DCH News

Joyal accepts director position at Driscoll

June 07, 2011
Priscilla Joyal
Priscilla Joyal
CORPUS CHRISTI - Priscilla Joyal, RN, has accepted the position of director of the 6th and 8th floors (towers) at Driscoll Children's Hospital.

Joyal holds a master's degree in nursing and is a certified pediatric nurse. She has been a nurse at Driscoll for more than 14 years, and has served as the ECMO (extracorporeal membrane oxygenation) clinical coordinator in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit for the past nine years.

Joyal chairs the Patient Care Quality and Satisfaction Council and will continue to do so in her new role, which began on June 6.

Children become anglers for a day at annual Chemo Kids Fish Off

June 03, 2011
ARANSAS PASS - The much-anticipated Chemo Kids Fish Off, scheduled for June 6 at Hampton's Landing Marina in Aransas Pass, is an annual excursion that allows children with cancer to take their minds off chemotherapy for a day and concentrate on catching fish with their favorite Driscoll staff members.

More than 50 children, ages 5 - 18, will venture out to waters in guide-driven boats in hopes to catch the most fish. When the junior anglers return to dry land, volunteers will be on hand to weigh fish and help patients make a print of the catch of the day. Patients are also treated to a hotdog lunch and each is recognized at an awards ceremony. The Chemo Kids Fish Off has become a tradition that kids look forward to every summer!

What: Driscoll Children's Hospital's Annual Chemo Kids Fish Off

When: Boats return, 11 a.m., June 6

Where: Hampton's Landing Marina, 430 E. Ransom Rd., Aransas Pass

Driscoll offers speakers for clubs, organizations

June 03, 2011
Nephrologist Samhar Al-Akash, M.D., gives a presentation on Driscoll's kidney transplant program to a recent meeting of the Kiwanis Club of Corpus Christi Bay.
Nephrologist Samhar Al-Akash, M.D., gives a presentation on Driscoll's kidney transplant program to a recent meeting of the Kiwanis Club of Corpus Christi Bay.
Do you belong to a club such as the Rotary, Optimist or Kiwanis club? Does your organization ever need guest speakers for meetings? Driscoll Children's Hospital has some of the most knowledgeable pediatric physicians and healthcare providers you'll find anywhere. We are anxious to share our wealth of information with the community by offering speakers to clubs and organizations. Our experts can speak on a variety of subjects in the pediatric field such as:

  • Diabetes

  • Kidney transplants

  • Infectious diseases

  • Plastic & reconstructive surgery

  • Child abuse

  • Cancer

  • Healthcare careers

  • Obesity

  • Nutrition

  • Heart disease

  • Genetics

  • Neurology

  • Psychiatry

  • Pediatric trends

Since 1953, Driscoll Children's Hospital has been a beacon of hope and healing for children throughout South Texas. We take pride in being a part of the community, and this is one of the ways we're reaching out. Whether your club or organization is large or small, please contact us the next time you need a speaker. You can reach us at (361) 694-5662 or michael.bratten@sbcglobal.net.

Fun, therapy combined in new park at Driscoll

May 20, 2011
CORPUS CHRISTI - The new Rehab Therapy Park at Driscoll Children's Hospital is a ton of fun for the children who use it. It's a colorful, outdoor playground with a wooden bridge, a merry-go-round, garden planters, an activity board and benches. There are even misting fans and shade canvases above. For Driscoll's physical, occupational and speech therapists, it's the perfect place to let their patients have fun while providing them individualized therapy.

"A team of therapists came together and thought about what we would need to complement what we already had in our Rehab Department," said Anna Cerda, P.T., outpatient rehabilitation manager. "The park was one idea. It simulates the community environment and gives the therapists additional tools to provide the best therapy possible."

The Rehab Therapy Park was constructed this year with $140,000 from community support. It's one of several new features that have greatly enhanced the rehabilitation therapy program at Driscoll, which currently serves about 2,500 children.

Almost everything in the park has a therapeutic purpose, Cerda said. The bridge is designed to be wobbly, which challenges children to use muscles in a way they may not be used to. The merry-go-round is used to help children who have movement disorders, decreased strength or difficulty with head control and range of motion.

Some of the features aren't obviously therapeutic. The surface is covered by playground-type rubber with cobblestone and flagstone paths. For children who use a wheelchair or special assistive device like a walker, the surfaces simulate what they may encounter in the community, Cerda said.

Herb garden planters built at three different heights allow children to kneel, stand or sit while gardening or watering the plants. What seem like easy activities can actually help them develop balance and coordination and improve body movement, Cerda said.

The speech activity board has rotating parts on which speech therapists place magnetic pictures, symbols and numbers. Therapists can help improve a child's vocabulary by playing match games, tic-tac-toe or simply creating a game with them.

"It's nice to do things with the speech activity board instead of sitting at a table with the child," said Leah Groves, speech language pathologist at Driscoll. "That's how children learn, by moving and doing things with their hands. It's just more interesting to them."

The park is often used as a reward for children when they need a little motivation to complete certain activities, Cerda said. It's available to any child in the community who is referred by their physician, she added.

Driscoll's rehab equipment and specialized, up-to-date technology allows its therapists to address any pediatric rehabilitation need.

"We're not an adult facility that sees children," said Susan Fields, director of the Rehabilitation Department. "We are specifically designed and equipped to work with children and adolescents of any age."

NOTE: This is the first in a series of press releases that will focus on Driscoll's new rehabilitation therapy equipment.

Driscoll takes home gold and silver Aster Awards

May 13, 2011
CORPUS CHRISTI - Products created by Driscoll Children's Hospital's Marketing and Community Relations Department recently won two gold Aster Awards and one silver Aster Award in a national competition hosted by Marketing Healthcare Today Magazine and Creative Images Inc. The competition, one of the largest of its kind, recognizes outstanding healthcare professionals, organizations and agencies for excellence in their advertising and marketing efforts in the 2010 calendar year.

"We are truly proud to receive these prestigious awards," said Tammy Weaver, assistant vice president of Marketing and Community Relations at Driscoll. "The materials we produce reflect not only the mission of Driscoll Children's Hospital, but also the creative talents of the people who work here."

Driscoll won a gold Aster Award in the calendar category for its 2011 calendar titled "A Driscoll Scrapbook." Designed to resemble a scrapbook, the calendar features photos of smiling patients on colorful, patterned backgrounds. Artistic elements reflect a different theme each month.

The other gold Aster was won in the professional recruitment - single category for packaged t-shirts that are used for physician recruiting by Driscoll. The white t-shirts are formed, labeled and wrapped in the shape of Texas; the label shows the state, its flag design and icons that identify all the Texas cities with Driscoll facilities.

Banner ads that were displayed on the sides of Regional Transit Authority buses in Corpus Christi garnered a silver Aster Award for Driscoll in the outdoor transit - single category. The ads promoted the Driscoll Auxiliary's 2010 holiday card collection and holiday gifts that were designed by patients and sold annually to benefit the hospital.

The 2011 Aster Awards received approximately 3,000 entries from across the United States as well as Canada and South America. Participants' entries competed against similar-sized organizations in their category.

Entries must score at least in the top 16 percent to receive an award. Judging criteria includes creativity, layout and design, functionality, message effectiveness, production quality and overall appeal.

"It was an honor to have the number of healthcare organizations and agencies that participated in the 2011 Aster Awards competition," said Melinda R. Lucas, Aster Awards program coordinator. "The quality of this year's entries went well beyond the judges' expectations."

All winners are posted on the Aster Awards website (www.asterawards.com), as well as published in Marketing Healthcare Today, a national healthcare marketing magazine.

Families to share support, good times at Driscoll's annual Transplant Reunion

May 05, 2011
Brothers Dondi, 13 (left), and Mark Maldonado, 12, who have both had kidney transplants at Driscoll, plan to attend the annual Transplant Reunion with their family Saturday, May 7, at the Texas State Aquarium.
Brothers Dondi, 13 (left), and Mark Maldonado, 12, who have both had kidney transplants at Driscoll, plan to attend the annual Transplant Reunion with their family Saturday, May 7, at the Texas State Aquarium.
About 200 people expected at event Saturday at Texas State Aquarium

CORPUS CHRISTI - Coming in for blood tests at Driscoll Children's Hospital's Kidney Center is a routine affair for brothers Mark and Dondi Maldonado. The 12- and 13-year-old, who have both received kidney transplants at Driscoll, hang out in the waiting area, play with their younger siblings and joke around with their parents, Roger and Cindy Maldonado. It's a comfortable, happy scene compared to when the brothers were undergoing dialysis treatment before their transplants.

"It's hard when your children are going through something like that and they're in the hospital," Cindy Maldonado said. "It hurts you as a parent. Plus we have four other kids. Sometimes I felt like I was getting overwhelmed but I had to stay strong for my kids. The strength of my husband and the people at the hospital are what kept me going."

On Saturday, the Maldonado family will be joining other families of Driscoll kidney transplant patients at the Texas State Aquarium for the annual Transplant Reunion. The event is designed for patients and their families to enjoy some fun, food, games and fellowship.

Mark and Dondi Maldonado both have juvenile nephronophthisis, a childhood genetic kidney disease in which there is progressive destruction of the kidneys and eventual kidney failure. Mark had his transplant in 2008 and Dondi had his last November. They are among 41 children who have had kidney transplants at Driscoll Children's Hospital since 2007 and the second pair of siblings to have had the procedure at the hospital.

Cindy Maldonado said transplant families share a special bond and support each other through their experiences.

"I've met a lot of families here," she said of Driscoll's Kidney Center. "One family we became good friends with. We talk and make sure they're doing OK.

"The reunion is nice because everybody can come together," she added. "It also lets the kids know they're as normal as anyone else. They like to catch up with each other like the parents do."

Transplant Coordinator Anita Rosales expects about 200 people to attend this year's reunion. Large tents will be set up on the sprawling lawn in front of the Aquarium, a location that proved to be ideal for the event last year. Staging the reunion is rewarding for the staff at Driscoll's Kidney Center.

"Our transplant team enjoys putting this reunion together for our patients," Rosales said. "It is our way of celebrating them and their new gift. We look forward to seeing each and every one of them. Many of them live in the Rio Grande Valley and make the trip to the reunion because they enjoy the camaraderie and the activities so much."

Besides the other transplant families, Cindy Maldonado said the reunion will be a good chance for her family to visit with her sons' medical staff from Driscoll.

"I definitely feel like I have a bond with the staff - the nurses, Dr. (Samhar) Al-Akash and Anita (Rosales) especially. I feel like they care about people 100 percent."

  • What: Driscoll Children's Hospital annual Transplant Reunion

  • When: Noon Saturday, May 7

  • Where: Texas State Aquarium

Asthma 101: What Parents Should Know

May 03, 2011
Child life specialists and respiratory therapists at Driscoll Children's Hospital use
Child life specialists and respiratory therapists at Driscoll Children's Hospital use "Radical Randy" to teach children about asthma and respiratory problems.
May is Asthma Awareness Month

May is Asthma Awareness Month, and Driscoll Children's Hospital wants you to know as much as you can about the disease so you can recognize it and, if necessary, help your child better deal with it. With proper treatment and a team approach to managing asthma, most children with asthma can live a normal life. Asthma, however, can be a life-threatening disease. It is important for families to work together with healthcare professionals to develop an asthma action plan to properly care for the child.

Pediatrician Daniel Vijjeswarapu, M.D., has treated children with asthma for 19 years. He provided the following information for parents whose children have asthma.

What causes asthma?

In children who have asthma, their airways are inflamed and "twitchy" because they overreact to irritants in the environment. These irritants are called triggers, and they include anything that sets off an asthma flare-up. Different children have different triggers. Some common asthma triggers are allergies, chest colds, pollution and exercise. To control your child's asthma, you have to find out what his or her triggers are and learn how to deal with them.

How does asthma work?

When your child has asthma, his or her airways are inflamed much of the time. This inflammation can make breathing difficult for three reasons:

  • The inside lining of the airways swells inward. This narrows the space inside their airways.

  • The muscles around the airways tighten. This tightening is called bronchospasm (or bronchoconstriction). Bronchospasm also narrows the airways.

  • The child's airways produce more mucous. Excess mucous clogs the airways, narrowing the space for air to pass through.

With their inflamed airways narrowed by swelling, bronchospasm and excess mucous, air doesn't move as easily into and out of their lungs. It can be like trying to breathe through a narrow straw - they have to work extra hard to get air in and out. Other asthma symptoms like coughing, wheezing and chest tightness can also happen. This is an asthma flare-up (also called an asthma "attack").

Asthma symptoms: From bad to worse

Below are some common asthma symptoms that can happen as an asthma flare-up worsens:

  • Cough. The first thing you may notice is a persistent (ongoing) cough, especially at night.

  • Wheezing. You may hear a high-pitched whistling sound as the child breathes. This sound, called wheezing, means that the air is having trouble moving through his or her airways. Wheezing usually happens when they breathe out. But as the asthma worsens, you might also hear wheezing when they breathe in.

  • Difficulty breathing, chest tightness. As the child's breathing becomes more difficult, he or she can feel pain or tightness in their chest. Children are likely to say that their chest hurts.

  • Shallow breathing. The child may find it difficult to take a deep breath. Their breaths become smaller and shallower as their condition worsens.

  • Fast breathing. As breathing becomes shallower, it also becomes faster as the child's body tries to get more oxygen into their lungs. A child breathing faster than 50 breaths a minute while at rest is breathing fast.

  • Retractions. As the asthma flare-up worsens, you may notice that the child's skin and muscles between their ribs and at the base of their throat are "pulling in" or "retracting" with each breath in. These retractions show that they're really struggling to get air into their lungs.

  • Life-threatening symptoms. If an asthma flare-up becomes very severe, the child won't be able to work hard enough to breathe in. At this point, the retractions and wheezing may actually begin to go away. Their breathing will become very shallow. And, because their body isn't getting enough oxygen, their face and lips may turn slightly blue. Symptoms like these are very dangerous and require immediate emergency care.

To get the most out of your child's asthma treatment, you should:

  • Understand the different types of medication and when your child should take them.

  • Make sure the child uses the medication delivery device - an inhaler or nebulizer - correctly.

  • Establish good habits for staying on schedule with your child's medication.

There are two basic types of asthma medications: Quick-relief and controller medications. Quick-relief medications, also called rescue medications, can stop an asthma flare-up from getting worse. They work immediately, usually within 5 to 10 minutes, to help open airways during an asthma flare-up. Quick-relief medications do not prevent future symptoms.

Controller medications, also called maintenance medications, should be taken every day on a regular basis even if the child is symptom-free and feeling well. Controller medications help prevent asthma flare-ups.

Some precautions asthmatic children should take in their daily lives

If your child isn't taking his or her medication properly, you need to talk and find out why. Keep the tone positive and encouraging. Start by pointing out what is working, then go on to explore the following possible problems together:

  • "I don't want to take my medication!" If your child actively resists taking medication, find out why. Is he or she embarrassed? Does the medication taste bad? Are medication side effects bothering him or her? Work with your child and your child's healthcare provider and teachers to find ways to minimize these problems.

  • "It's too hard." Make sure your child understands when and how to take various medications. (An asthma action plan can help here.) Have your doctor or asthma educator reinforce your child's technique for taking inhaled medications.

  • "I don't need medication." There are lots of reasons why children might think they don't need medication. They might have become used to poor lung function and think that it's normal. They could be practicing "wishful thinking" - deciding that their asthma has gone away. (Just because they don't have symptoms now doesn't mean their asthma is gone!) Or perhaps they're not getting much benefit from their medication, in which case they need to have their treatment adjusted. Make an appointment with your child's doctor to review and agree upon an asthma action plan.

Other precautions to take

You and your family can help control a child's asthma by helping get rid of the indoor triggers that make symptoms worse. If possible, keep pets outdoors, or at least away from the child's bedroom.

No one should smoke in a house or around a child with asthma. Eliminating tobacco smoke from the home is the single most important thing a family can do to help a child with asthma. Smoking outside the house is not enough. Family members and visitors who smoke carry smoke residue in and on their clothes and hair, and this can trigger asthma symptoms.

Keeping humidity levels low and fixing leaks can reduce growth of organisms such as mold. Keep the house clean and keep food in containers and out of bedrooms - this helps reduce the possibility of cockroaches, which can trigger asthma attacks.

Bedding can be covered with "allergy-proof," polyurethane-coated casings to reduce exposure to dust mites. Detergents and cleaning agents in the home should be unscented. All of these efforts can make a significant difference to the child with asthma, even though it may not be obvious right away.

Myth and truth

Myth: "Children usually outgrow asthma."

Truth: How asthma affects children throughout their lifetimes varies. In some children, symptoms get worse over time. In other children, symptoms seem to go away as the lungs develop. Still, people who seem to have "outgrown" childhood asthma often have their symptoms reappear in adulthood.

The bottom line? Even if symptoms go away, the tendency toward asthma is still there. That's why children diagnosed with asthma should work with a doctor to match their treatment plan to their current condition.

Driscoll Children's Hospital offers asthma help

Driscoll offers resources for asthmatic children such as one-on-one classes with Candace, "The Asthma Lady." The classes are for families and can be scheduled at their convenience. If you are interested in attending an asthma class, contact Candace Martaus to schedule a time at (361) 694-4167 or candace.martaus@dchstx.org. The classes are free of charge.

Also, in June, there is a summer day-camp for children with persistent asthma. The 10th annual Camp Easy Breathers is designed to provide physical and social experiences that are fun while increasing a child's understanding of his or her asthma. Sponsored by Driscoll Children's Hospital and the Coastal Bend Asthma Initiative, the camp will be from June 12-15, 2011 at Camp Aranzazu in Rockport. The registration deadline is June 3, 2011. For more information, call (361) 694-4580 or click here.

Facts about Asthma

According to the latest available information from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and the Asthma & Allergy Foundation of America, consider the following statistics:

  • About 22.2 million people in the US have been diagnosed with asthma, with at least 6.5 million of them children under the age of 18.

  • Asthma is the most common chronic condition among children in the US.

  • Asthma accounts for 14 million absences from school each year.

  • Asthma is 26 percent more common in African-American children than in Caucasian children.

  • African-American children with asthma, most often from inner-city populations, generally experience more severe disability from asthma and have more frequent hospitalizations than do Caucasian children.

  • Asthma is the third most common cause of childhood hospitalizations under the age of 15.

  • More than 200,000 children with asthma experience symptoms that are more severe due to exposure to secondhand smoke.

  • About 10 million doctor's office visits annually result in a diagnosis of asthma.

  • Asthma cases and asthma deaths have been on the rise, and hospitalizations for asthma have increased.

  • Asthma treatment costs an estimated $18 billion each year, including direct and indirect expenditures.

Wanted: Volunteers seeking rewarding experiences

April 21, 2011
Driscoll volunteer Gerry Reeves assists a young customer in the hospital's Carousel Gift Shop.
Driscoll volunteer Gerry Reeves assists a young customer in the hospital's Carousel Gift Shop.

Van Burkleo
Dot Van Burkleo had some free time on her hands and wanted to spend it in a worthwhile way. After seeing an ad in the newspaper, she attended a meeting of the Auxiliary to Driscoll Children's Hospital. Three and a half years later, Van Burkleo looks forward to her weekly shifts as a volunteer at the hospital.
"Knowing that I have a part in helping the patients and their families to have a better stay while they are hospitalized is the most rewarding part about volunteering at Driscoll," she said. "An added bonus is the fun and fellowship shared by the volunteers."

Driscoll is looking for more volunteers like Van Burkleo. The qualifications are simple and the rewards are great. Candidates should be compassionate, dependable, willing to work a regular shift and have a can-do attitude. An ideal volunteer at Driscoll can communicate well and demonstrate empathy.

"We're looking for people who are able to recognize other people's needs and look for ways to meet those needs as a result of training and your own life experiences," said Lizette Saenz, director of Volunteer Services at Driscoll.

Volunteers are asked to commit to a minimum of four hours weekly for at least six months. There are a multitude of duties that volunteers are needed for, such as providing customer service in the gift shop, assisting visitors at the welcome center, distributing toys to patients, stocking the Half Pint Library, operating a cash register in the Cottage Shop and, with additional training, working directly with children.

Volunteers at Driscoll not only experience the reward of making a difference in the lives of children, they also relish the new challenges and social activities.

"They really enjoy making new and lasting friendships with the hospital staff and their fellow volunteers," Saenz said.

Dot Van Burkleo agrees. She said Driscoll is a wonderful place to spend a few hours each week.
"The patients, employees and other volunteers make it a most satisfying experience."

If you would like to become a valued part of Driscoll's volunteer team, you can obtain an application by calling the Volunteer Services Department at (361) 694-5011, pick one up at the hospital's welcome center or view more information and download an application from the web site by clicking HERE.

Registration is underway for Camp Easy Breathers!

April 21, 2011
Archery is one of the many activities campers will enjoy at Camp Easy Breathers. This year's camp will also feature a carnival.
Archery is one of the many activities campers will enjoy at Camp Easy Breathers. This year's camp will also feature a carnival.
Applications are being accepted for the 10th annual Camp Easy Breathers, a summer day-camp for children ages 7-14 with persistent asthma. Sponsored by Driscoll Children's Hospital, the Coastal Bend Community Foundation and the Coastal Bend Asthma Initiative, it will be from June 12-15, 2011 at Camp Aranzazu in Rockport. There will be a carnival this year with games, obstacle courses and other activities, as well as swimming, arts and crafts, outdoor games, sports and an awards show. The cost for the camp is $250 per child and scholarships are available. Deadline for registration is June 3, 2011. For information, call Shelly Bigelow at (361) 694-4580 or CLICK HERE.

Rooms To Go will present check for $20,000 to Driscoll Children's Hospital

April 18, 2011
Martha St. Romain, vice president of Development at Driscoll, accepts a check from Gerry Raymond, Rooms To Go vice president of sales for Texas, and Brian Smolik, Rooms To Go store manager.
Martha St. Romain, vice president of Development at Driscoll, accepts a check from Gerry Raymond, Rooms To Go vice president of sales for Texas, and Brian Smolik, Rooms To Go store manager.
WHAT: Rooms To Go will donate a portion of the sales from their grand opening to Driscoll Children's Hospital in the form of a check for $20,000. The store, at 3901 S. Padre Island Drive, had its grand opening on March 26.

WHEN: 10 a.m. Tuesday, April 19

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