Looking back: The little girl who battled H1N1 and prevailed
February 15, 2013
Driscoll Children's Hospital celebrates its 60th anniversary with a series of stories about extraordinary patients
Kayla Piñon (center) reflected on her life-threatening battle with the H1N1 flu recently with her parents, Luis and Melinda Piñon.
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
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
Grocery shopping is therapeutic at Driscoll's new H-E-B Kids' Market
January 29, 2013
'Shoppers' will demonstrate at ribbon-cutting ceremony on Jan. 23
CORPUS CHRISTI - Just over a year after planning began, the H-E-B Kids' Market at Driscoll Children's Hospital will be opened Wednesday with a ribbon-cutting ceremony in the Rehabilitation Services Department. Officials from Driscoll and H-E-B will be on hand, and children will be cued up to begin shopping in the kid-sized grocery store. The market, with its mini grocery carts, shelves of food, plastic produce and check-out stand, offers many therapeutic possibilities for Driscoll's rehabilitation patients.
"The market helps us create a series of activities that children will encounter in the real world," said Susan Fields, director of Driscoll's Rehabilitation Services Department. "It will allow them to have fun and learn at the same time. Children learn best when they don't know they're working."
In addition to a grocery store, the H-E-B Kids' Market at Driscoll features a play kitchen with a refrigerator, working sink and washer and dryer.
Several rehabilitative therapies can be employed in the market, Fields said. With Driscoll's physical therapists, children can improve their standing and balancing ability by reaching and picking items from shelves. Pushing a grocery cart can help those who need to work on walking. In the play kitchen, they can choose where to store food. Speech therapists can help children improve language skills by having them name, match, categorize or describe products. And with Driscoll's occupational therapists, children can work on problem-solving by planning a meal, purchasing items, making change and generally improving their fine motor skills. The area is also available to Driscoll's dietitians, who will teach children about nutrition and meal planning.
The idea for the H-E-B Kids' Market materialized in 2011 after a Driscoll employee saw an H-E-Buddy Market in the Children's Museum of Houston. The market, also in children's museums in San Antonio and Brownsville, is designed to engage children in activities that will help them learn and grow. Driscoll's Rehabilitation Services Department designated an area for pretend play and a donation from H-E-B followed.
The H-E-B Kids' Market at Driscoll is the first time the H-E-Buddy Market concept has been incorporated into a children's hospital for rehabilitative purposes, according to H-E-B.
The H-E-B Kids' Market is available to any child who needs rehabilitation therapy. For more information, call the Rehabilitation Services Department at (361) 694-5678.
What: H-E-B Kids' Market ribbon-cutting
When: 2 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 23
Where: Driscoll Children's Hospital, Rehabilitation Services Department, 3533 S. Alameda St.
Driscoll Health Plan: Improving healthcare with cell phone assistance for members
January 18, 2013
RIO GRANDE VALLEY - For most people, finding a medical care provider and making doctor's appointments is as easy as picking up a cell phone. But for some Medicaid-eligible individuals and families, access to cell phones - and quick communication with healthcare providers - may be difficult or impossible. Driscoll Health Plan (DHP) strives to bridge the communication gap by providing all members assistance in applying for a free cell phone.*
"Communication is essential when it comes to access to good healthcare for the vulnerable population we serve," said Mary Dale Peterson, MD, MSHCA, chief executive officer of DHP.
As part of the free cell phone* program, qualifying members will also receive the following services at not cost:
250 free voice minutes each month
250 free text messages each month;
A voicemail account;
Call waiting and caller ID;
In addition to these services, DHP provides 250 extra minutes** each month and, for certain members, text messages with general health tips, notices about free events and other helpful information.
"This is a win-win situation for our members who qualify to receive free cell phones," Dr. Peterson said. "DHP continues to develop ways to provide more value to our members."
Cell phones obtained through DHP are made available by Assurance Wireless, a federal Lifeline program that is part of the Universal Service Fund.*
DHP has more than 50,000 members in the Hidalgo Service Delivery Area (SDA), which includes the counties of Cameron, Duval, Hidalgo, Jim Hogg, Maverick, McMullen, Starr, Webb, Willacy and Zapata. It is the only non-profit, provider-sponsored plan in the Hidalgo SDA. For more information about DHP, families can go to www.driscollhealthplan.com or call 855-425-3247. This is the third in a series of four press releases about DHP's value-added services.
* Members must qualify to receive a free cell phone. The cell phone is not a value-added service.
** Restrictions and/or limitations apply on this value-added service.
Driscoll Children's Hospital's annual Fiesta de los Niños promises to be another crowd-pleaser
January 03, 2013
CORPUS CHRISTI - Fiesta de los Niños, which began as a small, grassroots effort 21 years ago, has evolved into a high-profile event that many South Texans return to year after year. On Feb. 8, Driscoll Children's Hospital's 21st annual Fiesta de los Niños will be held at the American Bank Center Exhibit Hall. It will include its signature combination of fun, food and music - all with the mission of offering more and enhanced services to children in the community.
Flint Hills Resources presented a $50,000 check to Driscoll Children's Hospital Jan. 3 for the upcoming Fiesta de los Niños. Pictured from left are Fiesta chairs Allison and Tom Hunt; Martha St. Romain, Driscoll vice president of Development; and Fiesta chairs Phil and Vicki Gaarder. Phil Gaarder is also vice president of South Texas Operations for Flint Hills Resources.
"Because of the support from community partners such as Flint Hills Resources, Driscoll Children's Hospital is able to continue to enhance its services and carry on the vision to be the regional leader in children's services through innovation and excellence in healthcare, advocacy, education and research," said Martha St. Romain, vice president of Development at Driscoll Children's Hospital.
Led by long-time title-sponsor Flint Hills Resources, Fiesta de los Niños is a major annual fundraiser for Driscoll Children's Hospital. Each year, 100 percent of the funds raised from the event directly benefit the hospital. For the past 21 years, through community support of Fiesta, Driscoll has been able to develop and improve its services and programs in order to better serve the children of South Texas. In 2012, with more than 1,400 people in attendance, Fiesta raised $600,000 for the renovation and expansion of the Emergency Department.
Proceeds from the 2013 Fiesta de los Niños will touch several key specialty areas throughout Driscoll Children's Hospital, including the Rehabilitation Services Department, with a new, therapeutic music room; the Radiology Department, with the installation of a special, interactive program that entertains and distracts children during imaging procedures; and Driscoll Health System - Pediatric Cardiology, with new, state-of-the-art, child-specific echocardiogram machines.
Guests at Fiesta de los Niños will enjoy silent, live and bid-board auctions, a barbecue dinner and entertainment by country music artist Johnny Lee, singer of the 1980 hit, "Lookin' For Love." The program begins at 6:30 p.m. with cocktails, silent and bid-board auctions and live music by Still Crazy.
For more information or table sponsorship, call Driscoll's Development Department at (361) 694-6405 or visit the Fiesta de los Niños page.
What: Driscoll Children's Hospital's 21st annual Fiesta de los Niños
When: 6:30 - 11:30 p.m., Friday, Feb. 8
Where: American Bank Center Exhibit Hall, 1901 N. Shoreline Blvd., Corpus Christi
6:30 p.m. - Doors open, reception, silent & bid-board auctions open, dancing to Still Crazy
7:00 p.m. - Western barbecue dinner served
8:30 p.m. - Live auction begins, silent auction closes (Bid-board remains open until 10 p.m.)
9:30 p.m. - Featured entertainer, Johnny Lee
In pursuit of excellence, Driscoll residents far outpace total pass rate for American Board of Pediatrics certification
December 20, 2012
CORPUS CHRISTI - Driscoll Children's Hospital is proud to announce that all of its graduating residents who took the latest American Board of Pediatrics (ABP) certification exam in general pediatrics passed on their first attempt, continuing a trend that surpasses the total annual pass rate. Certification through the exam, administered once a year in October, has one objective - to promote excellence in medical care for children and adolescents.
"ABP certification provides a standard of excellence by which the public can select pediatricians and pediatric subspecialists," according to the ABP. "Although certification is voluntary, nearly all qualified pediatricians seek this recognition."
The ABP certification pass rate for pediatric residents at Driscoll Children's Hospital for the past three years has been 98 percent, ranking them in the top 5 percent of the more than 200 pediatric residency programs in the country, said William Dirksen, MD, Driscoll chief of staff. In contrast, the total pass rate for candidates taking the ABP general pediatrics exam in 2009, 2010 and 2011 was 79.1 percent, 76.1 percent and 75.7 percent, respectively, according to the ABP.
The ABP certification exam is a one-day test given to physicians who have finished three years of pediatric residency training. Physicians must have a valid, unrestricted, permanent medical license to be eligible to sit for the test. Certification is valid for seven years after which physicians must recertify by taking the ABP's Program for Maintenance of Certification in Pediatrics recertification exam.
Here are some additional facts from the ABP:
The ABP has certified 77,328 diplomates in general pediatrics and 14,707 in pediatric subspecialties.
Among the pediatricians who take the ABP test, 66 percent go into general pediatric practice and 24 percent go into pediatric subspecialties.
An average of 3,007 pediatricians take the ABP exam every year. Of these, American medical graduates accounted for 82.5 percent and international medical graduates accounted for 17.5 percent. Gender-wise, 40 percent were males and 60 percent were females.
The total number of pediatric residents currently in training programs in the United States is 9,731.
The average age at the time of ABP certification for pediatricians is 32 years for American medical graduates and about 36 years for international medical graduates.
The success of Driscoll's residency program can be attributed largely to the hospital's governing board, administration, faculty and staff, all of whom are dedicated to fostering excellent pediatricians.
"I have been blessed to have the necessary support to create an environment where aspiring physicians can be trained to become the best pediatricians in the world," Dr. Dirksen said. "Driscoll faculty has been outstanding in their commitment to the teaching and mentoring of our residents."
Driscoll's Cottage Shop voted no. 1 among consignment stores
December 14, 2012
CORPUS CHRISTI - Readers of the Corpus Christi Caller-Times recently voted the Cottage Shop at Driscoll Children's Hospital the no. 1 consignment store in the newspaper's 2012 Best of the Best competition. While many businesses pursue Best of the Best recognition every year, receiving the top title was a pleasant surprise for the Auxiliary to Driscoll Children's Hospital, who operates the Cottage Shop.
The Cottage Shop staff includes (left to right) Dot Van Burkleo, Rosemary Fischer, Mary Jo Slaughter, Lin Orser, Yen Doan, Susan Quiroz (manager), Kathy Jenkin, Kelly Reynolds, Mathilde Schneider, Daniel Gunn and Sue Swanson.
"The staff was super excited, proud and surprised," said Lizette Saenz, director of Volunteer Services at Driscoll. "They had no idea this was going to happen. The Cottage Shop has come a long way from its beginnings as a small room in the basement of the hospital to a brand new building with more than 1,300 square feet."
The Cottage Shop offers gently used and new merchandise at bargain prices, including men's, women's and children's clothing, toys, household items and collectibles. The store's first priority is to provide clothes and necessities to patients and their families who are in need, and 100 percent of the proceeds from sales go back to the hospital.
The store's success is due simply to a hardworking group of volunteers and staff, Saenz said.
"They give to the Cottage Shop with all their heart. The shop looks amazing and is always neat and organized, thanks to the leadership of the manager, Susan Quiroz."
The Cottage Shop accepts donations of new and gently used items. Store hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. For more information, call (361) 694-5800.