After a referral to the lipid clinic at Dayton Children’s, Ghiman and his family discovered he had a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 26.5. Compared to children his same age, this BMI was above the 99th percentile, indicating he was already obese.
Childhood obesity is a serious medical condition that occurs when a child is well above the normal weight for his or her age and height. Childhood obesity is particularly unsettling because the extra pounds often start children on the path to lifelong health problems such as diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. Although genetics or hormones can play a role, most of the time childhood obesity is caused by eating too much and exercising too little.
“After talking with the doctors and nurses at Dayton Children’s, I realized that I was overfeeding Ghiman,” says Sandy Parker of Clayton, Ghiman’s mother. “He didn’t like school lunch, so I thought by giving him a big breakfast every morning, he would have enough energy to make it through the day.”
However, a full breakfast of pancakes, eggs, grits and sausage nearly every morning was taking a toll on Ghiman’s health. In addition, celebrating with big meals on the weekends added to his intense weight gain.
“We were feeding Ghiman out of love,” says Sandy, “but after we realized how unhealthy he was, I had to correct what I had done. So we took him to the lipid clinic and started their program, also out of love.”
For many parents, starting the conversation about healthy eating and activity can be a challenge. Together with the pediatric specialists at Dayton Children’s, Sandy told Ghiman why it wasn’t healthy to gain so much weight so quickly. They talked about the importance of changing habits to avoid future medical problems such as diabetes or high cholesterol.
“We even had a friend share with Ghiman about a little girl she knew who had to get her blood tested every day for diabetes,” says Betty Parker, Ghiman’s grandmother. “By sharing this example, Ghiman really understood why it was important for him to change his habits.”
Using tips from the lipid clinic at Dayton Children’s, Ghiman and his family took some small steps that have yielded huge results for their health.
“After I retired, I didn’t think about what I ate or how I prepared my meals,” says Betty, “Now that Ghiman is on the program, I am more conscious about the way I cook, foods to avoid, and my activity level.”
As a family, they reduced the amount of soda they drank and now choose sugar-free beverages, water or milk. They have also stopped eating large meals and choose healthier portions. They also save sweets for only important occasions like birthdays and holidays.
“I’ve also learned it’s important not to skip meals,” says Ghiman. “You need to eat food for energy in order to burn calories.”
And now 9-year-old Ghiman works hard to burn calories. He focuses on getting at least one hour of activity each day. His favorite activities include swimming and playing tennis, soccer, baseball and basketball.
“We also learned it wasn’t necessarily about losing weight – it was more important for Ghiman to stabilize his weight,” says Sandy.
“Maintaining a stable weight, particularly for children in Ghiman’s age group, is usually a better approach than encouraging weight loss,” says James Ebert, MD, lead physician in Dayton Children’s lipid clinic. “As children become taller, they can grow into their weight and improve their BMI. It is important for children to get adequate nutrition in order to achieve height growth and brain development.”
In addition, focusing on the scale rather than healthy habits can be frustrating. Sandy and Betty helped Ghiman focus on eating better and staying active instead of the using weight loss to gauge success.
And Ghiman has had a lot of success. He maintained his weight and even lowered his body mass enough to reduce the number of tests he needs to take when he visits the lipid clinic.
“I feel proud of what I’ve done,” says Ghiman. “Now I’m healthy enough and have the energy to do things that other kids are doing.”
For many children who may be overweight, health issues are not the only concern. Many times children are made fun of and even bullied because of their weight.
“Ghiman also had a hard time at school because kids said he was too big for certain activities,” says Betty, “Now he has slimmed down and kids have become more accepting.”
Luckily, Sandy and Betty made positive changes for Ghiman early enough that he does not have any signs of diabetes or other diseases associated with childhood obesity.
“I’ve learned that it’s important to help children develop healthy habits early in life because these habits are something they will take with them as they develop and grow!” says Sandy.
She may be small, but 12-year-old Kaitlyn Dove definitely has a big personality and a big heart. She is very passionate about helping others and has no problem striking a pose or belting out in song in the hallways of Dayton Children’s during a photo shoot. However, Kaitlyn’s life has been far from glamorous.
When Denise Dove gave birth to Kaitlyn at Kettering Medical Center, she didn’t even have a chance to hold her before she was whisked away by the doctors. Denise was later given the news that her brand new baby girl would need heart surgery and only had one percent of her right lung. This certainly was not the news she had been expecting.
Because of her need for heart surgery, Kaitlyn spent the first three weeks of her life in the NICU at Cincinnati Children’s. At 2 weeks old she had her first of three heart surgeries to treat her Tricuspid Atresia, a type of disease where the tricuspid heart valve is missing or developed abnormally. Kaitlyn was also given stents and a balloon in her lung to help with her breathing.
Once Kaitlyn came home, she began to regularly see Joseph Ross, MD, medical director of cardiology at Dayton Children’s who worked closely with the surgeons in Cincinnati to continue her care and treatments. She was often at Dayton Children’s with complications including pneumonia and meningitis. At age 6 she underwent her third and final heart surgery. She was the first child ever to have this specific surgery with only one lung.
“Kaitlyn has done so well with everything, she knows that God has made her this way for a reason and she accepts it,” says her mother, Denise. “I call her my tough cookie because a lot of the times she’s stronger than I am. There are moments where I break down and she comforts me and says, ‘Mom, I’m fine now!’”
Beyond her heart and lung problems she sees other specialist at Dayton Children’s. Kaitlyn deals with hearing loss in her right ear, a curved spine and her neck growing slowly at a 90 degree angle. She also was diagnosed with hemihypertrophy which causes one side of her body to grow faster than the other. In order to make up for the difference she wears a shoe lift on her right foot.
“Her feet are different sizes so we always have to buy two pairs of the same shoe,” says Denise. “She usually can’t get the fun or trendy shoes because the lift can’t be put onto them.”
Although her childhood was full of hospital visits and surgeries, Kaitlyn has grown up to be a strong, confident and thankful sixth-grade girl who just wants to help others. She has participated in Jump for Heart, helping people with heart conditions, and has worked as an ambassador for Noah’s Ark, an organization that raises money for people needing transplants whose insurance won’t cover it.
“We don’t know what Kaitlyn’s future looks like because we’ve never dealt with this before” says Dr. Ross. “But if her will and her fight and her desire to go on is any indicator of how well she will do down the road then the outlook is positive.”
Kaitlyn has been through a lot of things that most girls her age could never even imagine, but self-pity is not in her vocabulary. Kaitlyn embraces life and ensures everyone around her does the same. This is why Kaitlyn has been chosen as a Dayton Children’s child ambassador.
“Sometimes it feels normal, but other times it is hard,” says Kaitlyn. “But when kids make fun of me or ask me why I’m this way I just tell them that God made me special!”
If you ask Colin what his future holds, he’ll describe the three-way tie between being a paleontologist, working in medicine or winning a gold medal as the next Michael Phelps. With big dreams and passion for life, Colin doesn’t let cancer or vision loss get in his way.
At 5-months-old, Colin developed a lazy eye. His mother, Maureen, brought him along with his two brothers to see the doctor who decided to examine Colin’s eye. He was officially diagnosed with a disease that would change his life.
The Beach family was informed that Colin had bilateral hereditary retinoblastoma, a rare condition in which malignant tumors developed in the retina of his eyes. It most often develops in children under the age of 5 and puts the child at high risk for developing other cancers. Colin’s bilateral hereditary retinoblastoma has included 11 eye tumors and lifelong blindness in one of his eyes. But what he’s lost in sight, Colin has gained in strength of will and the size of his heart.
This is why Colin has been chosen as an ambassador for The Children’s Medical Center of Dayton. Colin has undergone multiple surgeries and procedures such as chemotherapy, laser treatments and numerous MRI’s. Despite the severity of his disease and the number of surgeries he has needed – his parents stopped counting after 30 – Colin, now 10 years old, has learned to accept it as part of his life.
“The way we approached it is it’s just who he is. He has a sign on his wall saying ‘no regrets, why me or surrender,’” says Maureen. “He doesn’t always want to go to the hospital all the time, but he just grins and bears it. He's a real trouper."
Colin is now in long-term care at Dayton Children’s hemonc clinic. His doctor, Mukund Dole, MD at Dayton Children’s works closely with retinoblastoma experts at Cincinnati Children’s to treat Colin’s condition. After spending months, days and hours at Dayton Children’s, Colin has developed bonds with many nurses, Dr. Dole, and even some of the volunteers at the front desk whenever the Beach family comes in. He has also helped further research in cancer, by letting doctors and residents study his disease from birth to the present, in hopes this will help other children survive.
Colin has excelled in his learning at Normandy Elementary School in Centerville, where he is currently a fifth-grader. Additionally, he is Normandy Elementary’s student council president; a position which he feels has given him experience to excel as an ambassador.
Although Colin is still in the life-long fight against cancer and has lost complete sight in one eye, he is more concerned with how to help other children battling illness and disease. He hopes to start giving back as a Dayton Children’s Child Ambassador.
“We’ve always talked about how he would give back,” Maureen says. “He was surprised to be chosen as an ambassador at such a young age but was honored. When kids on his swim club team found out they all immediately asked how they could help him. He’s passionate about working to make life more comfortable for children all over the world.”
Patrick Bleser plays cymbals for the Alter High School pep band. He is the one jamming on the electric guitar for their marching band. He is a future automobile engineer, and volunteers with Incarnation Church and with its Youth Group projects. But one thing Patrick wouldn’t be described as by peers is a 16 year old with medical problems.
Patrick was born in 1994, 15 minutes after his twin sister, Elise, and from the beginning of his life, his health conditions have been a constant battle. He was taken into surgery only a few hours after birth for myelomeningocele, a birth defect in which the spine and spinal cord do not completely form, and he spent the majority of his first two weeks in the Dayton Children’s regional newborn intensive care unit.
At three days old, he was diagnosed with hydrocephalus and received a cerebral shunt to drain excess fluid from his brain. Three years later Patrick’s parents noticed his eyes crossing, and he underwent eye surgery.
Patrick’s myelomeningocele prevents control of his bladder and bowels, an issue no child wants to face around friends and schoolmates. Since the age of four, he has been catheterizing himself every three hours to empty his bladder. But in 2004 Patrick had a life-changing surgery called a Malone performed by Donald Nguyen, MD, medical director of urology at Dayton Children’s. Dr. Nguyen made an incision in Patrick’s abdomen and connected his appendix to the back side of the belly button, which allows him to manage his bowels.
Patrick has spent the last 16 years in and out of Dayton Children’s for vast medical issues and has been through eight surgeries, but you wouldn’t know it talking to him. Instead of letting health issues dictate his life, Patrick is as active as possible to get the most out of each and every day. This positive mindset is why he has been chosen as a Dayton Children’s ambassador.
“Patrick’s been through multiple medical challenges, most recently kidney stones, but he’s never said ‘Why is all this happening to me?’” says Dr. Scott Bleser, his father. “He’s never complained about being unlucky. He just is a go-with-the-flow kind of kid who loves getting involved.”
Although his life has had its fair share of hardships, Patrick doesn’t spend time worrying about himself. Instead, he is devoted to helping others in need. As part of his youth ministry at Incarnation Church, Patrick volunteers with St. Vincent DePaul. He also spends time working fundraisers for Incarnation’s Youth Group and Alter High School’s music programs.
In addition to volunteering, Patrick has embodied leadership values by attending the National Catholic Youth Conference in 2009. This dedication to service and leadership will help him in his role as an ambassador for Dayton Children’s.
“He almost jumped out of his skin he was so excited about being chosen for the ambassador position,” Dr. Bleser says. “He was thrilled and is eager to do whatever he can to help out. He has had a wonderful experience at Dayton Children’s and is ready to give back to the people who have helped him throughout his life.”
In the future, Patrick hopes to attend the University of Cincinnati for an engineering degree with a focus on automobile design. In addition, he aspires to pursue the musical passions that he, Elise and his older brother Mitchell share. Despite years of health complications, Patrick is excited for a bright future, is ready to face any challenges that may come and is eager to help other patients at Dayton Children’s do the same.
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