Driscoll cancer patients prove they have the 'right stuff'
August 14, 2013
Warrior-themed event planned Sept. 7 for Childhood Cancer Awareness Month
Rhianna Brizuela's "survivor" necklace is a source of pride for the 4-year-old.
CORPUS CHRISTI - Cancer patients at Driscoll Children's Hospital can easily be described as warriors. They've adapted to battling a life-threatening disease with resilience and bravery, all the while buoying their families' morale.
On Sept. 7, Driscoll will honor the fighting spirit of its cancer patients and commemorate Childhood Cancer Awareness Month with a warrior-themed celebration on the USS Lexington Museum on the Bay. About 150 patients throughout South Texas and their families have been invited. In keeping with the warrior theme, each patient will be given a souvenir dog tag. Corpus Christi City Councilwoman Lillian Riojas will read a proclamation declaring Sept. 7 Childhood Cancer Awareness Day, and the nearby Harbor Bridge will be illuminated in yellow specially for the occasion.
Here are profiles of three heroes who plan to attend the event:
4 years old
Behind Rhianna's pretty smile and shy, sweet demeanor is a tough little girl who battled cancer since she was just a baby. Her mother, Itzamara Pedraza, took her to a pediatrician when she was four months old because she had dime-size bumps on her stomach and under her armpits. It was discovered that Rhianna has neuroblastoma, and even more worrisome for her mother was that the disease was at stage four on a four-stage scale of severity.
"I was in shock," Pedraza said. "The first week I would just cry. Then I stopped because I had to be strong for my daughter."
Pedraza decided to take Rhianna to Driscoll Children's Hospital for the specialized treatment she needed. At Driscoll, she underwent numerous tests, scans and X-rays before regular chemotherapy treatments began. That's when Rhianna showed her true mettle.
"She was just a baby but she was never cranky or anything," Pedraza said. "I don't know where she got the strength from. She's a strong-headed little girl."
In June 2009, Rhianna's right adrenal gland was removed by a Driscoll surgeon to prevent her cancer from coming back, her mother said. She also had a mediport inserted in her chest - a reservoir through which physicians can administer chemotherapy medication into a blood vessel or draw a blood sample.
Pedraza said her daughter is on the "safer side" now, but that she has to come to Driscoll once a year for follow-up visits.
Spreading the message that cancer can affect anyone no matter their age is important to Pedraza.
"I'll do anything to help raise awareness that kids get cancer," she said.
7 years old
Chemotherapy didn't keep Sara Cavazos, 7, from smiling earlier this year.
It was "a life changing moment" when Sara was diagnosed last year with cancer in her kidney and abdominal lymph nodes, said her mother, Anna Cavazos. The good news was that, due to Sara's age and lack of a genetic predisposition, her kidney cancer was "very treatable," Cavazos said.
Physicians at Driscoll Children's Hospital quickly developed a treatment plan for Sara that first included the removal of a cancerous tumor from her kidney, which was performed just before Christmas. Radiation and chemotherapy treatments followed at Driscoll Children's Medical Plaza in McAllen.
As is common with patients undergoing cancer treatment, Sara lost her hair. And because of her lowered immunity, she had to be home-schooled. Nevertheless, she handled the challenges like a trooper, inspiring her own family.
"She's a fighter, a true hero," Cavazos said. "You would hardly ever see her down or depressed. Her famous quote was, 'I got this mom, I'll beat it.' I think it was harder on her parents than it was for her."
Cavazos said a high point in Sara's journey with cancer occurred last June when she attended Camp Star Trails, a summer camp in Burton designed for children with chronic illnesses and disabilities. One of Sara's older sisters was able to attend with her.
"They had a blast," Cavazos said. "They got to meet other kids with illnesses, relate to them and realize they aren't the only ones dealing with this."
Sara's perseverance hasn't been in vain. Her hair recently started growing back, and in July, Driscoll physicians confirmed that she's cancer free, Cavazos said.
"She got the 'all clear' one week after her birthday. Now she's excited to go back to school and be with her friends again."
6 years old
Matthew Garza, 6, wears his navy flight suit on the deck of the USS Lexington Museum on the Bay.
Every other Thursday, Matthew can be found playing his favorite video games in between lab tests and chemotherapy treatments at Driscoll's Cancer & Blood Disorders Center. He's now in the maintenance phase of treatment for acute lymphoblastic leukemia, a disease that took his parents by surprise when he was diagnosed by Driscoll physicians just over two years ago, at age 4.
"At first we were in total shock, almost denial," said Matthew's mother, Melinda Garza. "I think the denial ended when his sister asked me if her brother was going to die. That was like a wake-up call."
Although Matthew has about 15 more months of cancer treatments to go, he appears as healthy and playful as any 6-year-old boy. Last year, he participated in the Pilot for a Day program, in which Driscoll patients and their families are the guests of honor at local naval air stations. He treasures the custom-made flight suit given to him by pilots at Naval Air Station Kingsville, his mother said.
Matthew's fighting spirit has been a blessing to his family, especially during the challenging first two years of his treatment.
"He's been amazing," Garza said. "He's never complained at all. He's given us the strength to move forward."
Matthew's father, Gabriel Garza, recalled a recent trip he and his son took to the family's ranch outside Alice right after a chemotherapy session.
"He likes to ride our tractor and put out corn for the animals, so he went with me," he said. "He wasn't even fazed by the chemo. It was like nothing had happened."
What: Driscoll Children's Hospital's annual Childhood Cancer Awareness Month event
When: 6-9 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 7
Where: USS Lexington Museum on the Bay, 2914 N. Shoreline Blvd.
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.
April is Child Safety Month
April 01, 2014
Driscoll Children's Hospital's Injury Prevention Program team
CORPUS CHRISTI - Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for children age one through 12 years old. According to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) crash data, in 2010 almost an average of two children were killed and 325 were injured each day. This fatality rate could be reduced by half if the correct child safety seat had been used. Here are some great tips from Driscoll Children's Hospital and Kohl's Cares to help protect your child while in the car.
Car seat recommendations for children:
- Select a car seat based on your child's age and size.
- Choose a seat that fits in your vehicle and use it every time.
- Always refer to your specific car seat manufacturer's instructions; read the vehicle owner's manual on how to install the car seat using the seat belt or LATCH system; and check height and weight limits.
- To maximize safety, keep your child in the car seat for as long as possible, as long as the child fits within the manufacturer's height and weight requirements.
- Keep your child in the back seat at least through age 12.
Birth - 12 months
- Your child should remain in a rear-facing car seat. There are different types of rear-facing car seats: Infant-only seats can only be used rear-facing. Convertible and 3-in-1 seats usually have higher weight limits, allowing children to stay rear-facing longer.
1 - 3 years
- Keep your child rear-facing as long as possible. Your child should remain rear-facing until he or she reaches the maximum height and weight allowed for the seat.
4 - 7 years
- Your child should stay in a forward-facing seat with harness until he or she reaches the maximum height and weight limit allowed for the seat. Once the child has outgrown the harness, the child is now ready for a booster seat.
8 - 12 years
- Keep your child in a booster seat until he or she is big enough to fit into a seat belt properly. The law in Texas requires all children younger than 8 years old, unless they are taller than 4 feet 9 inches, to be properly restrained in a child safety seat.
Kohl's Keep Your Kids Safe, Driscoll Children's Hospital's Injury Prevention Program, in partnership with Kohl's Cares, offers free car seat inspections. To make an appointment and have your car seat checked to ensure the safety of your child, call (361) 694-6700. http://www.keepyourkidssafe-kck.com/
Driscoll patients go to Spurs game courtesy of generous donors
March 28, 2014
WHAT: Five Driscoll Children's Hospital patients and their parents or guardians will gather at the hospital's lobby and depart for San Antonio to see a Spurs game as part of a live auction package purchased at this year's Fiesta de los Niños. Steve and Jessica Johnson of JSJ Services, Inc. have purchased this item at Fiesta for the last six years, donating a total of $152,250 to Driscoll Children's Hospital.
WHEN: 4 p.m. Saturday, March 29
WHERE: Driscoll Children's Hospital main lobby, 3533 S. Alameda St.
Driscoll patients to be treated to Child Life Month celebration
March 10, 2014
CORPUS CHRISTI - The Stripes Child Life Program at Driscoll Children's Hospital will celebrate Child Life Month with a superhero-themed party for in-house patients tomorrow. The sixth 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.
March is Child Life Month
"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 fourth floor and 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 face painting, making their own superhero masks and capes, superhero bowling and dart board, and photo booth. Employees from Stripes convenience stores will provide a carnival-style prize wheel and store coupons.
- What: Child Life Month Superhero Celebration for Driscoll patients
- When: 1:30 p.m. Tuesday, March 11
- Where: Driscoll Children's Hospital auditorium, 3533 S. Alameda St.
12th annual Radiothon will broadcast live from Driscoll Children's Hospital
March 05, 2014
CORPUS CHRISTI - On Friday, March 7, K-99 (KRYS 99.1 FM) will team up with Driscoll Children's Hospital for the 12th annual Radiothon. The one-day event will be broadcasted live from the main lobby 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. Over the past decade, K-99 listeners have helped raise more than $500,000 to benefit the patients and services provided at Driscoll Children's Hospital.
For more information or to donate, contact Driscoll's Development Department at (361) 694-6401.
- What: 12th annual K-99 Radiothon benefiting Driscoll Children's Hospital
- When: 6 a.m. - 6 p.m. Friday, March 7
- Where: Driscoll Children's Hospital main lobby, 3533 S. Alameda St.
Valdez brings neurology expertise to Driscoll
February 26, 2014
CORPUS CHRISTI - Marcos Valdez, MD, has joined Children's Physician Services of South Texas at Driscoll Children's Hospital as a pediatric neurologist. Dr. Valdez was previously in private practice in McAllen, Texas for 10 years. He completed his residency in pediatrics at Scott & White Memorial Hospital - Texas A&M College of Medicine in 1999 and a fellowship in clinical neurophysiology at Texas Children's Hospital - Baylor College of Medicine in 2003. Dr. Valdez earned his medical degree in 1987 at Universidad Autonoma de Nuevo Leon Medical School in Mexico. He is certified in neurology with a special qualification in child neurology by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology.
Páez receives certification in pediatric endocrinology
February 17, 2014
CORPUS CHRISTI - Ana Maria Páez, MD, pediatric endocrinologist at Driscoll Children's Hospital, recently passed an exam administered by the American Board of Pediatrics and is certified in pediatric endocrinology. Dr. Páez completed a pediatric endocrinology fellowship at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, where she performed her pediatric residency from 2007 to 2010. She joined Driscoll in 2013.
Booth receives certification in child abuse pediatrics
February 17, 2014
CORPUS CHRISTI - Ada Booth, MD, child abuse pediatrician with Driscoll Children's Hospital's Child Abuse Resource Evaluation (CARE) Team, recently passed an exam administered by the American Board of Pediatrics (ABP) and is certified in child abuse pediatrics. Dr. Booth graduated from a child abuse pediatrics fellowship at Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio in 2011. She is also certified by the ABP in pediatrics.
Driscoll pediatric cardiologist recognized as distinguished alumnus at Louisiana Tech University
February 17, 2014
CORPUS CHRISTI - Driscoll pediatric cardiologist Brandon Lane Phillips, MD, FAAP, FACC, was recently recognized by The College of Engineering and Science at Louisiana Tech University as one of 14 of their 2014 Distinguished Alumni. Chosen alumni have distinguished themselves during their careers and in service to the university.
Dr. Phillips joined Driscoll in 2012 and is certified by the American Board of Pediatrics. In 2010, Dr. Phillips completed a fellowship in pediatric cardiology at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. His clinical interests include non-invasive imaging, outpatient cardiology and adult congenital cardiology.
Mayoral proclamation will be read at Driscoll Children's Hospital for Congenital Heart Defect Awareness
February 13, 2014
CORPUS CHRISTI - The week of Feb. 10-14 is recognized in the US as Congenital Heart Defect (CHD) Awareness Week (see www.tchin.org/aware/). In an effort to bring awareness to the community, Driscoll Children's Hospital has arranged for Corpus Christi Mayor Pro Tem Chad Magill to proclaim Feb. 14 Congenital Heart Defect Awareness Day. The proclamation will be read at Driscoll Children's Hospital in the Auditorium at 3 p.m. during a CHD celebration for hospital staff.
What: Mayoral proclamation for Congenital Heart Defect Awareness Day
When: 3 p.m. Feb. 14
Where: Driscoll Children's Hospital (Auditorium - 1st floor) 3533 S. Alameda Corpus Christi, TX 78411.