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Be Wary of the Poisons You May Carry!

Child Safety Link is a Maritime wide child and youth injury prevention program located at the IWK Health Centre in Halifax, NS. Partially funded by the generosity of donors, the Child Safety Link aims to reduce the incidence and severity of injury to children and youth. Julie Harrington, Coordinator with the Child Safety Link, provides some helpful tips to keep your young ones safe.

Child going through purseAs it is for many, my handbag is a catch-all necessity that I take everywhere I go. It’s full to the brim with stuff that helps make my day go more smoothly—keys, phone, wallet, lipstick, extra toothbrush, hand sanitizer, travel bottle of ibuprofen, phone charger, pack of gum—and the list goes on and on.

For small children however, “Mom’s Purse” –or anyone’s for that matter—can seem like an amusement park full of wonders! What many don’t realize is that most handbags contain at least one item that can seriously harm a small child.

Writing this blog made me curious as to what was in my own bag, so I dumped the contents out on my desk. To my surprise, it contained 7 items that could be considered poisonous! These items are everyday, ordinary things I would never have thought twice about. But, by definition, a poison can be any drug or non-drug substance that can cause illness or injury after ingesting it or coming into contact with it.

In Atlantic Canada, poisoning accounts for 7% of all childhood injuries that require hospitalization. Not surprisingly, children aged five years and younger account for 79% of these hospitalizations due to their hand-to-mouth habits. One common place young children are accessing poisons is from purses that have been left within reach.

According to the IWK Regional Poison Centre, there are five items commonly found in purses that we purse-carriers need to be especially careful with:

  • Toothpaste: Toothpaste can be appealing to kids, especially those with candy-like flavours and packaging. Many types of toothpaste contain sodium fluoride, which is meant for topical purposes to prevent tooth decay. However, if it is swallowed, this mixes with stomach juices to create a poison that can result in nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, or in more extreme cases, low blood pressure and irregular heartbeat.
  • Medication: Kids can be attracted to pills because they can look or taste like candy, with bright colours and sugary coatings. However, young children are especially vulnerable to medication because of their smaller size and weight, and can be seriously injured by even common medicines (i.e. acetaminophen) or supplements (i.e. iron pills).
  • Nicotine: Cigarettes, nicotine gum and some electronic cigarette refill bottles can be a poisoning risk for children. Even mild nicotine poisoning in a child can result in nausea and vomiting, weakness, tremors or seizures. Nicotine gum is especially scary as it is packaged just like regular bubblegum, which many kids love.
  • Alcohol:  That peach-scented hand sanitizer?—not so “peachy” after all. Perfumes, hand sanitizers, mouthwashes—these cosmetic items all contain concentrated alcohol, and can be attractive to small children because of their colour or scent. Symptoms of alcohol poisoning can range from drowsiness and vomiting, to difficulty breathing.
  • Coins: Swallowing a coin could be harmless, if it passes through the digestive system, but can become VERY dangerous if it becomes lodged at any point in the digestive tract.

What can we do to help prevent unintentional poisonings? Because we are always going to carry these necessities in our purses, it is of the utmost importance that handbags be kept away from small children whether you are at home or visiting another home. Be aware of what Grandma does with her handbag when she comes to visit your home, too.

As for the contents of the purse, it’s a good idea to always keep medication in its original, child-resistant container, NOT in a plastic baggie or pill container. Keep in mind that “child-resistant” packaging does not mean “child proof”—even children as young as one have managed to open these containers!

March 16-22 is Poison Prevention Week across Canada, and the public can visit the Child Safety Link website at www.childsafetylink.ca for these and more tips on keeping children safe from unintentional poisonings. Please share this message and help keep our children safe!

Make a gift to the IWK Foundation.

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Another Way TV Can Harm Your Kids

Julie Harrington is a public relations coordinator at the Child Safety Link, a Maritime-wide children’s injury prevention program based at the IWK Health Centre in Halifax, Nova Scotia

We bought a new TV for the family room recently, and the old “clonker” TV wasn’t even in the storage closet for an hour before my kids came to me with a “brilliant” idea: could they move it into their bedroom? They wanted to watch movies and play Wii on it.

“We’d put it right up there on top of the high dresser,” said my son, “so you can see it from every part of the room.”

Working at Child Safety Link, the children’s injury prevention program at the IWK Health Centre, I immediately saw a problem with this plan.

“Even if I let you have a TV in your room,” I said to them, “it could never go on top of the dresser.” And then I told them about the growing phenomenon known as “Toppling TVs.”

picture tube tvWe all know that there are better things for the health of children than too much television. Regardless, TVs are everywhere—in 98% of Canadian homes, with the average home containing two or three. What people don’t realize is the serious physical hazard that such a common household item can pose to children—especially small children. In fact, there has been a growing trend across North America of televisions toppling over onto children, causing serious and sometimes even fatal injuries. In the U.S. in 2011, children injured by falling TVs visited hospitals 17,000 times!

Why are toppling TVs a “growing” trend? Because as technology advances, more people are replacing their picture tube or “CRT” (cathode ray tube) television sets in their living rooms with lighter, flatscreen TVs.  Often, these older sets are moved to rooms where children are more likely to play, such as bedrooms or playrooms. CRT televisions are not only heavy and bulky, but are easy to tip over because they are so front-heavy, and some of them can weigh up to 100 pounds! Often, these older sets are placed on top of bureaus or other furniture not designed for a top-heavy load. It’s all too easy to imagine: a child would only have to open one or two drawers of the bureau for it to tip over, sending the heavy television—and probably the piece of furniture too—onto the child.

Toppling injuries happen most commonly to children between the ages of 1 and 4 years—the age where kids start exploring and climbing. The most common type of trauma sustained in these incidents is a head or neck injury. Although my older boys wouldn’t be climbing on a bureau, they probably wouldn’t think twice about opening two or more drawers in the daily hunt for socks and underwear. The thought of what could happen is truly chilling! 

There are some pretty easy things we can do to make sure our television sets—and other pieces of heavy furniture—stay safety upright: 

  • Make sure that your television set is placed on stable furniture with a low, wide base, and that the set is pushed back as far as it can go. Never place TVs on bureaus or shelves that aren’t designed for top-heavy weight.
  • While you are at it, verify that all furniture in your home is stable. For storage units like dressers and cabinets, place heavier items in lower drawers or compartment so that the unit is bottom-heavy, and therefore more stable. Avoid putting CRT televisions in rooms where children often play. 
  • Use anchors or safety straps for all entertainment units, TV stands, bookcases, shelving and bureaus. Anchor these pieces to a wall or to the floor using hardware like brackets, screws, and toggles. Your local hardware store should be able to provide advice on your options for securing furniture, and tips for installation.
  • Don’t put the remote control, toys or anything else a child might want, on top of the TVMany children have toppled TVs trying to reach these things. 
  • Supervise children while they play in the home and teach them not to climb on the furniture. 
  • Make sure any electrical cords are kept tucked away behind the furniture and out of reach of children. 

Check out Child Safety Link’s new Public Service Announcement on how to safeguard your home from falling tvs and furniture, which will be airing for the next few months on CTV Atlantic.

 For more information on children’s injury prevention for all ages and stages, visit the Child Safety Link website at www.childsafetylink.ca .


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All children have a right to live their lives free of sickness and strife

The Dalhousie Commerce Society (DCS) is proud to host the annual Halifax event for the National Inside Ride Tour. It is a fantastic initiative and it is our pleasure to do all that we can to give back to the community.

The Dalhousie Commerce Society

The Dalhousie Commerce Society

The Inside Ride is a unique initiative not only because the funds raised go specifically to children who are bravely fighting cancer, but it’s a cross-Canada tour as well. Beginning in Newfoundland on a bus that holds over 40 stationary bikes, it travels across the country to Vancouver, stopping at multiple Inside Ride fundraising events in cities and towns along the way.

The DCS supports the IWK Health Centre because we believe all children have a right to live their lives free of sickness and strife. The services provided by the IWK give children the opportunity to receive care as close to home as possible. The Inside Ride raises funds for children who are living with cancer and particular to the Halifax initiative, half the funds raised are donated to the IWK oncology unit and the other to Camp Goodtime – a one-week camp for children fighting cancer where kids experience awesome camp activities canoeing, swimming, arts and crafts and outdoor education!

The Halifax event on October 3rd is the second stop after St. John’s (yes, the bus hops on the Newfoundland ferry!). After two months of fundraising, participants come together and celebrate by taking turns riding the stationary bikes. It is an amazing event filled with contagious enthusiasm and the DCS is happy to host it year after year!

The DCS has raised over $20,000 from the Inside Ride over the past two years and we are excited to add to it this year! We hope to see you there!

To learn more or participate in Halifax’s National Inside Ride, click here.


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Playing games. Healing kids.

Nova Gamer for Left to RIght: Jon, Mark, Dan,  with Dave in the front centre.  Absent from photo: Austin

Nova Gamer from left to rIght: Jon, Mark, Dan, with Dave in the front centre. Absent from photo: Austin

Mark Devitt, co-founder of NovaGamer in Halifax, Nova Scotia, is fundraising for the IWK Foundation by participating in this year’s Children’s Miracle Network event. Extra Life.

My passion is gaming and I’m lucky enough that I am able to work in the industry too. At NovaGamer, my colleagues and I all share the same love for gaming and the gaming industry.  While we are committed to being active members of society, As gamers one of our challenges has been trying to find a way that we could make a significant contribute to our local community through our work. This was a task made very easy for us when we learned about Children’s Miracle Network’s Extra Life event.

Extra Life is a fantastic event that happens on November 2nd, 2013 to raise money for Children’s Miracle Network. Money raised from this event in the Maritimes goes towards the IWK Health Centre– our local children’s hospital. Essentially this event gives gamers, like me, a chance to get out into our community with family and friends to raise money for a fantastic cause. Believe it or not we do this by pledging to play games for 24 hours straight. We not only help support our local pediatric hospital but we are able to do so by participating in something we love. It’s a way to bring gamers together to make a positive change for others.

NovaGamer_500So why has NovaGamer chosen to fundraise for the IWK?  It is simple – because the support, services, and training provided by the IWK are crucial for our community!  Every parent to be, or sick child, that relies on the IWK needs to know that the very best resources are available when needed.  Extra Life is the perfect opportunity for those of us in the gaming industry to raise money and awareness for our local hospital. We want to make sure that the IWK continues to grow and offer services for families in need in the years to come.

Support Nova Gamer as they fundraise for the IWK Health Centre Foundation. To learn more about Extra-Life and other participants supporting the IWK Health Centre Foundation visit www.extra-life.org


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Made-to-Order Independence

This article was written by Debra Wells-Hopey for the Spring/Summer issue of Izaak Magazine – an in-depth, behind the scenes, all-access publication highlighting the incredible, everyday happenings at the IWK Health Centre.

11-year-old Taya and occupational therapist Julia Gates

11-year-old Taya and occupational therapist Julia Gates

How a customized wheelchair program provides quality of life for hundreds of kids.

Taya is spirited, bright and patient as she describes the way she gets around in the world.

“When I move my head left, I turn left,” she says enthusiastically, even though she must have explained this to people many times over. “When I move my head right, I go right. And when I move my head back, I go straight forward.”

At 11 years-old, Taya has Cerebral Palsy and is a long time visitor to IWK Specialty Seating, a service within the IWK’s Rehabilitation Service. The service offers assessment and provision of customized seating and positioning equipment, including seating inserts, wheelchairs, special-needs strollers, bath seats, car seats and toileting aids.

Julia Gates, Occupational Therapist in Specialty Seating, and Nancy Cashen, Operations Manager for Rehabilitation Services, have known Taya since she was three years old. “This program is designed to assist children who can’t walk on their own, most often due to Spina Bifida, Muscular Dystrophy or Cerebral Palsy,” explained Gates. “Children are referred to the program as early as 14 months and stay with us until they are ready to transition to adult health care.”

Gates explained that although children this young are able to still use a stroller, it means they are dependent on others to get around — at an age when they want to start exploring the world on their own.

“Independence is an essential part in a child’s growth and development,” added Cashen.

Specialty Seating at the IWK consists of Cashen and Gates, as well as a Specialty Seating Technician, David Beattie, and a Funding Coordinator. Together, along with the family, this team determines what kind of wheelchair would be best for the child.

“We take many factors into account,” says Gates. “For instance, a level of hand mobility is essential for maneuvering a manual wheelchair, but not necessary for a power wheelchair.”

The amount of seating support required is a complex assessment that is completed by the occupational therapist and takes into account the disease prognosis, planned orthopaedic surgeries, maintenance of skin integrity, comfort, functional abilities and wheelchair skills. All children are different, and the amount of support required could be viewed as mild, moderate, or complex. Generally, seating for a mild support is not custom made, and may be arranged through a local wheelchair supplier in the community. The seating for children who require moderate or complex support is custom made by the Specialty Seating Service at the IWK.

There is a workshop onsite at the IWK where Beattie employs his expertise. For specialized seating, an impression is made on a mould that resembles a large bean bag. This shape can then be transferred to a 3D digital model on the computer. These images are sent via email to the United States where the only machine of its kind in North America manufactures the seat. It is then shipped to the IWK for fitting.

As for Beattie, he has been with the hospital since 1989. He was familiar with an Occupational Therapist who suggested he may enjoy the work. Considering Beattie has remained in the program for more than 24 years, it certainly is a great fit.

“This is the perfect job as far as I’m concerned,” says Beattie. “I get to work with my hands and help people simultaneously. The work is challenging and rewarding.”

Beattie’s workshop looks much like any other, yet very unlike anything you expect to see in a hospital. There are various materials stored: pieces of repurposed wheelchairs, three industrial-sized sewing machines, neoprene for upholstering, two band saws, a table saw and a wealth of tools.

“When we first see someone we measure them for a seat using a fitting frame. From these measurements I construct a seat out of foam and plywood and I upholster it. I also adjust and repair wheelchairs as needed. I’d say one of my favourite parts of my job is going on the mobile clinics. Several times a year we go to Cape Breton and the Annapolis Valley. At times we go to schools here in HRM, or even homes.”

Gates explained that the first order of business when a child needs a wheelchair or seating device is to meet with the family and get to know their needs.

“This initial meeting is so important,” says Gates. “It’s when we first get to meet the child; establishing their needs, administering a postural assessment, taking measurements, then making recommendations.”

“Recently we had a child who needed a new power wheelchair. We had two styles and tried them both in the home to see which operated better in that specific environment. It needs to work in the child’s daily life.”

Having the right wheelchair and seating can make all the difference in the world when it comes to quality of life — kids need to participate with classmates, explore their environment and have a sense of independence.

“When a child receives their first wheelchair it is often a period of growth for both the parents and the child,” says Gates.

Taya’s mother Christine knows all about it. She has been taking Taya to Specialty Seating and working with the team for eight years. Taya was only three when she received her first wheelchair and met the group at Specialty Seating. She was outgrowing a stroller at this point, not only in a physical way but also as a growing child her needs were changing — she had a desire to be independent, to be able to explore the world on her own.

“Although she was small enough to still use the stroller, it no longer seemed to be the appropriate choice,”explained her mom. “The chair was so much better for her

Izaak#Provincial#05-02-2013#A01posture, and allowed her to be eye level with her peers. Her diaphragm was also better supported which made her breathing and therefore her speaking so much better.”

Taya was born with cerebral palsy. She enjoys her grade five class and likes to read — especially Harry Potter books. She also swims and uses a sit ski at Wentworth ski hill.

“I have both a manual and a power chair,” explained Taya. “I use the power chair at school. Some places are easier to use a wheelchair in than others though.”

Although Taya drives herself around by using head movements, the wheelchair must be steered remotely by a device similar to a joystick when it is being loaded into the family van. Apparently, according to a laughing Taya, dad is an expert at it, while mom, who is quick to agree, isn’t as deft.

Taya was eight when she got her first power chair. She started at six years old “training” with a joy stick, but it was a lot of work and a head array began to make more sense. The family visits Specialty Seating about once a year.

“To a certain extent, the chairs grow with her. Especially the manual chair, which she will have for about eight years,” explains Christine. “The power chair needs changes or replacing more frequently.”

As for cost, the family is fortunate that both Christine and her husband have good health care plans, however, they still certainly incur costs. The head array alone cost $10,000, which is as much as the chair. Then there are the costs of converting the family van with a manual ramp that has to be lifted and unfolded. A power system is even more expensive. This is the reality for families with a wheelchair. Taya gets to continue to visit the team at Specialty Seating until she is ready to transition to adult health care.

“I can’t say enough about the program and the staff,” says Christine. “When your child is first diagnosed, you’re in a daze. You don’t know where to go or what to do. They have helped us immensely, even in emergency situations.”

One such situation was during a weekend when Taya’s chair was accidentally run over, crushing one of the wheels. It meant facing a whole weekend propped up or in bed. Not a great thought for a young, energetic girl like Taya. Christine contacted Gates and Beattie who were more than willing to go into work on a Saturday to get the chair fixed. Says Taya, “Dave and Julia are extremely nice people and I would come to them all my life if I could.”

And there’s no higher praise than that.

To read the full issue of Izaak magazine visit www.iwkfoundation.org/izaak

Make a gift to the IWK Health Centre Foundation.


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Breathing Space

This article was written by Tom Mason for the Spring/Summer issue of Izaak Magazine – an in-depth, behind the scenes, all-access publication highlighting the incredible, everyday happenings at the IWK Health Centre.Dr. Laine Johnson brings highly-specialized airway reconstruction surgery to the IWK

Larkin looks at the plastic fish and bubbles

Larkin looks at the plastic fish and bubbles

Larkin Pottle was born four years ago with tracheomalacia, bronchomalacia, and subglottic stenosis of her trachea — conditions that severely restricted her ability to breathe on her own. Her parents, Rhonda and Brent Pottle, struggled with the tracheotomy that allowed her to survive the process. As she grew, breathing on her own started to look

Like a possibility; surgery to allow this to happen was the next step for the Pottle family. Tracheotomies are one of the most vital surgical procedures in modern medicine, but they are actually very old. The surgery is depicted on Egyptian artifacts more than 5,000 years old and described in Sanskrit texts from around 2,000 BC. A tracheotomy involves placing a tube through an incision in the neck to bypass the nose and mouth and allow air directly into the trachea. Every year they save countless lives; but for most young children who have undergone the procedure,

a normal life doesn’t begin until the tube has been successfully removed. That can prove to be difficult.

Dr. Liane Johnson uses a scope to view Larkin's airway.

Dr. Liane Johnson uses a scope to view Larkin’s airway.

That’s where Dr. Liane Johnson comes in. Dr. Johnson is a pediatric airway surgeon at the IWK, the only doctor in Atlantic Canada to perform a specialized form of airway reconstruction surgery in children. The innovative technique involves using the child’s own rib cartilage to expand the scarred airway to attempt to achieve a normal diameter airway (air passage). Because the technique relies on tissue from the child’s own body, there are no issues with rejection.

Dr. Johnson learned the complex procedure during a two-year fellowship at the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center under world-renowned pediatric otolaryngologist Dr. Robin Cotton, who pioneered the technique 30 years ago. She has already performed about 20 of the surgeries at the IWK. She says the procedure offers the patient and family a degree of independence that is life-changing.

“With proper patient selection, they can be very successful surgeries,” she says. “It’s rewarding to see the results.”

Larkin Pottle’s conditions were serious and because she needed constant medical care, Larkin could never be left alone. This left her family with the task of learning how to take care of her properly at home. Any kind of mucus plug or blockage of the tracheostomy tube could also be disastrous. It was a 24-hour-a-day job for Rhonda and Brent,

one that required plenty of professional help. “We had to get professional respite care at night so that we could get some sleep,” says Rhonda.

Rhonda Pottle cuddles her daughter Larkin Pottle as they wait for Larkin's appointment at the IWK.

Rhonda Pottle cuddles her daughter Larkin Pottle as they wait for Larkin’s appointment at the IWK.

Along with the basic skills that every new mother learns — feeding Larkin and changing her diapers — Rhonda quickly became adept at a number of medical techniques, including suctioning a tracheotomy tube and performing mouth to trach resuscitation. If Larkin accidentally removed the tracheostomy tube, the Larkin family had to be prepared to perform CPR.

“It’s not that difficult. Anyone can learn to do it as long as they’re not afraid of it,” says Rhonda. Larkin was approaching her second birthday when doctors discovered she was breathing through her nose and mouth around the tracheotomy tube. It was good news. It meant the airway was growing and the problem was correcting itself. But scar tissue had formed, and Larkin’s airway needed to be repaired before the incision in her trachea could be permanently closed.

This picture was taken at the level of the vocal cords showing complete obstruction of the subglottic airway, just beyond the vocal cords.

This picture was taken at the level of the vocal cords showing complete obstruction of the subglottic airway, just beyond the vocal cords.

Rhonda began the search for a doctor who could do the surgery. She and her husband had already made plans to travel from their Stephenville, Newfoundland home to Cincinnati to meet with Dr. Cotton when they heard about the IWK program. “I heard there was a doctor in Halifax who had studied with Dr. Cotton and was using the same procedure.” The Pottle’s first visit to Halifax was a little disappointing. Dr. Johnson examined Larkin and told the family to come back in three months for reassessment as it was

too soon for the operation. “That’s the hardest thing to say to parents: ‘She’s not ready,’” says Dr. Johnson. “But if you do the surgery too early the consequences can be devastating. The last thing I want to do is set up a spiral of failure. Sometimes it’s just safer to wait.”

This picture was taken just below the vocal cords showing a completely open subglottic airway following placement of rib grafts.

This picture was taken just below the vocal cords showing a completely open subglottic airway following placement of rib grafts.

When the day finally came, it was a long one. The Pottles spent eight hours waiting for Larkin’s surgery to end. Dr. Johnson constructed two rib grafts to expand the damaged airway, placing them carefully in the trachea below the little girl’s voice box. When it was over she was sedated and ventilated in the intensive care unit for nine days, but after stent removal she was soon breathing on her own. It was a success.

There have already been many milestones for the Pottle family. Larkin had a bout of the flu during the winter – a normal rite of passage for most four-year-olds, but one that would have brought on a serious medical crisis before the surgery. This time it was no big deal, says Rhonda. The family left for a Florida vacation in March, the first family trip since Larkin was born that didn’t centre around a medical appointment. Most importantly, Larkin is gaining a measure of independence that she didn’t have before. She’s getting ready to attend preschool and is making friends her own age for the first time. “She loves other kids,” says Rhonda. “Finally she can be a kid herself.”

To read the full issue of Izaak magazine visit www.iwkfoundation.org/izaak

Make a gift to the IWK Health Centre Foundation.


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These Hands.

June 1st and 2nd was one for the record books! Spirits were soaring as once again, generous Maritimers stepped up for the IWK and declared it as a special place and an absolute priority for families. Thanks to the incredible generosity of our donors, we were able to raise $5,877,139.53 during our 29th Annual IWK Telethon for Children on CTV!

To add to the merriment, on Saturday evening we debuted “These Hands” – a very special video created in collaboration with Canadian Folk/Celtic singer-songwriter, Dave Gunning.  Direced by Scott Simpson of Playmaker Films, this video showcases the incredible strength and community inside the IWK Health Centre.

We are proud to announce that “These Hands”, co-written by Gunning and George Canyon, is the East Coast Music Awards 2013 Song of the Year! The song accompanies a children’s book by the same name, which teaches us that every person has the ability to be a hero of the human kind.  A portion of the proceeds from the sale of the book supports the IWK Health Centre Foundation.

Thank you Dave Gunning for your incredible support and commitment to improving the lives of Maritime families who rely on the care of the IWK.

“I was excited to be involved with this project because of the great work that’s done by both the staff at the hospital and the Foundation,” says Gunning. “I’m very proud to have the song being used for such a great purpose.” 

Hope you enjoy the video, please feel free to share it!


Make a gift
to the IWK Health Centre Foundation.