Thursday, April 24, 2014

RCR Driver Brian Scott Gets Involved

One of the biggest perks about being a NASCAR driver is having the ability to give back. For me, my favorite and most rewarding way of giving back has always been working with kids, especially if it means visiting and cheering up kids in the hospital.

Most recently, I was able to visit the Speediatrics unit at Halifax Health Medical Center in Daytona Beach, Fla., on behalf of the Childress Institute for Pediatric Trauma and The NASCAR Foundation. That day, I walked from room to room visiting seven children and their families. The children ranged in age from infant to 6 or 7 years old.

During our visit, I tried to show them support by taking pictures with them and signing hero cards, all in hopes of giving the patients and their families something to take their mind off what they are currently going through. That’s what is special about my job, meeting these incredible people filled with more strength than they are aware of and trying to put a smile on their face, if only for a second. I’m able to say an extra prayer for them and hope they pull through and heal up and are able to get out of the hospital, because that is not where kids belong. They deserve to be out playing and not in a hospital bed.

I’m really proud to be a part of the Childress Institute and help in any way possible. It’s great because every time we go to a children’s hospital, you see medical advancements and it’s nice to know those changes will make an impact to help children. We notice our contributions really pay dividends when kids are able to overcome unbelievable injuries and beat obstacles that used to be life threatening. It’s great to see the fruits of the everyone’s labor and support.

Knowledge is power. And we hope that with each visit, we are able to learn more about how we can help these children, and also educate the public that more help is needed.

Brian Scott, NASCAR Nationwide Series Driver of Richard Childress Racing’s No. 2 Shore Lodge Chevrolet Camaro

Monday, April 21, 2014

My Passion: Saving the Lives of Injured Children by Dr. Martin Eichelberger

Injury is the leading cause of death in America for children. Most people do not realize this, primarily because injuries are really not addressed as a disease category that people recognize. Children are critically injured in so many ways: a child run over by an automobile, a youngster that falls out of a building, another who unfortunately drowns, maybe a child who steps on a land mine.

Many of these injuries are similar even though the way they are injured may be different. The child’s body is impacted by an external force. Surgery may allow us to reverse some of the immediate damage so that we can save the child's life. Unfortunately, that doesn't necessarily mean that we can reverse some of the disabilities that these children sustain.

This “disease” claiming the lives of nearly 10,000 children a year is called injury and it’s best thought of as a combination of three things: prevention, acute or emergency care and rehabilitation.

Overall, we’ve made tremendous strides in the past few decades. But serious injuries are still the number one killer of kids in America – more than all other causes combined – so we still have a long way to go. As a community we have to make sure that we anticipate what happens to our kids, and if they do have a severe injury that there is a place where they can at least undergo resuscitation and get transferred. If we don’t have the capacity to quickly transfer injured kids in rural areas in America, we have to make sure we are able to keep them in place and have them survive until the necessary transport to a treatment center is available.

We’re fortunate when we’re close to hospitals that have a Level I trauma center designation, but the reality is most people don’t have access to that type of quality care. The argument shouldn’t be that we’re a better Level I trauma center than you are. We should instead focus on making sure all kids around the country are getting quality care that’s going to save their life and keep them from debilitating disabilities. That means we’ve got to reach out into the community and make sure our colleagues and general surgeons at the small hospitals in America can take care of injured kids, and make sure that they do the right things from the beginning because what you do at the beginning makes a difference in the end.

Organizations like the Childress Institute are trying to communicate to the world that pediatric trauma is a serious issue, that there are solutions to this issue, and that these solutions can save lives. When prevention fails, as it does 175,000 times each year based on the number of injured children who are hospitalized, we now have an injured child on our hands and we need to figure out ways to provide them better care. 

In my opinion, the vaccine for injuries is really communications – communicating the problem, creating coalitions of people to work together on solutions, making laws, gaining support, educating the public about the reasons these 10,000 children are dying each year. That will save lives. That will make the big difference.

-    - Martin R. Eichelberger, M.D.Dr. Martin Eichelberger, Professor of Surgery and of Pediatrics, George Washington University and Children’s National Medical Center, Washington D.C.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Changing the Way We See Child Abuse by Dr. Rachel Berger

People often ask me, "How can you possibly work with child abuse victims all day, isn't it depressing?" My answer is yes. But the positive outcomes that we can have for children is something that more than makes up for the depression of doing this on a day-to-day basis. 

I take care of children who get injured and sometimes die through no fault of their own, because they were born into a family that didn't care for them the way I would care for my own children. Child abuse is more prevalent than we want to admit – 1 out of 111 children in this country are substantiated victims of abuse, and this is every year. This is probably a significant underestimate.

By comparison, 1 in 10,000 children are diagnosed with cancer. But how many times have we participated in fundraising walks to raise money for cancer? How many times have we gone to an ice cream store and seen a special flavor named after a child who's died of cancer? Over 1,500 children, every year, die of abuse; 80% of these children are less than 4 years of age. That's more children than die of cancer. What's killing the majority of our children is not infection or disease. What is killing our children is injury and a large percentage of those fatal injuries are from child abuse.

What’s even worse is these children, these victims, have no voice. They cannot advocate for themselves. Rarely do they have parents that can advocate on their behalf. Their parents are not going to Congress and ask for help. Their parents are not going to appeal for more funding for research to prevent and treat child abuse. We, all of us, have to be the voices for these children.

I see child abuse every single day. In our child advocacy center, we conduct over 500 interviews every year for children who make disclosures of sexual abuse. A team of three doctors sees hundreds of children every year who are admitted to the hospital with injuries which are due to physical abuse or neglect, including broken bones, brain injuries, toxic ingestions, and abdominal injuries. Child abuse is the leading cause of death due to brain injury in young children and the leading cause of severe traumatic brain injury in infants and toddlers.

We also see over 1,500 children every year in our outpatient clinic at the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC, which is called ARCH (Advocacy Resources for Children). These are children with less serious, but still significant injuries, such as bruises, failure to thrive due to neglect or a poor environment, and children in foster care, many of whom are not having their basic medical needs met. I've been working in the field of child abuse for almost 15 years and unfortunately, I can say that the problem of child abuse and neglect is not getting better.

So what can be done to change this landscape? We need to change our culture and realize that recognizing and caring for children who are at risk for abuse and children who are already victims is everyone's responsibility; from the neighbor who knows something isn’t right next door, to the police officer who responds to a domestic violence call and sees children in the house, to the schoolteacher who sees that the child doesn't have appropriate clothes, to the physician who sees an infant who is failing to thrive, to anyone who is who is in a public place such as a restroom and sees a parent take out a belt to beat a child.

Of course preventing child abuse is the ultimate solution; making sure it never happens in the first place. But it is a sad realization that we will probably never prevent it 100% of the time. So we need to acknowledge that it happens and we also need to focus on secondary prevention, on identifying abuse early.  As medical providers, we are treating injuries from child abuse; we have to have the knowledge to recognize the signs of abuse, intervene and avoid having to treat the same children over and over again.

We need to encourage Child Protective Services workers of the highest quality. These professionals barely make a wage above the poverty line. They're generally young people, right out of college, who want to help children. We then send them out to the most violent areas of our community, alone and unprepared for what they will find. Even highly-trained, experienced police officers travel in pairs when responding to a call in a dangerous neighborhood. What does that say about what we value in this culture?

We need to invest in child abuse education and training for physicians, lawyers, emergency medical technicians, police officers….the list goes on. We need to make sure that everyone who can, knows how to intervene early, because that's when the outcomes are the best. Identifying and getting medical attention for these children raises awareness about what they are experiencing and sets a precedent for how we should continue to care for them and be their voice for change.

Yes, I will continue to do what I do every day, not only because I am dedicated to the care of these special children, but because I have to believe that, as a society, this is going to get better. I have to believe that we're all going to work together for the long term to improve the lives of children throughout this country. And I have to believe that we will truly change our culture so that child abuse is not such a prevalent part of our society in the future.

Associate Professor of Pediatrics and Clinical and Translational Science at the University of Pittsburgh and Division Chief of the Division of Child Advocacy at the Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC

Friday, April 4, 2014

Saving Injured Kids by Dr. Meredith – April

We have made great efforts to try to foster careers in pediatric trauma and pediatric trauma research. One of the reasons that there is inadequate research in this field is inadequate funding for it.

We have been fortunate enough to identify several people who were interested in furthering their career by studying pediatric trauma, and who were at a real crossroads in their life in terms of where to go. They were headed down the path that would be more likely to be funded, or down a path where their heart or passion was leading them but they weren’t able to find funding. We were able to find a few of these talented individuals and provide funding for a year of their research, which allowed them time to deepen their commitment to pediatric trauma. Dr.Laura Veach, Dr. Alison Gardner and Dr. Andrea Doud are just a few that instantly come to mind.

Some of those people have been interested in researching child abuse, the determining factors and ways to create a scale for prevalence toward abuse to cut down on repeat visits to the emergency room for children. With what would be considered modest funding in the terms of what big scientific studies cost nowadays and compared to the development and the R&D costs of what drug development have been, the funding spent has been a miniscule thing. In terms of turning someone's career toward the specialty of pediatric trauma, it's been a big opportunity.

As we have heard and seen, it turns out that violence, to some extent, teaches violence. People who are likely to abuse children are much more likely to have been abused as a child. If we can find ways to break that cycle, it is likely that we will be able to reduce the burden of injury and death to children from abuse.

Trauma is not the number one cause of death in children under 1 year old. For that particular age group, it's a couple of other things. Among those very young children who die of trauma in the under 1 age group, the most common cause is child abuse. We see it in the news almost every day, unfortunately.

Just last night I saw a story about twin toddlers that were locked in a closet by their mother for days until they were found starving and covered in their own mess. We constantly hear these stories but are we missing a chance to make that child’s situation different? We have the opportunity to fund a variety of research for very little money that can change not only the life of one child, but the life of passionate researchers who will then dedicate their lives to saving hundreds of children through their work.

Sometimes people do not understand the value of research, but please know that it is making a difference. It is changing your life and you may not even know it yet.

When a child is lost it is a tragic loss of life. You are losing an entire lifetime of a life and all that life’s potential and worldly impact. The wealth of opportunity that goes with that varies all the way through our society. Imagine all the people that are affected by their death, and how many more could be touched by saving their life instead. We can…we need to break that cycle.

Executive Director, Childress Institute for Pediatric Trauma