DCH News

Driscoll cancer patients prove they have the 'right stuff'

August 14, 2013
Rhianna Brizuela's
Rhianna Brizuela's "survivor" necklace is a source of pride for the 4-year-old.
Warrior-themed event planned Sept. 7 for Childhood Cancer Awareness Month

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:

Rhianna Brizuela
4 years old
Laredo

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.

Sara Cavazos
7 years old
McAllen

Sara Cavazos
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."

Matthew Garza
6 years old
Bishop

Matthew Garza
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.

MORE NEWS

Driscoll Health Plan educates expectant mothers through baby showers

August 22, 2014
DSC_0104
The Driscoll Health Plan hosts baby showers for more than 6,000 South Texas women each year, but these baby showers are more educational than your traditional family gathering. The Cadena de Madres Program - also known as Network of Mothers - provides monthly prenatal educational baby showers for expectant mothers in the Nueces and Hidalgo service areas.

The Coastal Bend March of Dimes Program Services Committee recently awarded Driscoll Health Plan a Community Awards program grant for $2,584.74 to purchase materials for the Cadena de Madres program's baby showers. The materials purchased with these funds will introduce and explain maternal child health topics such as infant brain development, staying healthy before and during pregnancy and what to expect after having a baby.

The baby showers are presented in three sessions and cover the following topics:
Learning how to make healthy choices during their pregnancy and recognizing the negative impact of smoking, alcohol and drugs on their health and their developing baby.
Understanding the advantages of prenatal care and understanding the complications that may occur during their pregnancy.
Learning to recognize signs of preterm labor, early labor signs and understand when medical intervention is needed.

"This is a wonderful community program that empowers pregnant women and their families to have healthier babies," Driscoll Health Plan CEO and President Mary Dale Peterson, MD said. "Since the inception, this program has reduced preterm birth rates by 34 percent. This is our goal - creating healthy communities."

The program was created to decrease the percentage of premature births. It aims to change behaviors through education provided during prenatal baby showers.

The program, which started in 2006, is for all pregnant women who reside in the following counties: Aransas, Bee, Cameron, Hidalgo, Jim Hogg, Jim Wells, Kleberg, Nueces, San Patricio, Starr, Victoria, Webb, Willacy and Zapata.

Pair of Driscoll physicians makes prestigious Texas Monthly list

August 22, 2014
Driscoll Children's Hospital physicians Amy Becker, MD, and Jon Roberts, MD, FCCP, were featured in the July issue of Texas Monthly in its list of Texas Super Doctors: Rising Stars Edition 2014. The publishers of Texas Monthly and MSP Communications released the list of Texas Rising Stars, calling them "the physicians who are trusted and sought out by colleagues for medical care." The doctors were selected by their peers and verified by the Key Professional Media research staff.

Dr. Becker and Dr. Roberts both joined Driscoll Children's Hospital three years ago. Dr. Becker is a pediatric nephrologist and is certified in general pediatrics and pediatric nephrology by the American Board of Pediatrics. Dr. Roberts, who also is certified by the American Board of Pediatrics, is a pediatric pulmonologist.

MSP Communications asked more than 40,000 medical professionals in the state to nominate doctors they would choose when seeking medical care for themselves. The research team identified newer doctors who have been fully licensed for 10 years or less. Only 2.5 percent of all active Texas physicians are selected to the Texas Rising Stars list.

Craniofacial surgeon Vanessa Dimas joins hospital

August 22, 2014
Vanessa Dimas-7448-Edit
Vanessa Dimas, MD, has joined Driscoll Children's Hospital as a craniofacial surgeon. Dr. Dimas completed a fellowship at The Craniofacial Center in Dallas. She graduated from Texas State University and received her medical degree from the University of Texas Medical Branch where she also completed a residency in Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery. Dr. Dimas is fluent in both English and Spanish.

Frank Moreida certified as Sports Medicine Specialist

August 22, 2014
Frank Moreida
Frank Moreida, a physical therapist in Driscoll Children's Hospital's Rehabilitation Services Department, was certified as a Sports Medicine Specialist by the American Board of Physical Therapy Specialists (ABPTS) recently. Moreida also achieved the Orthopedic Specialty from the ABPTS in 2012. Moreida has been a physical therapist for 15 years, including four at Driscoll Children's Hospital. Moreida, a former high school teacher and coach, is using his expertise to help rehabilitate young athletes in the hospital's sports medicine program.

Dr. Gulbronson joins Driscoll as developmental and behavioral pediatrician

August 21, 2014
Maricela Gulbronson

Maricela Dominguez Gulbronson, MD, FAAP, has joined Driscoll Children's Hospital as a developmental and behavioral pediatrician. Dr. Gulbronson comes from Developmental-Behavioral Pediatric of the Carolinas in Concord, N.C., where she was the medical director since 2010. She is board-certified in both General Pediatrics and Development Pediatrics. In 2004, Dr. Gulbronson was selected to Consumers' Research Council's America's Top Pediatricians, and in 2013 she earned U.S. News and World Report's Top Doctor honors. She attended Rice University and received her medical degree from the University of Texas Houston Medical School in 1995. Dr. Gulbronson, who grew up in Laredo, did her pediatric residency at the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio and completed a developmental-behavioral pediatric fellowship at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill.

Roxana Reyna de Driscoll fue honrada por el Condado de Nueces

July 10, 2014
 El 9 de Julio presente, acompañada por el Presidente y CEO del Hospital Pediátrico Driscoll, Steve Woerner, y la Vicepresidente Asistente de Servicios de Cuidado de pacientes, Patricia Carr, Roxana Reyna aceptó una resolución del juez de Nueces County, Loyd Neal (centro). También se encontraban presente para la presentación los Comisionados del Condado (de izquierda): Mike Pusley, Oscar Ortiz, Joe McComb y Joe A. Gonzalez.
El 9 de Julio presente, acompañada por el Presidente y CEO del Hospital Pediátrico Driscoll, Steve Woerner, y la Vicepresidente Asistente de Servicios de Cuidado de pacientes, Patricia Carr, Roxana Reyna aceptó una resolución del juez de Nueces County, Loyd Neal (centro). También se encontraban presente para la presentación los Comisionados del Condado (de izquierda): Mike Pusley, Oscar Ortiz, Joe McComb y Joe A. Gonzalez.
El Miércoles, la enfermera del Hospital Pediátrico Driscoll, Roxana Reyna, recibió una resolución de la corte de Comisionados del Condado de Nueces como "celebración de su creatividad e ingenio".

Reyna, quien es un especialista en cuidado de piel y heridas, es parte del programa MakerNurse y debido a su uso creativo de cinta adhesiva, mantas, vendajes para adultos en usos pediátricos y otras innovaciones para los pacientes han impactado positivamente las vidas de niños y las vidas de sus padres. Esa creatividad también le valió un viaje a la Casa blanca el mes pasado para participar en la "Feria Maker" de la Casa Blanca. El Hospital Pediátrico Driscoll es uno de sólo cinco hospitales y el único hospital de niños elegido como un sitio de expedición de MakerNurse.

La proclamación del Tribunal de Comisionados del Condado, en parte, lee: "Se resuelve que la corte de Comisionados del Condado de Nueces por la presente reconoce Roxana Reyna, Maker del 2014 de acuerdo a la selección del Presidente de los Estados Unidos y exhorta a los ciudadanos del Condado de Nueces a unirse a la corte felicitando a Roxana Reyna por su dedicación y espíritu innovador que sin duda ha cambiado vidas y seguirá impactando a los niños y padres positivamente en todo el Sur de Texas."

Steve Woerner, Presidente y CEO del Hospital Pediátrico Driscoll, y la Vicepresidente Asistente de Servicios de Cuidado de pacientes, Patricia Carr, también estuvieron presentes apoyando a Reyna al recibo de la resolución.

"Es un honor aceptar esto en nombre de todos los médicos, enfermeras y personal del Hospital Pediátrico Driscoll, quienes continúan manteniendo la visión de Clara Driscoll ofreciendo esperanza y curación a los niños del Sur de Texas,", dijo Reyna.

Driscoll's Roxana Reyna honored by Nueces County

July 09, 2014
Roxana Reyna accepts a resolution from Nueces County Judge Loyd Neal (middle) on July 9 as Driscoll Children's Hospital President and CEO Steve Woerner and Assistant Vice President of Patient Care Services Patricia Carr look on. Also on hand for the presentation were County Commissioners (from left): Mike Pusley, Oscar Ortiz, Joe McComb and Joe A. Gonzalez.
Roxana Reyna accepts a resolution from Nueces County Judge Loyd Neal (middle) on July 9 as Driscoll Children's Hospital President and CEO Steve Woerner and Assistant Vice President of Patient Care Services Patricia Carr look on. Also on hand for the presentation were County Commissioners (from left): Mike Pusley, Oscar Ortiz, Joe McComb and Joe A. Gonzalez.
Driscoll Children's Hospital nurse Roxana Reyna was given a resolution from the Nueces County Commissioners Court on Wednesday as a "celebration of her creativity and resourcefulness."

Reyna, who is a skin and wound specialist, is part of the MakerNurse program because of her creative use of tape, blankets, adult wound dressings for pediatric uses and other innovations at the bedside that have positively impacted children's lives and the lives of their parents. That creativity also earned her a trip to the White House last month to participate in the White House's Maker Faire. Driscoll Children's Hospital is one of just five hospitals and the only children's hospital to be chosen as a MakerNurse Expedition site.

The County Commissioners Court proclamation, in part, read: "Be it resolved that the Nueces County Commissioners Court hereby recognizes Roxana Reyna, a 2014 Maker as selected by the President of the United States, and urges citizens of Nueces County to join the Court in congratulating Roxana Reyna for her commitment and innovative spirit that has in no doubt changed lives and will continue to positively impact the children and parents all over South Texas."

Driscoll Children's Hospital President and CEO Steve Woerner and assistant vice president of Patient Care Services Patricia Carr also were on hand to help Reyna receive the resolution.

"It's an honor to accept this on behalf of all the doctors, nurses and staff at Driscoll Children's Hospital, who continue to keep Clara Driscoll's vision alive in offering hope and healing to the children of South Texas," Reyna said.

Driscoll Children's Hospital nurse Roxana Reyna an invited guest at the White House

June 18, 2014
Driscoll Children's Hospital skin and wound care specialist Roxana Reyna appeared at the White House on Wednesday for the White House Maker Faire.
Driscoll Children's Hospital skin and wound care specialist Roxana Reyna appeared at the White House on Wednesday for the White House Maker Faire.
WASHINGTON, D.C. - Driscoll Children's Hospital nurse Roxana Reyna is at the White House today for the White House Maker Faire. President Barack Obama and his staff invited innovators - what the White House calls "Makers" - from across the country for a visit to show off their creations.

Reyna, who is a skin and wound care specialist, is part of the MakerNurse program at Driscoll Children's Hospital, which is just one of five hospitals and the only children's hospital to be chosen as a MakerNurse Expedition site. The MakerNurse Initiative is an effort led by the Little Devices Lab at Massachusetts Institute of Technology with support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to honor the inventive spirit of nurses across America.

When leaders from the Little Devices Lab visited Driscoll Children's Hospital, they saw Reyna's creativity when she rolled up a blanket and held it together with tape to create positioning devices to better serve her patients in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. She also found different ways to use wound dressings - usually made for adults - on pediatric patients.

"The inventions start at the bedside, because the need is always at the bedside first," Reyna said. "If you took a person that sits behind a desk and doesn't have that clinical experience of the bedside, then they may not be able to find the right way to apply their product. As nurses, we have that bedside experience, and we know exactly what we need, and we're able to create our own products that can have an impact on these kids' lives and the lives of their parents."

Reyna was chosen after the MakerNurse program submitted her name to the White House. She will show off some of her bedside creations along with Kelly Reilly, a nurse from Maimonides Medical Center in Brooklyn, N.Y.



"We can find Makers everywhere in our community, and these are just some examples of that," said Dale Dougherty, CEO of Maker Media. "Makers themselves can be as varied as their interests. They may be found in a number of different occupations from artists and designers, to engineers and computer scientists, educators, crafters and mechanics. What's true of all Makers is that what they do opens new doors and often leads to new relationships and unexpected opportunities."

Rockport-Fulton's cancer survivor earns scholarship from the Auxiliary to Driscoll Children's Hospital

June 16, 2014
Denali Huff, 18, 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.
Denali Huff, 18, 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.


As a volunteer at Driscoll Children's Hospital, Denali Huff did everything she could to help in the oncology department. Three years later, Huff relied on everyone in the oncology department to help her.

In December of her senior year, the Rockport-Fulton High School student experienced awful stomach pains. At home, lying in her bed wracked in pain, Huff pulled up her shirt and was shocked to see massive lumps protruding from her abdomen. Her mom immediately took her to Driscoll Children's Hospital where a sonogram revealed two ovarian cysts, including one that was more than 6 1/2 inches in diameter. When the cysts were removed, doctors found them to be cancerous. That meant two months of grueling chemotherapy.

Last week, a cancer-free Denali walked the stage at Rockport-Fulton's football stadium and received her diploma. Now, she's headed to college thanks in part to the Auxiliary to Driscoll Children's Hospital's Marcia K. Wilcox Scholarship Award. Denali and Van Vleck High School graduate Andrew Laury, who attended Calallen Middle School, 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 had a reception to honor all the scholarship recipients in the Residents Conference Room at the hospital.

"This scholarship means a lot to me," Denali said. "I've always wanted to go to college, but it's really expensive. Most of the money my parents saved up for college was spent on medical bills for my hospital stays and cancer treatments. I was so afraid I wouldn't be able to afford college because of this, so when I found out I was being given this scholarship, I felt so honored and relieved at the same time."

Denali already has been accepted into multiple colleges, but she's still trying to decide which one will be best for her dance career. Denali started dancing when she was six years old and evolved into an award-winning dancer. She credits dancing into helping her get through those arduous chemotherapy treatments. She started treatments in January and set a goal to be able to compete in the Revelation Dance Competition in April in Kyle. Three weeks after receiving her final chemotherapy treatment, Denali not only competed, she danced well enough to win an award for her solo dance.

"Thinking about dance is what kept me looking forward the whole time," said Denali, who competed in a wig to mask one of the side effects of chemotherapy. "I had that goal that I was going to compete as soon as I was finished with my treatment. No matter how bad I felt or how rough the treatments got, I kept that goal in my head, and it helped me get going every day."

With cancer behind her, the 18-year-old is ready to head off to college this fall and see where her love of dance will take her.

"I can't wait to see what's next," Denali said. "As long as I'm dancing, I'll be happy, and I'll know that Driscoll helped me get to that point."

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

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.
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