DCH News

Three Driscoll physicians included on Top Doctors list

February 21, 2013
Samhar Al-Akash, MD, Stephen Almond, MD and Jaime Fergie, MD
Samhar Al-Akash, MD, Stephen Almond, MD and Jaime Fergie, MD
CORPUS CHRISTI - Three Driscoll Children's Hospital physicians have been included on U.S. News & World Report's list of Top Doctors. Samhar Al-Akash, MD, Stephen Almond, MD and Jaime Fergie, MD were nominated by fellow physicians to be on the list (http://health.usnews.com/top-doctors), which is designed to be a reliable resource for patients and referring physicians.

"First, we want to help consumers find the doctors who can best address their needs," the U.S. News website states. "Second, we want to enlist doctors across the country in sharing their awareness of who among their peers are the most worthy of referral."

Physicians on the Top Doctors list are identified by name, location, hospital affiliation and specialty. Specialties span more than 2,000 diseases, medical issues and procedures.

"I think inclusion on the list is a big positive for Driscoll Children's Hospital as well as myself," said Dr. Almond, a pediatric surgeon who, with Dr. Al-Akash and others, helped launch Driscoll's Kidney Transplant Program in 2007. More than 60 kidney transplants have since been performed at Driscoll.

"It's a reflection of the hospital's administration and governing board because they had the foresight to start the transplant program."

U.S. News determines which physicians qualify as Top Doctors in collaboration with New York City-based Castle Connolly Medical Ltd. Physicians are chosen based on nominations from other doctors and reviews by Castle Connolly's physician-led research team. Any physician may nominate one or more peers, but doctors can't nominate themselves. Physicians can't pay U.S. News or Castle Connolly to be selected as Top Doctors. Hospitals or group practices also can't pay to have their doctors selected.

"It's an honor to be included on this list," said Dr. Fergie, Driscoll's director of Infectious Diseases. "I'm grateful to my colleagues who nominated me and to all those who have supported the research program in Infectious Diseases at Driscoll Children's Hospital. This encourages me to continue serving the children of South Texas."

Nurses and doctors have forever changed our lives

February 20, 2013
Jailynn was born with a life-threatening heart condition known as pulmonary stenosis. Hours after her birth, she was flown to Driscoll Children's Hospital, where she had her first open-heart surgery at 4 days old. We met the most wonderful nurses and doctors who have forever changed our lives by saving our little miracle! Jailynn has had a total of three open heart surgeries at Driscoll and several heart catheterizations, including a melody valve placement, a fairly new procedure that has helped save her life! We are forever grateful!

Submitted by: Denisse and Juan, Edinburg, TX

I am a survivor of cancer. It can be beat.

February 20, 2013
My name is Katie. I am 29 years old and have been in remission since I was 9. I was diagnosed when I was 7 years old and went through two years of chemotherapy and treatment. I was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL), which if I remember correctly, was the most treatable. We lived about an hour and a half away from Driscoll but I remember the drives to the hospital for the overnight stays for chemotherapy. I absolutely loved my activity director who made the stays so much easier. I got to be on the news and meet Joe Gazin, which was a highlight for me at that age! I don't know really know what else to say except hope and pray. I am a mother now of a 4-year-old beautiful little girl. I am a survivor of cancer. It can be beat.

Submitted by: Katie, Tyler, TX

Thanks to those angels who took care of my miracle baby

February 20, 2013
Adam was a 24-week baby who had to be born on December 30, 2007, with a weight of 1 pound and 14 ounces; his due date was April 11, 2008. He was admitted to Driscoll four days after he was born due to a surgery he needed in his heart, a patent ductus arteriosus (PDA) closure, but he also had a brain hemorrhage level four. There was a good chance that he wasn't going to be able to walk, talk or eat by himself. It was also a possibility that he was going to be blind and have cerebral palsy.

After seven surgeries, and to this day, he walks and eats by himself and he is not blind. He does have a developmental delay, but he has achieved a lot since his discharge from Driscoll in May 2008. Thanks to all those angels who took care of my baby. He is now 5 years old and he is very smart. He is my miracle baby, and Driscoll Children's Hospital is an expert in caring for all their little miracles.

Submitted by: Teresa, Brownsville, TX

Driscoll celebrates its 60th anniversary with a party for patients

February 20, 2013
CORPUS CHRISTI - The first of several events planned to commemorate Driscoll Children's Hospital's 60th anniversary will be held tomorrow, and the invitees are the most important people in the Driscoll family: our patients.

"We thought, what better way to celebrate Driscoll's anniversary than to throw a party for our patients?," said Karen Long, Driscoll vice president of Patient Care Services and Chief Patient Care Officer. "The children of South Texas are the reason Driscoll Children's Hospital was created 60 years ago and they're the reason we're here today. They deserve to have some fun."

Tomorrow's event will have the feel of a giant birthday party, with children enjoying music, games, a magic show and face painting. A photo booth will be available for keepsake photos and patients will be able to make their own party hats. Birthday-themed treats will be offered to party-goers, including a cake.

Driscoll Children's Hospital was dedicated on February 22, 1953 and had 25 beds. It's now a 189-bed facility that serves patients from 31 counties and 33,000 square miles of South Texas. Throughout 2013, Driscoll's website will feature special patient stories, videos of anniversary wishes and the hospital's historical timeline. The web address is www.driscollchildrens.org.

What: Driscoll Children's Hospital's 60th anniversary party for patients
When: 2 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 21
Where: Driscoll Children's Hospital auditorium, 3533 S. Alameda St.

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 aims to increase awareness of congenital heart defects

February 13, 2013
Mayoral proclamation, celebration for cardiology patients and families scheduled

CORPUS CHRISTI - While many people associate February with romance and Valentine's Day, Driscoll Children's Hospital hopes to increase awareness of congenital heart defects in the community. In conjunction with Congenital Heart Defect Awareness Week, Feb. 7-14 (see www.tchin.org/aware/), Corpus Christi Mayor Nelda Martinez will declare Feb. 14 Congenital Heart Defect Awareness Day when she reads a proclamation at Driscoll Children's Hospital that day. A celebration for staff will also be held Feb. 14 during which Driscoll Health System - Pediatric Cardiology and the department's services will be highlighted. In addition, Driscoll's cardiology patients and their families are being invited to a Congenital Heart Disease Awareness Celebration Feb. 16 at the Corpus Christi Museum of Science and History that will include games, activities and refreshments.

"We want to recognize the thousands of people born with heart defects, remember loved ones who've lost their battle with congenital heart defects and honor the dedicated health professionals who work with them," said Laura Esparza, MS, LBW, social worker at Driscoll Children's Hospital.

Each year, cardiologists at Driscoll and its South Texas clinics see about 7,200 children for heart-related issues, Esparza said. Some of the patients need heart surgery and some are treated using delicate and less invasive procedures. Hundreds of cardiac catheterizations and heart surgeries are performed each year at Driscoll Children's Hospital.

Heart birth defects (congenital heart defects) occur in about 1 of every 100 infants born throughout the world, making it one of the most common birth defects, according to John Brownlee, MD, medical director at Driscoll Health System - Pediatric Cardiology. About 1 of every 1,000 infants and children will require surgery or some other intervention to correct or lessen the effects of a defect, Dr. Brownlee said. Fifty years ago, nearly every child with a major heart birth defect died very young, he said, but in the last 20 years, surgical and interventional techniques have been developed to help almost all of these children. Through early identification and planning by cardiovascular teams at Driscoll, children born with heart defects in South Texas have a good chance of living a comfortable, nearly normal life, Dr. Brownlee added.

What: Mayoral proclamation - Congenital Heart Defect Awareness Day
When: 2 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 14
Where: Driscoll Children's Hospital auditorium, 3533 S. Alameda St.

What: Congenital Heart Disease Awareness Celebration
When: 6 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 16
Where: Corpus Christi Museum of Science and History, 1900 N. Chaparral St.

With expansion comes new Laredo office for Driscoll Health Plan

February 13, 2013
LAREDO - Laredo Mayor Raul Salinas and representatives from the Laredo Chamber of Commerce will join officials from Driscoll Health Plan (DHP) tomorrow as they celebrate the opening of their new Laredo office at 1705 Del Mar Blvd.

The 1,245-square-foot office will be used by DHP to conduct provider relations, community outreach and, later, social work. It is the result of DHP's 2012 expansion into the Hidalgo Service Delivery Area (SDA), which includes the counties of Cameron, Duval, Hidalgo, Jim Hogg, Maverick, McMullen, Starr, Webb, Willacy and Zapata. DHP currently has more than 50,200 members in the Hidalgo SDA.

"We are pleased to have an office in Laredo for our staff as well as a place for healthcare providers to meet with us," said Mary Dale Peterson, MD, MSHCA, chief executive officer of DHP. "The physicians of Laredo have been wonderful to work with. These bricks and mortar are just another example of Driscoll Health Plan's commitment to this area."

DHP is one of four plans that were awarded a Medicaid managed-care contract in South Texas by the Texas Health and Human Services Commission. It's available to the approximately 400,000 Medicaid-eligible people in the Hidalgo SDA. For more information about DHP, go to www.driscollhealthplan.com or call 855-425-3247.

What: Ribbon-cutting for Driscoll Health Plan's Laredo office
When: 12:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 14
Where: 1705 Del Mar Blvd., Suite A119, Laredo

Ward is new vice president of Finance at Driscoll

February 11, 2013
Ward
Ward
CORPUS CHRISTI - Greg Ward has joined Driscoll Children's Hospital as vice president of Finance. Ward has more than 15 years of healthcare accounting and finance experience and most recently served as chief financial officer and vice president of Operations at Carlinville Area Hospital in Carlinville, Ill. A certified public accountant, he holds a master's degree in business administration from Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill. and a bachelor's degree in accounting from Illinois State University in Bloomington-Normal.

Fiesta de los Niños, Driscoll's largest annual fundraiser, kicks off Friday night

February 07, 2013
WHAT: The American Bank Center exhibit hall will be packed tomorrow for the 21st annual Fiesta de los Niños, presented by title sponsor Flint Hills Resources. The ever-popular event will feature silent and live auctions, a barbecue dinner and dancing to live entertainment by country music star Johnny Lee, singer of the 1980 hit, "Lookin' For Love." Proceeds will go toward several key specialty areas at Driscoll Children's Hospital, including the Rehabilitation Services Department, Radiology Department and Driscoll Health System - Pediatric Cardiology.

WHEN: 6:30-11:30 p.m. Friday, Feb. 8

WHERE: American Bank Center exhibit hall, 1901 N. Shoreline Blvd., Corpus Christi