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Pediatric hematologist/oncologist joins Driscoll

August 30, 2011
Jose Esquilin, MD
Jose Esquilin, MD
CORPUS CHRISTI - Jose M. Esquilin, MD, has joined Driscoll Children's Hospital as a pediatric hematologist/oncologist. He recently completed a fellowship in hematology/oncology at New York - Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons in New York City. Dr. Esquilin received his medical degree in 2005 from Columbia University in New York City and performed his residency at Yale - New Haven Hospital in Connecticut.

Library of specialized toys available to children with disabilities

July 18, 2011
Specialized toys from Driscoll's Toy Tech Lending Library are therapeutic for patients like Emilio, 5, who has tuberous sclerosis and epilepsy. Assisting him are Rachel Garcia, certified occupational therapy assistant (middle) and Amanda Germann, speech pathologist.
Specialized toys from Driscoll's Toy Tech Lending Library are therapeutic for patients like Emilio, 5, who has tuberous sclerosis and epilepsy. Assisting him are Rachel Garcia, certified occupational therapy assistant (middle) and Amanda Germann, speech pathologist.
CORPUS CHRISTI - It has been said that children learn best through play. With this in mind, and with support from the Easter Seals of Greater Houston and the Blanche Moore Foundation, Driscoll Children's Hospital's Rehabilitation Services Department created a unique library that loans specialized toys to children of all ages with all types of disabilities.

According to Susan Fields, director of Rehabilitation Services at Driscoll, children explore their environment through play. "When we can help them play independently, we are helping them become independent learners. This is an important foundation for developing life skills," she says.

The new Toy Tech Lending Library at Driscoll provides a variety of toys adapted for children with varying degrees of motor disabilities. The toys, which are switch activated, can be used at home to practice skills a child has learned in his or her therapy sessions.

Since these toys are adapted especially for children with handicaps, they aren't readily available at a toy store and are often expensive.

A $30 toy, when adapted, can easily cost $100. However, through Driscoll's Lending Library, families are able to check out these adapted toys at no cost.

Just as with a book library, the toys are checked out for two to four weeks at a time. Upon return, another toy can be checked out. About 20 toys are available, and not just to Driscoll patients. All children in the community with disabilities are invited to borrow toys from the Toy Tech Lending Library.

Mary Ann Sosa's granddaughter, Madison, 5, is a patient at Driscoll. She suffers from cerebral palsy and often borrows toys from the Lending Library.

"It's a great thing. It really helps at home," Sosa says. "We are able to work at home on the things her therapists want her to work on. Right now she's learning to use her arms more."

Sosa explains that the toys make Madison want to use her arms more because of the reaction she gets from her grandmother.

"When Madison pushes the button on a toy, she notices it plays music and I cheer her on. She loves the attention she gets!"

Fields hopes more families take advantage of the Lending Library.

"We just started offering toys for check-out in April, so it's a fairly new program," she says. "The more these toys are utilized, the more toys we are able to receive through the grant."

For more information or to set up an orientation to the Toy Tech program, please call Driscoll's Rehabilitation Services Department at (361) 694-5678.

Camp Easy Breathers marks 10 years of helping asthmatic children have fun while coping with their condition

June 10, 2011
CORPUS CHRISTI - There is no cure for asthma, but children with the disease can live a healthy, active life. The 10th annual Camp Easy Breathers, a summer day-camp for children with persistent asthma, is designed to provide physical and social experiences that are fun while increasing a child's understanding of his or her asthma. The camp, sponsored by Driscoll Children's Hospital, the Coastal Bend Community Foundation and the Coastal Bend Asthma Initiative, will be from June 12-15, 2011 at Camp Aranzazu in Rockport.

For its 10th anniversary, Camp Easy Breathers will offer a new, more hands-on approach with more interactive asthma lessons than in years past.

"We wanted to make it more fun for our new campers, and especially for those campers who are returning for a second or even third year," said Shelly Bigelow, camp director and respiratory therapist at Driscoll Children's Hospital. "Our new curriculum was developed in keeping with our goal of improving the lives of children with asthma."

Bigelow said the camp utilizes interactive teaching methods such as open dialogue, various media, activities and game-play that reinforce key lessons to help children:

  • Understand asthma and how it affects them;

  • Recognize and avoid asthma attack triggers;

  • Recognize warning signs to improve asthma management;

  • Know how and when to take medicine;

  • Stay healthy and stay in school.


There will also be a carnival this year with games, obstacle courses and other activities, Bigelow said. Regular activities will include swimming, arts and crafts, outdoor games, sports and an awards show.

Asthma is a chronic disease in which the airways in the lungs become swollen, clogged and overly sensitive to changes in the environment. During an attack, the muscles that surround the airways tighten and the inner lining of the airways swells and pushes inward.

Asthma kills about 5,000 Americans each year and costs the United States more than $10 billion a year in direct and indirect medical expenses. Timely diagnosis, appropriate treatment, partnership with a healthcare professional and reduction of exposure to environmental factors are some of the things that help children living with asthma.


  • What: 10th annual Camp Easy Breathers

  • When: June 12-15, 2011

  • Where: Camp Aranzazu, Rockport

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

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.