Driscoll cancer patients prove they have the 'right stuff'
August 14, 2013
Warrior-themed event planned Sept. 7 for Childhood Cancer Awareness Month
Rhianna Brizuela's "survivor" necklace is a source of pride for the 4-year-old.
CORPUS CHRISTI - Cancer patients at Driscoll Children's Hospital can easily be described as warriors. They've adapted to battling a life-threatening disease with resilience and bravery, all the while buoying their families' morale.
On Sept. 7, Driscoll will honor the fighting spirit of its cancer patients and commemorate Childhood Cancer Awareness Month with a warrior-themed celebration on the USS Lexington Museum on the Bay. About 150 patients throughout South Texas and their families have been invited. In keeping with the warrior theme, each patient will be given a souvenir dog tag. Corpus Christi City Councilwoman Lillian Riojas will read a proclamation declaring Sept. 7 Childhood Cancer Awareness Day, and the nearby Harbor Bridge will be illuminated in yellow specially for the occasion.
Here are profiles of three heroes who plan to attend the event:
4 years old
Behind Rhianna's pretty smile and shy, sweet demeanor is a tough little girl who battled cancer since she was just a baby. Her mother, Itzamara Pedraza, took her to a pediatrician when she was four months old because she had dime-size bumps on her stomach and under her armpits. It was discovered that Rhianna has neuroblastoma, and even more worrisome for her mother was that the disease was at stage four on a four-stage scale of severity.
"I was in shock," Pedraza said. "The first week I would just cry. Then I stopped because I had to be strong for my daughter."
Pedraza decided to take Rhianna to Driscoll Children's Hospital for the specialized treatment she needed. At Driscoll, she underwent numerous tests, scans and X-rays before regular chemotherapy treatments began. That's when Rhianna showed her true mettle.
"She was just a baby but she was never cranky or anything," Pedraza said. "I don't know where she got the strength from. She's a strong-headed little girl."
In June 2009, Rhianna's right adrenal gland was removed by a Driscoll surgeon to prevent her cancer from coming back, her mother said. She also had a mediport inserted in her chest - a reservoir through which physicians can administer chemotherapy medication into a blood vessel or draw a blood sample.
Pedraza said her daughter is on the "safer side" now, but that she has to come to Driscoll once a year for follow-up visits.
Spreading the message that cancer can affect anyone no matter their age is important to Pedraza.
"I'll do anything to help raise awareness that kids get cancer," she said.
7 years old
Chemotherapy didn't keep Sara Cavazos, 7, from smiling earlier this year.
It was "a life changing moment" when Sara was diagnosed last year with cancer in her kidney and abdominal lymph nodes, said her mother, Anna Cavazos. The good news was that, due to Sara's age and lack of a genetic predisposition, her kidney cancer was "very treatable," Cavazos said.
Physicians at Driscoll Children's Hospital quickly developed a treatment plan for Sara that first included the removal of a cancerous tumor from her kidney, which was performed just before Christmas. Radiation and chemotherapy treatments followed at Driscoll Children's Medical Plaza in McAllen.
As is common with patients undergoing cancer treatment, Sara lost her hair. And because of her lowered immunity, she had to be home-schooled. Nevertheless, she handled the challenges like a trooper, inspiring her own family.
"She's a fighter, a true hero," Cavazos said. "You would hardly ever see her down or depressed. Her famous quote was, 'I got this mom, I'll beat it.' I think it was harder on her parents than it was for her."
Cavazos said a high point in Sara's journey with cancer occurred last June when she attended Camp Star Trails, a summer camp in Burton designed for children with chronic illnesses and disabilities. One of Sara's older sisters was able to attend with her.
"They had a blast," Cavazos said. "They got to meet other kids with illnesses, relate to them and realize they aren't the only ones dealing with this."
Sara's perseverance hasn't been in vain. Her hair recently started growing back, and in July, Driscoll physicians confirmed that she's cancer free, Cavazos said.
"She got the 'all clear' one week after her birthday. Now she's excited to go back to school and be with her friends again."
6 years old
Matthew Garza, 6, wears his navy flight suit on the deck of the USS Lexington Museum on the Bay.
Every other Thursday, Matthew can be found playing his favorite video games in between lab tests and chemotherapy treatments at Driscoll's Cancer & Blood Disorders Center. He's now in the maintenance phase of treatment for acute lymphoblastic leukemia, a disease that took his parents by surprise when he was diagnosed by Driscoll physicians just over two years ago, at age 4.
"At first we were in total shock, almost denial," said Matthew's mother, Melinda Garza. "I think the denial ended when his sister asked me if her brother was going to die. That was like a wake-up call."
Although Matthew has about 15 more months of cancer treatments to go, he appears as healthy and playful as any 6-year-old boy. Last year, he participated in the Pilot for a Day program, in which Driscoll patients and their families are the guests of honor at local naval air stations. He treasures the custom-made flight suit given to him by pilots at Naval Air Station Kingsville, his mother said.
Matthew's fighting spirit has been a blessing to his family, especially during the challenging first two years of his treatment.
"He's been amazing," Garza said. "He's never complained at all. He's given us the strength to move forward."
Matthew's father, Gabriel Garza, recalled a recent trip he and his son took to the family's ranch outside Alice right after a chemotherapy session.
"He likes to ride our tractor and put out corn for the animals, so he went with me," he said. "He wasn't even fazed by the chemo. It was like nothing had happened."
What: Driscoll Children's Hospital's annual Childhood Cancer Awareness Month event
When: 6-9 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 7
Where: USS Lexington Museum on the Bay, 2914 N. Shoreline Blvd.
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.