DCH News

Patients & Families

Support group offers help for grieving children, their parents

October 04, 2011
CORPUS CHRISTI - When a loved one dies, adults and children both grieve. However, children grieve differently than adults, according to Nora Besinaiz, child life specialist at Driscoll Children's Hospital. Recognizing that there are few programs in the community to help children through the grieving process, Driscoll Children's Hospital has developed the Lean on Me program.

"Children need a special place where they can go," Besinaiz said. "They need to be around other children experiencing the loss of a loved one. This helps them learn that they're not the only ones grieving. They don't have to grieve alone and wonder about their feelings."

Lean on Me is a structured, six-week program for children ages 6 years and older that begins on Oct. 6. It includes bereavement curriculum specially designed for children, and each session builds on the previous one. With the guidance of Driscoll's chaplains and child life specialists, children will be encouraged during meetings to express their feelings by discussion or through art or writing.

Parents and caregivers are also included in the Lean on Me program because the death of a loved one affects the whole family, Besinaiz said. Adults will meet for bereavement sessions with Driscoll's social workers and chaplains while the children's group meets.

"Our goal is to give the family tools and ways to help them talk to each other and support each other when they're not with us in the one-hour sessions," Besinaiz said.

Besinaiz said the fall session of Lean on Me was planned before the holidays because for many families it may be the first holiday season without their loved one, and holidays typically are the toughest times for those who are grieving.

There is no charge to participate in the Lean on Me program. Driscoll only asks that families - children and their parents or caregivers - commit to attend the six-week program. Babysitting will not be available during the program.

  • What: Lean on Me program for children ages 6 years and older and their parents or caregivers

  • When: 6 to 7 p.m. Thursdays, Oct. 6 through Nov. 10

  • Where: Driscoll Children's Hospital, fifth floor, 3533 S. Alameda St.

  • Information/registration: Nora Besinaiz, (361) 694-5763

National Weather Service Employees to deliver gifts to cancer patient

September 27, 2011
WHAT: Employees at the National Weather Service's Corpus Christi and Brownsville offices will present gifts they collected to a Driscoll cancer patient whose story they read on Driscoll's web site (www.driscollchildrens.org). Matthew Carroll, 8, of Brownsville, had to have his lower left leg amputated last March due to osteosarcoma, a malignant tumor of the bone. He now receives care at Driscoll Children's Hospital and Driscoll Children's Specialty Center - Brownsville.

WHEN: 9:30 a.m. Wednesday, Sept. 28

WHERE: Driscoll Children's Specialty Center - Brownsville, 5500 N. Expressway

Car seat inspection event will be hosted by Driscoll's Injury Prevention Program, community partners

September 23, 2011
CORPUS CHRISTI - Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for children 3-14 years old. The National Highway Safety Administration estimates that roughly three out of four child safety seats are not used correctly. Many parents are unaware that their child's car seat is not properly installed or realize their child is not fitted correctly into their car seat.

Through a partnership with the All Star Mitsubishi dealership, Driscoll Children's Hospital's Injury Prevention Program and community partners urge parents and caregivers to have their children's car seat checked on National Seat Check Day, Saturday, Sept. 24. As part of Child Passenger Safety Week, Sept. 18-24, certified child passenger safety technicians will be available to inspect car seats and provide hands-on advice. They will also focus on reminding the community to "Never Leave a Child Alone in a Car." Forty-nine children died from heat stroke while unattended in cars in 2010 - the worst year on record. Texas led all states with 13 deaths.

"We want to remind the community to make sure kids are buckled up in an appropriate child safety seat every time," said Maricruz Cantu, injury prevention coordinator at Driscoll Children's Hospital. "We need to give kids the best opportunity of surviving a crash and avoiding serious injuries. We also want to make sure kids are not left alone in vehicles not even for a minute and to make it a habit to always check the back seat."

The current Texas law on child passenger safety requires all kids younger than 8 years old - unless they're taller than 4 feet 9 inches - be properly restrained in a child safety seat.

Updated recommendations emphasize how important it is to keep children in each restraint type for as long as possible before moving them to the next type as they grow. For maximum child passenger safety, parents and caregivers should visit their local inspection station to ensure their children's car seats are used properly:

  • Birth - 12 months
    For the best possible protection, any child under age 1 should always ride in a rear-facing car seat. There are different types of rear-facing car seats: Infant-only seats can only be used rear-facing. Convertible and 3-in-1 car seats typically have higher height and weight limits for the rear-facing position, allowing parents to keep their child rear-facing for a longer period of time.
  • 1 - 3 years
    The child should remain in a rear-facing car seat until he or she reaches the top height or weight limit allowed by the car seat's manufacturer. This may result in many children riding rear-facing to age 2 or older. Once a child outgrows the rear-facing car seat, he or she is ready to travel in a forward-facing car seat with a harness.
  • 4 - 7 years
    Keep the child in a forward-facing car seat with a harness until he or she reaches the top height or weight limit allowed by the car seat's manufacturer. Once the child outgrows the forward-facing car seat with a harness, it's time to travel in a booster seat, but still in the back seat.
  • 8 - 12 years
    Keep the child in a booster seat until he or she is big enough to fit in a seatbelt properly. For a seatbelt to fit properly the lap belt must lie snugly across the upper thighs, not the stomach. The shoulder belt should lie snugly across the shoulder and chest and not cross the neck or face.

Parents and guardians should remember:
  • Select a car seat based on the child's age and size, choose a seat that fits in the vehicle and use it every time.
  • Always refer to the specific car seat manufacturer's instructions; read the vehicle owner's manual on how to install the car seat using the seat belt or LATCH system; and check height and weight limits.
  • To maximize safety, keep the child in the car seat for as long as possible, as long as the child fits within the manufacturer's height and weight requirements.
  • Keep the child in the back seat at least through age 12.

  • What: Children's car seat checks
  • When: 10 - 11:30 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 24
  • Where: All Star Mitsubishi, 2440 S. Padre Island Dr.

2nd annual Hair Cutting Event a clear-cut success

September 20, 2011
People watch with anticipation as the first ponytail is clipped from a generous donor at the Childhood Cancer Awareness Hair Cutting Event on Sept. 19.
People watch with anticipation as the first ponytail is clipped from a generous donor at the Childhood Cancer Awareness Hair Cutting Event on Sept. 19.
The second annual Childhood Cancer Awareness Hair Cutting Event at Driscoll Children's Hospital Sept. 19 was a huge success. About 400 people came through the doors of the hospital's auditorium, some to have their hair cut and some to support friends and family members who were having their hair cut. More than 100 ponytails were clipped by the end of the event, all of which will be used to make wigs for young cancer patients who've lost their hair due to chemotherapy. Some Driscoll cancer patients even assisted the hair stylists as they cut hair.

Corpus Christi Mayor Joe Adame was on hand to read a proclamation in observance of Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. Other speakers included Steve Woerner, Driscoll's president and CEO, and Clay Powell from ExxonMobil, whose generous donation helped make the event possible. Free food was provided by Freebirds World Burrito, and music was provided by DJ Dexter Miranda. The Coastal Bend Blood Center had a bloodmobile on site and received 33 units of donated blood. And of course nothing would have been possible without the hair stylists who gladly donated their time to cut hair for this wonderful cause. Based on the community's response, organizers at Driscoll are already looking forward to next year's event.

Driscoll patients to unveil annual holiday cards, gifts they designed

September 20, 2011

Proceeds from sales will go toward scholarships for cancer patients


CORPUS CHRISTI - Driscoll's annual Hollywood-style Celebrity Celebration will be held Wednesday, Sept. 21 to mark the release of the hospital's 2011 holiday card collection, Christmas storybook and holiday gifts. Celebrities at the event are past and present patients who created designs for the items. The media is invited for interviews and photos.

"This is one of the largest annual events we have and the Auxiliary to Driscoll Children's Hospital is proud to put it on," said Lizette Saenz, director of Volunteer Services. "We look forward to rolling out the red carpet and putting the spotlight on our little 'stars.'"

For this annual tradition, Driscoll patients from throughout South Texas drew pictures for seven unique holiday cards and a Christmas storybook. They also created designs for a holiday apron, silver angel charm, kitchen towel, t-shirt and two Christmas tree ornaments. A group of community members selected the artwork for the items. Proceeds from their sales will go toward the Marcia K. Wilcox scholarship, which has benefited more than 90 Driscoll cancer patients since its inception.

This year's holiday card artists are:
  • Jonathan Arebelo, 5, of Corpus Christi
  • Ulisses Cavazos, 8, of Edinburg
  • Aidan Flores, 7, of Aransas Pass
  • Lily Smith, 8, of Corpus Christi
  • Natalie Smith, 10, of Corpus Christi
  • Brittney Soliz, 19, of San Diego, Texas
  • Cassandra Zepeda, 10, of Corpus Christi


Storybook artists are:
  • Brittney Fricks, 11, of Bayside
  • Jazel Guzman, 10, of Pharr
  • Emily Haefs, 14, of Corpus Christi
  • Rickey Jordan, Jr., 15, of Corpus Christi
  • Asa Glenn Matis, 13, of Corpus Christi
  • Jaclyn Ramirez, 9, of Portland
  • Deyanira Reyes, 14, of Brownsville
  • Lillian Ruiz, 12, of Hebbronville
  • Brittney Soliz, 19, of San Diego, Texas
  • Cassandra Zepeda, 10, of Corpus Christi


After the patient-artists enter Driscoll's auditorium on a red carpet amid camera flashes and applause, their artwork will be unveiled for everyone to see. Then they'll autograph their work for family, friends and fans. Following the celebration, the children will be treated to a limo ride to Gattitown for some food and fun.
The holiday cards, Christmas storybook and other items can be purchased through Driscoll's web site, www.driscollchildrens.org, and at the hospital's Carousel Gift Shop. For more information, call (361) 694-5011 or 1-800-DCH-LOVE.

  • What: Driscoll Children's Hospital Celebrity Celebration
  • When: 3-4 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 21
  • Where: Driscoll Children's Hospital auditorium, 3533 S. Alameda St.
  • Information: (361) 694-5011 or 1-800-DCH-LOVE

Community invited to get a haircut to benefit cancer patients

September 19, 2011
WHAT: In observance of Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, Driscoll Children's Hospital is holding its second annual Childhood Cancer Awareness Hair Cutting event. The community is invited to come and have their hair clipped by local stylists so it can be donated and made into wigs for cancer patients who've lost their hair due to chemotherapy. Food, music and commemorative t-shirts will be featured, and a bloodmobile from the Coastal Bend Blood Center will be on site.

WHEN: 5:30-7:30 p.m. Monday, Sept. 19

WHERE: Driscoll Children's Hospital auditorium, 3533 S. Alameda St.

Driscoll's McAllen clinic gives away school supplies courtesy of H-E-B

August 30, 2011
Pictured, left to right, are: Margaret Kasofsky, Auxiliary member; Juan M. Davila; Juan Daniel Davila, a Driscoll patient; Kassandra Jasso, H-E-B public affairs; Sherry Cruz; Socorro Franz, Auxiliary member; and (sitting) Rory Steven Cruz, Driscoll patient.
Pictured, left to right, are: Margaret Kasofsky, Auxiliary member; Juan M. Davila; Juan Daniel Davila, a Driscoll patient; Kassandra Jasso, H-E-B public affairs; Sherry Cruz; Socorro Franz, Auxiliary member; and (sitting) Rory Steven Cruz, Driscoll patient.
McALLEN - The Auxiliary to Driscoll Children's Medical Plaza - McAllen recently received a $1,000 donation from H-E-B to support their annual Back-To-School Supply Giveaway for their patients. Throughout August, Auxiliary members gave each patient a package of school supplies appropriate for their grade level. Driscoll's Auxiliary relies on contributions from the community to help make a positive impact in the lives of South Texas children. To learn more about helping, call the Auxiliary at (956) 688-1235 or (956) 289-3170.

Wig gives confidence to newly diagnosed cancer patient, 13

August 29, 2011
Event at Driscoll Children's Hospital will benefit cancer patients who've lost their hair

CORPUS CHRISTI - It all started about two months ago with an unusual lump on her neck. At first, Taylor Garcia was told it was a staph infection and was given antibiotics and steroids to treat it. After a month, the lump wasn't making any progress and another lump appeared.

"Her ear, nose and throat specialist decided to remove the lump and biopsy it," said Jennifer Garcia, Taylor's mom. "Originally, the pathologist said, 'Looks fine, just send it off for further testing and we'll see.' None of us expected it to come back as Hodgkin's."

On July 7, Taylor found out she had stage II Hodgkin's lymphoma, and her life changed suddenly. She was just six days shy of her 13th birthday. The next day she had an appointment with an oncologist at Driscoll Children's Hospital's Cancer and Blood Disorders Center.

Taylor, who takes her hair very seriously, often changed her dark brown locks, from cutting them short and choppy with red streaks to lightening them to a caramel color. Then she learned she would lose her hair from chemotherapy treatment.

"I didn't really care what was going on until the doctor told me I was going to lose my hair," she said. "I really like my hair. I get it done every month so I was pretty upset."

Upon hearing she would be losing her hair, Taylor went to a family friend and local hairdresser and requested blue streaks. Then, less than 10 days after her first chemotherapy treatment at Driscoll, she started losing her hair; a little in the shower and more and more as she brushed through it.

"It started a week after we dyed it, so I decided to cut it short. A couple days after that, I ended up shaving it all," she said.

During an appointment at Driscoll, Child Life Specialist Mara Ellis spoke with Taylor about getting a wig from an organization called Children with Hair Loss. Two days after she shaved her head, Taylor's wig came in.

"Hair loss is the most visible sign that a person is battling cancer," Ellis said. "Children and adolescents want to feel like they are the same as their peers. Wigs give them the confidence to not be judged when they go to the mall and gives them the courage to go back to school and hang out with friends."

Although Taylor lost her beloved hair, her new wig allows her to change up her look when she wants to. In fact, she got it cut to the style that her hair was before she lost it and bought blue clip-on streaks to add to it.

"I actually think the wig looks a lot better than my regular hair!," she said, laughing.

Last year, Driscoll Children's Hospital commemorated Childhood Cancer Awareness Month by inviting the community to have their hair cut so it could be made into wigs for young cancer patients who have lost their hair due to chemotherapy. The event was such an overwhelming success that Driscoll is doing it again this year on Sept. 19. Hairstylists from several local salons will be on hand to cut hair and donate it to Children with Hair Loss.

"My hairstylist will be one of the people there," Taylor said, smiling. "I'm going to help her."

The public is invited to show their support and donate their hair at the event, which is sponsored by ExxonMobil. There will be commemorative t-shirts for sale, door prizes, food provided by Freebirds World Burrito and music. Additionally, a bloodmobile from Coastal Bend Blood Center will be on site accepting donations.

Hair must be at least eight inches from the ponytail and chemically treated hair will be accepted as long as it's healthy. Hair will be clipped and given a straight cut, but not styled.

"We want to celebrate our little warriors and let them know that we - not just Driscoll Children's Hospital, but the whole community - are standing behind them and supporting them," Ellis said.

  • What: Childhood Cancer Awareness Month hair cutting event and blood drive

  • When: 5:30-7:30 p.m. Monday, Sept. 19

  • Where: Driscoll Children's Hospital auditorium, 3533 S. Alameda St.

  • Information: (361) 694-5311

Library of specialized toys available to children with disabilities

July 18, 2011
Specialized toys from Driscoll's Toy Tech Lending Library are therapeutic for patients like Emilio, 5, who has tuberous sclerosis and epilepsy. Assisting him are Rachel Garcia, certified occupational therapy assistant (middle) and Amanda Germann, speech pathologist.
Specialized toys from Driscoll's Toy Tech Lending Library are therapeutic for patients like Emilio, 5, who has tuberous sclerosis and epilepsy. Assisting him are Rachel Garcia, certified occupational therapy assistant (middle) and Amanda Germann, speech pathologist.
CORPUS CHRISTI - It has been said that children learn best through play. With this in mind, and with support from the Easter Seals of Greater Houston and the Blanche Moore Foundation, Driscoll Children's Hospital's Rehabilitation Services Department created a unique library that loans specialized toys to children of all ages with all types of disabilities.

According to Susan Fields, director of Rehabilitation Services at Driscoll, children explore their environment through play. "When we can help them play independently, we are helping them become independent learners. This is an important foundation for developing life skills," she says.

The new Toy Tech Lending Library at Driscoll provides a variety of toys adapted for children with varying degrees of motor disabilities. The toys, which are switch activated, can be used at home to practice skills a child has learned in his or her therapy sessions.

Since these toys are adapted especially for children with handicaps, they aren't readily available at a toy store and are often expensive.

A $30 toy, when adapted, can easily cost $100. However, through Driscoll's Lending Library, families are able to check out these adapted toys at no cost.

Just as with a book library, the toys are checked out for two to four weeks at a time. Upon return, another toy can be checked out. About 20 toys are available, and not just to Driscoll patients. All children in the community with disabilities are invited to borrow toys from the Toy Tech Lending Library.

Mary Ann Sosa's granddaughter, Madison, 5, is a patient at Driscoll. She suffers from cerebral palsy and often borrows toys from the Lending Library.

"It's a great thing. It really helps at home," Sosa says. "We are able to work at home on the things her therapists want her to work on. Right now she's learning to use her arms more."

Sosa explains that the toys make Madison want to use her arms more because of the reaction she gets from her grandmother.

"When Madison pushes the button on a toy, she notices it plays music and I cheer her on. She loves the attention she gets!"

Fields hopes more families take advantage of the Lending Library.

"We just started offering toys for check-out in April, so it's a fairly new program," she says. "The more these toys are utilized, the more toys we are able to receive through the grant."

For more information or to set up an orientation to the Toy Tech program, please call Driscoll's Rehabilitation Services Department at (361) 694-5678.

Shortage of donor breast milk affecting Driscoll

July 05, 2011
CORPUS CHRISTI - The Mothers' Milk Bank at Austin, which provides donated, pasteurized human breast milk to neonatal intensive care units (NICUs) throughout Texas and other states, is experiencing a shortage that is affecting the supply at Driscoll Children's Hospital.

"The shortage is due to a lack of donors and a lack of community awareness about the Mothers' Milk Bank," said Driscoll Lactation Program Coordinator Laurie Beck, RN, MSN, IBCLC. "We always try to keep extra donor milk in our freezer so as to be prepared for any new admissions. The babies we have on donor milk at present do not have mothers who are able to provide their own milk."

Beck said she has been trying to order 200 bottles of donor milk a week for Driscoll patients but has only been able to obtain 50 bottles at a time. Each bottle contains three ounces of milk.

Mother's milk is the preferred choice of nutrition for babies and donor milk is the second, Beck said. The Mothers' Milk Bank at Austin screens all potential donors to ensure safety, pasteurizes the milk and freezes it as a sterile product. NICUs in 14 states order the milk for critically ill newborns, especially preemies.

Lactating mothers can help by donating their milk. The first step is to call the Mothers' Milk Bank at Austin at 1-877-813-6455 for a phone interview. After completing an application process, they can drop off their milk at Mom's Place at Driscoll Children's Hospital, 3533 S. Alameda St., between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Mom's Place is a drop-off site for the Mothers' Milk Bank at Austin and a storehouse for breast milk that is used to feed infants at Driscoll. It is also a breastfeeding resource center for mothers with a baby in Driscoll and a private place for them to pump milk.

For more information about the milk donation process, mothers can call Beck at (361) 694-5338 or go to the Mothers' Milk Bank at Austin's web site at www.milkbank.org.