Patients & Families
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.
Renovated playroom is designed to reduce anxiety for Driscoll patients
February 06, 2013
CORPUS CHRISTI - In an ongoing effort to reduce anxiety for young patients and make their hospital stay more pleasant, Driscoll Children's Hospital recently completed the renovation of a playroom on the fourth floor. Driscoll officials will unveil the playroom tomorrow with representatives from Stripes convenience stores, whose $1 million donation in 2009 made the renovation possible.
An interior designer helped plan the renovation, and the playroom was stocked with children of all ages in mind. New amenities include:
Media center with flat-screen TV & game systems
Custom-designed infant/toddler mat
Toys, games, puzzles
Arts & crafts
The playroom also features medical play equipment, including a stretcher, IV pole and hospital bedside table.
"The new playroom creates a non-threatening environment that will decrease patients' anxiety and aid them in coping with hospitalization," said Michelle Goodman, fourth floor director.
The playroom is available to patients and their siblings, she added.
What: Fourth floor playroom unveiling
When: 10 a.m. Thursday, Feb. 7
Where: Driscoll Children's Hospital, fourth floor playroom, 3533 S. Alameda St.
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
Rehabilitation patients to take stage for annual Holiday Spectacular
December 13, 2012
WHAT: Patients from the Rehabilitation Services Department at Driscoll Children's Hospital will take part in the pageantry of the ninth annual Holiday Spectacular. The show will include performances of "'Twas the Night Before Christmas," "The Twelve Days of Christmas" and excerpts from "The Nutcracker." It will be directed by Driscoll employees Christine Carter and Heidi Lathrop, and performances by the Corpus Christi Concert Ballet will take place between the children's performances.
WHEN: 4 p.m. Friday, Dec. 14
WHERE: Driscoll Children's Hospital auditorium, 3533 S. Alameda St.
Driscoll's North Pole Network will connect patients with Santa Claus
December 12, 2012
WHAT: Driscoll Children's Hospital's seventh annual North Pole Network will be buzzing tomorrow as local ham radio operators and Driscoll employees connect patients with Santa Claus from their hospital rooms. The patients will be provided a radio so that they can discuss their Christmas wishes with Santa, who will be communicating with them from the "North Pole."
WHEN: 10 a.m. Thursday, Dec. 13
WHERE: Driscoll Children's Hospital, 3533 S. Alameda St.
Driscoll to light its annual holiday tree as Santa Claus arrives
December 04, 2012
WHAT: Santa Claus will arrive on a fire truck Wednesday as Driscoll Children's Hospital lights its annual holiday tree in front of the hospital. Patients, Driscoll employees and their families will be in attendance for the 19th annual event, which will be preceded by music provided by the W.B. Ray High School Holiday Band.
WHEN: 6 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 5
WHERE: Driscoll Children's Hospital, 3533 S. Alameda St.
Organ donors, their families honored at Driscoll ceremony
November 19, 2012
CORPUS CHRISTI - The families of children whose organs were donated so that others may live were honored at a poignant ceremony Nov. 10 at Driscoll Children's Hospital. More than 100 people, including families, Driscoll leaders, physicians and other healthcare professionals, gathered in the auditorium to commemorate the lives of the donors.
Dr. Karl Serrao, critical care intensivist, speaks to families of organ donors at a ceremony honoring them and their loved ones Nov. 10 at Driscoll Children's Hospital.
"It is essential to recognize these children who became organ donors and their families who allowed this gift to happen," said Karl Serrao, MD, critical care intensivist at Driscoll. "The donors have left a lasting and indelible legacy and we at Driscoll Children's Hospital want to celebrate with the families. These organ donors are heroes, as they are saving lives."
As of Nov. 14, 10 donors at Driscoll Children's Hospital have saved the lives of more than 40 other people, Dr. Serrao said.
This was Driscoll's second ceremony honoring organ donors and their families. In 2010, a ceremony was held to unveil the hospital's Organ Donor Wall, on which the names of the donors are inscribed on floating dandelion seeds. Dr. Serrao said he hopes to have an organ donor ceremony annually and raise awareness in the community about the importance of organ donation.
"We want to encourage everyone to be inspired by these children and their families to become a registered donor."
Those who wish to become organ donors can register at www.donatelifetexas.org, Dr. Serrao added.