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Healthcare Professionals

Looking back: The little girl who battled H1N1 and prevailed

February 15, 2013
Kayla Piñon (center) reflected on her life-threatening battle with the H1N1 flu recently with her parents, Luis and Melinda Piñon.
Kayla Piñon (center) reflected on her life-threatening battle with the H1N1 flu recently with her parents, Luis and Melinda Piñon.
Driscoll Children's Hospital celebrates its 60th anniversary with a series of stories about extraordinary patients

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."

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
Ward
Ward
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.

Harper co-authors article that can help in detection of child abuse

February 05, 2013
Harper
Harper
CORPUS CHRISTI - Nancy Harper, MD, medical director of the Child Abuse Resource and Evaluation (CARE) Team at Driscoll Children's Hospital, co-authored an article in the January 2013 issue of the journal Pediatric Emergency Care that could ultimately help save the lives of abused children. Through an analysis of data collected from examinations of more than 2,000 children, Dr. Harper and her co-authors established that certain X-rays of the hands, feet, spine and pelvis can reveal otherwise hidden abusive injuries and, in turn, lead to the prevention of future injuries. It had been suggested previously that some views of the hands, feet, spine and pelvis should be omitted from routine skeletal examinations, called skeletal surveys, because fractures are rarely found.

"We determined that if special views of these areas had been omitted, a significant number of occult, or hidden, abusive fractures would have been missed," Dr. Harper said. "Missing abusive injuries may place a child at risk for further abusive injury and death."

The article by Dr. Harper and her colleagues, titled "Prevalence of Abusive Fractures of the Hands, Feet, Spine, or Pelvis on Skeletal Survey: Perhaps 'Uncommon' Is More Common Than Suggested," can be found at www.pec-online.com. The group's conclusions came after they analyzed data collected from the Examining Siblings To Recognize Abuse (ExSTRA) research network. The data, based on skeletal surveys from 2,049 children, showed that 23 percent of them had at least one previously unknown fracture in the initial skeletal survey. When fractures are found, the survey is referred to as a positive skeletal survey. Of the children with positive skeletal surveys, 10.4 percent had a fracture to the hands, feet, spine or pelvis.

The surveyed children came from a group of nearly 3,000 who were part of a study by the ExSTRA network between January 2010 and April 2011, Dr. Harper said. They were evaluated by 20 child abuse teams in the United States, including the CARE Team at Driscoll Children's Hospital. Dr. Harper served as the principle center investigator at Driscoll and Sonja Eddleman, RN, CFN was the center coordinator.

Dr. Harper hopes her research provides guidance to physicians and radiologists in evaluating children for suspected child abuse.

"The detection of occult, or hidden, abusive fractures will likely prevent additional serious or fatal inflicted injury in children," she said.

Dr. Harper co-authored another article on the subject that will be published Feb. 11 on the web site of Pediatrics, the official journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics (http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/).

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.

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."

Mendoza joins Driscoll as Emergency Department manager

December 13, 2012
Mendoza
Mendoza
CORPUS CHRISTI - Victor Mendoza, RN, BSN, has joined Driscoll Children's Hospital as manager of the Emergency Department. Mendoza has more than 19 years of emergency room experience in adult, pediatric and military hospital settings. He was previously an emergency room coordinator and trauma and stroke coordinator at a hospital in El Paso.

Phillips is Driscoll's newest cardiologist

December 04, 2012
Phillips
Phillips
CORPUS CHRISTI - Brandon Lane Phillips, MD, has joined Driscoll Children's Hospital as a cardiologist. Dr. Phillips was previously with a private practice group in San Antonio. He earned his medical degree in 2004 at Tulane University School of Medicine in New Orleans and completed his residency in pediatrics in 2007 at Baylor College of Medicine and Texas Children's Hospital in Houston. In 2010, Dr. Phillips completed a fellowship in pediatric cardiology at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. Dr. Phillips' clinical interests include non-invasive imaging, outpatient cardiology and adult congenital cardiology. In addition, Dr. Phillips serves on the national board of directors for the Starlight Children's Foundation, an international, non-profit organization whose purpose is to brighten the lives of seriously ill children. He is certified by the American Board of Pediatrics.

Pulley joins Driscoll as director of Risk Management & Patient Safety Officer

November 26, 2012
Pulley
Pulley
CORPUS CHRISTI - Cynthia Pulley, RN, CPHRM, has joined Driscoll Children's Hospital as director of Risk Management and Patient Safety Officer. Pulley brings more than 20 years of quality and risk management experience, most recently as vice president of Quality and Risk Management at a national healthcare organization. She led quality and safety initiatives for a two-campus facility with responsibility for regulatory, compliance, quality, infection control and risk management.

Balbosa joins Driscoll as pediatric otolaryngologist

November 19, 2012
Balbosa
Balbosa
CORPUS CHRISTI - Aiysha Balbosa, DO has joined Driscoll Children's Hospital as a pediatric otolaryngologist. Dr. Balbosa completed a fellowship in June in pediatric otolaryngology at Texas Children's Hospital-Baylor College of Medicine in Houston. She performed her residency in otolaryngology and facial plastic surgery at St. John Macomb-Oakland Hospital in Madison Heights, Mich., and she completed an internship in otolaryngology and facial plastic surgery at Henry Ford Bi-County Hospital in Warren, Mich.

Dr. Balbosa earned her medical degree in 2006 at New York College of Osteopathic Medicine in Old Westbury, NY and a bachelor's degree in biology in 2001 at Florida A&M University in Tallahassee.