DCH News

Laredo Specialty Center

Driscoll cancer patients prove they have the 'right stuff'

August 14, 2013
Rhianna Brizuela's
Rhianna Brizuela's "survivor" necklace is a source of pride for the 4-year-old.
Warrior-themed event planned Sept. 7 for Childhood Cancer Awareness Month

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:

Rhianna Brizuela
4 years old
Laredo

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.

Sara Cavazos
7 years old
McAllen

Sara Cavazos
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."

Matthew Garza
6 years old
Bishop

Matthew Garza
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.

Open house to highlight Driscoll's pediatric services in Laredo

May 30, 2012

WHAT: Pediatricians, their office and nursing staffs and the public are invited to an open house to celebrate the newly expanded and relocated Driscoll Children's Specialty Center - Laredo. Driscoll officials and physicians will be on hand to provide information on the specialized medical services the hospital brings to patients who may otherwise be underserved in the community.

WHEN: 6 p.m. Wednesday, May 30

WHERE: Driscoll Children's Specialty Center - Laredo, 10710 McPherson, Ste. 202

New partnership to provide faster patient transports to Driscoll Children's Hospital

September 16, 2011
CORPUS CHRISTI - Driscoll Children's Hospital and HALO-Flight, Inc. have begun a partnership that will result in an unprecedented level of service for critically ill and injured children of South Texas. Beginning this month, HALO-Flight will dedicate a helicopter exclusively to Driscoll Children's Hospital. This partnership will significantly reduce the time it takes to transport patients to the hospital.

"The purpose of this partnership is to transport newborns, infants and children with life threatening illnesses and injuries to the hospital as fast as possible," said Steve Woerner, president and CEO of Driscoll Children's Hospital.

Helicopters roughly cut transport time in half compared to ambulances, according to Driscoll records. For example, the average round trip by ambulance from Driscoll to a hospital in Brownsville is seven hours. The same round trip by helicopter is around three hours.

"By having a dedicated HALO-Flight helicopter, Driscoll will be able to better serve children throughout our 31-county service area," Woerner said. "This is monumental in our mission of providing hope and healing to the children of South Texas."

Excellent patient care is at the forefront of HALO-Flight's partnership with Driscoll, said Tom Klassen, HALO-Flight, Inc.'s executive director.

"Our goal is to continue to provide advanced critical care utilizing our premier helicopters and the highly skilled flight crews at Driscoll. HALO-Flight is dedicated to ensuring that the children of South Texas have the opportunity for a better chance at life by receiving air ambulance transports. We are two companies who have been, and will continue to be, serving South Texas residents' emergent needs."

Driscoll Children's Hospital is the only major hospital in South Texas to have this partnership with HALO-Flight, according to Patricia Carr, director of Driscoll's neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) and Transport Department. The hospital's service area covers 31 counties and 33,000 square miles, with its level III NICU offering the highest level of care in the area.

Driscoll, HALO-Flight to announce new partnership

September 15, 2011
WHAT: Officials from Driscoll Children's Hospital and HALO-Flight, Inc. will hold a press conference to announce a new partnership that will result in an unprecedented level of service for critically ill and injured children of South Texas. A helicopter will be unveiled during the event.

WHEN: 9:30 a.m. Friday, Sept. 16

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

Driscoll's Laredo clinic relocating

March 11, 2011
LAREDO - In order to expand their space and serve a growing number of patients, Driscoll Children's Specialty Center - Laredo, 10710 McPherson Ave., Suite 100, is relocating to offices above their current location, to Suite 202. The relocation will be complete and patients will continue to be seen on Monday, March 14. For more information, call the clinic at 1-800-525-8687.

With healthcare reimbursement at risk in state budget, Driscoll team will go to Austin, seek support from legislators

March 01, 2011
CORPUS CHRISTI - For Driscoll Children's Hospital, certain proposed cuts and changes in the state's budget mean reduced services for the children of South Texas. In response, a contingent of physicians and volunteers from Driscoll will travel to Austin to voice their concerns to legislators about healthcare issues. The group will leave the hospital by bus the morning of March 2 for a one-day trip.

There are two main issues that Driscoll wishes to address. The first is a proposed $20 million cut in Medicaid provider payments. Driscoll Children's Hospital is the second-highest-ranking hospital in the state for percentage of Medicaid patient days. The proposed budget would cut the hospital's inpatient and outpatient reimbursement by 10 percent, or approximately $10 million, and cut Driscoll's Upper Payment Limits reimbursement by approximately $10 million. If this is approved, Driscoll's ability to provide specialty services such as cancer treatment, kidney transplants and heart surgery will be diminished.

The other issue concerns a Medicaid managed care expansion, for which Driscoll is requesting support from legislators. This not-for-profit health plan, proposed by the state's Health and Human Services Commission, will enable the hospital to continue its wide range of services without fear of non-Medicaid payment.

The Driscoll team plans to make their case with simple, straightforward facts. This includes:

Driscoll has saved the lives of thousands of South Texas children. In many cases, Driscoll is their only source for medical help.

  • Medicaid is the lifeblood of medical care for many South Texas children.

  • Driscoll serves one of the poorest populations in the United States.

  • Medicaid presently pays approximately 85 percent of Driscoll's costs to treat Medicaid patients.

  • Driscoll is one of only five free-standing children's hospitals in the State of Texas, providing care from Victoria to Laredo and throughout the Rio Grande Valley.


Since 1953, Driscoll Children's Hospital's not-for-profit mission has been to care for the children of South Texas, regardless of their ability to pay.