DCH News

Looking back: The little girl who battled H1N1 and prevailed

February 15, 2013
Kayla Piñon (center) reflected on her life-threatening battle with the H1N1 flu recently with her parents, Luis and Melinda Piñon.
Kayla Piñon (center) reflected on her life-threatening battle with the H1N1 flu recently with her parents, Luis and Melinda Piñon.
Driscoll Children's Hospital celebrates its 60th anniversary with a series of stories about extraordinary patients

CORPUS CHRISTI - The number of South Texas families whose lives have been touched by Driscoll Children's Hospital since it opened its doors in 1953 is incalculable. And of the countless children who've come to the hospital in the past 60 years, many stand out for their particularly memorable stories. Driscoll is sharing some of those stories of hope and healing throughout 2013 as part of its 60th anniversary celebration.

Kayla Piñon became a member of the Driscoll family in 2009 when, at 10 years old, she battled her way back from a life-threatening case of the H1N1 flu. More than 1,000 children died from H1N1 during the 2009 pandemic, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Popularly known as swine flu, H1N1 was particularly harmful to the young, who had little natural resistance to a virus that hadn't circulated in decades. Hundreds of people became ill with the virus in Nueces County and at least 11 people died from it between 2009 and 2010.

When she was admitted to Driscoll Children's Hospital, Kayla was dehydrated, underweight and gasping for air due to excessive fluid in her lungs.

"I just remember going into the hospital, then tubes being taken out of me seven days later," she said recently at her home.

Driscoll physicians said Kayla's was the severest case of the H1N1 flu they had ever seen. To make matters worse, she was also suffering from a staph infection called MRSA. It took a diverse team of experts and modern medical technology to save the girl's life. The tubes she recalled being taken out of her came from an Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation (ECMO) machine, a mechanized pump that circulates the patient's blood and provides oxygen to the body when the body can't do it alone. It works like an artificial lung for patients who can't be supported with a ventilator, as was the case with Kayla.

"This case exemplifies the great teamwork that exists here at Driscoll Children's Hospital," said Karl Serrao, MD, a pediatric intensivist who helped treat Kayla. "To make this miracle happen, everyone including nurses, doctors, respiratory therapists and many others worked together. Our community and our children benefit daily from Driscoll's investment in the ECMO machine and other innovative technologies and therapies."

Watching their daughter struggle to breathe, unconscious, was a day-to-day, nail-biting experience for her parents. When Kayla regained her health, her father, Luis Piñon, said it was a miracle. He also credited Driscoll's staff for being a source of comfort throughout the ordeal.

"The people there go above and beyond," he said. "From the chaplains, doctors and nurses to the housekeepers - they all treat you with respect, like you're part of the family. They don't give up hope."

Kayla gained local notoriety after her recovery. She and her parents gracefully gave interviews to newspaper and TV reporters who were eager to tell the story of the little girl who beat the odds. To this day, people who read about Kayla or saw her on TV ask about her, said her mother, Melinda Piñon.

Now a cheerful 8th grader who participates in tumbling at school, Kayla has a slight cough due to a small amount of fluid in her lungs - remnants of the H1N1 flu, explained her mother. She sees a Driscoll pulmonologist every three months for a check-up and breathing tests. All indications are that "she's doing good," Melinda Piñon said.

Luis Piñon has a new appreciation for the emotional challenges parents face when their child is hospitalized with a serious illness.

"Nobody really knows what that situation will be like until you're in those four walls," he said. "At times I had doubts about Kayla's outcome. But she's a survivor."

For the Driscoll team who treated Kayla, her case stands out as a moment of pride.

"It was an inspiration not only to see the family persevere and Kayla win, but also to see the staff at Driscoll step up to the plate during that challenging time of the H1N1 influenza outbreak," Dr. Serrao said.

The Piñons, who live in Corpus Christi, said they're grateful to have Driscoll Children's Hospital in their hometown. They've also taken their kids to Driscoll Children's Urgent Care clinic when they were sick.

"When people ask me about their children's illnesses, I tell them to take them to Driscoll," Melinda Piñon said.

Luis Piñon remembers driving past Driscoll Children's Hospital as a child. He said he hopes the hospital is around for another 60 years.

"We're blessed to have a hospital like Driscoll in Corpus Christi. For me, it's second to none. That's from the heart."

Driscoll staff will probably see Kayla in the future as a volunteer in the Summer Volunteen Program, her mother said. She loves to take care of children, particularly the young cousins she babysits.

"Children kind of gravitate to her," Melinda Piñon said.

Always optimistic, Kayla said her experience at Driscoll Children's Hospital helped her choose a career field.

"It would be a dream come true to be a nurse. I would like to help kids when they're sick. I already know about respiratory therapy and the machines that are used."

Driscoll residents read to children as part of Residents Advocacy Week

March 18, 2015
As part of Residents Advocacy Week, residents at Driscoll Children's Hospital read to children at the hospital's Children's Learning Center. The theme for the week is "Open a book, open a mind," with an emphasis on improving child literacy. In addition to reading to children, the residents also have started a book drive throughout the hospital.

"At Driscoll, we all are active in the community, and our residents are the same way," Driscoll Children's Hospital's Associate Residency Program Director Eric Baggerman, MD, said.

Being an advocate for the children of South Texas has long been a part of Driscoll Children's Hospital's residency program, and Residents Advocacy Week puts a focus on those activities.

"Residency Advocacy Week is something our residents wanted to be a part of to put an emphasis on helping out in the community," Dr. Baggerman said. "Driscoll Children's Hospital always strives to help improve the lives of South Texans, and our residents are part of that, also."

The Skinny on Fat

March 17, 2015
Fat is a necessary part of the diet. We need fat to absorb certain vitamins and minerals, and some fats have been linked to improved heart health. Make sure you know the difference between good fats and bad fats.

Good fats: Shown to improve heart health!

Monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats (including omega-3 fatty acids)
Sources: olive, canola, peanut, sunflower, safflower and sesame oils.
Also, avocados, nuts (especially walnuts and almonds), fatty fish (salmon, mackerel, trout, albacore tuna, sardines), nut butters, seeds (especially chia seeds and flaxseed) and legumes.

Bad fats: Linked to increased risk for heart disease

Saturated fat and trans fats.
Sources: Red meat, animal products (2% or whole-fat dairy), tropical oils, fried foods, baked goods, fast food, some breads/crackers, and some regular peanut butter.
Note: If a food says "hydrogenated or partially-hydrogenated vegetable oil" it contains trans fats.

Be wary of fat-free and low-fat foods: Manufactures may increase the sugar and sodium in foods to improve the flavor if fat has been removed. Read the food label!

Easy changes to improve your health:
- Cook with olive or canola oils whenever possible. Avoid lard.
- Buy leaner meats and trim visible fat from meats - note: by cooking meats with less fat, you will actually end up with more meat in the end.
- Try low-fat and fat free dairy products. 2% and whole milk products are high in cholesterol-raising saturated fats.

Make your recipes healthier without changing the taste! Replace butter or oil with:
- Applesauce (1:1 ratio)
- Plain, nonfat Greek yogurt (1:1 ratio)
- Low fat ricotta cheese or cottage cheese (1:1 ratio)
- Ground flax seed (3 Tablespoons of ground flax seed + 1 Tablespoon of water to replace 1 Tablespoon of oil) - note: let mixture sit for approximately 5 minutes until flax and water take on a jelly-like consistency.

Poison Prevention Tips

March 16, 2015
Driscoll Children's Hospital Injury Prevention Program
Poison Prevention Tips
From: Texas Poison Center Network

- Keep all household products and medicines locked up, out of sight and reach.

- If the door or phone rings when you are using a potentially harmful product, take it with you or put it out of the child's reach first. Don't turn your back on a child when a poisonous product is nearby. Most poisonings occur when the product is in use.

- Be careful with distraction from your usual supervisory activities.

- Use child-resistant packaging properly by closing the container securely after each use. Child resistant does not mean child proof.

- Use child-resistant locks on cabinets and cupboards containing medicines, toiletries, household cleaners and garden products.

- Keep the poison in its original container. Do not use food containers such as milk jugs or soda bottles to store household and chemical products.

- Keep the poison stored in a different cupboard from food products. Many poisonous products look alike and come in containers very similar to drinks or food. An example of this is apple juice and pine cleaner.

- Keep handbags out of reach of children. Only store one day's supply of medication in your handbag.

- Discard old or outdated household and chemical products.

- Communicate with other household members when a medication is given to a child in order to avoid unnecessary repeat dosing.

- Always turn the light on when giving or taking medicine so you can see what you are giving your child.

- Always read the label and measure the dose of medication to be given carefully.

- Avoid taking medicine in front of children.

- Pesticides can get through the skin and can be extremely toxic. Keep children away from areas that have recently been sprayed.

- Know the name of the plants in your home and in your yard. Label all of your plants. If you are having difficulty identifying a plant, take a sample to a nursery for identification.

- Teach your children not to eat mushrooms growing in the yard. Some of these mushrooms can be poisonous.

- Teach your children not to eat leaves and berries that grow in the yard. Do not assume a plant is safe to eat if you see wild animals eating it.

- Have your regional poison control center send you a list of poisonous and non-poisonous plants.

- New recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics advise that parents should not use Syrup of Ipecac as a poison treatment intervention in the home.

- Take time to teach children about poisonous substances.

- Don't call medicine candy. Medicines and candy look alike and children cannot tell the difference.

Keep the telephone number for your regional poison control center near your telephone (1-800-222-1222).

The Dietary Guidelines

March 13, 2015
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans are a set of realistic, science-based recommendations that are easy to follow and practical for everyone. New guidelines are published every five years with the help of nutrition experts and professionals in the field. These guidelines focus on getting every American to adopt a diet that promotes a healthy weight and prevents against chronic disease. Why is this important?

  • Approximately 1/2 of all American adults - 17 million individuals - have one or more preventable, chronic diseases that are related to poor quality dietary patterns and physical inactivity

  • More than 2/3 of adults and nearly 1/3 of children and youth are overweight or obese

Together, we can fix this!

Some quick facts about the new guidelines:

  • Eat more fruits and non-starchy vegetables - they have been shown across the board to prevent and improve chronic diseases like heart disease, hypertension and diabetes. Not to mention, they promote healthy weight.

  • Replace processed grains with whole grains as much as possible. Whole grains provide a source of fiber, vitamins and minerals that you will NOT get in refined grains like white breads, rice, pastas and processed cereals.

  • Coffee - Get excited, coffee lovers, because there is now strong evidence showing that moderate coffee consumption (3-5 cups per day) does not pose a long-term health risk and can actually reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. It may even be protective against Parkinson's disease. Note: This does not pertain to the cream and sugar!

  • Eat more seafood and eggs! We now know that cholesterol in food does not affect blood cholesterol - this means that eggs and shellfish are perfectly fine to eat! They are low in saturated fat.

  • Put a serious cap on added sugar. Sugar is a major contributor to weight gain and health issues today. The new Guidelines recommend making sugar less than 10% of total daily calorie intake(approximately 10-12 teaspoons per day). To put this in perspective, one can of regular soda has approximately 10 teaspoons). Instead of turning to sugar substitutes, just drink water.

  • Eat LESS red and processed meats - These are a major source of "bad" fats. Limit to once per week at most, and preferably, only eat these meats a few times per month. Tip: try to make beef grass-fed! Grass-fed beef has more good fats and less bad fats. In general, go for leaner meats like chicken or turkey instead.

  • Aim for less than 2,300 mg of sodium per day (for healthy people).

  • Get moving! Try for at LEAST 30 minutes of physical activity five times a week. For weight maintenance or weight loss, one hour of physical activity may be needed. Kids should engage in at least one hour of physical activity per day. Limit screen time to less than two hours per day, especially among children.

  • Strong evidence shows that it is not necessary to eliminate food groups or conform to a single dietary pattern to achieve healthy dietary patterns.

Driscoll patients treated to Child Life Month celebration

March 10, 2015
The Stripes Child Life Program at Driscoll Children's Hospital celebrated Child Life Month with a rock and roll-themed party for in-house patients on March 3rd. The seventh annual event is designed to make hospitalization a little more pleasant for children by providing a distraction from their illness and an opportunity for socialization, self-expression and normalization.

"Child Life professionals strive to promote coping and reduce anxiety of children and their families. They embrace the power of play to teach children about their diagnosis, prepare for and support during painful procedures," said Michelle Goodman, director of the Stripes Child Life Program at Driscoll.

Driscoll Children's hospital began a Child Life program in 1985. Today, Driscoll has nine Child Life  Specialists who provide service to the Emergency Room, in-patient units 4T, 6T and 7T, the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit, Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, Renal Dialysis, Driscoll's Cancer and Blood Disorders Center, Day Surgery and Radiology.

Activities at the celebration will include walking down a red carpet, face painting, decorating cardboard guitars and a photo booth.  Employees from Stripes convenience stores will provide a carnival-style prize wheel and store coupons.

13th annual Radiothon will broadcast live from Driscoll Children's Hospital

February 25, 2015

Donate and register online!

For more information about the Radiothon, click here.

CORPUS CHRISTI - K-99 (KRYS 99.1 FM) will combine with Driscoll Children's Hospital for the 13th annual Radiothon on Friday, March 6. The one-day event will be broadcast live from the guest quarters in the Sloan Building at Driscoll Children's Hospital beginning at 6 a.m. Listeners can tune in to hear patients, parents, physicians and staff share inspirational stories of hope and healing. Last year's Radiothon raised more than $70,000 to benefit the patients and services provided at Driscoll Children's Hospital. For information or to donate, contact Driscoll's Development Department at (361) 694-6401.

  • What: 13th annual K-99 Radiothon benefiting Driscoll Children's Hospital

  • When: 6 a.m. - 6 p.m. Friday, March 6

  • Where: Driscoll Children's Hospital Sloan Building guest quarters, 3533 S. Alameda St.

Driscoll Children's Hospital neurologist Carol DeLine, MD, answers questions on K-99 during the hospital's annual Radiothon. This year's Radiothon is March 6.

Driscoll Children's Hospital adds eight AEDs to non-clinical areas

February 12, 2015
Driscoll Children's Hospital purchased eight Automated External Defibrillators (AEDs), which will be placed in non-clinical areas of the hospital courtesy of a generous donation from the Auxiliary to Driscoll Children's Hospital.

The $15,800 donation will help make every hospital visitor - including friends and families of patients - safer. An AED is a portable electronic device designed to be used in cases of life-threatening cardiac arrhythmias which lead to cardiac arrest and can be treated with an AED through defibrillation, allowing the heart to reestablish an effective rhythm. With simple audio and visual commands, AEDs are designed for use by the layperson and can save the life of someone experiencing cardiac arrest.

"The minutes after the onset of a cardiac emergency are called the 'Golden Minutes,' and every minute is crucial in those situations," Pediatric Intensivist Kevin Schooler, MD, said. "Having easily accessible AEDs throughout the hospital will ensure the quickest possible care is available for our visitors."

The AEDs will be placed in non-clinical areas of the hospital, including the hospital cafeteria. There also will be an AED on a security cart, which could quickly be deployed to the parking lot, if necessary. The locations were strategically chosen to be the most beneficial to the hospital's visitors.

"We focus on taking care of the children of South Texas, and we also want to make sure we're there for the families," Dr. Schooler said. "Having AEDs readily available throughout the hospital ensures that we also can be there for our adult visitors should a cardiac emergency arise. This is another example of us truly being a friend of the family."

Annual Fiesta de los Niños is a celebration for those who help make miracles happen

January 13, 2015
Fiesta de los Niños, which began as a small, grassroots effort 23 years ago, has evolved into a high-profile event that many South Texans return to every year. On Feb. 6, Driscoll Children's Hospital's 23rd annual Fiesta de los Niños will bring its signature combination of fun, food and music to the American Bank Center. The event's mission remains the same since its origin - to help Driscoll offer more and enhanced services to children in the community. "Thanks to the generosity of our title sponsor, Flint Hills Resources, and the many other community partners, Driscoll Children's Hospital is able to continue to enhance and broaden its services for the children of South Texas," Driscoll Children's Hospital's Vice President of Development Martha Avery said. Fiesta de los Niños is Driscoll's largest annual fundraiser with 100 percent of the funds raised from the event directly benefitting the hospital. Through the community's annual support of Fiesta, Driscoll has been able to develop and enhance its services and programs in order to better serve the children of South Texas. In 2014, with more than 1,500 people in attendance, Fiesta raised $700,000, which helped purchase the latest, state-of-the-art 3D technology for Driscoll's Catheterization Laboratory to perform the most delicate procedures on infants and children. Proceeds from this year's event will go toward several key specialty areas throughout the hospital, including upgrades to the surgical suites, additional ambient lighting for a new MRI suite and a new pediatric transport ambulance. Guests at Fiesta de los Niños will enjoy silent, live and bid-board auctions, a barbecue dinner and entertainment by country music group Restless Heart, which has had six No. 1 singles on the Billboard country charts. The program begins at 6:30 p.m. with cocktails, silent and bid-board auctions. For information or table sponsorship, call Driscoll's Development Department at (361) 694-6405 or visit www.driscollchildrens.org/giving.

What: Driscoll Children's Hospital's 23rd annual Fiesta de los Niños

When: 6:30 - 11:30 p.m., Friday, Feb. 6

Where: American Bank Center Exhibit Hall, 1901 N. Shoreline Blvd.

Information: (361) 694-6405

Event schedule:

6:30 p.m. - Doors open, reception, silent and bid-board auctions open

7 p.m. - Western barbecue dinner served

8:30 p.m. - Live auction begins, silent auction closes (bid-board remains open until 10 p.m.)

9:30 p.m. - Featured entertainer, Restless Heart

Driscoll Health Plan earns national award

November 24, 2014
The Driscoll Health Plan was given an award at the Association for Community Affiliated Plans (ACAP) Quality Meeting on Nov. 12 in Chicago. The Driscoll Health Plan was honored for its Medicaid Healthplan earning the best Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (CAHPS) scores in ACAP, which is an organization with about 40 Medicaid plans distributed across the country. CAHPS scores are based on consumers' answers to a survey evaluating their experiences with healthcare.

Injury Prevention Program honored by Westside Business Association

November 11, 2014
Driscoll Children's Hospital's Injury Prevention Program was presented with the Advocate of the Year award at the Westside Business Association's Community Leader Awards Banquet.

For the past three years, the hospital's Injury Prevention Program has donated children's bicycle helmets to the annual Navidad de los Ninos celebration in Corpus Christi. Navidad de los Ninos, which benefits more than 1,200 disadvantaged children and families annually, gives out the helmets to local children as Christmas gifts, as well as other toys donated by the community.

"It's an honor to be recognized by the community, but an even bigger honor to help the children of South Texas, which is the mission of Driscoll Children's Hospital," Injury Prevention Specialist Tiffany Collie said.