DCH News

Press Releases

Matt Young, (361) 548-6073

Driscoll Health Plan members offered discount at Sunday's Laredo Lemurs game, concert

May 31, 2013
WHAT: Driscoll Health Plan is offering its members a $2 discount on tickets to this Sunday's Laredo Lemurs game and Christian music concert at Uni-Trade Stadium. Point of Grace, a Christian music band, is scheduled to perform immediately following the game against the Kansas City T-Bones.
WHEN: 3:16 p.m. Sunday, June 2
WHERE: Uni-Trade Stadium, 6320 Sinatra Pkwy.

Credit union to present a $5,000 gift to Driscoll Children's Hospital

May 22, 2013
WHAT: Representatives from Security Service Federal Credit Union will present a check for $5,000 to Driscoll Children's Hospital. The funds are part of a $25,000 commitment from Credit Unions for Kids that will go toward the renovation and expansion of Driscoll's emergency room. The project, to begin this summer and last approximately 18 months, will result in an even more child friendly emergency room that is welcoming, calming and caring.
WHEN: 1:45 p.m. Thursday, May 23
WHERE: Driscoll Children's Hospital, main lobby, 3533 S. Alameda St.

Driscoll's Teddy Bear Hospital is a chance for patients to be the doctors

May 20, 2013
WHAT: Patients will be the doctors tomorrow during a Teddy Bear Hospital organized by the Stripes Child Life Program at Driscoll Children's Hospital. The event allows children to become more familiar with the medical equipment and procedures involved in their treatment. They'll choose their teddy bear, give it a name and, with the help of Child Life Specialists and other Driscoll staff, measure its height and weight, place an IV and draw labs, give it an X-ray, attach an anesthesia mask for surgery and put an arm or leg in a cast. The Teddy Bear Hospital and the Stripes Child Life Program at Driscoll Children's Hospital are made possible by a $1 million donation from Stripes convenience stores.
WHEN: 1:30 p.m. Tuesday, May 21
WHERE: Driscoll Children's Hospital auditorium, 3533 S. Alameda St.

Driscoll resident leads book drive for young clinic patients

May 13, 2013
At the book delivery to Amistad Community Health Center May 1 were (from left): Driscoll resident Shuya Wu, MD, PhD; Diana Chavez, Amistad receptionist; Victoria Vidaurre, certified medical assistant (CMA) at Amistad; Julie Flores, CMA at Amistad; Joe Flores, Amistad chief financial officer; Stacy Samples, CMA at Amistad; Stephanie Kanapaux, Amistad receptionist; Jamie Flores, CMA at Amistad; Rose Garcia, Amistad receptionist; Lori Anderson, MD, Amistad pediatrician; and Driscoll resident Shaye Walston, DO.
At the book delivery to Amistad Community Health Center May 1 were (from left): Driscoll resident Shuya Wu, MD, PhD; Diana Chavez, Amistad receptionist; Victoria Vidaurre, certified medical assistant (CMA) at Amistad; Julie Flores, CMA at Amistad; Joe Flores, Amistad chief financial officer; Stacy Samples, CMA at Amistad; Stephanie Kanapaux, Amistad receptionist; Jamie Flores, CMA at Amistad; Rose Garcia, Amistad receptionist; Lori Anderson, MD, Amistad pediatrician; and Driscoll resident Shaye Walston, DO.
Giving back 'is part of being a member of a community,' she said

CORPUS CHRISTI - In an effort to promote early childhood literacy, Driscoll Children's Hospital senior resident Shaye Walston, DO, recently spearheaded a project to collect children's books for patients at Amistad Community Health Center. Donations skyrocketed, and on May 1, 850 books were delivered to the clinic. They're being given to patients when they arrive for well-child checkups.

"Every book will make a big difference to the child who receives it," Dr. Walston said. "By my calculations, these should last Amistad nearly a year."

The new and gently used books were donated by Driscoll's resident physicians and members of the community, Dr. Walston said. They're suitable for kids 0-18 years old.

"We were very surprised and grateful when Dr. Walston arrived in her car loaded with boxes," said Amistad physician Lori Anderson, MD. "The kids here love to pick out a book to take home after their appointments. All of the books will be enjoyed."

The book drive is part of an advocacy campaign titled "Read, Lead, Succeed" that is sponsored by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) Section on Medical Students, Residents, and Fellowship Trainees (SOMSRFT). Dr. Walston is the outgoing AAP delegate for Driscoll's residency program.

According to the AAP website, "When researching for projects, SOMSRFT executive committee
members learned that one-third of 4th graders read so poorly they cannot complete their schoolwork
successfully and children who are read to regularly are 3-4 times less likely to drop out of school. Statistics like this coupled with recent budget cuts to important programs stood out to the group and inspired everyone to try and make changes."

Dr. Walston, who plans to remain in Corpus Christi and practice as a general pediatrician after graduating from Driscoll's residency program next month, hopes to help future Driscoll residents give back to the community through annual donation drives.

"I think giving back is part of being a member of a community," she said. "Growing up, my parents encouraged us to educate ourselves, and reading was one of the best ways to pass time. To be able to give children a chance to further themselves and find a book to lose themselves in is just a small way to open doors for their future."

Dr. Walston has entered the book drive in a contest among residency programs for their advocacy projects sponsored by the Boston-based organization Reach Out & Read. Projects are graded on a variety of factors and the winning residency program, to be chosen this summer, will receive hundreds of books for the clinic of their choice, she said.

Hollywood-themed celebration planned for Driscoll nurses

May 08, 2013
Event is in conjunction with National Nurses Week, May 6-12

CORPUS CHRISTI - National Nurses Week is May 6-12, and Driscoll Children's Hospital is marking the occasion with a celebration tomorrow for its more than 500 nurses.

"This is a way for us to recognize our nurses for all the work they do," said Driscoll's Jo Ann Gamez, RN, BSN, CCRN, chair of the celebration committee. "Nurses may not realize how much they're appreciated by patients, families, physicians and the community. They have come a long way from the Florence Nightingale days."

May 6 is also known as National Nurses Day, and May 12 is the birthday of Florence Nightingale, the founder of modern nursing.

Driscoll's auditorium will be decorated in a Hollywood theme for the celebration, with music provided by a DJ and photo props for the nurses. They'll be treated to dinner and a special performance by students from John Paul II High School. Speakers will include Steve Woerner, Driscoll's president and chief executive officer, Patricia Carr, assistant vice president of Nursing Operations, and the parent of a former Driscoll patient.

What: National Nurses Week celebration
When: 5 p.m. Thursday, May 9
Where: Driscoll Children's Hospital auditorium, 3533 S. Alameda St.

Brownsville boy is 'a totally different person' since leukemia diagnosis

May 03, 2013
Driscoll Children's Hospital physicians treat Andrew Banda in his hometown, Brownsville

BROWNSVILLE - Claudia Maldonado knew her son, Andrew Banda, was sick in January 2012. At 8 years old, he was too thin and his yellowish eyes revealed he had jaundice, she said. Still, the news that he had acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) was a shock.

"I just couldn't believe it," Maldonado said, pausing to hold back tears. "It was very hard to hear. It's something that you never forget."

Andrew was diagnosed by physicians at Driscoll Children's Specialty Center in Brownsville, where he and his family live. In addition to jaundice, he was suffering from low blood cell counts and hepatomegaly, an enlargement of the liver. Hepatomegaly and low blood cell counts - anemia and leucopenia are the medical terms - are commonly associated with ALL, said Cris Johnson, MD, medical director of the Cancer & Blood Disorders Center at Driscoll Children's Hospital. Dr. Johnson, a hematologist/oncologist, has been involved in Andrew's treatment since he was diagnosed with ALL.

Soon after Andrew's diagnosis, he was admitted to Driscoll Children's Hospital in Corpus Christi, where he began receiving chemotherapy treatments. Maldonado's family has no history of leukemia, she said, so her son's diagnosis and treatment have been learning experiences. Thorough, honest communication from Andrew's physicians has helped alleviate her fears.

"They explain everything very well," Maldonado said. "Even if it's something I might not want to hear, I need to know what's going on and what to expect. That makes a big difference. They're very good doctors. I feel very confident with them."

Maldonado and her parents stayed at the Ronald McDonald House near Driscoll to be close to Andrew during his month-long hospital stay. Despite the hardship, he adjusted well to his surroundings.

"He liked it because everyone would spoil him," Maldonado said with a laugh. "They would bring him movies to watch, and if he didn't like a certain meal they would bring him something else. I guess he got used to that."

Nationally, 2,500 to 3,000 children are diagnosed with leukemia each year, Dr. Johnson said, and cases of ALL among children in the Rio Grande Valley are consistent with the national incidence rate. Driscoll Children's Hospital physicians currently see 35 to 40 cancer patients in the Rio Grande Valley who are undergoing treatment, being followed after treatment or being counseled and monitored for the late effects of chemotherapy, she said. She and other Driscoll hematologists/oncologists regularly travel to see patients at the hospital's clinics in Brownsville and McAllen. A nurse practitioner is also available at the clinics.

Symptoms that may indicate a child has ALL include paleness, unusual bleeding and bruising, fever, lymph node swelling and bone pain, Dr. Johnson said.

Now 9, Andrew receives chemotherapy treatments at Driscoll Children's Specialty Center - Brownsville, and he takes oral medication daily as his battle against ALL continues. A third grader, he enjoys school although he's unable to play contact sports due to a mediport in his chest, Maldonado said. A mediport is a disk placed under the skin that allows physicians to administer chemotherapy medication into his blood vessel or draw a blood sample. Andrew will continue chemotherapy treatments for two more years, his mother said.

Maldonado is upbeat about Andrew's future, saying that he's no longer "skinny" like he was in January 2012.

"He's a totally different person. Back then he was a size six. Now he's a size 14. I say, 'Instead of growing up you're growing from the sides.' As long as he's feeling good and healthy that's all that matters."

Driscoll transplant recipients to gather at annual reunion

May 03, 2013
Joe Esparza, 19, received a kidney transplant at Driscoll Children's Hospital in August 2012.
Joe Esparza, 19, received a kidney transplant at Driscoll Children's Hospital in August 2012.
'It's a family reunion,' 19-year-old said of May 4 event

CORPUS CHRISTI - In the months before he received a kidney transplant at Driscoll Children's Hospital last August, Joe Esparza had plenty of reasons to be depressed. His failing kidneys meant he couldn't eat french fries, cheese and fatty foods. He couldn't play contact sports, including football, his favorite. And missing classes for dialysis treatments would delay his high school graduation a full year. But Joe's positive attitude and supportive family pulled him through the challenges he faced.

"I enjoyed coming to dialysis and seeing the nurses," he said after a recent checkup at Driscoll's Kidney Center. "They made the time go by so fast. I was disappointed to stop seeing them. But I feel a lot better now. I've had a lot more freedom since my transplant. I have more of a social life and I can eat anything I want."

Joe, 19, plans to see staff from the Kidney Center at Driscoll's sixth annual Transplant Reunion, to be held Saturday at West Guth Park. The event, a celebration for Driscoll's 65 kidney transplant patients and their families, is a chance for them to visit, share their experiences and have fun. It will have a Fiesta theme this year, with piñatas, Mexican bingo, a Mexican food dinner, inflatables and an obstacle course. About 200 people are expected to attend.

"The Transplant Reunion is our way of celebrating our patients' and families' journeys to overcome their disease process through transplant," said Anita Rosales, Driscoll transplant coordinator. "It's a chance for them to celebrate a new life."

Joe's grandparents, Herminia and Julian David Castañeda, accompany him to all his appointments at Driscoll. Like Joe, they've become fond of the staff at the Kidney Center.

"It's like a big family," Herminia Castañeda said. "They welcome everyone and they go all out for the patients."

A kinship develops among patients and families when they're facing a serious medical procedure like a kidney transplant, she added. Joe agreed and began naming friends he made while they were undergoing dialysis treatment together and waiting for their transplants. He hopes to see them Saturday at the Transplant Reunion.

"It's a chance to bond," he said. "After you get a transplant, you don't see a lot of people anymore. So this isn't like a transplant reunion. It's a family reunion."

What: Driscoll Children's Hospital's sixth annual Transplant Reunion
When: Noon Saturday, May 4
Where: West Guth Park, 9725 Up River Rd.

Dwarfism doesn't prevent 3-year-old boy from living life

May 02, 2013
Ethann Valdez, 3, was born with achondroplasia, a type of dwarfism. He's been a patient at Driscoll Children's Hospital since he was born.
Ethann Valdez, 3, was born with achondroplasia, a type of dwarfism. He's been a patient at Driscoll Children's Hospital since he was born.
Ethann Valdez's story is second in Driscoll Children's Hospital's 60th anniversary series

CORPUS CHRISTI - Darting around a waiting area at Driscoll Children's Hospital with a huge smile on his face, Ethann Valdez has the seemingly endless energy of any 3-year-old boy. He doesn't appear to be bothered much by the life-threatening disorders that have affected him throughout his young life - and that's fine with his parents.

"We treat him like a normal child," said his mother, Brittney Guerrero. "We take him outside so he can be a boy and not live in a bubble. He knows sign language and can do handstands. He does seem to wonder why people look at him sometimes."

Tired out after a burst of energy, Ethann slows down to catch his breath. He inhales and exhales through a tube that protrudes from his throat called a trach, making a wheezing sound. He received a tracheotomy because his airway is abnormally narrow, referred to as airway stenosis, his mother said.

Airway stenosis is just one of the medical conditions that make Ethann a special member of the Driscoll Children's Hospital family. He was born with achondroplasia, a type of dwarfism caused by a genetic defect that occurs in about one out of 26,000 to 40,000 babies, according to WebMD.com. That was accompanied by a variety of health issues that have brought Ethann and his family to Driscoll over the past three years. He regularly sees a pediatric cardiologist, pulmonologist, otolaryngologist and geneticist at Driscoll.

Just about anywhere Ethann goes at the hospital, someone recognizes him.

"Driscoll is like our second family," Guerrero said. "A lot of people know Ethann here. They're part of our support system."

Recently, a major concern for Ethann's family has been the narrowing of his heart valves, a condition related to his dwarfism. Heart surgery might fix the problem, but it's too risky to perform at this time because of his other medical issues, said Umang Gupta, MD, pediatric cardiologist at Driscoll Children's Hospital.

Ethann's parents employ nurses to help with his round-the-clock healthcare needs. Like most people who interact with him, licensed vocational nurse Janine Hobrecht adores her patient.

"He's a unique little boy," said Hobrecht, who cares for Ethann Monday through Friday. "He's very talkative and likes to have fun. He's enjoying his life and he's OK with his disabilities."

Paige Cooper, a registered nurse at Driscoll's Pediatric Cardiology clinic, is another of Ethann's "fans." She said he's thriving despite his many obstacles, thanks in large part to his parents.

"Ethann and his family are so positive and a joy to be around," Cooper said. "His family is eager to learn all they can about his disorders. They embrace his uniqueness, challenge him daily and celebrate his every accomplishment."

Guerrero said she appreciates receiving straightforward information from physicians regarding her son's health, even if it isn't pleasant. She and Ethann's father, John Matthew Valdez, have resolved themselves to stay positive regardless of what the future holds.

"Whatever happens, we'll be OK," Guerrero said. "What keeps me going is knowing nobody has an expiration date. We can go anytime. So we should enjoy each other's presence. Every moment is important."

This is the second in a series of stories about extraordinary patients that Driscoll Children's Hospital is sharing throughout 2013 as part of its 60th anniversary celebration.

Marathon bringing Driscoll weight management patients together

May 01, 2013
Jamie Bluntzer, 20, is preparing for the 2013 Beach to Bay Relay Marathon.
Jamie Bluntzer, 20, is preparing for the 2013 Beach to Bay Relay Marathon.
Lap band recipients will run Beach to Bay Relay Marathon as the 'Bandsters'

CORPUS CHRISTI - Crossing the finish line at last year's Beach to Bay Relay Marathon was a proud accomplishment for Jamie Bluntzer. At this year's event, she's taking her goal to the next level.

"I'm more nervous about it this year," she said of the May 18 race. "Last year the goal was to finish. This year I'm putting pressure on myself to run a better time. If I'm going to do it, I'm going to try my best."

Bluntzer will have a special connection to three of her teammates: They've undergone lap band surgery at Driscoll Children's Hospital to control their weight. Two more teammates will be staff from Driscoll's Adolescent Weight Management Program. The lap band procedure helps patients lose and control their weight by the attachment of an adjustable band around the stomach that decreases sensations of hunger. Thirty patients have received lap band surgery at Driscoll since the program began in 2009.

Mohammad Emran, MD, pediatric surgeon at Driscoll Children's Hospital, is providing the team with t-shirts emblazoned with their name, the "Bandsters," for race day. He said joining a Beach to Bay team is something his weight management patients may not have considered previously.

"It gives them an added goal on which to focus their efforts and an accomplishment that breaks through their previous limitations."

Patients who joined the team were excited at the opportunity, said Rachel Glover, coordinator for the Adolescent Weight Management Program and a member of the team.

"I think for some of them, they weren't capable of participating in an event like this in the past. This can help increase their accountability for sticking with a workout routine."

Bluntzer, 20, underwent lap band surgery in March 2010. She said she weighed about 270 lbs. before the operation and weighs about 175 lbs. now. Driven by a competitive spirit, she has been training for Beach to Bay by working out at the gym and running along Ocean Drive with her best friend. She hopes to run her leg of the race - the sixth and last - in under an hour.

"I was never in shape enough in high school to do this," said Bluntzer, a political science and pre-law major at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi. "It's proof that I've changed."

Twelve Driscoll patients will be treated to Disney on Ice show

April 24, 2013
WHAT: Twelve Driscoll Children's Hospital patients and their parents or guardians will gather at the hospital's lobby tomorrow and depart for the Disney on Ice show at the American Bank Center, courtesy of H&V Equipment Services, Inc., who purchased the trip for $40,000 at this year's Fiesta de los Niños live auction. Transportation will be provided by TLC The Limo Company, and box seats and refreshments are courtesy of American Bank.
WHEN: 5:30 p.m. Thursday, April 25
WHERE: Driscoll Children's Hospital main lobby, 3533 S. Alameda St.