Sledding, ice skating and more: Top tips for winter sports safety

Winter-safety-sportsWinter school vacation week is officially here. If you aren’t traveling to a warmer climate, outdoor winter activities — sledding, skiing, snowboarding and more, are likely part of your family’s vacation plans.

Dr. Michael O’Brien, director of Boston Children’s Hospital Sports Concussion Clinic, says when it comes to winter sports, fun and exercise outweigh the risk. But you do need to be careful.

So what is a parent to do?

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Worth every mile: Short bowel syndrome brings family to Boston

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During his most recent visit to Boston Children’s Hospital, 3-year-old Konrad Schienke resembles a tiny tornado, gleefully scampering around the room as he mugs for the camera and shouts, “Cheese!” Later, he smiles as a doctor gently felt his abdomen, giggling as if he was being tickled.

“It’s hard to believe what a sick little kid he has been,” says his father, Erich.

Yet, just a few years ago, this energetic boy resided in the neonatal intensive care unit at his local hospital in Pennsylvania, struggling with a diagnosis of short bowel syndrome. This rare but serious condition can occur when a child either loses or is born without enough small intestine, preventing the body from extracting the nutrients it needs to survive. Untreated, short bowel syndrome can lead to severe dehydration and malnutrition.

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Mending a ‘backward’ heart

Joe, who has congenitally corrected transposition of the great arteries , sits with his dog OdieThe first clue came with a murmur.

At a mere week old, Joe LaRocca was diagnosed with an extraordinarily rare heart defect. Both ventricles were reversed.

Fortunately, with this particular defect, the arteries are reversed too, essentially “correcting” the abnormality. That’s where it gets its name — congenitally corrected transposition of the great arteries (CCTGA).

In a normal heart, the demanding duty of pumping oxygenated blood into the body is handled by the left ventricle, and the right ventricle pumps blood a short distance into the lungs. But Joe’s heart was far from normal.

“The right ventricle is not meant to do the harder work,” says Dr. Elizabeth Blume, Heart Failure and Heart Transplant Program medical director at Boston Children’s Hospital. “Since the ventricles are reversed in patients with CCTGA, over time, this muscle tires out.”

For the past three decades, the team at Boston Children’s Heart Center has medically and surgically managed Joe’s condition. And at 33, his heart is still ticking.

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When your sons are both diagnosed with cancer

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One day, our 2-year-old son Javon complained about a bit of pain at daycare. It seemed harmless enough. But after a visit to the pediatrician, we ended up in the hospital for emergency surgery. There, they discovered that a mass in his body was causing the pain. “Cancer?” we feared, but it was too early to confirm.

As young, first-time parents, their father and I were unsure where to turn for help. There’s no manual on how to be a parent when you hear the news that your son has been diagnosed with cancer.

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