DCH News

Driscoll nurse cares for babies where she was once a tiny patient

October 07, 2013
Christianna
Christianna "Chris" Donald, 25, cares for an infant in Driscoll Children's Hospital's neonatal intensive care unit, where she was treated as a newborn.
Chris Donald's story is third in Driscoll Children's Hospital's 60th anniversary series

CORPUS CHRISTI - In the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) at Driscoll Children's Hospital, tiny babies sleep tranquilly in incubators amid the occasional whispers of nurses and the faint beeps and hums of medical equipment. Infants from all over South Texas are brought here to be treated for disease, injury, complications due to premature birth and numerous other maladies.

With gloved hands, registered nurse Christianna "Chris" Donald gently adjusts a tube connected to a boy less than a month old from the Rio Grande Valley. He was born with congenital heart defects, and Donald has a special bond with him. As a newborn nearly 26 years ago, she was a patient in this same unit for the same reason.

"He's going to have the exact same surgeries I had," she said.

Donald was admitted to Driscoll's NICU within 24 hours of being born, she said. One of her lungs kept collapsing and tubes called catheters had to be inserted into her chest. Her heart was missing two heart valves and a one ventricle - conditions that required surgery. (Ventricles are chambers on each side of the heart that receive blood and force it into the arteries.) Donald underwent three open heart surgeries by age 4; two were performed at Driscoll and one in Minnesota.

Although she recovered successfully, Donald's condition meant she would need medical attention for the rest of her life. She was 12 years old the last time she was a patient at Driscoll, she said, and she remains under the care of a cardiologist.

Her surgeries at such a young age naturally worried Donald's parents. Her mother became close to her doctors and nurses at Driscoll and remembers their names to this day. So it didn't surprise Donald when her mother gave her a list of nurses to look for when she started working at Driscoll in August 2012.

"My family liked Driscoll's nurses the best," she said. "They were the most genuine."

One of the people who treated Donald at Driscoll 25 years ago, cardiologist Billy Rios, MD, continues to be a positive influence in her life. Dr. Rios, who still practices at Driscoll, was her cardiologist until just a few months ago.

"First I wanted to be a pediatric cardiologist because I wanted to be just like him," Donald said. "I send him Christmas cards every year."

Many letters, photos and cards from current and former patients are displayed along a wall in Dr. Rios' office. He pointed out several mementos from Donald that range from when she was a baby to when she graduated from college.

"I treat all my patients as if they were my own," Dr. Rios said. "I'm very proud of Chris and all she's accomplished. She never gave up. I've watched her grow up, through different stages, and she was always in good spirits, always asking questions and wanting to learn everything she could. Nothing was going to deter her from accomplishing her goals."

Donald ultimately decided to pursue nursing, graduating from Texas Tech University in 2010. She began working in a NICU in Lubbock shortly afterward. But it was when she returned to Driscoll's NICU as a nurse that she felt her life had come full circle.

"I understand the parents' fears now," she said. "I feel for them. I want to give their child the best care I can because nurses can make an impact, like they did in my life."

Giving children and families hope is important to Donald too. She has volunteered at Camp Hearty, a summer camp for children with congenital heart defects that Driscoll sponsors annually in Rockport,
and she often offers support to families in the NICU.

"Chris has an outstanding ability to connect with the babies and families in the NICU," said Ana Olivera-Hamm, a chaplain at Driscoll Children's Hospital and Donald's friend. "Not only is she a NICU survivor and graduate, but a conqueror. Only God could have ordained her healing and her calling to become a healer herself."

Donald is as healthy as she is happy. She hasn't had any major complications from her heart condition, and a daily dose of blood pressure medication is one of the few reminders of her ordeal. She has even backpacked across Alaska with her parents, where they now live, she said. And, with a husband who is in pharmacy school, she is focused on the future and having children.
Nevertheless, she doesn't take her good health for granted.

"All my life I've been given a finite number of years to live - maybe 12 years, maybe more," Donald said. "Now I'm told I'll probably have a normal lifespan. You either get devastated because your life may be short or you make the best of it. It's in God's hands."

This is the third in a series of stories about extraordinary patients that Driscoll Children's Hospital is sharing throughout 2013 as part of its 60th anniversary celebration.


MORE NEWS

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.

Radiology Department earns ACR Accreditation

November 05, 2014
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Driscoll Children's Hospital's Radiology Department has been awarded a three-year term of accreditation in magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) as the result of a recent review by the American College of Radiology (ACR). MRI is a noninvasive medical test that utilizes magnetic fields to produce anatomical images of internal body parts to help physicians diagnose and treat medical conditions.

The ACR gold seal of accreditation represents the highest level of image quality and patient safety. It is awarded only to facilities meeting ACR Practice Guidelines and Technical Standards after a peer-review evaluation by board-certified physicians and medical physicists who are experts in the field. Image quality, personnel qualifications, adequacy of facility equipment, quality control procedures, and quality assurance programs are assessed. The findings are reported to the ACR Committee on Accreditation, which subsequently provides the practice with a comprehensive report they can use for continuous practice improvement.

The ACR is a national professional organization serving more than 36,000 diagnostic/interventional radiologists, radiation oncologists, nuclear medicine physicians, and medical physicists with programs focusing on the practice of medical imaging and radiation oncology and the delivery of comprehensive health care services.

Once-fragile preemies and their families reconnect with Driscoll staff at NICU Reunion

October 13, 2014
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Infants in Driscoll Children's Hospital's Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) usually are there during the most fragile time in their lives. Patients and their families can spend months in the hospital, so it's no surprise that strong bonds often form with NICU physicians, nurses and other caregivers. Because of those relationships, Driscoll Children's Hospital has the NICU Reunion each fall to give everyone a chance to reconnect and celebrate the lives of the babies who have grown into children and adults.

"The NICU Reunion is a great opportunity for our patients, families and staff to keep in touch with each other," said Patricia Carr, Driscoll's assistant vice president of Patient Care Services. "It is a real joy to watch the growth and development of our children as they progress each year. Some of our patients who are now adults bring their own children to share in the event."

At the fall festival-themed celebration, Driscoll staff members who have cared for NICU patients over the years caught up with more than 150 families, who were eager to share stories of their children's progress since their stay at Driscoll. NICU "graduates" enjoyed food, games, prizes and other goodies at the event.

Driscoll Children's Hospital's level III NICU cares for newborns and infants for a variety of reasons, including prematurity (carried less than 37 weeks), respiratory distress, infections, birth defects and other illnesses. Staffed by neonatologists 24 hours a day, seven days a week, the 52-bed NICU cares for premature and critically ill infants from 31 South Texas counties.

Hospital's patients to have signing for Christmas book they created

October 13, 2014
Allison Shaffer is a burgeoning young writer, but she already knows the key to being a great author - create stories that come from personal experience. That's what the 17-year-old former Driscoll Children's Hospital patient did when she wrote "Tiny, The Small Christmas Tree," a Christmas book written by Shaffer and illustrated by 10 different Driscoll patients.

Shaffer and the young illustrators will have a book signing at 3 p.m. Monday, Oct. 13 at Driscoll Children's Hospital. The book is on sale for $5 at the hospital's Carousel Gift Shop and through Driscoll's web site (www.driscollchildrens.org) with proceeds going to the Auxiliary to Driscoll Children's Hospital.

Allison is a second-born twin, who weighed just two pounds at birth and spent the first 63 days of her life in the Driscoll Children's Hospital Neonatal Intensive-Care Unit. At four years old, Allison was diagnosed with mild cerebral palsy, which mainly affects her left leg. She had surgeries at ages 4 and 13 to help her walk more normally.

"After the surgeries, she had to learn to walk again, basically," said Wendy Shaffer, Allison's mother. "She's been a trooper through it all."

"Tiny, The Small Christmas Tree," is a story with which Allison can relate. In the book, Allison writes of an abnormally small Christmas tree that none of the children want to play around. Eventually the tree adapts and uses its strengths to become just as popular as the other Christmas trees.

"I came up with the story when I was a kid," Allison said. "I really was kind of a loner in a way, so I drew back on personal experience as a child. I thought back to when I was a kindergartner and I went from there. Once I got into writing mode, it really just took me one night to write it. The story just came easily to me."

Like the story's Tiny, Allison has conquered the mental aspect of her disease.

"I'm very blessed to have mild cerebral palsy," said Allison, whose family moved away from Corpus Christi when she was four and is currently a junior at College Station's A&M Consolidated High School. "I have to work a little harder than other kids. I have to do stretches and things like that to keep my legs relaxed and flexible so I'm able to walk more normally, but it all has strengthened my pride and made me tougher. I don't look at this as being a curse at all. I wouldn't change anything. It's all been a blessing."

Allison is a confident young lady, who already is working on writing a novel. However, she admits to being nervous about being the center of attention at her first book signing.

"I'm very nervous, but very excited that I get to do that," Allison said. "It means a lot to be able to do something like this for Driscoll Children's Hospital, which has helped me so much since I was a baby.

TINY, THE SMALL CHRISTMAS TREE'S ILLUSTRATORS
Brooke Hester, 7, Corpus Christi
Jonah Vargas, 5, Corpus Christi
Claribel Garcia, 6, Corpus Christi
Maden Rivera, 3, Corpus Christi
Kendra Amy, 3, Corpus Christi
Vivian Wrinkle, 6, Corpus Christi
Joshua Miller, 4, Robstown
Gianna Veliz, 6, Odem
Enrique Garcia, 12, Corpus Christi
Sean Hoover, 12, Austin

Driscoll Health Plan educates expectant mothers through baby showers

August 22, 2014
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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
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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.