom and at home and can be frustrating for parents, teachers and children.

"It's not that these kids are choosing to be bad; it's that they really have a hard time keeping it together," says Dr. Schumann.

If you notice behavioral changes or inattentiveness in your child, talk with your pediatrician.

"We have a nationally recognized tool to help us decide if this is a child who has ADHD, or we can go through a more detailed process, where we can refer you to the correct place for your child to have testing," says Dr. Pilar Bradshaw.

If a child is diagnosed with ADHD, there are treatment options.

  • Behavioral therapy: A mental health specialist works with the child and parents to learn new behaviors to replace behaviors that don't work or cause problems. The therapist may also help the child learn to express their feelings in more positive ways.
  • School and home strategies: Educating parents about ADHD and how it affects a family. This might involve help with organizing tasks or completing schoolwork. This might include the creation of a 504 Plan, established by parents and the school to outline strategies to help your child succeed.
  • Medication: ADHD medications reduce hyperactivity and impulsivity and improve the ability to focus, learn and work. Sometimes, a variety of medications and dosages must be tried before finding one that works for a particular person. Anyone taking medication must be monitored closely and carefully by their prescribing doctor.
Often, the best plan includes a combination of all three treatment options.

Other issues of concern
It's important for parents to understand that ADHD is often accompanied by other issues. About one fourth of children with ADHD also have an anxiety disorder. Anxiety disorders are often more difficult to recognize than disruptive behavior conditions, because symptoms of anxiety often exist within a child's mind rather than in behavioral outbursts.

"We also see development of depression in kids who are untreated, because they start becoming hopeless that this is never going to get better," says Dr. Schumann. "And then we see kids who go the other direction and think, 'Well, if I'm never going to get better, and I'm going to be labeled as the naughty kid, I might as well be the naughty kid.'"

"Dismissing or ignoring the possibility that a child has ADHD often sends kids a very strong message of shame and guilt, that something's wrong with them, that it's their fault. It's not," says Dr. Bradshaw. "ADHD is as much a medical condition as is asthma or diabetes. There's a lot that can be done for your child, but you have to get started."

Research shows that untreated ADHD can lead to issues with substance abuse, difficulties in relationships and holding a job, even an increase in motor vehicle crashes and other accidents due to a lack of focus. About 50 percent of kids who have ADHD grow out of it, once their frontal lobe fully develops, which is around age 25.

Tips for parents
While there are many challenges that come with raising kids with ADHD, there are also effective strategies and rewards. Consistency is key and praising good behavior is important for building your child's self-esteem. Check out these tips. For more information, Dr. Bradshaw recommends these books.

Practice self-care
Parenting a child with ADHD is a marathon not a sprint, so self-care is important for moms and dads. Make sure you're eating right and getting enough sleep. Create a support system that you can lean on when things get tough. Without you being physically and emotionally healthy, it's going to be difficult for you to provide that support to your child.

 

 

 
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