How a Psychologist Can Help HI Families

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HI Hope

When families learn that their child has congenital hyperinsulinism (HI), it’s not uncommon for parents to be overwhelmed by feelings of anxiety, isolation or helplessness. While the Congenital Hyperinsulinism physicians and nurses treat the child’s medical condition, psychologist Leela Morrow, PsyD, is available to help the parents adjust emotionally to the diagnosis and treatment plan.

“We know that when parents feel better, they’re better able to support and care for their child,” Dr. Morrow says. “I’m here to help families cope with a new diagnosis and support them along the way.”

Since many patients with HI come to CHOP as newborns, their parents are dealing with being transferred from another hospital — many times from another state — days after childbirth. Often one parent accompanies the baby to Philadelphia, especially if medical air transport is needed, leaving that parent alone initially. They are learning about a rare disease they’ve probably never heard of before, how to prevent hypoglycemia, how to test their child’s blood glucose, what tests are needed to determine their child’s type of HI and whether their child will need surgery.

If the family appears to be struggling, a hospital social worker or one of the child’s doctors may refer the family to Dr. Morrow, who will talk with parents to see how she can best help.

“There is so much going on, it’s OK to be stressed out,” Dr. Morrow says. “I can provide healthy coping strategies for parents to use during this difficult time. I’m also here to listen as an objective person separate from the medical team, which allows parents to express their emotions without judgment and receive validation.”

Dr. Morrow will schedule an initial consultation session in person so she and the parents can establish a relationship and work together to develop a therapy treatment plan. Additional sessions may be by telehealth.

Help beyond the initial diagnosis, treatment

Once the child’s HI is being safely managed and the family returns home, there may still be issues that Dr. Morrow can help with. It could be a conflict between parents over how closely to monitor the child’s blood sugars or how much independence to give the child and when. Older children may struggle with medication adherence or dietary restrictions or they might be embarrassed to share their diagnosis with their fellow students or friends.

Dr. Morrow is available to work with families when they return for annual inpatient visits or for checkups in the HI Multidisciplinary Clinic.

“Some families will be dealing with ongoing HI issues for the child’s entire childhood,” she says. “Young adults who come to the Multidisciplinary Clinic may be challenged or frustrated with managing their disease. I’m thrilled to be part of the HI team and to here for families and patients no matter where they are in their HI journey.”


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