Stories about: Martha Eliot Health Center

Dedicated Dad partners with doc to save daughter’s sight

lazy eye amblyopiaFive years ago, Dan Lee had planned a big outing with his newly adopted daughter Manisha Sapkota, a 14-year-old from Nepal.

“I was excited to take her to see ‘Toy Story 3D’ — her first 3D movie,” recalls Dan. But Lee was puzzled by his daughter’s response when he asked her what she thought.

“It was OK,” Manisha told her dad.

A few months later, Manisha’s lukewarm response made more sense. During her first physical exam in the U.S. at the Boston Children’s Hospital Martha Eliot Health Center, the doctor suggested Manisha might have amblyopia, or “lazy eye,” in her left eye.

“She told us she couldn’t see anything when the other eye was covered. I thought she was playing. I was shocked,” says Dan.

Manisha was referred to Dr. Amy Moy, director of optometry at Martha Eliot.

“Usually, optometrists see children for their first visit at age 3 or 4, but that’s not the case in Nepal,” explains Moy.

As Dan thought about his new daughter’s medical history, the diagnosis started to make sense. Manisha had probably been born with a lazy left eye that was never diagnosed. Because she didn’t use the eye, her vision worsened. But for Manisha, seeing the world through one eye was normal.

Rigorous testing confirmed the diagnosis — Manisha had lazy eye. Her vision in the left eye was 20/200 — close to the cutoff for legal blindness.

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Supporting community health, one bag of produce at a time

Deb Dickerson patiently waits at Boston Children’s at Martha Eliot for the bi-weekly delivery from Fair Foods, a non-profit that distributes surplus fresh fruits and vegetables at various locations around Boston. It’s raining and the truck is running a little late but Deb, Boston Children’s Hospital’s Director of Family, Youth and Community Programs, stays hopeful as always.

When the truck arrives, Deb throws open the front doors of the health center and greets the truck with open arms. A first peek inside the crates reveals red and yellow tomatoes on the vine, fresh apples, baby carrots, Bibb lettuce and more—all in good condition.
Fair Foods 1The 10 volunteers Deb recruited to help receive, sort and distribute the fruits and vegetables get busy unloading the truck. They are a mix of hospital staff, parents from the Smart from the Start program and residents from the Bromley-Heath housing development next door. Across the board, volunteers are positive, energized and collaborative.Fair Foods 2

Fair Foods 3

Once everything is unloaded, the sorting begins. “If it’s not good enough for your mother, throw it out!” calls out Deb. In the end, over 100 bags are assembled—each with 1 head of lettuce, 2 tomatoes, 2 bags of baby carrots, 4 apples, 6 limes and 8 onions. At the local grocery store, that would conservatively cost $17.80, but with Fair Foods, the bag is $2 or whatever small amount a family can afford to pay. There are no eligibility requirements and no maximum number of bags per family.

Fair Foods 4

Fair Foods is one of many community programs coordinated for local residents by Boston Children’s at Martha Eliot, which provides primary and preventative care services for children and youth from birth through age 25. “We have been in the heart of Jamaica Plain for more than 40 years providing excellent health care,” says Deb. “We want the community to know that we are also here to help them through our community programs. Fair Foods allows us to better meet the needs of our families who may have trouble getting convenient and affordable access to fresh vegetables and fruits.”

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One of the families buying a bag today is Yajaira and her 6-year-old son Yeuris, who is making silly faces and playing with silly putty. He peeks into their $2 bag to check out the contents, and pulls out an apple, squealing, “We love apples!”

Yeuris

Every bag sold or given away is a win. “Working directly with this program is very fulfilling,” says Deb. “We’re pleased that Martha Eliot can offer something like this to make the daily lives of residents in our community just a little easier and healthier.”

Learn more about Boston Children’s Primary Care at Martha Eliot.

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Sugar and vice

Despite it being an ingredient that no one needs on a daily basis, sugar plays a starring role in many of our diets. The American Heart Association suggest that kids eat no more than three teaspoons (12 grams) of sugar a day, but Sara Yen, registered dietitian at Children’s Hospital Boston’s Martha Eliot Health Center, says most kids are probably exceeding that. And with the many sugar variations and substitutes, there seems to be confusion about what sugar and its spinoffs really are, and what they mean for our bodies.

Yen demystifies the situation without sugarcoating it.

“The reason we tell patients to avoid sugar is because it provides calories and refined carbohydrates, but not much else,” she says. “It’s what we call empty calories: You take them in, but in terms of fiber, vitamins and minerals, it’s not beneficial.”

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Children's helps bring healthy food to the community

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past few years, you’ve probably heard plenty of healthcare experts stressing the importance of eating healthy food like fresh fruits and vegetables. The message may sound a little repetitive at times, but it’s important advice; whole, unprocessed foods  are not only good for our bodies, but for our waistlines too. And as obesity continues to dramatically affect the health of millions of Americans, it’s clear that more of us need pay closer attention to what the experts are saying.

But for many Americans, the shift towards eating healthy food isn’t so easy. Adding more greens to the grocery list is good advice, but it’s easier said than done for a lot of people. The high cost and limited availability of fresh fruits and vegetables in some areas makes them practically unobtainable to a substantial portion of the population.

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