By Yannis Bouras
Children's Hospital Boston is like my second home because I'm here so much getting treatment for Klippel-Trenaunay Syndrome (KTS), a rare disease that affects my blood vessels. KTS caused one of my feet to grow much larger than the other and I needed part of my leg amputated when I was 3-and-a-half years old. I have been to Children's many times since that operation to be fitted for new prosthetics, do physical therapy, strength training and have other operations, like getting my toes on my other foot amputated to avoid more blood vessel problems.
I am an average teenager: I love listening to alternative rock music, hanging out with my friends, teasing my little sister, watching TV and doing archery. At my home and school in Athens, I'm treated just like everyone else. I miss my friends and my girlfriend the most when I'm in Boston for months at a time, but I keep in touch through the Internet in the Center for Families. It's my favorite place in the hospital—everyone is really friendly.
I usually come to Children's with my mom. We stay in an apartment for patients from Greece, and somehow it feels like home. My mom cooks the same food she would at home, and there's a TV and a Playstation I can use when I finish my school work. I have to do a lot of studying while I'm in the hospital to keep up with my classmates at home.
When we know I am going to be flying to Boston for a stay at Children's, we arrange for a tutor so I can keep up with my class. It can be difficult because we never quite know how long each hospital stay is going to be. My last one was estimated to be a month while I was getting fitted for a new prosthetic, but it was longer than that. As you grow, especially during adolescence, you need new prosthetics, but there were some complications with infected stitches and I need to do a lot of physical therapy to make sure the new prosthetic fits correctly. My mom and I miss my sister, brother and father, even though we call them two or three times a day, but I would rather give up the rest of the school year if it means I can go home walking, without crutches, triumphantly.
When I do get my new prosthetic, I'll be able to move around more and walk longer distances without having to rely on a car or crutches. I've used this pair of crutches for four years and I'm not sure I'll even know what to do with my hands when I get my prosthetic. If it goes as planned, I won't need the crutches anymore so I'll be able to be so much more active.
My friends will ask me about the States and Boston, and I like to tell them how cold it gets. There is no such thing as warm weather here! I really want them to come to Boston so we can all go on a road trip across the United States. The food is good and not much different from Greece; we have McDonald's in Greece, and who doesn't like McDonald's? But the health care is much different. I am always impressed by how specialized and polite the doctors and nurses are here. In Greece, the doctors are pretty distant. But at Children's they make you feel very comfortable—it is just like having a sleepover.
I have had some great times here and I know I never have to worry because the doctors will do the best they can. I was born with this condition, so it feels normal to me, and my positive attitude comes naturally. From a young age, my father taught me that while I have a problem, the problem doesn't have me.
One of Yannis's doctors describes KTS
Behind the scenes of the International Center
More stories told by Children's patients, families and staff
Inspired eating from celebrity chef Ming Tsai
"This is a super-quick, healthful, allergy-friendly recipe I make all the time for my kids, one of whom has peanut and treenut allergies. I like using rice noodles because they're not only tasty and easy to prepare, they're also gluten-free, so wheat-allergic people can enjoy this, too."
Ham and Spinach Chow Fun
1/2 pound rice noodles
1/2 onion, finely chopped
4 slices naturally raised, thin-sliced deli ham (low-sodium would work), torn into bite-size pieces
1 package spinach, stems removed, leaves torn (can use frozen, just defrost and squeeze out liquid)
Juice of 1 lemon
1-2 tablespoons canola oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
First, rehydrate the rice noodles by pouring hot water over them and letting them soak until fully softened. Drain noodles in a mesh strainer. Heat a wok or large saute pan over high heat, add canola oil and swirl to coat pan. When oil shimmers, add onions and season lightly with kosher salt (the ham will add salt to the dish, too). Saute onions until softened and translucent, about three minutes. Add ham and stir-fry until heated through, about one minute. Add spinach and stir-fry until wilted and heated through. Add strained rice noodles and toss thoroughly to heat through. Pour lemon juice over noodles and toss to coat. Check flavor and add salt and pepper if necessary.
Ming Tsai's healthful fall cranberry turkey fried rice recipe
Expert shopper Jeff Little buys food for all of Children's food-allergic patients
Read more about the rise of food allergies in children
Information on Children's new DVD for children with celiac disease and their families
The incidence of potentially life-threatening peanut allergies has doubled in young children in the past five years. Michael Young, MD, from Children's Allergy and Immunology division, responded by revising his Peanut Allergy Answer Book. It includes the latest findings and strategies for avoiding peanut exposure, the legal and social impact of a peanut allergy, the difference between being peanut-sensitive and peanut-allergic and why the allergy has increased so dramatically in the last 5 to 10 years.
Available at amazon.com.
Humpty Dumpty Fell off a Rock Wall is an inspirational storybook written by former Children's patient, 15-year-old Victoria Westerhoff. After an accident that required four knee surgeries, she wrote the book to inspire other children and teens with physical limitations.
Buy the book for $6 from email@example.com. Part of the proceeds go to Children's.
World-famous pediatrician T. Berry Brazelton, MD, and psychiatrist Joshua Sparrow, MD, updated Brazelton's bestselling book Touchpoints: Birth to Three for parents, addressing issues that families currently face, including co-sleeping, obesity prevention and toilet training. For more on Brazelton's work with 3-year-olds, see feature story.
Available at amazon.com.
If you swallow gum will it stay in your stomach for 7 years?
No, it's fiction! Stomach acid is incredibly powerful
and can digest almost any food that is swallowed.
But it can't break down coins, marbles or other
foreign bodies, so don't put those in your mouth
(or let a toddler do so)!
—Christopher Duggan MD, MPH,
Joanne Cox, MD, Children's Primary Care Center, weighs in
Q: Recent media coverage has caused parents to voice concern about immunizing their children. Why is that?
Has the number of children immunized decreased?
A: Nationally, childhood immunization levels have not decreased, and Massachusetts has one of the highest rates of childhood immunization completion in the country. Parents who don't immunize often have misconceptions about the dangers of vaccines and their link to autism. However, there is no sound scientific evidence linking childhood immunizations to autism, although that issue has received abundant coverage in the press.
Q: Why is it important to immunize children?
A: Immunizations will protect children from potentially deadly diseases such as measles, chickenpox and whooping cough. Prior to immunizations, thousands of children died each year from complications of these diseases. If child immunization rates decrease, these diseases will increase in frequency.
Read more on why you should immunize your children
Children's launched a Spanish Website in September to reach out to Spanish-speaking patients, families, visitors and staff. The site includes general information about the hospital, an overview of clinical services, suggestions on how to prepare for hospitalization, career opportunities and articles on Latino patients.
Video health tips in Spanish