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Lots of mothers will tell you their lives changed forever the day their child was born. That was true for me, too, but then just nine days later, my life changed again.

That was the day my daughter died.

I didn’t expect to get pregnant. After years of being told my husband, Dan, and I could not conceive, we’d started our family a less traditional way, by foster-adopting a beautiful baby boy. Six months later, I discovered I was pregnant.

On May 3, 2006, we welcomed Rhiannon Fay-Marie McMurray into the world. Doctors said our little girl was in picture-perfect health and sent us home.

After a little more than a week, Rhiannon began acting fussy, stopped eating and wouldn’t sleep. Worried, I took her to the doctor’s office on May 11. There, between the waiting area and the examining room, Rhiannon went into cardiac arrest.

Our “miracle” died the next morning.

An autopsy later showed that Rhiannon had contracted an undiagnosed virus sometime in her first few days of life. We’ll probably never know where or when. In older children, this virus acts like a common cold, but in a baby as young as Rhiannon, it systematically attacked her organs.

Doctors told us the virus was incredibly rare, but the next year, the Rocky Mountain region experienced an outbreak among newborns. Sadly, many of them didn’t survive.

We later learned a staggering statistic: In the United States alone, 30,000 babies born each year die before reaching their first birthday.

The Children’s Hospital Q & A: Clean Clothes & Clear Skin

Every month, Mile High Mamas features a Q & A from The Children’s Hospital on a different health topic. This month’s topic is all about choosing the laundry detergent that is best for your child’s skin. Read up on clean clothes and clear skin.

Kids come in contact with laundry detergent on a regular basis – like every time your little one touches clothes, bedding or towels. With detergent being a common cause of irritation and rashes, how do you choose the product that’s best for your family?

How can I tell if my child is having a reaction to our laundry detergent?
Exposure to detergent may trigger a reaction on the skin that can include:

* Dry, chapped areas
* Rashes
* Redness
* Scaly, itchy patches

It looks like a skin reaction – now what should I do?

If your child experiences any of these reactions from laundry detergent, you can help alleviate symptoms by washing the affected area immediately with gentle soap and water. Applying unscented moisturizers and lotions may help ease dryness.

How do I figure out what’s causing the skin irritation?

If your child has skin irritation and you aren’t sure of the cause, try using detergents without dyes or perfumes, setting your washes for an extra rinse to ensure suds are gone, and eliminating fabric softeners and dryer sheets. If the skin improves, chances are your detergent, fabric softener or dryer sheet may have been the problem.

What if nothing helps?
If your child’s reaction does not diminish after you stop using a detergent, or if his or her rash worsens, contact your pediatrician or family doctor to help determine the cause.

Learn more about skin care (dermatology) and treatment for allergies at The Children’s Hospital.

The Children’s Hospital Q & A: Soothing Summertime Allergies

Every month, Mile High Mamas features a Q & A from The Children’s Hospital on a different health topic. This month’s topic is all about how to sooth your child’s summer allergy symptoms. Learn how to reduce allergens in your home so springtime allergens don’t ruin your summer.

Most people think allergies should stop acting up after springtime. Unfortunately, culprits such as pollen, insects and various plants can extend allergy symptoms into summer.

What causes seasonal allergies?
Pollen is the primary substance responsible for both spring and summertime allergies. Because most trees finish pollinating by late spring, the majority of summertime pollen is produced by grasses. In the Denver area, grass pollen is the most common summer allergen, affecting seasonal allergy sufferers from April into late summer.

How can I tell if my

The Children’s Hospital Q & A: Growing Pains

Every month, Mile High Mamas features a Q & A from The Children’s Hospital on a different health topic. This month’s topic is all about your child’s growing pains. Find out why that tiny voice in the middle of the night keeps whispering, “Mommy, my legs hurt.”

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, as many as 40% of children in the U.S. ages three to five and eight to 12 have growing pains; that’s because most kids experience significant growth within these ages ranges.

How can I tell if my child is experiencing growing pains?

The following symptoms are the most common indicators of growing pains:

* Pain is concentrated in the leg muscles, particularly the front of the thighs, calves or behind the knees.
* The pain is felt in both legs.

What causes growing pains?

“We don’t know what causes growing pains, but they do seem to occur more often after children experience a physically active day,” said J. Roger Hollister, MD, Rheumatologist and Professor of Pediatrics at The Children’s Hospital. “Heredity also may play a role if one or both parents experienced growing pains when they were young.”

What can I do to soothe my child’s pain?

Try these tips to help alleviate your growing child’s aches:

* Stretch before bedtime. Experts believe the sensation of growing pains may be caused, in part, by excessive activity throughout the day. Stretching the muscles before going to sleep can help.
* Massage the tender area. Gently rub your child’s muscles in the evening or when he or she complains of soreness.
* Apply heat. Taking a warm bath or applying heat pads can help ease the pain.
* Take pain medicine. Give your child ibuprofen or acetaminophen before bedtime or when pain wakes him up at night.

Could it be more serious than just growing pains?

Other signs and symptoms that may suggest a more serious medical condition include:

* Discomfort in only one leg or area
* Joint swelling, redness, rash, tenderness, or areas that are warm to the touch
* Fever
* Limping
* Stiffness in the morning
* Weakness

“Growing pains may wake a child from sleep at night, but the pain generally disappears or is significantly reduced in the morning,” said Mark Erickson, MD, Orthopedic Surgeon at Children’s. “If pain continues into the morning and throughout the day, your child could have a more serious health concern, such as pediatric arthritis. Talk to your pediatrician if your child is experiencing additional signs and symptoms.”

Learn more about The Children’s Hospital.

The Children’s Hospital Q & A: Stomach Pain or Appendicitis?

Every month, Mile High Mamas features a Q & A from The Children’s Hospital on a different health topic. This month’s topic is all about knowing the difference between your child’s stomach pain and appendicitis. Learn how to tell distinguish a tummy ache from potential inflammation of the appendix.

Appendicitis typically affects children between the ages 11 to 20. If left untreated, the condition can have serious consequences — including the spread of infection due to rupturing — which is why parents should know the difference between stomach pain and something potentially more serious.

What is appendicitis?

Appendicitis is inflammation of the appendix, a small organ within the digestive tract. Although it is one of childhood’s most distressing medical concerns, with early diagnosis appendicitis is a very treatable problem.

How is it different from a run-of-the-mill stomachache?

“It can be hard for parents to recognize the symptoms of appendicitis because they also can occur with common conditions like stomach viruses,” said Lalit Bajaj, MD, MPH, research director of emergency medicine at The Children’s Hospital.

The following symptoms can indicate appendicitis:

* Significant abdominal pain, especially around the bellybutton or in the lower right part of the abdomen (this is the biggest differentiator from an ordinary stomach virus)
* A low-grade fever
* Loss of appetite
* Nausea and vomiting
* Diarrhea (especially small amounts, with mucus)
* Frequent urination and/or an abnormally strong urge to urinate
* Swollen or bloated abdomen, especially in infants

Should we see a pediatric specialist for appendicitis?

Diagnosing appendicitis in children can be tricky, especially if they have difficulty explaining their symptoms. “Specialists in a pediatric ER can best determine if a case requires immediate surgery or imaging to get a closer view. We also provide age-appropriate radiation dosages if imaging is necessary,” Dr. Bajaj said. “A child’s anatomy also requires different drug doses and fluid management – why is why a pediatric specialist really is the best choice.” Learn why kids need a children’s hospital.

My child has appendicitis – now what?

A combination of symptom evaluation, a physical exam, lab studies and medical imaging may be used to diagnose appendicitis. To treat the condition, a pediatric surgeon usually performs an appendectomy (an operation to remove the appendix), which is a minimally invasive procedure completed through tiny incisions. Dissolvable stitches are used to close the incision, and if the appendix did not rupture prior to surgery, patients may return home within one or two days. Antibiotics and a longer recovery period may be necessary if the appendix ruptures.

Read more about appendicitis treatment at The Children’s Hospital.

The Children’s Hospital Answers Parents’ Heart Questions

Every month, we’ll be featuring a Q & A from Children’s Hospital on a different health topic, as it relates to you or your children. This month’s topic is all about the heart!

How does the heart work?

The heart is the strongest muscle in the body, separated into four chambers: right atrium (upper chamber), right ventricle (lower chamber), left atrium, and left ventricle. Unoxygenated (blue) blood enters the right atrium, goes through the right ventricle and to the lungs, via the pulmonary artery. In the lungs, blood picks up oxygen (red), and reenters the heart’s left atrium through the pulmonary veins. From there, it goes through the left ventricle, then to the rest of the body via the aorta, supplying the body with oxygenated (red) blood. This delivers energy to all the cells in the body, a cycle repeated more than 100,000 times a day.

How does a baby’s heart develop?

During development in the womb, the baby relies upon its mother for oxygen through the placenta and blood flows through the heart, which is still a single-pump system. The heart completes development from a single straight tube into a complex four-chambered pump containing four valves. After delivery, a baby’s lungs will begin to function as the passages that allowed him to receive oxygenated blood from the mother close.

When and how do you discover heart defects in children?

Most heart defects remain hidden until birth when the baby becomes reliant on his own heart and lungs to provide the proper oxygen and blood flow needed. A child’s doctor or pediatric cardiologist may discover a heart defect at birth or during examination for a heart murmur, irregular heart rate, palpitations or fainting episodes.

What is congenital heart disease?

Congenital heart disease appears at birth due to the abnormal development of a baby’s heart in the early stages of pregnancy. In some cases, doctors can detect this heart defect before birth.

Q&A with The Children’s Hospital

Every month, we’ll be featuring a Q & A from Children’s Hospital on a different health topic, as it relates to you or your children. This month’s topic is Donating Blood!

Q & A: Donating Blood to The Children’s Hospital

What is unique about The Children’s Hospital’s blood donation needs?

Unlike centers that store blood from large donation events for later use, The Children’s Hospital must draw blood every day because our young patients need the freshest blood possible. More than adults, children need fresh blood to maximize successful transfusions. Some children with special needs can only accept blood five to 14 days old. Our doctors who transfuse blood to infants in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) prefer to use blood that is one to five days old. In 2008, Children’s performed more than 11,000 blood transfusions, requiring some 5,500 fresh blood donations.

How can I donate blood to The Children’s Hospital?

It’s easy – just fill out this form on the Blood Donor Web site or call 720-777-5398 to schedule an appointment.

What is the blood donation experience like?

Make an appointment or walk-in to the Blood Donor Center – the process is easy:

  • Fill out a form and a staff member screens you for eligibility.
  • A nurse checks your vital signs and blood. The nurse rubs alcohol on your inner elbow and tells you to look away.
  • You squeeze a stress ball a few times and you feel a quick pinch; blood donation has begun.
  • You squeeze the ball every three to five seconds for about eight minutes.
  • Although the time it takes to donate blood varies, you’ll be done before you know it. It generally takes ten to twenty minutes.
  • The nurse wraps your elbow and sends you home with water and snacks to replenish.
  • Before you leave, make an appointment for your next donation.

Parents’ Ten Most Frequently Asked Questions about H1N1 Flu

Experts at The Children’s Hospital Answer
Parents’ Ten Most Frequently Asked Questions about H1N1 Flu

1. Does my child have H1N1 flu?

The classic symptoms of H1N1 are a fever with a cough and a sore throat. If your child has flu symptoms and H1N1 is widespread in the community, he or she probably has H1N1. Your child doesn’t need any special tests to reach this conclusion. Currently only patients who need hospitalization are tested.

  • If your child has a sore throat with a fever and doesn’t develop a cough, he or she may need to be checked for Strep throat.

2. How can I make my child feel better?

The treatment of H1N1 depends on your child’s main symptoms. To open a blocked nose, use a nasal wash with saline. For a cough, use one to two teaspoons of honey (do not use for children under one year old). Ibuprofen will help a sore throat. To prevent dehydration, encourage extra fluids.

  • Check out The Children’s Hospital Web site for an Influenza handout with detailed information about treating flu symptoms.

3. My child hurts everywhere. Is that serious?

H1N1 can cause soreness everywhere: headache, back pain, chest pain and leg pain. To soothe sore muscles, give ibuprofen to reduce inflammation. To prevent stomach irritation, always administer pain medication with food. If pain is severe and lasts more than 90 minutes after taking ibuprofen, your child probably should see a doctor.