Brownsville boy is 'a totally different person' since leukemia diagnosis
May 03, 2013
Driscoll Children's Hospital physicians treat Andrew Banda in his hometown, Brownsville
BROWNSVILLE - Claudia Maldonado knew her son, Andrew Banda, was sick in January 2012. At 8 years old, he was too thin and his yellowish eyes revealed he had jaundice, she said. Still, the news that he had acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) was a shock.
"I just couldn't believe it," Maldonado said, pausing to hold back tears. "It was very hard to hear. It's something that you never forget."
Andrew was diagnosed by physicians at Driscoll Children's Specialty Center in Brownsville, where he and his family live. In addition to jaundice, he was suffering from low blood cell counts and hepatomegaly, an enlargement of the liver. Hepatomegaly and low blood cell counts - anemia and leucopenia are the medical terms - are commonly associated with ALL, said Cris Johnson, MD, medical director of the Cancer & Blood Disorders Center at Driscoll Children's Hospital. Dr. Johnson, a hematologist/oncologist, has been involved in Andrew's treatment since he was diagnosed with ALL.
Soon after Andrew's diagnosis, he was admitted to Driscoll Children's Hospital in Corpus Christi, where he began receiving chemotherapy treatments. Maldonado's family has no history of leukemia, she said, so her son's diagnosis and treatment have been learning experiences. Thorough, honest communication from Andrew's physicians has helped alleviate her fears.
"They explain everything very well," Maldonado said. "Even if it's something I might not want to hear, I need to know what's going on and what to expect. That makes a big difference. They're very good doctors. I feel very confident with them."
Maldonado and her parents stayed at the Ronald McDonald House near Driscoll to be close to Andrew during his month-long hospital stay. Despite the hardship, he adjusted well to his surroundings.
"He liked it because everyone would spoil him," Maldonado said with a laugh. "They would bring him movies to watch, and if he didn't like a certain meal they would bring him something else. I guess he got used to that."
Nationally, 2,500 to 3,000 children are diagnosed with leukemia each year, Dr. Johnson said, and cases of ALL among children in the Rio Grande Valley are consistent with the national incidence rate. Driscoll Children's Hospital physicians currently see 35 to 40 cancer patients in the Rio Grande Valley who are undergoing treatment, being followed after treatment or being counseled and monitored for the late effects of chemotherapy, she said. She and other Driscoll hematologists/oncologists regularly travel to see patients at the hospital's clinics in Brownsville and McAllen. A nurse practitioner is also available at the clinics.
Symptoms that may indicate a child has ALL include paleness, unusual bleeding and bruising, fever, lymph node swelling and bone pain, Dr. Johnson said.
Now 9, Andrew receives chemotherapy treatments at Driscoll Children's Specialty Center - Brownsville, and he takes oral medication daily as his battle against ALL continues. A third grader, he enjoys school although he's unable to play contact sports due to a mediport in his chest, Maldonado said. A mediport is a disk placed under the skin that allows physicians to administer chemotherapy medication into his blood vessel or draw a blood sample. Andrew will continue chemotherapy treatments for two more years, his mother said.
Maldonado is upbeat about Andrew's future, saying that he's no longer "skinny" like he was in January 2012.
"He's a totally different person. Back then he was a size six. Now he's a size 14. I say, 'Instead of growing up you're growing from the sides.' As long as he's feeling good and healthy that's all that matters."
Former Calallen student earns scholarship from the Auxiliary to Driscoll Children's Hospital
June 16, 2014
Andrew Laury, 17, accepts the Marcia K. Wilcox Scholarship Award from Driscoll Children's Hospital Auxiliary president Nancy Gunter (center) and assistant treasurer Marihelen Boyd on Thursday at Driscoll Children's Hospital.
Entering Calallen High School, Andrew Laury envisioned himself spending his Friday nights under the bright lights of a football field like so many Texas students his age. Then, just weeks into his freshman year, Andrew began experiencing seizures, including 14 in a single day. A trip to Driscoll Children's Hospital revealed Andrew had a brain tumor.
After surgery and a year of chemotherapy and radiation, Andrew finally was on the football field last week, but this time he donned a graduation cap and gown instead of a helmet and shoulder pads. Now, he's headed to Wharton County Junior College thanks in part to the Auxiliary to Driscoll Children's Hospital's Marcia K. Wilcox Scholarship Award. Andrew and Rockport-Fulton High School graduate Denali Huff each received the scholarship, which is named after a devoted Driscoll Children's Hospital volunteer and is given to students who are former or current Driscoll oncology patients.
The Driscoll Auxiliary also gives out the Clara Driscoll Spirit Scholarship, which is awarded to some of the hospital's student volunteers. On Thursday afternoon, Driscoll Auxilians held a reception to honor all the scholarship recipients in the Residents Conference Room at the hospital.
"It's going to pay for most of my college, so I can have a better future," said Andrew, who will celebrate his 18th birthday June 13. "I've been through some rough times, but now I can go to college, which will help me get a solid job with pay and benefits and will allow me to be a successful person and hopefully help kids like myself in the future."
When he was declared cancer-free before his junior year and moved to Van Vleck, Andrew held out hopes of playing high school football as a senior. He didn't end up being cleared for physical contact, but that didn't stop him from being a competitor in the classroom.
"He was an immense pleasure to teach in class," Van Vleck High School English teacher Jonathan Lunsford said. "His positive attitude is definitely infectious and increases his ability to work with and motivate his fellow classmates."
Andrew attributes that positive attitude to the support he received both in his community and at Driscoll Children's Hospital. Andrew lived in Corpus Christi and attended Calallen Middle School and Calallen High School before moving to Van Vleck after his sophomore year.
"The powerful strength in a small community in Calallen that rallied together to support me, and the support I received at Driscoll was unbelievable," Andrew said. "The hospital has an amazing staff that deals with illness daily, but still had a smile and strong words of encouragement to help me make it through my journey. I was never alone."
Marcia K. Wilcox Scholarship Recipients
Denali Huff, Rockport-Fulton High School
Andrew Laury, Van Vleck High School
Clara Driscoll Spirit Scholarship Recipients
Anushka Bhowal, Carroll
Paige Comstock, Ray
Victoria Gonzales, Tuloso-Midway
Brittany Kellogg, Tuloso-Midway
Hannah Perez, Carroll
Gabrielle Jade L. Redublo, Redublo Academy/Home School
Anissa M. Trevino, Carroll
Ruby Trevino, Collegiate HS
Outdoor activities, games and camaraderie in store for asthmatic children at Camp Easy Breathers
June 10, 2014
CORPUS CHRISTI - Asthmatic children will partake in some swashbuckling this summer as the 13th annual Camp Easy Breathers gets underway in Rockport. Sponsored by Driscoll Children's Hospital, the Coastal Bend Community Foundation and the Coastal Bend Asthma Initiative, it will be from June 16-20, 2014 at Camp Aranzazu.
"A Wild and Wacky theme is being incorporated into some of the group activities this year," said Shelly Bigelow, camp director and respiratory therapist at Driscoll Children's Hospital. "It's about team building and helping the kids get to know each other better."
While there is no cure for asthma, Camp Easy Breathers emphasizes to children with the disease that they can live a healthy, active life. The physical and social activities they'll experience will be fun and also increase their understanding of asthma, Bigelow said.
The camp utilizes interactive teaching methods such as open dialogue, various media, activities and game-play. All will reinforce key lessons to the children such as:
- Understanding asthma and how it affects them;
- Recognizing and avoiding asthma attack triggers;
- Recognizing warning signs to improve asthma management;
- Knowing how and when to take medicine;
- Staying healthy and staying in school.
Activities at the camp will include swimming, archery, arts and crafts, outdoor games, sports and an awards show.
"Camp Easy Breathers is a great opportunity for children to make new friends, become more independent and take on real challenges in a safe environment," Bigelow said.
Asthma is a chronic disease in which the airways in the lungs become swollen, clogged and overly sensitive to changes in the environment. During an attack, the muscles that surround the airways tighten and the inner lining of the airways swells and pushes inward. Asthma kills about 5,000 Americans each year and costs the United States more than $10 billion a year in direct and indirect medical expenses. Timely diagnosis, appropriate treatment, partnership with a healthcare professional and reduction of exposure to environmental factors are some of the things that help children living with asthma.
- What: 13th annual Camp Easy Breathers for asthmatic children ages 7-14
- When: June 16-20
- Where: Camp Aranzazu, 5420 Loop 1781, Rockport
May is National Trauma Awareness Month
May 05, 2014
CORPUS CHRISTI - According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration more children ages 5 -14 go to emergency rooms for bicycle related injuries than with any other sport, many are head injuries. It is important to keep your head safe and always wear a helmet when participating in a wheeled sport. Here are some tips from Driscoll Children's Hospital, Kohl's Keep Your Kids Safe, and Kohl's Cares:
Remember to always wear your helmet!
Fitting your helmet:
Step 1: Size: Measure your head to find the correct size. To measure properly, start above the eyebrows and measure to the widest part of the head. Try on several helmets until one fits right.
Step 2: Position: The helmet should sit level on your head and low on your forehead - one or two finger widths above your eyebrow.
Step 3: Side Straps: Adjust the slider on both straps to form a "V" shape under and slightly in front of the ears.
Step 4: Buckles: Center the left buckle under the chin. This task is easier if you take the helmet off to make these adjustments.
Step 5: Chin Strap: Buckle your chin strap. Tighten the strap until it is snug so that no more than one or two fingers fit under the strap.
Step 6: Final fitting:
Does your helmet fit right? Open your mouth wide and yawn. The helmet should pull down on your head. If not refer back to step 5 and tighten the chin strap.
Does your helmet rock back more than two fingers above the eyebrows? If so, unbuckle and shorten the front strap by moving the slider forward. Buckle and retighten the chin strap, and test again.
Does your helmet rock forward into your eyes? If so, unbuckle and tighten the back strap by moving the slider back toward the ear. Buckle and retighten the chin strap, and test again.
Roll the rubber band down to the buckle. All four straps must go through the rubber band and be close to the buckle to prevent from slipping.
Here are some great tips for helmet use:
- Replace your helmet when it has been in a crash; damage is not always visible.
- Buy/fit the helmet for now: Buy a helmet that fits your head not a helmet to grow into.
- Ensure helmet comfort: If you buy a helmet that you find comfortable and attractive, you are more likely to wear it. Readjust as necessary to ensure the helmet fits properly each ride.
- Cover you head: Adjust the helmet fitting based on your helmet first being in the correct position, level on the head and low on your forehead.
- Adjust straps until snug: Both the side and chin straps need to be snug.
- Avoid helmet rocking: Your helmet should not rock forward, backward or side-to-side on your head. If your helmet rocks more than an inch, go back to step 6 and re-adjust.
Remember to always wear your helmet on every ride! http://www.keepyourkidssafe-kck.com/
Driscoll's kidney transplant recipients come from all over South Texas for annual Reunion
April 28, 2014
CORPUS CHRISTI - On Saturday, Driscoll Children's Hospital will celebrate seven years of renal transplants with patients and their families at the annual Transplant Reunion. For nearly 10 years, Driscoll's Kidney Center has offered comprehensive kidney care to the children of South Texas, including transplantation, general nephrology services, on-site and home pediatric dialysis. For children with end-stage renal disease, transplantation is the ideal treatment.
"The reunion not only fosters the relationship between our patients who see they aren't alone in this journey, but it allows our patients and staff to reconnect outside of the clinic as well," said Leticia Castaneda, social worker at Driscoll's Kidney Center.
According to Samhar Al-Akash, MD, medical director of the Kidney Center, patients and staff members alike look forward to the event every year. "We enjoy seeing our patients outside of the clinic, running around and having fun. It means we did our jobs by giving them a better quality of life away from dialysis machines and medical equipment," he said.
As the only pediatric transplant program in South Texas, Driscoll has performed 72 kidney transplants since the program began in 2007. Patients range in age from 1 to 21 years, and come from all over South Texas
"We're honored that parents choose Driscoll Children's Hospital to care for their children," said Stephen Almond, MD, surgical director of Driscoll's Renal Transplant Program. "This reunion is just a way for us to say thank you to our patients and families and to celebrate their new lives."
- What: Driscoll Children's Hospital's annual Transplant Reunion
- When: Noon Saturday, April 26
- Where: FunTrackers, 9605 South Padre Island Dr.
Driscoll's Teddy Bear Hospital is a chance for patients to be the doctors
April 08, 2014
WHAT: Patients will be the doctors tomorrow during a Teddy Bear Hospital organized by the Stripes Child Life Program at Driscoll Children's Hospital. The event allows children to become more familiar with the medical equipment and procedures involved in their treatment. They'll choose their teddy bear, give it a name and, with the help of Child Life Specialists and other Driscoll staff, measure its height and weight, place an IV and draw labs, give it an X-ray, attach an anesthesia mask for surgery and put an arm or leg in a cast. The Teddy Bear Hospital and the Stripes Child Life Program at Driscoll Children's Hospital are made possible by a $1 million donation from Stripes convenience stores.
WHEN: 1:30 p.m. Wednesday, April 9, 2014
WHERE: Driscoll Children's Hospital auditorium, 3533 S. Alameda St.