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Memory of late cousin prompts businessman to donate $150,000 nuclear camera to Driscoll clinic in McAllen

July 12, 2011
McALLEN - A Houston businessman has donated a gamma camera used for diagnosing cancer and other diseases to Driscoll Children's Medical Plaza - McAllen in memory of his late cousin, who was treated for leukemia at Driscoll Children's Hospital in 1977.

"I feel if you're not giving you're not living," said Richard Armijo, president of Advanced Nuclear Consultants LLC, a company that refurbishes gamma cameras and other equipment used to diagnose diseases. "I wanted to do something in memory of my cousin and Driscoll was the first hospital that came to my mind."

The gamma camera will enable pediatric radiologists at Driscoll Children's Medical Plaza - McAllen to perform nuclear medicine procedures such as renal, bone and lung scans. The procedures involve injecting a radioactive substance into the patient's body, capturing the energy it emanates with the camera and viewing the image on a computer screen. Radiologists then interpret the image and assist Driscoll's pediatric surgeons in treating the patient.

Armijo will be formally recognized for his donation during a ceremony at the Medical Plaza at 10 a.m. Wednesday, July 13. Driscoll officials will present him a plaque in appreciation.

Measuring about 12 by 12 feet, the gamma camera fills a room at the Medical Plaza. It is valued at over $150,000, Armijo said.

"It's a wonderful addition to the services Driscoll offers in the Rio Grande Valley," said Jan Kottke, clinic administrator at Driscoll. "We're very grateful for this generous donation."

Armijo said his late cousin, Astrid Claudia Hewitt, was 13 years old when she passed away from leukemia in Houston in 1984. He carried her memory throughout his life, as well as gratitude for the treatment she received at Driscoll Children's Hospital. Now, with a wife, three daughters, a son on the way and a growing business, it's time to help others like Driscoll helped his cousin, Armijo said.

"I've been blessed with my business and my family and I want to pass those blessings on to the children of South Texas."

  • What: Ceremony recognizing Richard Armijo

  • When: 10 a.m. Wednesday, July 13

  • Where: Driscoll Children's Medical Plaza - McAllen, 1120 E. Ridge Rd.

Cortez becomes executive director of Driscoll's Rio Grande Valley clinics

July 05, 2011
Laura Cortez
Laura Cortez
RIO GRANDE VALLEY - Laura Cortez has joined Driscoll Children's Hospital as executive director of the hospital's Rio Grande Valley clinics. She will oversee operations at Driscoll Children's Medical Plaza - McAllen, Driscoll Children's Specialty Center - Brownsville and Driscoll Children's Specialty Center - Harlingen.

Cortez brings a wealth of healthcare management experience to Driscoll. She previously served for eight years as director of Women's Health Services for the South Texas Health System.

Shortage of donor breast milk affecting Driscoll

July 05, 2011
CORPUS CHRISTI - The Mothers' Milk Bank at Austin, which provides donated, pasteurized human breast milk to neonatal intensive care units (NICUs) throughout Texas and other states, is experiencing a shortage that is affecting the supply at Driscoll Children's Hospital.

"The shortage is due to a lack of donors and a lack of community awareness about the Mothers' Milk Bank," said Driscoll Lactation Program Coordinator Laurie Beck, RN, MSN, IBCLC. "We always try to keep extra donor milk in our freezer so as to be prepared for any new admissions. The babies we have on donor milk at present do not have mothers who are able to provide their own milk."

Beck said she has been trying to order 200 bottles of donor milk a week for Driscoll patients but has only been able to obtain 50 bottles at a time. Each bottle contains three ounces of milk.

Mother's milk is the preferred choice of nutrition for babies and donor milk is the second, Beck said. The Mothers' Milk Bank at Austin screens all potential donors to ensure safety, pasteurizes the milk and freezes it as a sterile product. NICUs in 14 states order the milk for critically ill newborns, especially preemies.

Lactating mothers can help by donating their milk. The first step is to call the Mothers' Milk Bank at Austin at 1-877-813-6455 for a phone interview. After completing an application process, they can drop off their milk at Mom's Place at Driscoll Children's Hospital, 3533 S. Alameda St., between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Mom's Place is a drop-off site for the Mothers' Milk Bank at Austin and a storehouse for breast milk that is used to feed infants at Driscoll. It is also a breastfeeding resource center for mothers with a baby in Driscoll and a private place for them to pump milk.

For more information about the milk donation process, mothers can call Beck at (361) 694-5338 or go to the Mothers' Milk Bank at Austin's web site at www.milkbank.org.

Cattlemen's RoundUp will appeal to ranchers, visitors alike

June 27, 2011
RIO GRANDE CITY - On Friday, July 8, young 4-H members and the Starr County Extension Office will team up for a great cause. The 24th annual South Texas Cattlemen's RoundUp benefiting Driscoll Children's Hospital's Rio Grande Valley clinics will begin at 11 a.m. at R.Y. Livestock Sales, Inc., 12 Livestock Rd. in Rio Grande City.

A variety of products and services will be auctioned at the RoundUp that will appeal to ranchers and visitors alike, such as agricultural products, gardening supplies, arts and crafts, hardware supplies and jewelry. Young members of 4-H will offer a variety of homemade baked goods. All of this year's proceeds will be used to support Driscoll's clinics in the Rio Grande Valley, including Driscoll Children's Medical Plaza - McAllen, Driscoll Children's Specialty Center - Brownsville and Driscoll Children's Specialty Center - Harlingen.

To make a donation and support local 4-H students and their life-saving efforts, you can visit the Driscoll Children's Hospital web site at www.driscollchildrens.org, call Driscoll at (956) 223-0687 or call the Starr County Extension Office at (956) 487-2306 or (956) 534-4911.

  • What: 24th annual Cattlemen's RoundUp

  • When: 11 a.m. Friday, July 8

  • Where: R.Y. Livestock Sales, Inc., 12 Livestock Rd., Rio Grande City

  • Information: (956) 487-2306, (956) 534-4911 or (956) 223-0687

Beeville RoundUp to benefit Driscoll Children's Hospital

June 16, 2011
BEEVILLE - On Friday, June 24, young 4-H members in Bee County and the Beeville Livestock Commission will team up for a great cause. The 24th annual South Texas Cattlemen's RoundUp benefiting Driscoll Children's Hospital will begin at noon at the Beeville Livestock Commission on Highway 59.

A variety of products and services will be auctioned at the RoundUp that will appeal to ranchers, homemakers and visitors alike. Young members of 4-H will offer a variety of homemade goods. All of this year's proceeds will go toward new medical equipment and other items for Driscoll Children's Hospital.

To make a donation and support local 4-H students and their life-saving efforts, you can visit the Driscoll Children's Hospital web site at www.driscollchildrens.org, call Driscoll at (361) 694-6401 or the Bee County Extension Office at (361) 362-3280.

  • What: 24th annual Cattlemen's RoundUp

  • When: Noon Friday, June 24

  • Where: Beeville Livestock Commission, Highway 59

  • Information: (361) 362-3280 or (361) 694-6401

Brownsville family's fighting spirit aiding boy battling cancer

June 13, 2011
Matthew Carroll, 8, of Brownsville, is battling osteosarcoma, a cancer that caused him to lose his left leg from the knee down.
Matthew Carroll, 8, of Brownsville, is battling osteosarcoma, a cancer that caused him to lose his left leg from the knee down.
CORPUS CHRISTI - Ada Escobedo will never forget the date: Dec. 15, 2010. That's when, half in shock, she drove her 8-year-old son, Matthew Carroll, from their home in Brownsville to Driscoll Children's Hospital in Corpus Christi to have a tumor checked out in his left leg. They had just seen an orthopedic specialist in Brownsville who recommended she take him there.

"We drove there the same day," Escobedo said. "At Driscoll they took blood tests, X-rays and did a biopsy. That's when they told us it was a malignant tumor and he needed to start on chemotherapy treatments. It was just really quick. It was a really sad Christmas for us."

For about two weeks before Dec. 15, Matthew and his family thought he had sprained his ankle while playing football at school. He complained about lingering pain after some friends fell on top of him. The first doctor they went to thought it was a normal sports injury that would go away, Escobedo said. Another doctor diagnosed it as a sprain or fracture.

At Driscoll Children's Hospital, it was found that Matthew actually had osteosarcoma, a malignant tumor of the bone. It is the most common type of bone tumor in children, with 150 to 200 new cases diagnosed per year, said hematologist/oncologist Nkechi Mba, M.D., one of Matthew's physicians at Driscoll.

"We see on average 2 to 3 new patients with osteosarcoma each year at Driscoll," Dr. Mba said.

Despite the diagnosis and her son's chemotherapy treatments, which often made him sick, Escobedo stayed strong for her family.

"I didn't have time to cry," she said. "We just started fighting. It's been like one fight after another against the cancer."

As bad as the news was for Matthew and his family, it got worse. After three months of chemotherapy treatments, the cancer was spreading rapidly up his left leg. The decision was made that he would have to lose the leg. It was amputated from the knee down in March 2011.

"That was really, really hurtful," Escobedo said. "But we knew we had to do it because we had no other way. If he wouldn't have lost his leg he wouldn't be with us."

Depending on the location of the tumor, amputation is one of the surgical options for patients with osteosarcoma, Dr. Mba said.

Escobedo said Matthew is doing better now after the amputation and that his cancer is almost gone. He comes to Driscoll regularly for weeks at a time for chemotherapy treatments. Because it's difficult for Escobedo to take off work frequently, Matthew usually rides a bus with his grandfather from Brownsville to Corpus Christi. His grandfather, José Barrón, stays at the Ronald McDonald House next to Driscoll when he isn't at Matthew's bedside.

"The Ronald McDonald House has been like my home," said Barrón, who considers Matthew a son.

Matthew also receives care at Driscoll Children's Specialty Center - Brownsville. Escobedo takes him there for occasional check-ups, blood work and X-rays. Recently, when he was sick and had a fever, she took him to the clinic and was given antibiotics.

"It makes me feel safer that the clinic is right there," Escobedo said. "I have no words to express the gratitude I have for their care."

During a recent stay at Driscoll Children's Hospital, Matthew said although the chemotherapy makes him nauseous and vomit, he knows he needs it. Sitting on his hospital bed, he talked about what he misses in a shy, whispered voice.

"I miss going to school, playing sports and walking," he said. "I use crutches. They help me but it's not like really walking."

Matthew is normally an "A" honor roll student who loves school, Escobedo said, but because he has missed so much school, he will have to repeat the second grade through home-schooling when his chemotherapy is over. He currently has about nine weeks of chemotherapy treatments to go, Dr. Mba said.

Her son loves sports too, Escobedo said. Looking to the future, she isn't sure how Matthew will adjust to missing out on playing football and other sports with his friends.

"I don't think anybody can adjust to that," she said. "But we have God in our hearts. We're going to let him guide us the right way."

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.

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

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.

Ribbon-cutting, open house to be held for new Cancer & Blood Disorders Center

April 07, 2011
  • WHAT: A ribbon-cutting ceremony and open house will be held for Driscoll Children's Hospital's new, $2.7 million Cancer & Blood Disorders Center. Officials and physicians from Driscoll, as well as Councilman John Marez, will participate in the ceremony. The Center is 40 percent larger than the previous space and will allow Driscoll to serve the growing population of South Texas children who need specialized hematology and oncology services. More than 160 children are served at the Center annually, and more than 40 new cancer patients are diagnosed there each year.

  • WHEN: 2 p.m. Friday, April 8

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