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's weight management patients gather tomorrow for Bariatric Reunion
December 06, 2013
WHAT: Patients from Driscoll Children's Hospital's Adolescent Weight Management Program will gather tomorrow for fun and fellowship at the annual Bariatric Reunion. They'll be joined by some of the Driscoll staff who have helped them along their weight-loss journey. The Adolescent Weight Management Program, begun in 2009, involves extensive weight control and nutritional education and, for patients who meet certain criteria, surgical attachment of an adjustable band around the stomach that aids in decreasing sensations of hunger.
WHEN: 12:45 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 7
WHERE: Sully's Bowling Lanes, 2285 W. Wheeler Ave, Aransas Pass
Driscoll physician presents case report at meeting in San Francisco
December 03, 2013
CORPUS CHRISTI - A case report by Driscoll Children's Hospital physicians was presented Oct. 14 at the annual meeting of the American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA) in San Francisco. "Intraoperative Management of a Giant Sacrococcygeal Teratoma (GS/T) in a preterm infant with Respiratory Distress Syndrome (RDS), Pulmonary Hypertension (PPHTN) and Consumptive Coagulopathy" was presented as a poster by anesthesiologist Meera Gangadharan, MBBS. Physicians who collaborated with Dr. Gangadharan were anesthesiologists Angelina Bhandari, MD, and A. Jay Koska, MD, and pediatric surgeon Stephen Almond, MD.
"This was a very challenging case with a mortality rate exceeding 50 percent," Dr. Gangadharan said. "It involved excellent teamwork by Driscoll's neonatology, cardiology, anesthesiology and surgery services and resulted in an excellent outcome for the patient."
The ASA is a 50,000-member educational research and scientific association of physicians organized to raise and maintain the standards of the medical practice of anesthesiology and improve the care of the patient.
Adebo joins Driscoll as pediatric cardiologist
December 02, 2013
CORPUS CHRISTI - Dilachew Adebo, MD, has joined Driscoll Children's Hospital as a pediatric cardiologist. Dr. Adebo received his medical degree in 1999 from Gondar College of Medical Sciences in Ethiopia. He completed fellowships in pediatric cardiology at the University of Minnesota Medical Center in Minneapolis and Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. He received cardiovascular magnetic resonance training at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia and obtained level III certification by the Society for Cardiovascular Magnetic Resonance. Dr. Adebo received additional training in pediatric cardiology in Holon, Israel and in London. He performed his residency in pediatrics at Driscoll Children's Hospital and Addis Ababa University in Ethiopia. Dr. Adebo is certified by the American Board of Pediatrics, and he is a member of the American Heart Association, American Academy of Pediatrics and Society for Cardiovascular Magnetic Resonance.
Woerner selected to serve on state Perinatal Advisory Council
December 02, 2013
CORPUS CHRISTI - Steven F. Woerner, president and chief executive officer of Driscoll Children's Hospital, has been selected by the Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) to serve on the Perinatal Advisory Council for Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) as a member who represents a children's hospital. The council will develop and recommend criteria for designating levels of neonatal and maternal care, including a process for assignment of levels of care to a hospital for neonatal and maternal care. Woerner's term will expire on Sept. 1, 2019.
Kohl's Department Stores donates more than $42,000 to Driscoll's Keep Your Kids Safe Program
November 18, 2013
CORPUS CHRISTI - A bicycle rodeo and bicycle helmet giveaway was held at Driscoll Children's Hospital on Nov. 16, 2013 from 10 am to 1 pm. During this event, a check from the Kohl's Cares grant programs was presented to Driscoll Children's Hospital's Injury Prevention Program.
At the check presentation Nov. 16 were (left to right) Cpl. Charlie Ramirez, Texas Dept. of Public Safety; Queta Almanza, Driscoll Injury Prevention specialist; Felicia Powell, Driscoll inpatient clinical coordinator; Norma Medina, Driscoll trauma registrar; Tiffany Collie, Driscoll Injury Prevention specialist; and Jason Woodman, Kohl's store manager.
The Kohl's Cares donation is used to fund the Keep Your Kids Safe Program, which provides child passenger safety seats, bicycle helmets and safety education to the Coastal Bend community. Since 2004, Kohl's has donated more than $385,000 to Driscoll Children's Hospital's Injury Prevention Program.
"Kohl's has provided invaluable assistance in helping Driscoll Children's Hospital get the word out on child injury prevention," said Martha Avery, Driscoll vice president for Development. "So many children's accidents are preventable with the proper education and training. Thanks to support from Kohl's, thousands of car seats have been inspected and thousands of bicycle helmets given away to help keep children safe."
Kohl's' commitment to Driscoll Children's Hospital is made possible through the Kohl's Cares® cause merchandise program. Through this initiative, Kohl's sells $5 books and plush toys where 100 percent of net profit benefits children's health and education programs nationwide, including hospital partnerships like this one. Kohl's has raised more than $231 million dollars through this merchandise program. In addition to the merchandise program, Kohl's Cares® features the Kohl's Cares® Scholarship Program, which last year recognized more than 2,300 young volunteers with more than $400,000 in scholarships and prizes. Through Kohl's Associates in Action volunteer program, more than 669,000 associates have donated more than 2.2 million hours of their time since 2001, and Kohl's has donated more than $63 million to youth-focused nonprofit organizations. Kohl's also offers fundraising gift cards for schools and youth-serving organizations. For more information, visit www.Kohls.com/Cares.
Kohl's Department Stores to donate more than $42,000 to Driscoll's Injury Prevention Program
November 15, 2013
WHAT: Kohl's will present to Driscoll Children's Hospital a check for $42,015 during a bicycle rodeo held to promote bicycle safety and helmet safety. The gift supports Driscoll Children's Hospital's Injury Prevention Program, which provides child passenger safety seats to low income families, along with bicycle helmets to children in the community. In the past nine years, Kohl's has donated more than $385,000 to Driscoll Children's Hospital's Injury Prevention Program through Kohl's Cares®.
WHEN: Bicycle rodeo: 10 a.m.; Check presentation: 11:05 a.m. Saturday, Nov. 16
WHERE: Driscoll Children's Hospital Injury Prevention Program building parking lot, 3533 S. Alameda St.
Driscoll resident receives grant to attend medical conference
November 12, 2013
CORPUS CHRISTI - Anitha Ezekiel, MD, resident physician at Driscoll Children's Hospital, was chosen by the American Society of Nephrology (ASN) to receive an $800 travel support grant and complimentary registration to attend the program for medical students and residents at ASN Kidney Week 2013, held Nov. 5-10 in Atlanta. More than 13,000 kidney professionals attended the event, described by ASN as the world's premier nephrology meeting. Kidney Week provides participants with opportunities to exchange knowledge, learn the latest scientific and medical advances and engage in discussions with leading experts in the field.
Driscoll's state-of-the-art MRI suite combines entertainment and technology to help ease patients' anxiety
November 11, 2013
CORPUS CHRISTI - Under construction since the spring, the newly renovated magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) suite at Driscoll Children's Hospital is now fully operational. The state-of-the-art suite could have come from the Starship Enterprise, with its streamlined architecture, new, larger magnet and features that allow patients to choose sights, sounds and even movies while they undergo an MRI.
Driscoll's newly renovated MRI suite includes a new, larger magnet, an ambient lighting system that can be coordinated with projected images that patients can choose (right), and a TV screen on which they can watch movies.
"Allowing children to control the environment when they may be nervous about a procedure helps them become calmer," said Ernest Chavez, Driscoll director of Radiology Services.
An MRI is a noninvasive, diagnostic procedure that uses a magnet to obtain detailed images of the internal structure of the body. It typically lasts 45 minutes to an hour.
Among the customizable features in the MRI suite is a projection system that displays moving, child-friendly images on a wall. Patients can choose from a variety of themes, including sky, underwater, jungle, South America and Europe. And each theme is paired with a color that illuminates the room via an ambient lighting system. If a child doesn't want a projection theme, they can choose the color of the lighting, or to have alternating colors. The lighting and projection can be programmed on a wall-mounted keypad when the patient arrives in the MRI suite or beforehand on a tablet.
A 32-inch, flat-screen TV in the room also allows patients to watch their favorite movie. They can bring their own DVD or pick one that is available in the suite, such as "Cars," "Ice Age," "Tangled" and "Iron Man." Children hear the movie through headphones. If they opt not to watch a movie, they can listen to music on their own CD or one that is on hand, like Taylor Swift or One Direction.
The renovation also includes a new magnet with a 70-centimeter bore, which is 15 centimeters larger than the previous magnet's. The larger bore size is beneficial in different ways. Patients can more easily see their parents while the MRI is being performed, Driscoll's technical and medical staff have easier access to the patient, it lessens the potential for claustrophobic feelings, and it can accommodate larger patients.
"With this equipment, an MRI can be a pleasant experience rather than one that may be scary to a child," said Driscoll radiologist Allister Arnold, MD. "At the same time, procedures can be done more efficiently."
This year, Driscoll's Radiology Services installed ambient lighting in its X-ray rooms, and it will also be incorporated in the computed tomography and nuclear medicine rooms. The ultrasound rooms will also be outfitted during future remodeling. Funding for the ambient lighting, including that in the MRI suite, came from Driscoll's annual Fiesta de los Niños fundraiser.
Driscoll's ER renovation project to benefit from Halliburton donation
November 11, 2013
CORPUS CHRISTI - Representatives from Halliburton will present a check for $50,000 to Driscoll Children's Hospital tomorrow, to go toward the redesign and expansion of Driscoll's Emergency Room. The donation was made possible by funds raised at the 20th annual Halliburton Charity Golf Tournament, held last month in Houston.
Approximately 35,000 children visit Driscoll's ER annually. The renovation and expansion of the ER began in July and is scheduled to last 16 to 18 months. The $12 million project will increase the size of the ER and lobby by approximately 5,000 square feet. It will result in a state-of-the-art ER and significantly enhance overall patient care at Driscoll
"Halliburton has been a dedicated supporter of children's health," said Martha Avery, Driscoll vice president of Development. "We are very fortunate to have such a great partner here in our region. We are extremely grateful to Halliburton for their generous support."
Each year, Halliburton partners with vendors, suppliers and employees to host its Charity Golf Tournament in Houston. Since its inception, the tournament has given nearly $8.5 million to charities across the United States. Two previous donations from the event have gone toward Driscoll's ER project.
"Making a real difference for organizations like Driscoll Children's Hospital is what the Halliburton Charity Golf Tournament is all about," said Joe Foster, Halliburton vice president of Business Development for the Southeast area. "It's remarkable to have proceeds from the tournament support worthwhile causes, such as Driscoll's ER renovation project, to continue providing hope and healing for children across South Texas."
What: Halliburton check presentation
When: 10:30 a.m. Tuesday, Nov. 12
Where: Driscoll Children's Hospital, main lobby, 3533 S. Alameda St.
Driscoll's Cottage Shop again voted no. 1 consignment store
November 08, 2013
CORPUS CHRISTI - For the second year running, readers of the Corpus Christi Caller-Times have voted the Cottage Shop at Driscoll Children's Hospital the no. 1 consignment store in the newspaper's 2013 Best of the Best competition.
The Cottage Shop staff includes (left to right) Jim Tansey, Lydia Blunzter, Karen Easton, Kathy Jenkin, Dot Van Burkleo, Linda Kaatz, Susan Quiroz (manager), Maria Luisa Doyle, Pam Pudelka, Rosemary Fischer, Imelda Garcia and Margaret Meinecke.
The Cottage Shop, operated by the Auxiliary to Driscoll Children's Hospital, 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 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.