DCH News

Patients & Families

Driscoll Children's Hospital to offer free car seat inspections

September 13, 2013
WHAT: In conjunction with Child Passenger Safety Week, Sept. 15-21, 2013, and National Seat Check Saturday, Sept. 21, 2013 (www.trafficsafetymarketing.gov/cps), the Injury Prevention Program at Driscoll Children's Hospital will offer free inspections of child car safety seats. Parents are invited to bring their car seats and receive instruction on proper use and safety.
WHEN: 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 21
WHERE: Injury Prevention Program building (portable building behind the Health Center), Driscoll Children's Hospital, 3533 S. Alameda St.
INFO: (361) 694-6700

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.

Families with babies in intensive care at Driscoll find comfort from March of Dimes program

August 14, 2013
CORPUS CHRISTI - March of Dimes announced today that Driscoll Children's Hospital will launch a NICU Family Support Program®. The program, which provides information and comfort to families of premature babies and other critically ill newborns being cared for in a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), is being funded by The Vishal Raju Bhagat Foundation.

"Preparing for a new baby is a time of great excitement," said Laurie Beck, RN, MSN, IBCLC, chair of the March of Dimes Program Services Committee in the Corpus Christi Division and director of Mom's Place, a breastfeeding resource center at Driscoll Children's Hospital. "Families don't expect anything to go wrong, but when something does go wrong, it can be very overwhelming. The Vishal Raju Bhagat Foundation's funding of the NICU Family Support Program will help make the journey through neonatal intensive care smoother and less traumatic for families."

The NICU Family Support Program is an important component of the March of Dimes' efforts to help all babies - those born healthy and those who need help to survive and thrive. As part of their commitment to help give every baby a healthy start, the March of Dimes has made medical and technological advances that have saved millions of babies' lives and health.

The NICU Family Support Program is now established in every state, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. More than 86,000 families will have access to the information and support activities offered through the March of Dimes NICU Family Support annually.

"The March of Dimes is looking forward to partnering with Driscoll Children's Hospital through NICU Family Support because of its reputation for excellence and the quality care it provides to babies," Rosaura De Los Santos, Executive Director of the March of Dimes said. "Driscoll Children's Hospital does incredible work every day to care for sick babies and their families. We want to support their efforts."

Christopher Joyal, Driscoll's NICU director states "We are excited to be a March of Dimes NICU Family Support site and are looking forward to this collaborative effort to support parents throughout their stay with us. This is a wonderful opportunity to work with NICU parents and staff to develop programs specific to the needs of our families."

Incorporating NICU families into every level of the program, March of Dimes NICU Family Support addresses the needs of families throughout the hospitalization, during the transition home, and in the event of a newborn death. NICU Family Support also includes a professional development component to provide hospital NICU staff with support and educational opportunities. The program is led by hospital staff with professional NICU experience. Each NICU family receives a March of Dimes Parent Care Kit including informational books and materials to chart their baby's milestones.

What: Unveiling of NICU Family Support Unit
When: 10 a.m. Thursday, Aug. 15
Where: Driscoll Children's Hospital, third floor, 3533 S. Alameda St.

Driscoll Health Plan bringing obstacle course, photo booth to health fair

August 09, 2013
WHAT: At tomorrow's 48th annual Nueces County Medical Society Health Fair, Driscoll Health Plan (DHP) will offer an obstacle course and photo booth for children to enjoy in the children's area. DHP has been a friend of the family in Nueces County and surrounding counties since 1997.
WHEN: 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 10
WHERE: American Bank Center Exhibit Hall, 1901 N. Shoreline Blvd.

Driscoll Health Plan joins community partners to sponsor free Back to School Fair in Laredo

July 31, 2013
LAREDO - Just in time for the coming school year, Driscoll Health Plan (DHP) is sponsoring a free Back to School Fair for the general public from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 3 at Uni-Trade Stadium. Numerous organizations have joined to offer services, information and products to parents and children at the event. They include:

DHP - 450 backpacks
Webb County Sheriff's Office - Information on crime prevention, fingerprinting for child identification, temperature display
Texas Department of Transportation - Traffic safety materials, information on child car-seat safety
Serving Children & Adolescents in Need (SCAN) - Information on services provided by SCAN, pens and pencils
Baptist Child and Family Services/Healthy Start Laredo - Information packets on prenatal care
Gateway Community Health Center, Inc. - Body mass index calculations, education on diabetes, hypertension, nutrition and physical activities
H-E-B - H-E-Buddy appearance, fruits
Texas A&M University Colonias Program - Information, coloring books
United Independent School District (UISD) nurses - Information on immunization requirements for UISD
Webb County Head Start - Head Start recruitment information
MCNA Dental - Dental information, dental kits, drawstrings
Dr. Hector Lopez, DDS - Dental information, crayons, glue, etc.
Literacy Volunteers of Laredo - Information, books
Laredo Independent School District (LISD) nurses - Information on immunization requirements for LISD children
Area Health Education Center - Information for parents who want their children to volunteer, pens and pads
South Texas Food Bank - Kids café, information on nutrition and obesity, activities on bullying
Casa de Misericordia - Information on domestic violence, bullying and prevention
Kool Smiles - Information on oral hygiene
Imaginarium of South Texas - Information, children's activities
Kaplan College - 200 glucose screenings and blood pressure checks

The Laredo Lemurs mascot will also be on hand to mingle with families. For more information about DHP, go to www.driscollhealthplan.com or call 855-425-3247.

What: Driscoll Health Plan Back to School Fair
When: 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 3
Where: Uni-Trade Stadium, 6320 Sinatra Pkwy.

Redesign of Driscoll's Emergency Room under way

July 30, 2013
Concrete is removed by heavy equipment near the entrance to Driscoll Children's Hospital in preparation for the renovation and expansion of the Emergency Room.
Concrete is removed by heavy equipment near the entrance to Driscoll Children's Hospital in preparation for the renovation and expansion of the Emergency Room.
Project will be most significant transformation of ER since 1987

CORPUS CHRISTI - On July 22, the first phase of construction activities began for the renovation and expansion of the Emergency Room (ER) at Driscoll Children's Hospital. The $12 million project, scheduled to last 16 to 18 months, will increase the size of the ER and lobby by approximately 5,000 square feet. Driscoll's ER services will continue throughout the construction process.

The project will result in a state-of-the-art ER and significantly enhance overall patient care at Driscoll, said Donna Quinn, vice president of Operations and Quality.

"The ER is Driscoll's most visible department and our front door, representing a substantial portion of hospital admissions. Through the renovation we want to create an even more child-friendly and efficient setting that is welcoming, calming and caring."

When the project is completed, the ER will include:

Two trauma rooms
Twenty private exam rooms
Two triage areas with visibility to the waiting area
An expanded central nursing station
An expanded waiting area
A dedicated ER elevator
A new ambulance vestibule and weather protection canopy
An outward extension of the building, allowing for an expanded lobby

In early October, an ambulance entrance will be temporarily established at the back of the hospital near the auditorium and the ambulance entrance at the front of the hospital will be closed for construction.

Driscoll has produced informational brochures about the project that are available to patients, families and visitors.

The project will be the ER's most significant transformation since 1987. That year, Driscoll became the first hospital in South Texas to offer emergency services specifically for children, and the ER currently serves about 35,000 children each year.


Teen cancer patients depart tomorrow for annual summer camp

July 09, 2013
WHAT: About 40 cancer patients ages 12-18 who are being treated at Driscoll Children's Hospital will depart tomorrow for the annual Camp TLC (Teens Living with Cancer) at Camp Aranzazu in Rockport. Campers will enjoy activities that build relationships, friendships and trust. Favorite activities include the zip-line, capture the flag, swimming, arts and crafts, archery and Frisbee golf.
WHEN: Departure at 12:30 p.m. July 10; camp is from July 10-14
WHERE: Departure: Driscoll Children's Hospital Day Surgery & Rehabilitation Building, 3533 S. Alameda St.; Camp Aranzazu: 5420 Loop 1781, Rockport

Ambient lighting system helps patients relax during X-rays

July 08, 2013
A new ambient lighting system in Driscoll's Radiology Department helps patients feel calmer during X-rays.
A new ambient lighting system in Driscoll's Radiology Department helps patients feel calmer during X-rays.
CORPUS CHRISTI - An ambient lighting system that was recently installed in the Radiology Department at Driscoll Children's Hospital enables patients undergoing X-rays to choose the color of the room, helping to ease their anxiety during the procedure.

"Any time you give children control, they become calmer," said Ernest Chavez, Driscoll director of Radiology Services. "They like it when you ask them if they want to change the color of the room. Parents like to change it sometimes too."

On a wall-mounted keypad, parents, patients or staff can set the light to one color - usually the patient's favorite - or to alternating colors. The room is serene and mesmerizing as it's bathed in red, yellow, blue, green, orange and violet light.

Driscoll's Radiology Department plans to incorporate ambient lighting into its other four X-ray rooms as the units are replaced, Chavez said, and the computed tomography and nuclear medicine rooms will also be outfitted soon. In addition, ambient lighting will be installed in all three ultrasound rooms during future remodeling. The lighting system is funded by proceeds from Driscoll's Fiesta de los Niños fundraiser, held annually in February.

'Tis the season for Christmas in July at Driscoll's Brownsville clinic

July 05, 2013
Community invited to drop off unwrapped toys July 18

BROWNSVILLE - Santa Claus will join the Volunteer Auxiliary at Driscoll Children's Specialty Center - Brownsville July 18 for the seventh annual Christmas in July toy drive. The community is invited to stop by and drop off unwrapped toys to be given to patients who receive treatment this coming holiday season. Santa will be there to receive the toys, and refreshments will be offered.

The community has responded so generously over the past six years that the toy drive has become a bona fide tradition in Brownsville.

"It really is amazing to see so many people come out and donate toys every year to help make sure our patients have a special Christmas," said Lizette Saenz, director of Volunteer Services at Driscoll Children's Hospital. "The sense of caring and community pride is extraordinary."

To donate to the Christmas in July event, stop by Driscoll Children's Specialty Center - Brownsville on July 18 or call Driscoll's Volunteer Services Department at (361) 694-5011. Checks may be made out to Driscoll Children's Specialty Center - Auxiliary.

What: Christmas in July toy drive
When: 6 - 8 p.m. Thursday, July 18
Where: Driscoll Children's Specialty Center - Brownsville, 5500 N. Expressway

Driscoll Health Plan among sponsors of free baseball clinic in Brownsville

July 02, 2013
WHAT: Driscoll Health Plan is joining the Rio Grande Valley WhiteWings, the City of Brownsville Parks & Recreation Department and Healthy Communities of Brownsville to sponsor a free summer baseball clinic for children ages 5 through high school. The clinic will feature baseball instruction in all areas of offense, defense, pitching and catching. Each player should bring a glove, baseball equipment (if possible) and comfortable practice clothes. Sunscreen and caps are highly recommended. The first 300 registered players will receive a goody bag and a chance to win WhiteWings game tickets for a family of four. Hot dogs and refreshments will be offered to players at the conclusion of the camp. Registration forms can be obtained at the City of Brownsville Parks & Recreation Department, 1338 E. 8th St., or by calling Shannon Guerrero at (956) 547-6861.
WHEN: 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, July 27
WHERE: Morningside Park, 1207 S. Central Ave., Brownsville