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Brownsville family's fighting spirit aiding boy battling cancer
June 13, 2011
CORPUS CHRISTI - Ada Escobedo will never forget the date: Dec. 15, 2010. That's when, half in shock, she drove her 8-year-old son, Matthew Carroll, from their home in Brownsville to Driscoll Children's Hospital in Corpus Christi to have a tumor checked out in his left leg. They had just seen an orthopedic specialist in Brownsville who recommended she take him there.
Matthew Carroll, 8, of Brownsville, is battling osteosarcoma, a cancer that caused him to lose his left leg from the knee down.
"We drove there the same day," Escobedo said. "At Driscoll they took blood tests, X-rays and did a biopsy. That's when they told us it was a malignant tumor and he needed to start on chemotherapy treatments. It was just really quick. It was a really sad Christmas for us."
For about two weeks before Dec. 15, Matthew and his family thought he had sprained his ankle while playing football at school. He complained about lingering pain after some friends fell on top of him. The first doctor they went to thought it was a normal sports injury that would go away, Escobedo said. Another doctor diagnosed it as a sprain or fracture.
At Driscoll Children's Hospital, it was found that Matthew actually had osteosarcoma, a malignant tumor of the bone. It is the most common type of bone tumor in children, with 150 to 200 new cases diagnosed per year, said hematologist/oncologist Nkechi Mba, M.D., one of Matthew's physicians at Driscoll.
"We see on average 2 to 3 new patients with osteosarcoma each year at Driscoll," Dr. Mba said.
Despite the diagnosis and her son's chemotherapy treatments, which often made him sick, Escobedo stayed strong for her family.
"I didn't have time to cry," she said. "We just started fighting. It's been like one fight after another against the cancer."
As bad as the news was for Matthew and his family, it got worse. After three months of chemotherapy treatments, the cancer was spreading rapidly up his left leg. The decision was made that he would have to lose the leg. It was amputated from the knee down in March 2011.
"That was really, really hurtful," Escobedo said. "But we knew we had to do it because we had no other way. If he wouldn't have lost his leg he wouldn't be with us."
Depending on the location of the tumor, amputation is one of the surgical options for patients with osteosarcoma, Dr. Mba said.
Escobedo said Matthew is doing better now after the amputation and that his cancer is almost gone. He comes to Driscoll regularly for weeks at a time for chemotherapy treatments. Because it's difficult for Escobedo to take off work frequently, Matthew usually rides a bus with his grandfather from Brownsville to Corpus Christi. His grandfather, José Barrón, stays at the Ronald McDonald House next to Driscoll when he isn't at Matthew's bedside.
"The Ronald McDonald House has been like my home," said Barrón, who considers Matthew a son.
Matthew also receives care at Driscoll Children's Specialty Center - Brownsville. Escobedo takes him there for occasional check-ups, blood work and X-rays. Recently, when he was sick and had a fever, she took him to the clinic and was given antibiotics.
"It makes me feel safer that the clinic is right there," Escobedo said. "I have no words to express the gratitude I have for their care."
During a recent stay at Driscoll Children's Hospital, Matthew said although the chemotherapy makes him nauseous and vomit, he knows he needs it. Sitting on his hospital bed, he talked about what he misses in a shy, whispered voice.
"I miss going to school, playing sports and walking," he said. "I use crutches. They help me but it's not like really walking."
Matthew is normally an "A" honor roll student who loves school, Escobedo said, but because he has missed so much school, he will have to repeat the second grade through home-schooling when his chemotherapy is over. He currently has about nine weeks of chemotherapy treatments to go, Dr. Mba said.
Her son loves sports too, Escobedo said. Looking to the future, she isn't sure how Matthew will adjust to missing out on playing football and other sports with his friends.
"I don't think anybody can adjust to that," she said. "But we have God in our hearts. We're going to let him guide us the right way."
Fun, therapy combined in new park at Driscoll
May 20, 2011
CORPUS CHRISTI - The new Rehab Therapy Park at Driscoll Children's Hospital is a ton of fun for the children who use it. It's a colorful, outdoor playground with a wooden bridge, a merry-go-round, garden planters, an activity board and benches. There are even misting fans and shade canvases above. For Driscoll's physical, occupational and speech therapists, it's the perfect place to let their patients have fun while providing them individualized therapy.
"A team of therapists came together and thought about what we would need to complement what we already had in our Rehab Department," said Anna Cerda, P.T., outpatient rehabilitation manager. "The park was one idea. It simulates the community environment and gives the therapists additional tools to provide the best therapy possible."
The Rehab Therapy Park was constructed this year with $140,000 from community support. It's one of several new features that have greatly enhanced the rehabilitation therapy program at Driscoll, which currently serves about 2,500 children.
Almost everything in the park has a therapeutic purpose, Cerda said. The bridge is designed to be wobbly, which challenges children to use muscles in a way they may not be used to. The merry-go-round is used to help children who have movement disorders, decreased strength or difficulty with head control and range of motion.
Some of the features aren't obviously therapeutic. The surface is covered by playground-type rubber with cobblestone and flagstone paths. For children who use a wheelchair or special assistive device like a walker, the surfaces simulate what they may encounter in the community, Cerda said.
Herb garden planters built at three different heights allow children to kneel, stand or sit while gardening or watering the plants. What seem like easy activities can actually help them develop balance and coordination and improve body movement, Cerda said.
The speech activity board has rotating parts on which speech therapists place magnetic pictures, symbols and numbers. Therapists can help improve a child's vocabulary by playing match games, tic-tac-toe or simply creating a game with them.
"It's nice to do things with the speech activity board instead of sitting at a table with the child," said Leah Groves, speech language pathologist at Driscoll. "That's how children learn, by moving and doing things with their hands. It's just more interesting to them."
The park is often used as a reward for children when they need a little motivation to complete certain activities, Cerda said. It's available to any child in the community who is referred by their physician, she added.
Driscoll's rehab equipment and specialized, up-to-date technology allows its therapists to address any pediatric rehabilitation need.
"We're not an adult facility that sees children," said Susan Fields, director of the Rehabilitation Department. "We are specifically designed and equipped to work with children and adolescents of any age."
NOTE: This is the first in a series of press releases that will focus on Driscoll's new rehabilitation therapy equipment.
Families to share support, good times at Driscoll's annual Transplant Reunion
May 05, 2011
About 200 people expected at event Saturday at Texas State Aquarium
Brothers Dondi, 13 (left), and Mark Maldonado, 12, who have both had kidney transplants at Driscoll, plan to attend the annual Transplant Reunion with their family Saturday, May 7, at the Texas State Aquarium.
CORPUS CHRISTI - Coming in for blood tests at Driscoll Children's Hospital's Kidney Center is a routine affair for brothers Mark and Dondi Maldonado. The 12- and 13-year-old, who have both received kidney transplants at Driscoll, hang out in the waiting area, play with their younger siblings and joke around with their parents, Roger and Cindy Maldonado. It's a comfortable, happy scene compared to when the brothers were undergoing dialysis treatment before their transplants.
"It's hard when your children are going through something like that and they're in the hospital," Cindy Maldonado said. "It hurts you as a parent. Plus we have four other kids. Sometimes I felt like I was getting overwhelmed but I had to stay strong for my kids. The strength of my husband and the people at the hospital are what kept me going."
On Saturday, the Maldonado family will be joining other families of Driscoll kidney transplant patients at the Texas State Aquarium for the annual Transplant Reunion. The event is designed for patients and their families to enjoy some fun, food, games and fellowship.
Mark and Dondi Maldonado both have juvenile nephronophthisis, a childhood genetic kidney disease in which there is progressive destruction of the kidneys and eventual kidney failure. Mark had his transplant in 2008 and Dondi had his last November. They are among 41 children who have had kidney transplants at Driscoll Children's Hospital since 2007 and the second pair of siblings to have had the procedure at the hospital.
Cindy Maldonado said transplant families share a special bond and support each other through their experiences.
"I've met a lot of families here," she said of Driscoll's Kidney Center. "One family we became good friends with. We talk and make sure they're doing OK.
"The reunion is nice because everybody can come together," she added. "It also lets the kids know they're as normal as anyone else. They like to catch up with each other like the parents do."
Transplant Coordinator Anita Rosales expects about 200 people to attend this year's reunion. Large tents will be set up on the sprawling lawn in front of the Aquarium, a location that proved to be ideal for the event last year. Staging the reunion is rewarding for the staff at Driscoll's Kidney Center.
"Our transplant team enjoys putting this reunion together for our patients," Rosales said. "It is our way of celebrating them and their new gift. We look forward to seeing each and every one of them. Many of them live in the Rio Grande Valley and make the trip to the reunion because they enjoy the camaraderie and the activities so much."
Besides the other transplant families, Cindy Maldonado said the reunion will be a good chance for her family to visit with her sons' medical staff from Driscoll.
"I definitely feel like I have a bond with the staff - the nurses, Dr. (Samhar) Al-Akash and Anita (Rosales) especially. I feel like they care about people 100 percent."
- What: Driscoll Children's Hospital annual Transplant Reunion
- When: Noon Saturday, May 7
- Where: Texas State Aquarium
Rooms To Go will present check for $20,000 to Driscoll Children's Hospital
April 18, 2011
WHAT: Rooms To Go will donate a portion of the sales from their grand opening to Driscoll Children's Hospital in the form of a check for $20,000. The store, at 3901 S. Padre Island Drive, had its grand opening on March 26.
Martha St. Romain, vice president of Development at Driscoll, accepts a check from Gerry Raymond, Rooms To Go vice president of sales for Texas, and Brian Smolik, Rooms To Go store manager.
WHEN: 10 a.m. Tuesday, April 19
WHERE: Driscoll Children's Hospital main lobby, 3533 S. Alameda St.
Ribbon-cutting, open house to be held for new Cancer & Blood Disorders Center
April 07, 2011
- WHAT: A ribbon-cutting ceremony and open house will be held for Driscoll Children's Hospital's new, $2.7 million Cancer & Blood Disorders Center. Officials and physicians from Driscoll, as well as Councilman John Marez, will participate in the ceremony. The Center is 40 percent larger than the previous space and will allow Driscoll to serve the growing population of South Texas children who need specialized hematology and oncology services. More than 160 children are served at the Center annually, and more than 40 new cancer patients are diagnosed there each year.
- WHEN: 2 p.m. Friday, April 8
- WHERE: Driscoll Children's Hospital, 3533 S. Alameda St.
New Cancer & Blood Disorders Center is making life easier for patients and staff at Driscoll Children's Hospital
April 05, 2011
Driscoll President & CEO Steve Woerner visits with cancer patients Brooke Hester, 3, and Andrew Laury, 14, in the new, $2.7 million Cancer & Blood Disorders Center.
Ribbon-cutting ceremony and open house to be held April 8
CORPUS CHRISTI - A cancerous brain tumor sidelined Andrew Laury from the football games he loved playing so much at Calallen High School last year. Now, six months after his tumor was removed at Driscoll Children's Hospital, the 14-year-old is anxious to finish his chemotherapy treatments and get back on the field. He still has remnants of cancer on the right side of his brain.
"The cancer really slowed me down," Andrew said, lying in his hospital bed at Driscoll. "It took me out of school, and I don't see my family in Amarillo as much because I can't go far from the hospital. It makes you appreciate the smaller things in life, like birthdays. I missed my little cousin's birthday party. You don't realize how great they are until you miss them."
On April 8, Andrew plans to attend a ribbon-cutting ceremony and open house for the newly renovated and expanded Cancer and Blood Disorders Center at Driscoll, which was designed for patients just like him. The Center is 40 percent larger than the previous space and will allow Driscoll to serve the growing population of South Texas children who need specialized hematology and oncology services. More than 160 children are served at the Center annually, and more than 40 new cancer patients are diagnosed there each year.
Enhancements to the Center include a more child-friendly theme, additional exam and treatment rooms, TVs, interactive games and computer connectivity for patients who often spend hours there for treatment. The $2.7 million Center was funded in large part by community support. Almost 70 percent, or $1.8 million, of the total cost of the project was raised through fundraisers such as the annual Fiesta de los Niños.
The lobby is especially striking with track lighting, wood laminate flooring and multi-colored fish and bubbles on the wall. One wall contains a mesmerizing bubble tank in which the water seemingly changes colors with a lighting effect.
Cris Johnson, M.D., medical director of the Cancer and Blood Disorders Center, believes the Center is defined by all the professionals who are dedicated to the treatment of children with cancer.
"We are very lucky in a town of 300,000 to have a children's hospital," Dr. Johnson said.
"We are also blessed with people who are dedicated to children and have the knowledge necessary to care for and treat children with cancer. It is our team approach to care and the availability of multiple specialties and a dedicated ancillary staff that make it possible to treat Andrew and patients like him."
Andrew, whose treatment at Driscoll began before the new Center was completed, said he appreciates the comfortable recliners in the teen area and the Xbox video games. He also likes that the children's area is separated from the teen area.
"It's just real nice all around, from the bathrooms to the lobby," he said. "It's bright, up-to-date and peaceful. It shows how much Driscoll cares about their patients."
Dr. Johnson said light and spaciousness were priorities in the Center's design.
"We strove to get as much natural light as possible to as much of the clinic as possible. The (electric) lighting is also fantastic, and makes it easier to work. There is enough room for the staff to work without tripping over each other."
For Andrew's current phase of treatment, he receives chemotherapy drugs intravenously in the Cancer and Blood Disorders Center. He'll have to return to Driscoll regularly through June for the treatment. One of the side effects he's experiencing from past radiation treatment is neuropathy in his legs and feet. The nerves tingle and burn, he said, causing his legs to give out. He uses a walker to get around and takes medication to ease the pain.
With a grin of resilience, the former offensive and defensive tackle for the Calallen Wildcats is confident he'll tackle cancer.
"I'll be happy when the cancer's gone," Andrew said. "I can't wait to get back into life and school and sports."
- What: Ribbon-cutting ceremony and open house for the Cancer & Blood Disorders Center
- When: 2 p.m. Friday, April 8
- Where: Driscoll Children's Hospital, 3533 S. Alameda St.
Driscoll kidney patients go to Spurs game courtesy of generous donors
March 18, 2011
WHAT: Five Driscoll Children's Hospital kidney patients and their parents or guardians will gather and depart for a San Antonio Spurs game as part of a package purchased at this year's Fiesta de los Niños, one of Driscoll's largest annual fundraisers. Steve Johnson of JSJ Services, Inc. purchased the live auction package at Fiesta de los Niños and will be attending the game with the patients. Transportation will be provided by TLC The Limo Company. The Spurs tickets are provided by Julianne Hawn Holt and Peter Holt.
WHEN: 2:30 p.m. Saturday, March 19
WHERE: Driscoll Children's Hospital main lobby, 3533 S. Alameda St.
Students collect Easter toys, donate to Driscoll patients
March 15, 2011
McALLEN - The Auxiliary to Driscoll Children's Hospital at Driscoll Children's Medical Plaza - McAllen recently received a generous donation of 625 plush toys from Central Christian School to give to patients throughout the Easter holiday. The project was a collective effort of the students, administration and staff members at the school. Under the direction of teacher Tina Coddington, students donated money to a fund drive to help buy stuffed bunnies for Easter. Joining in their efforts were members of Baptist Temple Church in McAllen, who donated many handmade and beautifully crafted puppies, and Robert R. Elizalde, State Farm Insurance agent from Edinburg, who donated over 200 cuddly bears.
Pictured are (back row, from left): Pam Voss, Central Christian School director; Tina Coddington, Central Christian School computer & music teacher; Ellen Carruthers, Driscoll Auxiliary chair; and (front) Julianna Martinez, daughter of Robert R. Elizalde and second grade student at Central Christian School.
To donate to the Auxiliary to Driscoll Children's Hospital or for information on volunteer opportunities, call Ellen Carruthers at (956) 688-1235 or (956) 289-3170.
Stripes convenience stores to raise funds for Children's Miracle Network Hospitals March 7 - April 3
March 07, 2011
Beginning March 7, Stripes convenience stores in South Texas will be asking customers to purchase a $1 Miracle Balloon icon to raise funds for Driscoll Children's Hospital, which is a part of Children's Miracle Network Hospitals, a children's charity that raises funds for more than 170 pediatric hospitals.
The icons are attached with coupon books, providing customers an additional incentive to make the $1 purchase. Stripes convenience stores have also stocked their shelves with Monkey Juice, a new children's drink sold exclusively in Stripes stores. A portion of Monkey Juice sales will raise funds for Children's Miracle Network Hospitals. A buy-one-get-one free Monkey Juice coupon is included in the $1 coupon book.
Like all Children's Miracle Network Hospitals fundraisers, the funds raised from Stripe's four-week campaign will help create miracles by funding medical care, research and education that saves and improves the lives of 17 million children treated at Children's Miracle Network Hospitals each year, including Driscoll.
Stripes has been a partner of Children's Miracle Network Hospitals since 1997, raising funds for children's hospitals through different fundraising campaigns. Stripes has raised more than $1.15 million during the last four years for Children's Miracle Network Hospitals. In 2010, Stripes raised $471,468.
K99 Radiothon will feature inspirational stories of hope and healing
March 03, 2011
WHAT: The 9th annual K99 Radiothon benefiting Driscoll Children's Hospital will be broadcast live from the hospital with on-air hosts interviewing patients, parents, physicians and staff about their experiences at the hospital. K99 (KRYS 99.1 FM) listeners will be encouraged to call in and pledge at (361) 694-6400.
WHEN: Friday, March 4, 6 a.m.-6 p.m.
WHERE: Main Lobby, Driscoll Children's Hospital, 3533 S. Alameda St.