Think INSIDE the Check Box: Organ Donation Saves Lives | Sally Garcia Crosen


At the age of 4-1/2, my son, Robert, began to complain about a tummy ache. He would lay down on the sofa and say, “My tummy hurts”. I went through all the normal questions a parent asks and within minutes of complaining of feeling ill, he would get up and go back to playing. I didn’t think much about it. Robert looked fine and was doing his normal 4-year-old thing. This behavior of not feeling well and then resuming his playing went on for a couple of days.

One evening, as my boys were getting ready for bed, my oldest son yelled for me from their bathroom. “Mom you have to come here and look at Robert’s pee, It’s really yellow.” I could not believe my eyes. As we all stood there staring into the toilet, my son asked, “Is it supposed to be that color?”

The next day I called his pediatrician and made an appointment. The doctor had Robert lay down and he felt around his abdomen, within minutes he said, “I want you to go the hospital right now. I’m going to call ahead and tell them you are on your way.” “What?” I asked. The doctor said that Robert’s liver was swollen and that I had to go straight to the hospital.

We were immediately taken to a room where the doctor felt Robert’s abdomen and a nurse drew his blood. I was stunned. I was struck with fear. I asked, “What is going on?” Again, I heard the same words, “His liver is swollen. We are going to take blood and run some tests.”

Robert’s liver count was not at a healthy level. The doctor asked, “Do you think he drank a bottle of liquid Tylenol? How about mushrooms, do you believe he has eaten some mushrooms?”

“Liquid Tylenol? Has he eaten mushrooms? No! Why are you asking me these questions? What is happening to my son?” The doctor said that the blood test showed his numbers were much too high. “We are going to wait two hours and take some additional blood to see where his numbers are. Too much Tylenol or eating poisonous mushrooms will make your liver fail.” All I heard was, “make your liver fail”.

After hours of tests, they sent us home with a gastro specialist phone number that I should call and make an appointment. Our visit with the specialist was the same: a blood test that pointed to liver failure. In the meantime, Robert could not eat because his tummy hurt.

The next morning, Robert called me from the top of the stairs. He was laying on the floor of the hallway at the top of the stairs and said: “My legs don’t work anymore; I can’t stand up.” I ran up, carried him into my car and drove right back to the specialist. I walked into the office with Robert in my hands and said, “Please help me, my son is very ill.” The same doctor that saw him the day before said, “I can’t help him, you need to go to Children’s Hospital in Fairfax”.

We spent a day at Children’s Hospital with Robert getting worse. The white of his eyes were now yellow; a sign of liver failure. As the hours passed, his liver numbers rose higher. The nurse said that we should watch for signs of him getting worse.

When one’s liver fails, your blood will become so thin that it will begin to leak out of your body – from your eyes, your ears, your nose. Part of the liver’s function is to keep your blood at a certain consistency. “Keep an eye on him,” the nurse said as she walked out of the room.

It must have been routine for the nurse to coach the family on the signs of liver failure, but to my husband and I, her words left us with fear. We looked at each other and said, “the blood will leak out? How is that possible?” We were both exhausted. Robert was hardly awake and we were keeping a vigil by his side. I don’t know how much time had passed but I woke up to find Robert in a puddle of blood that was leaking from his nose. Mark ran yelling to the nurses’ station. All I could do was watch in horror the blood pouring out from his nose, like a faucet that had been left open.

Again, we heard the same as before, “We can’t help your son here,” followed by, “We are not a liver transplant hospital.” Transplant? No one had mentioned a transplant before. I had not connected the dots; I mistakenly thought his numbers would get better and his liver would heal. “We are sending you to Johns Hopkins in Baltimore.” Everything was happening so fast. How does a 4 1/2-year-old go from being a healthy boy to needing a liver transplant in a span of one week? In the early morning hours, an ambulance transported us to Johns Hopkins.

Robert was in the final stages of liver failure. A few hours after arriving at the hospital, he was placed on life support and moved to the top of the list for a liver donation. We were offered a liver from California that was HIV positive. With no positive assurance that Robert would survive the day, the doctor suggested we find a family member to donate a portion of their liver. There was not enough time to wait. Mark was a match and was immediately prepped for surgery to remove a partial lobe. The doctors told us that both Mark’s and Robert’s livers would regenerate to the size each of them would need.

I could not bear waiting for the elevator; I ran from the 4th floor (where Robert was) to the 8th floor (where Mark had been admitted) to check on each of them. Each time I went from Robert’s room to Mark’s room I stopped in the chapel to pray. I was not ready to accept what was happening to Robert. I prayed to give me the strength to continue to run from each room and not to take Robert from us and not to take Mark from me. I finally asked the Lord to give me the strength to accept what was coming.

I was making myself crazy, running around trying not to speak to anyone of the many family members that had gathered in the hospital. On my last visit to the chapel, before they would take Mark into surgery, I broke down and cried. I prayed for strength to accept what was coming and to give me peace of mind.

As I was kissing Mark goodbye and assuring him that all would be all right, my cell phone rang. Robert’s doctor called to say that they had found a liver donation right in the same hospital that we were in and that they were going with that liver and were going to put Mark on standby in case the liver that was donated had too much trauma.

Robert received a liver from a family that was hit by tragedy when their 8-year-old son was killed in a car accident. If it wasn’t for that family that decided to donate their son’s organs, my son would not be alive today.

That day, the 8-year-old boy saved seven lives by donating his organs. His liver, his heart, his retinas, his skin, his tissue and countless other small arteries went to other kids that had been waiting for a donation.

I had no idea that adults and children die every day waiting for an organ donation. Every day, family members die without checking the organ donation box and every day someone dies while waiting for an organ donation. I want to bring awareness to organ donation and stress how important it is to help save another life this way. My husband was spared and our son lives because that family checked the box.


By: Sally Garcia Crosen

Mouth Guards Offer Protection and A Piece of Mind (For parents and the athlete)

LoudounWOJOSeptOct2015_Page_17In all facets of life, parents want their children to be loved, protected successful. In the realm of sports, we want our children to be successful AND free from injury. Their welfare and especially their oral health is always a high priority. Helping and learning ways to protect our children who play a sport is important to me . I am concerned about preventing injuries in general. As an orthodontist, my primary mission in the area of injury prevention is to protect the orofacial area of the body from harm. Damage to this area without proper protection and information oftentimes produces negative results and a bad outcome. OUCH!!! Problems such as: loss of teeth, breakage of teeth, fracture to the lower jaw, impairment as a result of destructive force by a blow to the lower jaw and worse a blow that could possibly be transmitted to the base of the skull is not a pleasant thought or sight. Protective mouth pieces save parents and their young athletes in many ways.

Our Jones Orthodontics Custom Mouth Guard Program is not a new invention. Custom-made mouthguards are used by professional and amateur athletes in almost every sport, all over the world. This is due to the fact that they provide the highest level of protection, retention, comfort and fit without hindering speech or breathing during athletic activity. The custom-fit mouthguard is far superior to typical boil-and-bite mouthguards in fit, retention and the wearer’s compliance. This type of mouth guard maintains its shape and protection long after other mouthguards have worn out. Custom mouthguards excel in every category, allowing for maximum athletic performance. Custom mouth guards are made by dental professionals, who can also provide expert advice on intra oral problems, along with the immediate concerns about protection against orofacial injuries.

By John H. Jones III DDS
Jones Orthodontics
20 Pidgeon Hill Dr. #206
Sterling, Va 20165

Screen (and Scream!) Time Thoughts from The Real Housewives of Loudoun County

“Screen time” is a pretty heavily debated issue in the parenting world, with as many thoughts on the issue as there are screens in front of our kids’ faces. Schools are using the devices more, leaving many parents to wonder why limiting screen time even matters, while others forbid any devices in the home unless they’re needed for homework. Wherever you stand on the “screen time” debate, its always interesting to get the opinions of other parents, so we went to The Real Housewives of Loudoun County to see how they handle the screens (and screams!) in their everyday lives.

How do you approach “screen time” with your kids?

Rachael: I’ll admit we use screen time, computer, kindle, phone & TV as a distraction to let us get some things done around the house. For our 10 year old, over the summer, we implemented a new rule of reading for electronic time. He had to read a chapter in an age appropriate book for 30 min of time. He’s a minecraft junkie so he was eager to read! Our 3 year old knows how to use my iPhone better than I’d like to admit, but it makes my grocery shopping and doctors appointments go a little more smoothly so I’m not opposed to letting him play learning games and listen to music! There are only a few games, Apps, shows there are allowed to use and watch. We definitely keep a close eye on those things.

ticketKeaira: To handle screen time in our home I implemented technology tickets. We have three kids, ages 7, 5 and 1.5. I created a ticket and laminated it. Each child gets 10 tickets every Sunday afternoon. Each ticket is worth 30 minutes of screen time. If they want to watch t.v, play the xbox or ipad, etc. they know they need to give us a technology ticket. They are able to use them after they have completed their homework for the day. I do allow them to combine them if they want to watch a movie for example. However, they are very aware that when they are gone for the week, they are gone. I also created a few reward tickets that are each worth 30 minutes when they go above and beyond what is asked of them. We also have a chore chart and they each have their own responsibilities, with the exception of the baby. They know that if they don’t do their chores or they are fighting or misbehave in school, they will then lose a technology ticket. It has really worked for us. My oldest son, will say, “I only have six technology tickets left, I think I will just go outside and play so I don’t waste them!” As far as parental controls go I have them on the TV, Netflix, computer and even their DS’s. It can be irritating for me at times to put in a code so I can have access but it’s worth it if I know I am keeping my kids away from inappropriate content.
Kimmy: At my daughters’ ages (4&1), I have to admit, we don’t control “screen time” very much yet. My 4 year old started playing with the kindle at 2 years old, she loved angry birds, and now plays other games (some educational) but not for long periods of time. We have a lot of movie time, but she doesn’t watch TV shows that often. She’s VERY active and always playing outdoors, which we love. I’m sure when she reaches homework and cell phone age it will be a different story, and we will certainly be limiting screen time then!
What do you think about the great “screen debate” or parenting debates, in general? How do YOU approach screen time with your kids?
real housewives of loudoun county

Oh, the joys of parenting in a digital world – from online debates to the actual screens our kids use! Nobody ever said being a parent was easy, but, the RHOLC really make it look that way! Be sure to check back for more expert tips from this great group of women, and definitely check out the group on Facebook!

Do you want to write for Virginia Woman Magazine online? Let us know

Mouthguards Offer Protection and A Piece of Mind | Jones Orthodontics

LWMSeptOct2014-Final_Page_13In all facets of life, parents want their children to be loved, protected successful. In the realm of sports, we want our children to be successful AND free from injury. Their welfare and especially their oral health is always a high priority. Helping and learning ways to protect our children who play a sport is important to me . I am concerned about preventing injuries in general. As an orthodontist, my primary mission in the area of injury prevention is to protect the orofacial area of the body from harm.

Damage to this area without proper protection and information oftentimes produces negative results and a bad outcome. OUCH!!! Problems such as: loss of teeth, breakage of teeth, fracture to the lower jaw, impairment as a result of destructive force by a blow to the lower jaw and worse a blow that could possibly be transmitted to the base of the skull is not a pleasant thought or sight. Protective mouth pieces save parents and their young athletes in many ways.

Our Jones Orthodontics Custom Mouth Guard Program is not a new invention. Custom-made mouthguards are used by professional and amateur athletes in almost every sport, all over the world. This is due to the fact that they provide the highest level of protection, retention, comfort and fit without hindering speech or breathing during athletic activity. The custom-fit mouthguard is far superior to typical boil-and-bite mouthguards in fit, retention and the wearer’s compliance. This type of mouth guard maintains its shape and protection long after other mouthguards have worn out. Custom mouthguards excel in every category, allowing for maximum athletic performance. Custom mouth guards are made by dental professionals, who can also provide expert advice on intra oral problems, along with the immediate concerns about protection against orofacial injuries.

– By John H. Jones III DDS
Jones Orthodontics
20 Pidgeon Hill Dr. #206 • Sterling, Va 20165
703-421-0893 •

What Can Brain Training Do for You or Someone You Love?

learningrx leesburgParenting is tough even under the best of circumstances but when your child suffers from an underlying cognitive weakness all your parenting tricks can go out the window.

Over several years I was a nanny, camp counselor, daycare worker and children’s theater director and instructor. I had lots of experience with other peoples’ children. I wasn’t prepared for having children of my own with significant learning disabilities. Helping parents with their “problem child” is one thing, but everything changed when my husband and I had difficult, frustrated children of our own.

Two of our three kids struggled with learning disabilities even though they seemed to be very capable. We did everything that we could to find doctors, therapists, educators and nutritionists, who tried to help overcome their learning struggles. I even home schooled my oldest for 3 years. By the time she was 15, we were so discouraged, we started coming to terms that there wasn’t anything out there that could significantly change the way she navigated the world. Our son’s needs weren’t as great but his resistance of school became a daily battle of everyone’s time and energy.

I’m grateful every day that we found LearningRx. The progress our kids made in their program influences every area of their lives, not just in school but how they see the world and themselves. Their confidence level and abilities have radically changed our family life. They aren’t perfect kids and we aren’t perfect parents, but we have so much more hope for their future. I can’t think of anything better than to share this hope with other families.

So if a parent were to ask you: “My child is does not like school and struggles with getting the required work done.” What do you suggest?

Almost every child struggles with disliking school at some point. But when dislike turns into disgust–hating Monday through Friday mornings, teachers’ emails (again) about concerns for your child’s behavior and/or lagging grades and you’re frustrated by the hours of time spent doing homework–it’s time to find out what the issues are. At LearningRx Leesburg, we treat the root cause. Did you know that 80% of reading, attention, memory and learning problems are caused by one or more weak cognitive skills? While tutoring and most therapies treat the symptoms, we fix the cause.

How does LearningRx make a difference?

LearningRx students who do all their training in one of our centers experience, on average, a 15-point increase in IQ. Higher IQ is linked to college scholarships, job advancement and higher income for life. In other words, better mental performance can mean less time working, more money and less effort. It can also mean reaching goals sooner.

We get fast results. In fact, many families report seeing improvements such as greater confidence, higher grades, or better behavior within weeks of starting one of our programs. (Look on YouTube for lots of great testimonials). And when it comes to reading improvements, our students see an average of 3.1 years of reading gains in just 72 hours of brain training.

Career adults who train with us are often looking for fast results to help them succeed in the workplace. They know that being able to grasp, process, remember and apply information quickly gives them a decided advantage in the office and marketplace. If sharper mental skills will help you with your career goals–whether you want to start a business, move up in your present job or land your dream job–we can help. Our brain training programs strengthen the cognitive skills that make up IQ and determine how well you think, learn, read, reason, remember and pay attention. Think of LearningRx brain training as an investment in your future!

You can download a free report on LearningRx training results by visiting We assess every student before and after brain training using the gold standard of cognitive skills testing adopted by educators, doctors and psychologists nationwide. This testing not only allows us to identify specific weak skills so we can strengthen them, it also allows us to scientifically measure our clients’ brain skills before and after our program.

How is LearningRx different from hiring a tutor?

In a nutshell, tutoring reteaches information while brain training changes the way the brain processes information. If your son or daughter is struggling, ask yourself why.

Is the problem information-based or brain-based? If your child has missed classes because he was sick, or is struggling in a single class, try hiring a tutor to reteach information that was missed. But if your child is a slow reader, has struggled chronically, hates math, spends too much time on homework or has a poor memory at home or school, you don’t need a tutor, you need a brain trainer. Improving how the brain grasps and remembers information often eliminates the need for tutoring altogether.

In other words, tutoring teaches the same information, the same way, your child didn’t learn it the first time! That isn’t going to solve the problem. Dollar for dollar, brain training costs much less than tutoring for reading and math gains— at the same time solving problems and providing gains in areas that tutoring does not address. And we get it done in half the time!

Are your programs good for adult learners who are struggling with short term memory?

Adults who routinely forget why we enter a room, or the name of someone we recently met, often choose to laugh off the moment. That’s fine around the house, but forgetfulness can have serious ramifications if we’re double booking appointments with important clients, missing deadlines, or losing a deal over a forgetting an important piece of information. Not to mention that memory struggles simply make life harder than it needs to be! The good news is that our programs can improve short term, long term, working memory, attention skills for children and adults of all ages. (We just assessed a 76 year old, who will benefit from one of our programs!)

What are three benefits of LearningRx? Adults? Children?

Actually, here’s more than three:

1) We treat the root cause of thinking, learning, memory and attention struggles.

2) Dollar for dollar, LearningRx
brain training is 7 times more effective than tutoring because of the rapid, dramatic improvements our students experience.

3) We get dramatic, scientifically measured results that are lasting.

4) Our programs can help kids and adults of all ages.

5) When thinking, reading, learning, reasoning, remembering and paying attention is easier, life is simpler.

To learn more, visit our website at:

By Lian Hollenbeck, LearningRx Leesburg

Ages and Stages – Koru Photography

koru drumPeople often ask me when is the best time to photograph their children. And the answer is simply, “right now.” Capture them! We are so fortunate to have camera phones to capture every day moments with photos or videos. I only wish I’d had that when my kids were smaller.

But sometimes you will want a professional portrait of your child. Something you can hang on the wall and admire for years to come. So here are my top 5 recommendations for ages and stages to capture your child.

Age 9-14 months: The first year is full of so much change – from rolly-polly bundle to a walking and talking toddler. My favorite age is 9 months, as they are full of smiles and will play with anything. Celebrating the first birthday is also fun, but I recommend waiting until your child is walking (which could be 14 months) as it is so much more fun than more photos of them crawling.

Age 4-5: I LOVE Preschoolers! They have such an inquisitive innocence and just about everything makes them laugh. They love to dress up and pretend and will be very cooperative during the session.

Age 9-10: This is an important time to capture – before they get braces and acne and grow a foot. This is the last time they will look like “kids”. I like to highlight their hobbies or sports or interests. One of my clients commissioned me to capture each of her boys at age 10. For her younger son we brought his drum set into a field for
the memorable shot.

Middle School: These can often be the forgotten years. Sometimes there is so much drama or outside influence that your child doesn’t even give you the chance to take their photo. But if they are open to it, try to have some professional photos done in middle school. Highlight their sports or activities. You will be glad you did.

Senior Year: This is, of course, the most important time to capture your budding adult. They are at a special time in their lives and are looking forward to big changes ahead. When they have left the nest, you will want to have beautiful portraits to remember them by. I specialize in senior portraits in which we capture their many moods with multiple locations, outfits and expressions. Moms often tell me, “You really captured her true personality”.

Spring is finally here, and weather is beautiful so go out and capture your kids today!

– Kristen Staples, Koru Photography, Leesburg

Tutor Time and No More Tears – Teacher Robin

tutor talkIt is a good time to look back and ahead at your child’s experience this school year. As the year progresses, as parents, we need to assess our kid’s attitude towards school. Are they doing well academically and working to their best ability? Are they happy and excited to wake up and get to school in the morning? Are they eager to get their homework done or are they a procrastinator like most? Are they confident and do they feel good about themselves?

I wanted to talk about the benefits of hiring a tutor and dismiss the stigma that is usually associated with the term tutor. Many times both parents and students feel that the term “tutor” is negative. Often the student, parent or both associate the word tutor with failure and that is so not true! I try and tell all my students and parents alike whether they are in elementary, middle, or high school that a tutor is just like a coach. I am not there to point out the negatives or the flaws. My purpose and goal is to accentuate your successes and be your advocate.

Many times schoolteachers rush through their scheduled lesson of the day, because they are driven to get that chapter completed for the next test and/or in preparation for the SOL exams (Standards of Learning exams). As we all know, everyone learns differently, and so a tutor or “academic coach” is there to help find that particular student’s style of learning. I like tutoring on a 1:1 basis so that I can find that student’s special style of learning. Math is a perfect example. Sometimes it is just being able to work with the student and do a couple more examples a different way. And then – the light bulb goes off! Nothing is more rewarding as an academic coach to see the student’s eyes light up, because they get it. Or even better a text the next day, because they got an “A”’ on the quiz and they couldn’t wait to share the news. Nothing makes me happier!

Sometimes all your scholar needs are a few sessions to review information that the teacher covered in class. One on one time can make the difference in their world – especially if the classroom environment does not teach in a style or way in which your child learns.

Meeting once or twice a week is usually enough to get the job done. Of course, if more time is needed one might consider group tutoring with a neighbor or friend who also needs help. Optimum success often does not take much, just a second look and a willingness to consider all of the options.

In addition to improving your child’s confidence, that 1:1 time with an after school Teacher-Coach will save more than tears and time. It will prepare for continued achievement where it really counts. And mostly, it will keep your scholar on track for the great things ahead.


Back in August of 2013, when our January and February snow storms were not even a glimmer in our eye, over one-hundred students from Virginia to Maryland auditioned to perform at Carnegie Hall. We could only select twenty, lucky young artists .

Our company, Theaterpalooza, was fortunate enough to be selected to perform the original, debut work, “From Sea To Shining Sea” a musical journey about the history of Appalachia.

Our cast has rehearsed every week since September and we are almost ready for our performance. Excitement is in the air!

In addition to the show, our students have learned so many things:

  • Our students know more about the history of Appalachia than many adults. When you play a character and walk in their shoes, you learn to develop empathy for others as well as learn about their lives.
  • Our students are singing a show in three different languages (Gaelic, English and Cherokee) as well as several different dialects and accents. When learning is made fun, it is easy to learn languages, science, any subject at all.
  • Our students are singing in three and four part harmony. This is quite an accomplishment for a middle or high school aged child, but our average age of our children is nine. It is amazing what children can do when learning is fun.

The arts not only adds immeasurable quality to our lives, but it is the way children learn. When the arts is added to the classroom or as an after school activity, children learn that the sky is the limit.

walker perf arts

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