DCH News

Healthcare Professionals

Becker joins Driscoll as pediatric dermatologist

July 31, 2013
CORPUS CHRISTI - Driscoll Children's Hospital has announced that Emily M. Becker, MD, has joined Children's Physician Services of South Texas as a pediatric dermatologist. She recently completed a pediatric dermatology fellowship at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio (UTHSCSA), where she performed a dermatology residency from 2009 to 2012. Dr. Becker earned her medical degree in 2005, also at UTHSCSA. She is certified by the American Board of Dermatology and the American Board of Pediatrics.

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.

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.

Outdoor activities, games and camaraderie in store for asthmatic children at Camp Easy Breathers

June 14, 2013
CORPUS CHRISTI - Asthmatic children will partake in some swashbuckling next week as the 12th annual Camp Easy Breathers gets underway in Rockport. Sponsored by Driscoll Children's Hospital, the Coastal Bend Community Foundation and the Coastal Bend Asthma Initiative, it will be from June 17-21 at Camp Aranzazu.

"A pirate theme is being incorporated into some of the group activities this year like 'Sail Away!,' an activity in which the campers build their own boat and sail it," said Shelly Bigelow, camp director and respiratory therapist at Driscoll Children's Hospital. "It's about team building and helping the kids get to know each other better."

While there is no cure for asthma, Camp Easy Breathers emphasizes to children with the disease that they can live a healthy, active life. The physical and social activities they'll experience will be fun and also increase their understanding of asthma, Bigelow said.

The camp utilizes interactive teaching methods such as open dialogue, various media, activities and game-play. All will reinforce key lessons to the children such as:

  • Understanding asthma and how it affects them;

  • Recognizing and avoiding asthma attack triggers;

  • Recognizing warning signs to improve asthma management;

  • Knowing how and when to take medicine;

  • Staying healthy and staying in school.

Activities at the camp will include swimming, archery, arts and crafts, outdoor games, sports and an awards show.

"Camp Easy Breathers is a great opportunity for children to make new friends, become more independent and take on real challenges in a safe environment," Bigelow said.

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: 12th annual Camp Easy Breathers for asthmatic children ages 7-14

  • When: June 17-21

  • Where: Camp Aranzazu, 5420 Loop 1781, Rockport

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.

Joyal promoted to NICU director at Driscoll

March 04, 2013
CORPUS CHRISTI - Christopher Joyal, RN, BSN, CPN, has been promoted to director of the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Driscoll Children's Hospital. He previously served as manager of Driscoll's Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU). Joyal has also worked in Driscoll's Transport Services Dept. and, as the PICU educator, he was instrumental in bringing best practice initiatives to the unit. He is a graduate of the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston.

Mokhashi joins Driscoll as pediatric endocrinologist

March 04, 2013
CORPUS CHRISTI - Moinuddin H. Mokhashi, MD, FAAP, has joined Children's Physician Services of South Texas at Driscoll Children's Hospital as a pediatric endocrinologist. Dr. Mokhashi was previously with Specialty Pediatrics Ltd. in Yuma, Ariz. and the State of Arizona's Children's Rehabilitative Services. He completed his residency in pediatrics at Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center - New Orleans in 2005 and a fellowship in pediatric endocrinology/diabetes at Children's Hospital in New Orleans in 2003. Dr. Mokhashi earned his medical degree in 1999 at Bangalore University in India. He is certified by the American Board of Pediatrics.

Sutton joins Driscoll as pediatric pathologist

February 25, 2013
CORPUS CHRISTI - Lisa M. Sutton, MD has joined Driscoll Children's Hospital as a pediatric pathologist. Dr. Sutton completed a fellowship in pediatric pathology at Children's Medical Center in Dallas and the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School. She performed her residency at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas, where she also earned her medical degree. Dr. Sutton is certified in anatomic and clinical pathology by the American Board of Pathology.

Three Driscoll physicians included on Top Doctors list

February 21, 2013
Samhar Al-Akash, MD, Stephen Almond, MD and Jaime Fergie, MD
Samhar Al-Akash, MD, Stephen Almond, MD and Jaime Fergie, MD
CORPUS CHRISTI - Three Driscoll Children's Hospital physicians have been included on U.S. News & World Report's list of Top Doctors. Samhar Al-Akash, MD, Stephen Almond, MD and Jaime Fergie, MD were nominated by fellow physicians to be on the list (http://health.usnews.com/top-doctors), which is designed to be a reliable resource for patients and referring physicians.

"First, we want to help consumers find the doctors who can best address their needs," the U.S. News website states. "Second, we want to enlist doctors across the country in sharing their awareness of who among their peers are the most worthy of referral."

Physicians on the Top Doctors list are identified by name, location, hospital affiliation and specialty. Specialties span more than 2,000 diseases, medical issues and procedures.

"I think inclusion on the list is a big positive for Driscoll Children's Hospital as well as myself," said Dr. Almond, a pediatric surgeon who, with Dr. Al-Akash and others, helped launch Driscoll's Kidney Transplant Program in 2007. More than 60 kidney transplants have since been performed at Driscoll.

"It's a reflection of the hospital's administration and governing board because they had the foresight to start the transplant program."

U.S. News determines which physicians qualify as Top Doctors in collaboration with New York City-based Castle Connolly Medical Ltd. Physicians are chosen based on nominations from other doctors and reviews by Castle Connolly's physician-led research team. Any physician may nominate one or more peers, but doctors can't nominate themselves. Physicians can't pay U.S. News or Castle Connolly to be selected as Top Doctors. Hospitals or group practices also can't pay to have their doctors selected.

"It's an honor to be included on this list," said Dr. Fergie, Driscoll's director of Infectious Diseases. "I'm grateful to my colleagues who nominated me and to all those who have supported the research program in Infectious Diseases at Driscoll Children's Hospital. This encourages me to continue serving the children of South Texas."

Looking back: The little girl who battled H1N1 and prevailed

February 15, 2013
Kayla Piñon (center) reflected on her life-threatening battle with the H1N1 flu recently with her parents, Luis and Melinda Piñon.
Kayla Piñon (center) reflected on her life-threatening battle with the H1N1 flu recently with her parents, Luis and Melinda Piñon.
Driscoll Children's Hospital celebrates its 60th anniversary with a series of stories about extraordinary patients

CORPUS CHRISTI - The number of South Texas families whose lives have been touched by Driscoll Children's Hospital since it opened its doors in 1953 is incalculable. And of the countless children who've come to the hospital in the past 60 years, many stand out for their particularly memorable stories. Driscoll is sharing some of those stories of hope and healing throughout 2013 as part of its 60th anniversary celebration.

Kayla Piñon became a member of the Driscoll family in 2009 when, at 10 years old, she battled her way back from a life-threatening case of the H1N1 flu. More than 1,000 children died from H1N1 during the 2009 pandemic, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Popularly known as swine flu, H1N1 was particularly harmful to the young, who had little natural resistance to a virus that hadn't circulated in decades. Hundreds of people became ill with the virus in Nueces County and at least 11 people died from it between 2009 and 2010.

When she was admitted to Driscoll Children's Hospital, Kayla was dehydrated, underweight and gasping for air due to excessive fluid in her lungs.

"I just remember going into the hospital, then tubes being taken out of me seven days later," she said recently at her home.

Driscoll physicians said Kayla's was the severest case of the H1N1 flu they had ever seen. To make matters worse, she was also suffering from a staph infection called MRSA. It took a diverse team of experts and modern medical technology to save the girl's life. The tubes she recalled being taken out of her came from an Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation (ECMO) machine, a mechanized pump that circulates the patient's blood and provides oxygen to the body when the body can't do it alone. It works like an artificial lung for patients who can't be supported with a ventilator, as was the case with Kayla.

"This case exemplifies the great teamwork that exists here at Driscoll Children's Hospital," said Karl Serrao, MD, a pediatric intensivist who helped treat Kayla. "To make this miracle happen, everyone including nurses, doctors, respiratory therapists and many others worked together. Our community and our children benefit daily from Driscoll's investment in the ECMO machine and other innovative technologies and therapies."

Watching their daughter struggle to breathe, unconscious, was a day-to-day, nail-biting experience for her parents. When Kayla regained her health, her father, Luis Piñon, said it was a miracle. He also credited Driscoll's staff for being a source of comfort throughout the ordeal.

"The people there go above and beyond," he said. "From the chaplains, doctors and nurses to the housekeepers - they all treat you with respect, like you're part of the family. They don't give up hope."

Kayla gained local notoriety after her recovery. She and her parents gracefully gave interviews to newspaper and TV reporters who were eager to tell the story of the little girl who beat the odds. To this day, people who read about Kayla or saw her on TV ask about her, said her mother, Melinda Piñon.

Now a cheerful 8th grader who participates in tumbling at school, Kayla has a slight cough due to a small amount of fluid in her lungs - remnants of the H1N1 flu, explained her mother. She sees a Driscoll pulmonologist every three months for a check-up and breathing tests. All indications are that "she's doing good," Melinda Piñon said.

Luis Piñon has a new appreciation for the emotional challenges parents face when their child is hospitalized with a serious illness.

"Nobody really knows what that situation will be like until you're in those four walls," he said. "At times I had doubts about Kayla's outcome. But she's a survivor."

For the Driscoll team who treated Kayla, her case stands out as a moment of pride.

"It was an inspiration not only to see the family persevere and Kayla win, but also to see the staff at Driscoll step up to the plate during that challenging time of the H1N1 influenza outbreak," Dr. Serrao said.

The Piñons, who live in Corpus Christi, said they're grateful to have Driscoll Children's Hospital in their hometown. They've also taken their kids to Driscoll Children's Urgent Care clinic when they were sick.

"When people ask me about their children's illnesses, I tell them to take them to Driscoll," Melinda Piñon said.

Luis Piñon remembers driving past Driscoll Children's Hospital as a child. He said he hopes the hospital is around for another 60 years.

"We're blessed to have a hospital like Driscoll in Corpus Christi. For me, it's second to none. That's from the heart."

Driscoll staff will probably see Kayla in the future as a volunteer in the Summer Volunteen Program, her mother said. She loves to take care of children, particularly the young cousins she babysits.

"Children kind of gravitate to her," Melinda Piñon said.

Always optimistic, Kayla said her experience at Driscoll Children's Hospital helped her choose a career field.

"It would be a dream come true to be a nurse. I would like to help kids when they're sick. I already know about respiratory therapy and the machines that are used."