Stories about: Family Advisory Council

Trusting your instincts: One mom’s story

Serena with Julia and Sebastian

Serena Hadsell has no medical training. But when her 4-year-old daughter Julia got sick a few days after Christmas in 2013, something else kicked in – her mother’s intuition.

“Julia had a stomach bug and was having trouble keeping anything down,” recalls Serena. “It was very late and I was trying to go to sleep, but I got the sense that something was wrong: Her breathing wasn’t quite right.”

A frightening late-night hospital trip

Serena considered waiting out the night at home and calling their pediatrician in the morning, but she couldn’t stop watching Julia. So, despite the late hour, Serena decided to pack up the family, including 6-month-old Sebastian, and head to their local hospital. Once there, it turned out that Serena’s instincts had been right.

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Beyond balloons: 6 ways to help a family in the hospital during the holidays

Sophie and Maddie Litterer pose with Santa
Sophie and Maddie pose with Santa

There’s nothing like being home for the holidays. But for families with a child in the hospital, sometimes that’s just not possible.

As a friend or family member, you may wonder what you can do to make the family’s holidays a little brighter. Some of the best advice comes from parents who have been there and know firsthand what can make a difference.

Reach out

“Don’t be afraid to let the family know you’re thinking of them,” says Boston Children’s Hospital Family Advisory Council member Katie Litterer, who’s spent more than one holiday in the hospital with her twin daughters Sophie and Maddie, now age 8, after they were born prematurely at 27 weeks.

“I always appreciated the reach out, no matter what was happening,” she says. “At this time of year especially, you just want to know that other people care.”

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Giving thanks: Stories of volunteerism, gratitude and giving back

Thanksgiving Day is a time rich in family, gratitude and appreciation. In honor of the holiday, we are celebrating the patient families who have traveled through our doors and the selfless acts of kindness and volunteerism that follow.

Donating platelets and cycling for a cause

Ten years ago, Adam Nussenbaum’s son, Max, was treated at Boston Children’s and overcame a life threatening illness. Today, Adam gives his time — and platelets — to help those in need, and he is doing so in celebration of Max; his daughter Kate, who donated her bone marrow to help her brother; and the clinicians, who made his son’s recovery possible.

Shari Abramowitz, Max, Kate and Adam Nussenbaum
Shari Abramowitz, Adam, Kate, and Max Nussenbaum

For the past eight years, Adam has participated in the Pan Mass Challenge and raised over $55,000 to benefit the Pediatric Bone Marrow Transplant Center at Boston Children’s. He also donates platelets on a monthly basis.

“It has been immensely gratifying to know that I have and will continue to play a small role in helping patients like Max on their road to recovery,” he says.


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Devastation and devotion: A father faces his daughter’s difficult diagnosis

pulmonary hypertension bill shannon o'donnell

Fifteen years ago, days before her graduation from kindergarten, Shannon O’Donnell played in the hallway of Boston Children’s Hospital while cardiologist Dr. John K. Triedman broke the news to her parents Bill and Laura O’Donnell. Shannon’s recent fainting spells were not due to asthma or a vasovagal response. Shannon — their happy-go-lucky, active 6-year-old — had idiopathic pulmonary hypertension, abnormally high blood pressure in the arteries of her lungs.

Untreated, pulmonary hypertension causes the heart muscle to weaken and eventually fail completely. There was — and still is — no known cause and no known cure.

Bill and Laura were shocked. Before arriving at Boston Children’s, the O’Donnells had been told that the fainting episodes were not a big concern and could even be Shannon looking for attention. “It took Dr. Triedman three or four times to tell us before it sunk in,” remembers Bill. “He finally had to look us straight in the eye and tell us that our daughter could die from this disease. We were devastated.”

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