March 29, 2016

When Sophia Anagnostou saw the Fight Song video about Texas Children’s Hospital’s Main Campus she was determined to create a similar music video about her own experience as a cancer patient at Texas Children’s Hospital West Campus, a part of Texas Children’s she said not enough people know about.

“Everyone knows about Main Campus but no one talks about what’s going on here at West,” said the 13-year-old from Cypress. “This place is great, and at this point, it’s kind of like home to me.”

Almost a year ago, physicians at West Campus diagnosed Sophia with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL), a type of cancer that attacks the blood and bone marrow. A team of oncologists and other medical staff at the hospital have been treating the 7th grade volleyball player ever since.

During one of her stays at the hospital, Sophia met Anita Kruse, founder and executive director of Purple Songs Can Fly, a program that provides a musical outlet for children being treated for cancer and blood disorders at Texas Children’s Cancer and Hematology Centers.

Sophia told Kruse about her desire to make a music video about the relationships she’s forged with the medical staff at West Campus. Kruse explained that she could help her write and record a song but that making a music video wasn’t her expertise.

Sophia understood and accepted Kruse’s offer to help her write and record an original song. In two short sessions at the bedside using a portable studio, Sophia and Kruse created a song that captures the teenager’s unwavering strength and spirit as well as her bond with her mother, brother and medical family at West Campus.

Called “Strength Is In The Soul,” the song is one of the first Purple Songs Can Fly collaborations to be completed at West Campus and, according to Kruse, it won’t be the last. Kruse said she is expanding the program at West Campus and is making plans to create a recording studio at the location.

“Sophia is a great example of what can be done through Purple Songs Can Fly here at West Campus,” Kruse said. “There is a definite need for the program, which offers children undergoing cancer treatment a highly creative, much-needed musical environment to express their many varied thoughts and feelings.”

Sophia got a lot off of her chest by writing her song and soon after she got the chance to release even more emotions by creating what she had hoped for since being diagnosed with ALL – a music video! Anne Hill – director of the “Little Couple” featuring Dr. Jennifer Arnold, medical director of Texas Children’s Simulation Center – learned about Sophia’s wish from Kruse and was more than happy to make it come true.

Hill, along with Houston-based Side Yard Productions, worked with Sophia and West Campus medical staff to make a 3-minute music video set to Sophia’s song. Sophia, her mother and West Campus employees involved in Sophia’s care saw the video for the first time last week at a viewing at the hospital.

“I love it,” Sophia beamed after watching the video for the first time. “It makes me super happy.”

Ashley Edwards, an acute care nurse who has cared for Sophia since she was first diagnosed with ALL, came to the video viewing and said it reflects Sophia’s sweet, upbeat personality perfectly. Sophia’s mother Tara Anagnostou agreed and said her daughter is a trooper.

She said Sophia has experienced some ups and downs while in the hospital and that her daughter has spent a lot of time, including her 13th birthday, being sick. But the staff at West Campus and opportunities such as the ones through Purple Songs Can Fly have kept both of them going.

“Making this video made her so happy,” Anagnostou said of Sophia. “And, that brought me so much joy because I want her to be happy.”

Texas Children’s six in-chiefs lead a team of some of the top pediatric specialist in the nation. That team and their leaders are being recognized this week in honor of Doctor’s Day. See for yourself how integral they are to the success of our organization and the health of the many children who come to Texas Children’s each year.


When you see Texas Children’s growing footprint in the Houston community – like the construction of Texas Children’s Hospital The Woodlands and the 19-floor vertical expansion of Pediatric Tower E – we’ve achieved amazing things to ensure we deliver the right care at the right place and time to our patients. While our physical footprint reflects our commitment to patient care, it also demonstrates our commitment to green building initiatives in the design and construction of our health care facilities.

Our Facilities Planning and Development Department has used the new construction checklist from the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) as a guide for designing Texas Children’s buildings to help maximize efficiency while significantly reducing operational costs across the organization.

“We design energy-efficient buildings to meet or exceed current energy codes as well as assess energy saving ideas for payback of five years or less,” said Jill Pearsall, Texas Children’s assistant vice president of Facilities Planning and Development. “Texas Children’s has historically invested in our long-term facilities for optimal performance including assessment of the first costs, long-term maintenance costs and replacement costs over the life of the buildings.”

Energy-efficient applications in the building design include high performance exterior glass, lighting motion sensors, public restroom hands-free motion sensor faucets, durable floor materials to avoid high maintenance costs and chemical cleaners, and the installation of building system controls to monitor and adjust energy consumption.

“Our iconic Texas Children’s granite on the outside of our facilities is a regional material from Marble Falls, Texas, and we incorporate daylight into our interior designs as much as possible,” Pearsall added.

With Texas Children’s Earth Day celebration less than one month away, there are so many other green initiative milestones worthy of recognition. Click here to read the accomplishments spearheaded by our Green Team.

Save the date – Texas Children’s Earth Day celebration

On Friday, April 22, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., the Green Team will host two celebrations on Earth Day – one on The Auxiliary Bridge at Main Campus and one at Texas Children’s Hospital West Campus.

Dozens of vendors will be available to provide eco-friendly, cost-saving tips to employees including how to become more energy efficient, tips on eating green, as well as ways to reduce waste and recycle more.

At Main and West campuses, Pharmacy will be hosting the “Medication Disposal and Medication Take Back Program.” Please gather and bring expired medications to the event for proper disposal.

Two tree planting events are slated for Earth Day. West Campus President Chanda Cashen Chacón and Vice President Matt Schaefer will plant a tree at West Campus and Executive Vice President John Nickens will plant one at Main Campus thanks to the generous donations from Trees for Houston.

Stay tuned to Connect for more details about Texas Children’s Earth Day celebrations. Also, if you’d like to reach out to the Green Team with your green ideas, email

March 22, 2016

32316transplantinside640Friday, March 11, was a record-setting day for the renal transplant service at Texas Children’s Hospital with the team completing four kidney transplants in 18 hours.

Wednesday evening, Claudia Kim, renal transplant coordinator, received a call that two kidneys were available and were a match for two of our patients. Kim and Dr. Eileen Brewer, medical director of renal transplantation at Texas Children’s, went into action contacting families and making arrangements within the hospital to admit the patients the next day.

Early Thursday morning, Kim received a call that a third kidney was available, and at 4 p.m. she was notified that we had a fourth. Both of those organs were a match for another two of our patients. With the help of renal transplant coordinators, Kirti Bhakta and Dana Harney, those families were notified. The medical and surgical renal transplant teams then shifted into high gear preparing for Friday, the day all four kidneys were transplanted.

The organ recipients and their families began arriving at the hospital at 6 p.m. Thursday to be admitted and prepped for surgery. Brewer and Dr. Christine O’Mahony, surgical director of renal transplantation, coordinated with our inpatient floors, the dialysis team, the Post Anesthesia Care Unit (PACU), the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU), the operating rooms and pharmacy to make the transplants possible for all four patients.

Everyone involved was determined to make it happen for the patients who ranged from 4 to 28 years old. There were three female patients and one male patient. The 28-year-old had been on dialysis for 13 years waiting for a kidney.

O’Mahony and renal transplant surgeon Dr. Ron Cotton began the first transplant at 6 a.m. Friday. The second transplant started at 8 a.m., and the third and fourth began at 3:30 p.m. After surgery, all of the patients were admitted to the PICU. Two patients have since been discharged from the hospital. The remaining two patients are still here and are doing well.

It took an astounding team effort to complete the admission of four transplant patients and complete four surgeries in less than 24 hours. Renal surgeons and pediatric nephrologists, anesthesia, pharmacy, the PACU and PICU, perioperative nurses and technicians, renal transplant coordinators, the blood bank, 12 West Tower inpatient nurses and staff, the dialysis unit, social workers, child life specialists and dietitians all were involved in making this possible.

“We could never have done this without everyone’s input,” Brewer said. “I personally cannot thank the team enough.”

“Our biggest reward that day was the thanks and appreciation from the patients and their families for getting a new kidney,” Brewer added. “These patients can look forward to a great future.”

The last transplant on Friday was the 400th kidney transplant completed at Texas Children’s since the program began in 1988.

Renal Transplant Team Members and Operating Room Staff on March 11

Dr. Steven Stayer
Dr. Paul Hopkins
Dr. Titilopemi Aina
Dr. Thomas Shaw

Medical Team
Dr. Eileen Brewer
Dr. Poyyapakkam Srivaths
Dr. Sarah Swartz
Dr. Rossana Malatesta
Dr. Neziha Celebi
Dr. Peace Imani
Dr. Leyat Tal

Operating Room staff on March 11
Theresa Bagley
Jana Brunet
Danielle Govea
Doreen Hodgson
Hubert Laws
Lindsay Meade
Xianghua Xu

Ji Lee

Renal Transplant coordinators
Claudia Kim
Kirti Bhakta
Dana Harney

Surgical Team
Dr. Christine O’Mahony
Dr. Ron Cotton
Dr. Thao Galvan (Recovery)

32316laserablation640Texas Children’s neurology and neurosurgery teams recently surpassed 100 laser ablation procedures. This minimally invasive surgical brain procedure has significantly improved the quality of life for many children with debilitating seizure disorders.

Ranked no. 2 in neurology and neurosurgery by U.S. News & World Report, Texas Children’s is the first hospital in the world to use real-time MRI-guided thermal imaging and laser technology to destroy brain lesions that cause epilepsy and uncontrollable seizures. Unlike a craniotomy – which removes a larger area of skull bone – the MRI-guided laser probe uses a much smaller pathway through the brain to reach a lesion, resulting in a safer, significantly less invasive alternative to craniotomy.

Stereotactic laser ablation surgery is used to treat epilepsy related to hypothalamic hamartoma (laughing seizures) and other seizure-inducing conditions such as tuberous sclerosis complex, cortical dysplasia and mesial temporal sclerosis. Laser ablation also treats certain types of brain tumors and radiation-induced necrosis that sometimes accompanies the treatment of these brain tumors.

This innovative procedure pioneered by Dr. Daniel Curry, Texas Children’s director of pediatric surgical epilepsy and functional neurosurgery, and Dr. Angus Wilfong, medical director of Texas Children’s Comprehensive Epilepsy Program, has resulted in improved patient outcomes with up to 78 percent of children reaching seizure free status at their one year follow up appointment.

Drs. Curry and Wilfong say improving patient outcomes using this minimally invasive approach to treating seizure disorders would not have been possible without the collaboration from the entire team at Texas Children’s including every pediatric epilepsy specialist in the department of neurology, neurosurgeons, the neurophysiology technicians who help with intraoperative monitoring during surgery, radiologists, radiology technicians who run the MRI machine, and the anesthesiologists and nursing staff who provide incredible support in and out of the operating room.

“We are honored and gratified that this procedure we pioneered here at Texas Children’s has changed the lives of our patients and the landscape of pediatric epilepsy surgery,” Curry said. “We are encouraged by our success to date and we look forward to further advancing this new field in minimally invasive pediatric epilepsy surgery.”

Click here to learn more about this breakthrough epilepsy procedure. For more information about Texas Children’s Epilepsy Center including powerful video documentaries from Texas Children’s patients who benefited from laser ablation surgery, click here and to read their blogs here.

32216girlselevated550Growing up can be tough, especially on girls, but ample preparation can make this journey through adolescence easier for moms and daughters. “If you equip teens and preteens with the knowledge they need to navigate the changes and challenges that lie ahead, they’ll emerge stronger, healthier, more confident young women,” said Dr. Jennifer Dietrich, Texas Children’s chief of pediatric and adolescent gynecology. Hosted by experts from Texas Children’s and Baylor College of Medicine Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Girls Elevated is an empowering, interactive one-day event that educates teens about their bodies and helps them cope with peer pressure and self-esteem issues that often occur during puberty. Girls between the ages of 10 and 18, and their mothers or caregivers, are invited to attend separate, age-appropriate sessions to hear from physicians, law enforcement and other experts on topics girls want and need to know about, from physical development to personal safety to healthy relationships and more. Topics for the girls will include:

  • Puberty and menses
  • Hygiene, skin care and physical wellness
  • Social skills
  • Self-esteem
  • Personal safety

Topics for the adult caregivers will include:

  • What’s “normal”
  • HPV
  • Promoting positive self-esteem
  • Communicating with your teen
  • Stress management

This year’s keynote speaker, Stacy Mosely, will deliver an inspirational talk about how she overcame shyness and bullying at school and how she has excelled in her rewarding career as senior associate director of Athletics at Rice University. Girls Elevated will be held from 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. on Saturday, April 30, at the United Way Community Resource Center at 50 Waugh Drive, Houston, TX, 77007. This year, organizers are expecting a crowd of 250 participants. Click here to register online for Girls Elevated 2016! The deadline to register is Friday, April 22.

BryanCardona175Bryan Cardona of Texas Children’s Gordon Emergency Center is the latest Texas Children’s Super Star employee. “I believe the people who focus their efforts on the hospital functioning at is best, and don’t care for who gets the recognition, are the super stars of the hospital,” Cardona said. Read more of Cardona’s interview and find out how you can nominate a Super Star.

Q&A: Bryan Cardona, September 2015 Employee

Your name, title and department. How long have you worked here?
My name is Bryan Cardona. I work as a clinical support technician in the Texas Children’s Gordon Emergency Center. I have worked at Texas Children’s Hospital almost two years.

What month are you Super Star for?
September 2015

Tell us how you found out you won a super star award.
I was surprised by both my former and current manager. They tricked me thinking it was just a normal routine meeting, and then surprised me with the announcement that I had won a Super Star Award.

What does it mean to be recognized for the hard work you do? How has the organization helped you achieve your personal and professional goals?
It feels really good, and I take the recognition with humility. I believe this is a stepping stone in the right direction, and I thank Texas Children’s Hospital for the award. This organization is composed of intelligent, hard-working people and being around them has helped me learn so much about life.

What do you think makes someone at Texas Children’s a super star?
I read some good quotes from a booklet John Nickens gave me. I loved this quote from Benjamin Jowett, “The way to get things done is not to mind who gets the credit for doing them.” I believe the people who focus their efforts on the hospital functioning at is best, and don’t care for who gets the recognition, are the super stars of the hospital.

What is your motivation for going above and beyond every day at work?
Colossians 3:23. “And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men; Knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ.” People ask me why I work hard, and my answer is, “because of Him.”

What is the best thing about working at Texas Children’s?
The best reason is the children. The children’s smile, joy and courage can’t be compared with anything else.

What does it mean to you that everyone at Texas Children’s is considered a leader? What is your leadership definition?
Everyone influences Texas Children’s Hospital with their own unique gifts. Leadership is exercising one’s strength to influence others.

Anything else you want to share?
I want to tell everyone that without Jesus I wouldn’t be who I am now. Have faith and don’t be ashamed of your weaknesses because in your weakness you find true strength.