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.
Families with babies in intensive care at Driscoll find comfort from March of Dimes program
August 14, 2013
CORPUS CHRISTI - March of Dimes announced today that Driscoll Children's Hospital will launch a NICU Family Support Program®. The program, which provides information and comfort to families of premature babies and other critically ill newborns being cared for in a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), is being funded by The Vishal Raju Bhagat Foundation.
"Preparing for a new baby is a time of great excitement," said Laurie Beck, RN, MSN, IBCLC, chair of the March of Dimes Program Services Committee in the Corpus Christi Division and director of Mom's Place, a breastfeeding resource center at Driscoll Children's Hospital. "Families don't expect anything to go wrong, but when something does go wrong, it can be very overwhelming. The Vishal Raju Bhagat Foundation's funding of the NICU Family Support Program will help make the journey through neonatal intensive care smoother and less traumatic for families."
The NICU Family Support Program is an important component of the March of Dimes' efforts to help all babies - those born healthy and those who need help to survive and thrive. As part of their commitment to help give every baby a healthy start, the March of Dimes has made medical and technological advances that have saved millions of babies' lives and health.
The NICU Family Support Program is now established in every state, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. More than 86,000 families will have access to the information and support activities offered through the March of Dimes NICU Family Support annually.
"The March of Dimes is looking forward to partnering with Driscoll Children's Hospital through NICU Family Support because of its reputation for excellence and the quality care it provides to babies," Rosaura De Los Santos, Executive Director of the March of Dimes said. "Driscoll Children's Hospital does incredible work every day to care for sick babies and their families. We want to support their efforts."
Christopher Joyal, Driscoll's NICU director states "We are excited to be a March of Dimes NICU Family Support site and are looking forward to this collaborative effort to support parents throughout their stay with us. This is a wonderful opportunity to work with NICU parents and staff to develop programs specific to the needs of our families."
Incorporating NICU families into every level of the program, March of Dimes NICU Family Support addresses the needs of families throughout the hospitalization, during the transition home, and in the event of a newborn death. NICU Family Support also includes a professional development component to provide hospital NICU staff with support and educational opportunities. The program is led by hospital staff with professional NICU experience. Each NICU family receives a March of Dimes Parent Care Kit including informational books and materials to chart their baby's milestones.
What: Unveiling of NICU Family Support Unit
When: 10 a.m. Thursday, Aug. 15
Where: Driscoll Children's Hospital, third floor, 3533 S. Alameda St.
Páez brings pediatric endocrinology expertise to Driscoll
August 09, 2013
CORPUS CHRISTI - Ana María Páez, MD, has joined Driscoll Children's Hospital as a pediatric endocrinologist. Dr. Páez recently 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 received her medical degree in 2007 at the Ponce School of Medicine & Health Sciences in Ponce, Puerto Rico. Dr. Páez is certified by the American Board of Pediatrics.
Driscoll Children's Hospital announces new directors
August 02, 2013
CORPUS CHRISTI - Margaret Jones, RN, MA, NEA, BC, has been hired as director of the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit at Driscoll Children's Hospital. Jones has 35 years of nursing experience in pediatric, neonatal and adult hospital settings and has held positions in both management and education. She previously held leadership positions at hospitals in Houston.
Clockwise from top left: Martinez, Thomas, Jones, Perez
Joe Martinez has been promoted to director of the Engineering Department at Driscoll Children's Hospital. Martinez began working at Driscoll in 1993 as a plant operator and has served as maintenance supervisor and facilities manager for the past three years.
Also, Miguel Perez, III, has been promoted to Driscoll Health System's director of Information Systems and chief information officer. Perez, who has 15 years of information systems experience, has been a member of the Driscoll team for the past 10 years, having served as director of Information Systems and chief information officer for Driscoll Health Plan. He holds a bachelor's degree in biology and a master's degree in environmental science from Texas A&M University - Corpus Christi, as well as a master's degree in healthcare administration from Trinity University in San Antonio.
In addition, Driscoll has promoted Jessy Thomas to director of Pharmacy. Thomas joined Driscoll in 2005 as a staff pharmacist, later becoming the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit clinical pharmacist and the assistant director of Pharmacy. She holds a doctor of pharmacy degree from Philadelphia College of Pharmacy, and she completed a residency in pharmacy practice.
Becker joins Driscoll as pediatric dermatologist
July 31, 2013
CORPUS CHRISTI - Driscoll Children's Hospital has announced that Emily M. Becker, MD, has joined Children's Physician Services of South Texas as a pediatric dermatologist. She recently completed a pediatric dermatology fellowship at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio (UTHSCSA), where she performed a dermatology residency from 2009 to 2012. Dr. Becker earned her medical degree in 2005, also at UTHSCSA. She is certified by the American Board of Dermatology and the American Board of Pediatrics.
Redesign of Driscoll's Emergency Room under way
July 30, 2013
Project will be most significant transformation of ER since 1987
Concrete is removed by heavy equipment near the entrance to Driscoll Children's Hospital in preparation for the renovation and expansion of the Emergency Room.
CORPUS CHRISTI - On July 22, the first phase of construction activities began for the renovation and expansion of the Emergency Room (ER) at Driscoll Children's Hospital. The $12 million project, scheduled to last 16 to 18 months, will increase the size of the ER and lobby by approximately 5,000 square feet. Driscoll's ER services will continue throughout the construction process.
The project will result in a state-of-the-art ER and significantly enhance overall patient care at Driscoll, said Donna Quinn, vice president of Operations and Quality.
"The ER is Driscoll's most visible department and our front door, representing a substantial portion of hospital admissions. Through the renovation we want to create an even more child-friendly and efficient setting that is welcoming, calming and caring."
When the project is completed, the ER will include:
Two trauma rooms
Twenty private exam rooms
Two triage areas with visibility to the waiting area
An expanded central nursing station
An expanded waiting area
A dedicated ER elevator
A new ambulance vestibule and weather protection canopy
An outward extension of the building, allowing for an expanded lobby
In early October, an ambulance entrance will be temporarily established at the back of the hospital near the auditorium and the ambulance entrance at the front of the hospital will be closed for construction.
Driscoll has produced informational brochures about the project that are available to patients, families and visitors.
The project will be the ER's most significant transformation since 1987. That year, Driscoll became the first hospital in South Texas to offer emergency services specifically for children, and the ER currently serves about 35,000 children each year.
Teen cancer patients depart tomorrow for annual summer camp
July 09, 2013
WHAT: About 40 cancer patients ages 12-18 who are being treated at Driscoll Children's Hospital will depart tomorrow for the annual Camp TLC (Teens Living with Cancer) at Camp Aranzazu in Rockport. Campers will enjoy activities that build relationships, friendships and trust. Favorite activities include the zip-line, capture the flag, swimming, arts and crafts, archery and Frisbee golf.
WHEN: Departure at 12:30 p.m. July 10; camp is from July 10-14
WHERE: Departure: Driscoll Children's Hospital Day Surgery & Rehabilitation Building, 3533 S. Alameda St.; Camp Aranzazu: 5420 Loop 1781, Rockport
Ambient lighting system helps patients relax during X-rays
July 08, 2013
CORPUS CHRISTI - An ambient lighting system that was recently installed in the Radiology Department at Driscoll Children's Hospital enables patients undergoing X-rays to choose the color of the room, helping to ease their anxiety during the procedure.
A new ambient lighting system in Driscoll's Radiology Department helps patients feel calmer during X-rays.
"Any time you give children control, they become calmer," said Ernest Chavez, Driscoll director of Radiology Services. "They like it when you ask them if they want to change the color of the room. Parents like to change it sometimes too."
On a wall-mounted keypad, parents, patients or staff can set the light to one color - usually the patient's favorite - or to alternating colors. The room is serene and mesmerizing as it's bathed in red, yellow, blue, green, orange and violet light.
Driscoll's Radiology Department plans to incorporate ambient lighting into its other four X-ray rooms as the units are replaced, Chavez said, and the computed tomography and nuclear medicine rooms will also be outfitted soon. In addition, ambient lighting will be installed in all three ultrasound rooms during future remodeling. The lighting system is funded by proceeds from Driscoll's Fiesta de los Niños fundraiser, held annually in February.
'Tis the season for Christmas in July at Driscoll's Brownsville clinic
July 05, 2013
Community invited to drop off unwrapped toys July 18
BROWNSVILLE - Santa Claus will join the Volunteer Auxiliary at Driscoll Children's Specialty Center - Brownsville July 18 for the seventh annual Christmas in July toy drive. The community is invited to stop by and drop off unwrapped toys to be given to patients who receive treatment this coming holiday season. Santa will be there to receive the toys, and refreshments will be offered.
The community has responded so generously over the past six years that the toy drive has become a bona fide tradition in Brownsville.
"It really is amazing to see so many people come out and donate toys every year to help make sure our patients have a special Christmas," said Lizette Saenz, director of Volunteer Services at Driscoll Children's Hospital. "The sense of caring and community pride is extraordinary."
To donate to the Christmas in July event, stop by Driscoll Children's Specialty Center - Brownsville on July 18 or call Driscoll's Volunteer Services Department at (361) 694-5011. Checks may be made out to Driscoll Children's Specialty Center - Auxiliary.
What: Christmas in July toy drive
When: 6 - 8 p.m. Thursday, July 18
Where: Driscoll Children's Specialty Center - Brownsville, 5500 N. Expressway
Children's Miracle Network Telethon coming to Rio Grande Valley
May 31, 2013
Event benefitting Driscoll Children's Hospital will be broadcast Sunday on KGBT
RIO GRANDE VALLEY - After more than 24 years of sharing true-to-life stories of children meeting tremendous challenges with the help of South Texas' finest healthcare professionals, the Children's Miracle Network Telethon staged by Driscoll Children's Hospital is coming again to viewers on KGBT TV in the Rio Grande Valley.
Months of preparation go into the Children's Miracle Network Telethon every year. Interviews with patients, parents and physicians are recorded and neatly packaged, and the stories are no less than miraculous. KGBT graciously hosts the program at their Harlingen studio and dedicates their time and talent to make it run smoothly. They interview Driscoll physicians, young patients and parents in between recorded stories. Many of Driscoll's patients reside in the Rio Grande Valley and receive treatment and checkups at the hospital's clinics in Harlingen, Brownsville and McAllen.
The telethon shows viewers how a non-profit children's hospital like Driscoll is bringing care and compassion to children in 31 South Texas counties. To meet those needs with new physicians, procedures, equipment and programs, fundraisers such as the Children's Miracle Network Telethon are crucial. And year after year, the community responds. Last year, $750,000 was raised through the telethon in the Rio Grande Valley.
"Driscoll Children's Hospital is thrilled with the generous and loyal support received from so many grateful people and corporations throughout the Rio Grande Valley," said Martha St. Romain, Driscoll vice president of Development. "It shows a commitment by all that the children of South Texas deserve the highest level of quality, specialized healthcare that only Driscoll can provide."
What: Children's Miracle Network Telethon benefiting Driscoll Children's Hospital on KGBT TV
When: 9 a.m.-2 p.m. Sunday, June 2; phone banks open to take pledges until 5 p.m.
Where: KGBT TV, 9201 W. Expressway 83, Harlingen
Information: (361) 694-6401 or go to www.driscollchildrens.org and click on CMN Telethon