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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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I’m Tristan Gallant, I’m 10 years old, and I approve of this message.

Moncton Change Bandit, Tristan Gallant

IWK Moncton Change Bandit Hero, Tristan Gallant

Tristan Gallant is this year’s Moncton Change Bandit Hero for the K94-5 & 103.9 MAX FM Cares for Kids IWK Radiothon. For the last few weeks, Tristan has been working hard to help raise $15,000 to support the most urgent priorities of the IWK Health Centre.

I felt very happy when the IWK Foundation asked me to be the IWK Change Bandit Hero this year. It’s really nice [to be selected] and really fun being on the radio. It’s really really fun. Everybody wants to talk to me and take pictures of me.

You can raise money as a change bandit by doing things like a sock hop and a hat day at school; by telling everyone you know how great the IWK is, and by collecting coins at a big store like Superstore. Your parents and friends can put their change all together and put it in your loot bag.

I like the nurses and doctors and Child Life people at the IWK. All the people there like Kate, and Carol, all the doctors and nurses, and all the rest of the people there are really nice to me.

The IWK is important to me because they helped me and a lot of other kids feel better, and they also saved my life when I had Cancer.

People should give money to the Change Bandit program to help IWK buy even better machines and better medicines to help kids feel better. I’m Tristan Gallant, I’m 10 years old, and I approve of this message. 🙂

The 5th Annual K 94-5 & 103.9 MAX FM Cares for Kids IWK Radiothon will be broadcasting live from Champlain Place Mall February 20 & 21 from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m.. 

Make a gift to the IWK Radiothon.


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Change Makers – Sonja

This article is a series of three, written by Tom Mason for the Fall 2013/Winter 2014 issue of Izaak Magazine – an in-depth, behind the scenes, all-access publication highlighting the incredible, everyday happenings at the IWK Health Centre. A stay at the hospital can be tough, but for some exceptional young people, it’s also a time to grow , gain strength and learn about who they are. 

Sonja Weilgart-Whitehead

Sonja Weilgart-Whitehead

At the age of 18, Sonja Weilgart-Whitehead is already an old hand at talking to the media. The Herring Cove teenager was just 15 when she spearheaded a media campaign that focused attention on evacuation policies at Halifax Schools – a campaign that changed those policies for students with mobility issues.

Sonja has quadriplegic cerebral palsy, a condition that comes with significant mobility challenges. “My high school had an evacuation policy that said they couldn’t carry disabled persons out of the building because it would risk injuring the person responsible for carrying the,” she says. “Instead, we were supposed to go to a designated safe area and wait for the fire department.” But the designated safe room in Sonja’s high school was located right above a propane tank, with furniture blocking the only window that rescue personnel could use to access it. “I know that if my school ever wet up in flames, I was going to be toast.”

I was a situation that Sonja had no intention of ignoring. She and her mother contacted the media and began a series of interviews to shed light on the topic. The campaign immediately caught the attention of Nova Scotia cabinet ministers Ramona Jennex and Marilyn Moore who offered her an apology and set out to change the school policy. “They changed it for everyone in the province,” she says. “It means a lot, even though I was almost ready to graduate. With the old policy, it was like they were saying my life wasn’t as valued as the other students.”

Sonja is used to overcoming challenges. Her first extended stay at the IWK began the day she was born, when she was 18 months old. She’s made many trips to the hospital since then. “Over the last six years I’ve been getting a lot better because of a phenomenal surgery that the IWK gave me. Now I can walk without tangling by feet, without being crumpled over. I can swim a lot better too. It’s forever changed by life.”

Today, Sonja is studying for her Bachelor of Arts (honours) degree at Carleton University in Ottawa, and received the Robbie and Jean Shaw Scholarship. She plans to go on to become a lawyer advocating for people with disabilities. She chose the university because of its unique program for physically challenged students – a program that includes 24/7 attendant services and full wheelchair accessibility. She is also nationally-classified para-swimmer on the Carleton varsity swim team and involved in horseback riding, sailing, skiing and rock climbing.

This story and many exciting others are available for FREE though Izaak Magazine’s fully interactive mobile app, available for download on the iTunes Newstand and Google play. You can also read Izaak magazine online through your desktop computer.


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The most wonderful time of the year

Jane Marchildon is a Child Life Specialist at the IWK Health Centre.

It’s the most wonderful time of the year!  I bet you’ve heard this song on the radio, in the malls, and even in your workplace by now.  At the IWK Health Centre, December is truly the most wonderful time of the year.   We know that being in hospital can be tough for kids and families, even more so around the holidays.  Throughout the month of December, holidays are celebrated to ensure that patients and families who are in the hospital don’t miss out on traditions, making important memories and even celebrating new holidays!

IWKChildLifelogoChild Life Services works hard to make the holidays a memorable time for patients and families who are in the hospital.  Through generous donations by individuals, families, community organizations and workplaces, Child Life Services ensures that inpatients and their siblings have gifts for the holidays.  These items go beyond the holidays and are also used throughout the year for therapeutic play or distraction with a Child Life Specialist, as birthday presents for patients,  and to support play in the hospital.

If you would like to donate a gift to patients and families at the IWK Health Centre this holiday season, please keep in mind the following guidelines:

  1. All gifts must be new and unwrapped, in keeping with our infection control policy.
  2. Please deliver these gifts to Child Life Services located on the main floor of the children’s building Monday – Thursday from 8AM-4PM.  Outside of this time, please leave gifts with Protection Services inside the women’s entrance to the IWK and mark them Attention: Child Life. 

 

Please see our 2013 Holiday Wish List for details about gifts appropriate for specific age groups.

Make a gift to the IWK Foundation.


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That’s why I’m riding.

Dr. Crooks is a Pediatric Hematologist/Oncologist at the IWK Health Centre. This year he will be riding across Canada for the Sears National Kids Cancer Ride – one of the biggest and most ambitious charity cycling events on behalf of childhood cancer in the world.

There are so many reasons for challenging myself for doing this. But I think the impetus has to come from a wonderful young patient.

Dr. Bruce Crooks

Dr. Bruce Crooks

Years ago, I admitted and looked after her when she was diagnosed with, and started treatment for, Acute Lymphoblastic leukemia – the commonest childhood cancer. Even then she didn’t complain, but met the challenge head on and did what she had to do. Years later, and after a somewhat rocky road, she’s finishing her studies at university and is one of the strongest, most positive and assertive role models I’ve ever met. She took the cloud that’s leukemia, ripped it apart and kept the silver lining. That taught her so many life lessons at such an early age. Last year, she stood beside me as we welcomed the 2012 National Kids Cancer Ride to Halifax and said, “So how about doing this with me next year, Crooksy?” At that point how could I say no? And here I am.

I’m originally from the UK. When I first arrived in Canada I was immediately struck by just how BIG this country is compared with Europe. Distances are measured in hours and days, not miles or kilometres. There’s a huge amount of wilderness here – lakes and rocks and trees. Oh, and bears (one of my soft spots). So it’s hardly surprising that one of my dreams was to cross the continent – on foot!!! But here’s an opportunity to do it a different way and to do something amazing with that opportunity – something that’s very dear to my heart.

Professionally, I knew I wanted to work with kids during medical school and during my first part of postgraduate training, became fascinated with cancer and cancer therapy.   In my opinion, fun, humour and clowning around is a part of the healing process – childhood is a time of laughter, exploration and discovery. Why take away a child’s innocence and childhood just because they are dealing with some crummy disease and rotten treatments. If they love coming to see me, that makes everything so much better. And I’m not afraid to put my money where my mouth is and do something like a charity head shave, or event! Why not? It’s part of the rich tapestry of life.

Dr. Crooks will be cycling across Canada to raise money for childhood oncology programs.

Dr. Crooks will be cycling across Canada to raise money for childhood oncology programs.

I see both sides of the Coast to Coast Against Cancer Foundation: We all participate in the fundraising, and the events and the struggle to raise the money that is so desperately needed. And as a Pediatric Hematologist/Oncologist, I see where that money is widely spent – to improve the quality of life and care for our kids and families, to plough into medical research to devise better treatments, but also to learn where cancers come from – after all, prevention is better than a cure.

As I said to a mother not too long ago as she had just been told her child had leukemia, “This must seem to be the worst day of your life, but I’m here to try and make it better for you.”

I wish I never have to say those words again. That’s why I’m riding.

Learn more about the Sears National Kids Cancer ride.
Support Dr. Cooks on his ride across Canada.


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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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We count our blessings every day.

Lindsay Reynolds is a Member Service Counselor at CAA Atlantic in Saint John, New Brunswick and mother to five year old Seth, an IWK patient.

The IWK is holds a very special place in my heart. Without them, my life just wouldn’t be the same. At only 27 weeks, I gave birth to my son, Seth, at the Saint John Regional Hospital here at home. He was so tiny! Soon after being born, we experienced a setback as his weight plummeted to just 1 lb 1oz.  But as each day passed, my little man grew stronger, and at 22 days old, we were finally able to hold him for the very first time. Words cannot express that moment.

Baby Seth

Baby Seth

Seth soon began experiencing complications once again, and at 36 days old he was diagnosed with Necrotizing Enterocolitis, a potentially fatal inflammatory bowel disease that 10 per cent of premature infants develop, as well as a blood infection. I will never forget the moment that we were told that we were being transported to the IWK in Halifax. Up until then, I always viewed the IWK as a world class facility, however something I would never have a need for.  Five days later, after consultation with the IWK general surgery team, we were boarding the Nova Scotia life flight helicopter and were on our way to the IWK.

Seth fought like a trooper during his 89 day stay in the IWK NICU 2-critical care unit as he faced a number of issues such as,  Necrotizing enterocolitis , infections, apnea of prematurity, bronchopulmonary dysplasia, pneumonia, various blood disorders, serriatia colonization, inguinal hernias, hypospadius, small bowel resection and an Ileostomy.

Although this was an incredibly challenging time for my family, we always felt at ease knowing that our son was being cared for by the best doctors in the Maritimes.

One day, on a bright and sunny afternoon in the IWK gardens, I was able to take my son outdoors for the very first time – he was 125 days old. Soon after, we were able to take him home. Since then, we have returned to the IWK for a Hernia repair and an ileostomy reversal and check up.

Seth, age 4.

Seth, age 4.

We count our blessings every day.  Life would be very different if it were not for care and knowledge of the IWK staff and the special facilities and equipment they use. This is why I am so proud to be a part of an organization that understands the importance of supporting pediatric health. From April 15 – May 26, 2013 CAA Atlantic offices will be raffling a trip for two to Italy, with proceeds going to the IWK Foundation and the Janeway Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador. Funds raised through this raffle will be used to support the most urgent care needs of the hospitals. I worked at CAA and participated in our fundraising initiatives for the IWK each year for five years before my donations and efforts took on a whole new meaning.

If it were not for the IWK team, facilities and equipment, the very best part of my life would not be alive today!

Make a gift to the IWK Foundation.