Stories about: Parenting

Supporting Latino families: The power of relationships

Spanish-speaking staff and parents support Latino families at Boston Children's Hospital.
Cecilia Matos and Sara Diaz support Spanish-speaking families at Boston Children’s Hospital.

Navigating a child’s medical journey can be difficult on any parent. But for a mother or father not familiar with the U.S. healthcare system or whose first language isn’t English, the journey is much more complex.

Just ask one of the attendees at Fuente de Luz (“Fountain of Light”), the monthly informational group for Spanish-speaking families at Boston Children’s Hospital. On the first Tuesday of every month, around eight to ten Latino mothers — and occasionally fathers — get together to share their experiences and receive support from each other. There are hands to pass tissues and hold onto others; una familia formed from shared experiences.

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Parent-to-parent: Tips for Home Parenteral Nutrition families

Toddler using parenteral nutrition smiles while making bird house

Four-year-old Thomas Onorato is a young zoologist at heart. Often seen with binoculars in hand, the adventurous preschooler is particularly drawn to bird watching. He enjoys talking about his feathery friends and studying their beauty and habitat.

Thomas’ love of animals runs so deep that he says he wants to be a veterinarian when he grows up. “Thomas is obsessed with animals. It’s his love,” says his mother, Melissa.

Beyond his quest to care for animals, Thomas has two other important missions — to manage the rare condition, microvillus inclusion disease (MVID) and receive the lifesaving parenteral nutrition (PN) support he needs to grow and thrive.

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Fighting for the next family: Mom’s experience inspires nutrition support guidelines

Michelle fought to ensure that her twins receive the nutrition support they need at school for short bowel syndrome.

As Michelle Marti watched her twin sons, Nicholas and Max, run around the playground, she worried. To a stranger — like the representative of their local school’s Planning and Placement Team (PPT), there to evaluate the boys’ eligibility for special needs services in kindergarten — they looked like any other kids having fun. But their playfulness masked a serious illness: short bowel syndrome, the result of a condition called Hirschsprung’s disease. “They look healthy on the outside because all of their medical differences are under their clothes,” admits Michelle.

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Teens and opioids: Time for an open conversation

woman shooting heroin

National surveys have found that teens today are much less likely to use alcohol and drugs compared to their parents’ generation. In fact, the proportion of high school seniors who chose not to use alcohol, tobacco, marijuana or other drugs has increased from 3 percent to 25 percent in the last thirty years. This remarkable good news is overshadowed by the growing number of teens who are daily marijuana users and the recent increase in opioid-related deaths among young people. It is important to understand the roots of this discrepancy in order to address it.

Statistics show that between 2014 and 2015, the rates of drug overdoses — mainly due to opioids — increased by 19 percent in teens, and are now double what they were in 1999, proving that young people are an important part of the equation. We know that most adults with addiction problems started using when they were teens and those with opioid use disorders are no exception. As a pediatrician and adolescent health specialist, I see this as both a challenge and an opportunity.

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