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Ambient lighting system helps patients relax during X-rays

July 08, 2013
A new ambient lighting system in Driscoll's Radiology Department helps patients feel calmer during X-rays.
A new ambient lighting system in Driscoll's Radiology Department helps patients feel calmer during X-rays.
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.

"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

La Palmera Mall to host Children's Miracle Network Telethon

May 31, 2013
Event benefiting Driscoll Children's Hospital will air this weekend on KIII

CORPUS CHRISTI - For 28 years, Driscoll Children's Hospital and KIII TV have staged the Children's Miracle Network Telethon, bringing Coastal Bend viewers true-to-life stories of children meeting tremendous challenges with the help of South Texas' finest healthcare professionals. This year, the 29th annual event will be held once again at La Palmera Mall.

Months of fundraising by national sponsors lead up to the telethon every year. Interviews with patients, parents and physicians are recorded and neatly packaged, and the stories are no less than miraculous. KIII will air the stories along with live interviews at the mall's center court.

The broadcast will show viewers how Driscoll Children's Hospital is providing highly specialized, pediatric healthcare services 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, Children's Miracle Network fundraisers throughout South Texas resulted in donations of nearly $2.6 million.

"There are few ways to make a greater impact on a community's future health than by ensuring children receive the best start they can have in life, and the funds raised are going to help us do just that," said Steve Woerner, president and chief executive officer of Driscoll Children's Hospital.

What: 29th annual Children's Miracle Network Telethon benefiting Driscoll Children's Hospital on KIII TV
When: 7 p.m.-midnight Saturday, June 1; noon-5 p.m. Sunday, June 2
Where: La Palmera Mall center court, 5488 S. Padre Island Dr.
Information/donations: (361) 694-6401 or go to www.driscollchildrens.org and click on CMN Telethon

Hollywood-themed celebration planned for Driscoll nurses

May 08, 2013
Event is in conjunction with National Nurses Week, May 6-12

CORPUS CHRISTI - National Nurses Week is May 6-12, and Driscoll Children's Hospital is marking the occasion with a celebration tomorrow for its more than 500 nurses.

"This is a way for us to recognize our nurses for all the work they do," said Driscoll's Jo Ann Gamez, RN, BSN, CCRN, chair of the celebration committee. "Nurses may not realize how much they're appreciated by patients, families, physicians and the community. They have come a long way from the Florence Nightingale days."

May 6 is also known as National Nurses Day, and May 12 is the birthday of Florence Nightingale, the founder of modern nursing.

Driscoll's auditorium will be decorated in a Hollywood theme for the celebration, with music provided by a DJ and photo props for the nurses. They'll be treated to dinner and a special performance by students from John Paul II High School. Speakers will include Steve Woerner, Driscoll's president and chief executive officer, Patricia Carr, assistant vice president of Nursing Operations, and the parent of a former Driscoll patient.

What: National Nurses Week celebration
When: 5 p.m. Thursday, May 9
Where: Driscoll Children's Hospital auditorium, 3533 S. Alameda St.

Brownsville boy is 'a totally different person' since leukemia diagnosis

May 03, 2013
Driscoll Children's Hospital physicians treat Andrew Banda in his hometown, Brownsville

BROWNSVILLE - Claudia Maldonado knew her son, Andrew Banda, was sick in January 2012. At 8 years old, he was too thin and his yellowish eyes revealed he had jaundice, she said. Still, the news that he had acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) was a shock.

"I just couldn't believe it," Maldonado said, pausing to hold back tears. "It was very hard to hear. It's something that you never forget."

Andrew was diagnosed by physicians at Driscoll Children's Specialty Center in Brownsville, where he and his family live. In addition to jaundice, he was suffering from low blood cell counts and hepatomegaly, an enlargement of the liver. Hepatomegaly and low blood cell counts - anemia and leucopenia are the medical terms - are commonly associated with ALL, said Cris Johnson, MD, medical director of the Cancer & Blood Disorders Center at Driscoll Children's Hospital. Dr. Johnson, a hematologist/oncologist, has been involved in Andrew's treatment since he was diagnosed with ALL.

Soon after Andrew's diagnosis, he was admitted to Driscoll Children's Hospital in Corpus Christi, where he began receiving chemotherapy treatments. Maldonado's family has no history of leukemia, she said, so her son's diagnosis and treatment have been learning experiences. Thorough, honest communication from Andrew's physicians has helped alleviate her fears.

"They explain everything very well," Maldonado said. "Even if it's something I might not want to hear, I need to know what's going on and what to expect. That makes a big difference. They're very good doctors. I feel very confident with them."

Maldonado and her parents stayed at the Ronald McDonald House near Driscoll to be close to Andrew during his month-long hospital stay. Despite the hardship, he adjusted well to his surroundings.

"He liked it because everyone would spoil him," Maldonado said with a laugh. "They would bring him movies to watch, and if he didn't like a certain meal they would bring him something else. I guess he got used to that."

Nationally, 2,500 to 3,000 children are diagnosed with leukemia each year, Dr. Johnson said, and cases of ALL among children in the Rio Grande Valley are consistent with the national incidence rate. Driscoll Children's Hospital physicians currently see 35 to 40 cancer patients in the Rio Grande Valley who are undergoing treatment, being followed after treatment or being counseled and monitored for the late effects of chemotherapy, she said. She and other Driscoll hematologists/oncologists regularly travel to see patients at the hospital's clinics in Brownsville and McAllen. A nurse practitioner is also available at the clinics.

Symptoms that may indicate a child has ALL include paleness, unusual bleeding and bruising, fever, lymph node swelling and bone pain, Dr. Johnson said.

Now 9, Andrew receives chemotherapy treatments at Driscoll Children's Specialty Center - Brownsville, and he takes oral medication daily as his battle against ALL continues. A third grader, he enjoys school although he's unable to play contact sports due to a mediport in his chest, Maldonado said. A mediport is a disk placed under the skin that allows physicians to administer chemotherapy medication into his blood vessel or draw a blood sample. Andrew will continue chemotherapy treatments for two more years, his mother said.

Maldonado is upbeat about Andrew's future, saying that he's no longer "skinny" like he was in January 2012.

"He's a totally different person. Back then he was a size six. Now he's a size 14. I say, 'Instead of growing up you're growing from the sides.' As long as he's feeling good and healthy that's all that matters."

Driscoll transplant recipients to gather at annual reunion

May 03, 2013
Joe Esparza, 19, received a kidney transplant at Driscoll Children's Hospital in August 2012.
Joe Esparza, 19, received a kidney transplant at Driscoll Children's Hospital in August 2012.
'It's a family reunion,' 19-year-old said of May 4 event

CORPUS CHRISTI - In the months before he received a kidney transplant at Driscoll Children's Hospital last August, Joe Esparza had plenty of reasons to be depressed. His failing kidneys meant he couldn't eat french fries, cheese and fatty foods. He couldn't play contact sports, including football, his favorite. And missing classes for dialysis treatments would delay his high school graduation a full year. But Joe's positive attitude and supportive family pulled him through the challenges he faced.

"I enjoyed coming to dialysis and seeing the nurses," he said after a recent checkup at Driscoll's Kidney Center. "They made the time go by so fast. I was disappointed to stop seeing them. But I feel a lot better now. I've had a lot more freedom since my transplant. I have more of a social life and I can eat anything I want."

Joe, 19, plans to see staff from the Kidney Center at Driscoll's sixth annual Transplant Reunion, to be held Saturday at West Guth Park. The event, a celebration for Driscoll's 65 kidney transplant patients and their families, is a chance for them to visit, share their experiences and have fun. It will have a Fiesta theme this year, with piñatas, Mexican bingo, a Mexican food dinner, inflatables and an obstacle course. About 200 people are expected to attend.

"The Transplant Reunion is our way of celebrating our patients' and families' journeys to overcome their disease process through transplant," said Anita Rosales, Driscoll transplant coordinator. "It's a chance for them to celebrate a new life."

Joe's grandparents, Herminia and Julian David Castañeda, accompany him to all his appointments at Driscoll. Like Joe, they've become fond of the staff at the Kidney Center.

"It's like a big family," Herminia Castañeda said. "They welcome everyone and they go all out for the patients."

A kinship develops among patients and families when they're facing a serious medical procedure like a kidney transplant, she added. Joe agreed and began naming friends he made while they were undergoing dialysis treatment together and waiting for their transplants. He hopes to see them Saturday at the Transplant Reunion.

"It's a chance to bond," he said. "After you get a transplant, you don't see a lot of people anymore. So this isn't like a transplant reunion. It's a family reunion."

What: Driscoll Children's Hospital's sixth annual Transplant Reunion
When: Noon Saturday, May 4
Where: West Guth Park, 9725 Up River Rd.

Dwarfism doesn't prevent 3-year-old boy from living life

May 02, 2013
Ethann Valdez, 3, was born with achondroplasia, a type of dwarfism. He's been a patient at Driscoll Children's Hospital since he was born.
Ethann Valdez, 3, was born with achondroplasia, a type of dwarfism. He's been a patient at Driscoll Children's Hospital since he was born.
Ethann Valdez's story is second in Driscoll Children's Hospital's 60th anniversary series

CORPUS CHRISTI - Darting around a waiting area at Driscoll Children's Hospital with a huge smile on his face, Ethann Valdez has the seemingly endless energy of any 3-year-old boy. He doesn't appear to be bothered much by the life-threatening disorders that have affected him throughout his young life - and that's fine with his parents.

"We treat him like a normal child," said his mother, Brittney Guerrero. "We take him outside so he can be a boy and not live in a bubble. He knows sign language and can do handstands. He does seem to wonder why people look at him sometimes."

Tired out after a burst of energy, Ethann slows down to catch his breath. He inhales and exhales through a tube that protrudes from his throat called a trach, making a wheezing sound. He received a tracheotomy because his airway is abnormally narrow, referred to as airway stenosis, his mother said.

Airway stenosis is just one of the medical conditions that make Ethann a special member of the Driscoll Children's Hospital family. He was born with achondroplasia, a type of dwarfism caused by a genetic defect that occurs in about one out of 26,000 to 40,000 babies, according to WebMD.com. That was accompanied by a variety of health issues that have brought Ethann and his family to Driscoll over the past three years. He regularly sees a pediatric cardiologist, pulmonologist, otolaryngologist and geneticist at Driscoll.

Just about anywhere Ethann goes at the hospital, someone recognizes him.

"Driscoll is like our second family," Guerrero said. "A lot of people know Ethann here. They're part of our support system."

Recently, a major concern for Ethann's family has been the narrowing of his heart valves, a condition related to his dwarfism. Heart surgery might fix the problem, but it's too risky to perform at this time because of his other medical issues, said Umang Gupta, MD, pediatric cardiologist at Driscoll Children's Hospital.

Ethann's parents employ nurses to help with his round-the-clock healthcare needs. Like most people who interact with him, licensed vocational nurse Janine Hobrecht adores her patient.

"He's a unique little boy," said Hobrecht, who cares for Ethann Monday through Friday. "He's very talkative and likes to have fun. He's enjoying his life and he's OK with his disabilities."

Paige Cooper, a registered nurse at Driscoll's Pediatric Cardiology clinic, is another of Ethann's "fans." She said he's thriving despite his many obstacles, thanks in large part to his parents.

"Ethann and his family are so positive and a joy to be around," Cooper said. "His family is eager to learn all they can about his disorders. They embrace his uniqueness, challenge him daily and celebrate his every accomplishment."

Guerrero said she appreciates receiving straightforward information from physicians regarding her son's health, even if it isn't pleasant. She and Ethann's father, John Matthew Valdez, have resolved themselves to stay positive regardless of what the future holds.

"Whatever happens, we'll be OK," Guerrero said. "What keeps me going is knowing nobody has an expiration date. We can go anytime. So we should enjoy each other's presence. Every moment is important."

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

Celebrating the past, looking to the future: Driscoll marks 60 years

April 02, 2013
On April 2, an historical marker was unveiled honoring Driscoll Children's Hospital's founder, Clara Driscoll. Pictured, left to right, are Steve Woerner, Driscoll president & CEO; Anita Eisenhauer, chairwoman of the Nueces County Historical Commission and member of the Daughters of the Republic of Texas - Clara Driscoll Chapter; Karen Thompson, president general of the Daughters of the Republic of Texas; Corpus Christi Mayor Nelda Martinez; and Loyd Neal, chairman of Driscoll's governing board.
On April 2, an historical marker was unveiled honoring Driscoll Children's Hospital's founder, Clara Driscoll. Pictured, left to right, are Steve Woerner, Driscoll president & CEO; Anita Eisenhauer, chairwoman of the Nueces County Historical Commission and member of the Daughters of the Republic of Texas - Clara Driscoll Chapter; Karen Thompson, president general of the Daughters of the Republic of Texas; Corpus Christi Mayor Nelda Martinez; and Loyd Neal, chairman of Driscoll's governing board.
Ceremony includes dedication of historical marker honoring hospital's founder
CORPUS CHRISTI - Notable guests and community leaders gathered today to commemorate Driscoll Children's Hospital's 60th anniversary and witness the dedication of an historical marker honoring the hospital's founder, Clara Driscoll. The ceremony, held in Driscoll's auditorium, offered both a reflection on the past and a glimpse of the future.

Speakers included Steve Woerner, Driscoll president and chief executive officer, Loyd Neal, chairman of Driscoll's governing board, Corpus Christi Mayor Nelda Martinez and representatives from the Texas Historical Marker Program and the Daughters of the Republic of Texas (DRT). The ceremony began with messages of welcome from Neal and Woerner, followed by a flag ceremony performed by Flour Bluff High School's state champion Navy Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps drill team.

Donna Quinn, Driscoll vice president of Operations and Quality, shared news about the renovation and expansion of Driscoll's Emergency Department (ED). In 1987, Driscoll became the first hospital in South Texas to offer emergency services specifically for pediatrics, and the ED currently serves about 35,000 children each year. The $12 million renovation and expansion project will significantly enhance overall patient care and result in a state-of-the-art ED. When it is completed in late 2014, it will include:

Two trauma rooms
Twenty private exam rooms
Two triage areas with ideal visibility to the waiting area
An expanded central nursing station
An expanded waiting area
A new ambulance vestibule and weather protection canopy
An outward extension of the building, allowing for an expanded lobby

Mayor Martinez spoke to the audience about Driscoll's importance to the community. Driscoll Children's Hospital is the seventh largest employer in Corpus Christi, and Driscoll Health System employs approximately 1,800 people throughout South Texas. She also paid tribute to the Clowns Who Care, a group of more than 30 women who volunteer their time to entertain patients, parents and staff at Driscoll Children's Hospital. Mayor Martinez has long been a member of the group, using the moniker, "Madame Flutterby."

Anita Eisenhauer, a member of the Nueces County Historical Commission and the DRT's Clara Driscoll Chapter, and Karen Thompson, president general of the DRT, provided information on the
Texas Historical Marker Program and Clara Driscoll's legacy. The historical marker dedicated today honors Driscoll as an important and educational person in local history.

A true product of South Texas, Driscoll was born in 1881 in St. Mary's of Aransas, Texas on Copano
Bay. Growing up on her family's ranch, called Palo Alto, she was equally skilled with a revolver, rifle and lariat. By the time she was 16, she could speak four languages: English, Spanish, French and German. In 1904, she was proclaimed "The Savior of the Alamo" after purchasing the structure for $75,000 and saving it from destruction for commercial interests.

Driscoll's philanthropy led her to political pursuits. A generous giver to the Democratic Party, she was elected National Democratic Committeewoman in 1928, a post she held until 1944. Following the death of her brother in 1929, Driscoll was called upon to take over the Driscoll empire, which consisted of cattle, oil and vast tracts of land. Prior to her death on July 17, 1945, she chose to honor her family's memory by leaving the bulk of her enormous estate to provide for the medical treatment of the children of South Texas. Driscoll Children's Hospital would become the first free-standing pediatric hospital in South Texas. It 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.

Today's ceremony culminated with Woerner and Neal unveiling the historical marker that will be permanently displayed outside Driscoll Children's Hospital facing Alameda Street. This year, the hospital has hosted 60th anniversary parties for patients and employees, and its website features special patient stories, an anniversary video and an historical timeline (www.driscollchildrens.org).

Driscoll's 60th anniversary ceremony will include dedication of historical marker

April 01, 2013
WHAT: A ceremony commemorating Driscoll Children's Hospital's 60th anniversary and the dedication of an historical marker honoring its founder will be held tomorrow. Speakers will include Nueces County Judge Loyd Neal, Corpus Christi Mayor Nelda Martinez and representatives from the Texas Historical Marker Program and the Daughters of the Republic of Texas.
WHEN: 3 p.m. Tuesday, April 2
WHERE: Driscoll Children's Hospital auditorium, 3533 S. Alameda St.