September 23, 2014


Texas Children’s employees and former patients’ families gathered at Texas Children’s Pavilion for Women to honor our neonatal nurses for their hard work and dedication. But, this wasn’t your typical celebration.

Nurses traded in their scrubs for creative, yet cringe-worthy pants that probably wouldn’t get the nod of approval from Giorgio Armani or Gianni Versace: green pants with bright yellow flowers, candy corn pants and red slacks with flamboyant feathers, to name a few.

For nurses at Texas Children’s Newborn Center, Bad Pants Day was more than just dressing up in whacky attire. It was their day to shine and realize just how much they are appreciated for the diligent work they do every day to improve the outcomes of critically-ill infants in our Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU).

View the photo gallery:

Several NICU families joined in on the festivities, including David and Lauren Perkins, and their energetic 2-year-old sextuplets – Benjamin, Caroline, Andrew, Allison, Levi and Leah – who teamed up for a game of putt-putt golf with the neonatal nurses.

Ben and Amanda Kopp shared their unforgettable experience about the NICU staff who took wonderful care of their daughter, Cami, who was born at just 25 weeks at the Pavilion.

“Throughout the ups and downs of Cami’s 86-day stay in the NICU, the nurses, doctors and volunteers at Texas Children’s gave us the faith and confidence that our precious little angel would not only survive, but thrive,” said Amanda Kopp. “Today, our 17-month-old daughter is happy and healthy.”

Texas Children’s Bad Pants Day event also marked the official kick off for next month’s 17th annual Bad Pants Open. All proceeds from the golf tournament will support Texas Children’s Newborn Center. Several of the sponsors and organizers of this fundraiser attended Bad Pants Day to show their appreciation for our NICU nurses.

To register for the Bad Pants Open and support a worthy cause, click here.

To learn more about Texas Children’s Newborn Center, click here for a video tour.


Beyond Batten Disease Foundation delivers the largest investment in the history of Batten Research to Texas Children’s Hospital

No treatment. No cure. Fatal. That’s what the parents of six-year old Will Herndon of The Woodlands were told when their son was diagnosed with a disorder that strikes young, otherwise healthy children. Will, now 11, is blind, and the family is heart-broken, but driven to find a cure.

“We are so blessed to live in a community that has passion to believe that even the impossible can become possible if you truly believe change can be made,” said Missy Herndon, Will’s mother and founder of The Will Herndon Research Fund at Beyond Batten Disease Foundation.

Batten Disease is a rare, inherited pediatric neurological disorder, which begins with vision loss and seizures, followed by cognitive and motor impairment. Currently, there is no cure, and the disease is fatal in the late teens or early 20s. This prognosis is unacceptable for Will Herndon’s family and the hundreds of children affected with this condition. Beyond Batten Disease Foundation (BBDF) supports research to treat and cure Batten disease that strikes young otherwise healthy children around the age of five.

Missy and Wayne Herndon, Will’s parents, jumped into action after receiving the devastating news about their son. They partnered with Beyond Batten Disease Foundation to raise funds from generous donors in The Woodlands, the Houston area and Texas. Ultimately, these contributions and others have resulted in the largest investment in the history of Batten Disease research in the United States to Texas Children’s Hospital.

“I am so grateful for the tremendous support we have received from the families of The Woodlands and beyond. Our success is a testimony to the resources; love and faith each of them have shared since day one of Will’s diagnosis. There is no doubt in my mind this community is committed and a life-changing discovery will happen,” said Missy Herndon.

Craig and Charlotte Benson of Austin created Beyond Batten Disease Foundation in 2008 after their daughter, Christiane, was diagnosed with Batten disease. In 2009, Wayne and Missy Herndon launched The Will Herndon Fund as part of the Foundation in honor of their son. The Fund’s mission is simple; SAVE WILL and the hundreds like him, and in the process create promising treatments for so many other neurodegenerative conditions.

Mrs. Herndon presented a check from the Foundation to Texas Children’s Hospital for $1.75 million. The money will go to the Jan and Dan Duncan Neurological Research Institute at Texas Children’s Hospital. This follows another $2.5 million dollar gift in 2009 from Jim and Cherie Flores and Beyond Batten Disease Foundation. The grants totaling $4.2 million dollars are the largest investment ever made in the history of Batten research. The money allowed a team of researchers from Italy to come to Texas Children’s to conduct research. The researchers have identified six potential drug compounds that are currently in testing. The $1.75 million from the Foundation will support the critical steps necessary to eventually translate basic research into future clinical trials, ultimately to treat children in a race against time for their lives.

“We are profoundly grateful that the Beyond Batten Disease Foundation has chosen to support Batten disease research at Texas Children’s,” said Dr. Huda Zoghbi, director of the Jan and Dan Duncan Neurological Research Institute at Texas Children’s. “Children like Will Herndon and Christiane Benson are the inspiration for accelerating discoveries about this devastating disorder, and this next phase of research is a critical step in that process.”

The Herndons spoke for the first time to the Houston media last week about the disease that strikes children that formerly ran, laughed and sang. View KHOU coverage.

The Herndons hosted the 6th Annual HOPE Under the Stars event in The Woodlands to help fund the research to find a cure. The celebration honored the amazing support of The Woodlands community and announce the new grant at Texas Children’s Hospital featuring the most promising research in the history of the disease.


Read the newest “Super Star” Q&A featuring Estella Tam, Pathology. “A super star employee is someone who enjoys and has compassion for what he or she does,” Tam said. “A super star also is someone who strives for excellence and willing to be a F.A.T. – Faithful, Available and Teachable.”

Check out her Q&A, and find out how you can nominate a Super Star to be featured in the “Super Star” section on Connect.




Q&A: Estella Tam, July 2014 Employee

1. Your name, title and department. How long have you worked here?
Estella Tam, B.S., MT-ASCP, technical supervisor, Pathology Main Campus. I have been at Texas Children’s Hospital 32 years.

2. What month are you Super Star for?
July 2014

3. Tell us how you found out you won a super star award.
I was paged to see my assistant director, Mr. Aaron West, one afternoon. He said we had to go to a meeting in the conference room and our VP, Mr. John Nickens was there waiting for us. He opened the door and to my surprise, the room was filled with Pathology leadership team and Mr. West made the announcement of me being selected as July Super Star Employee. It was totally a surprise!

4. What does it mean to be recognized for the hard work you do?
It was truly an honor to be recognized for the work I do. This award also goes to all my wonderful coworkers, my leaders and medical directors supporting me every day.

5. What do you think makes someone at Texas Children’s a super star?
A super star employee is someone who enjoys and has compassion for what he or she does and does it well beyond the call of duty, is willing to learn and take new challenges, be flexible and ready to adopt changes, be humble and respect others, be willing to help even if it is inconvenient, strives for excellence and to be a F.A.T. – Faithful, Available and Teachable.

6. What is your motivation for going above and beyond every day at work?
I come to serve our patients, their families and my coworkers. Having a sick child is very stressful for the family. I want to do my best providing timely and accurate lab results for the physicians taking care of the patients. I personally know a few premature babies who came through our NICU, and now they are beautiful adults. I understand how important my job is working together with my coworkers to provide the service.

7. What is the best thing about working at Texas Children’s?
The best thing about working at Texas Children’s is knowing that every day I make a little difference in someone’s life. It does not matter if it’s providing lab results or helping someone find their way. I am encouraged by the hospital’s mission and vision finding the best way to improve the health of children through research and education. This is my “home away home” for the past 32 years, and I am proud to be part of the Texas Children’s Hospital family.

8. Anything else you want to share?
I am thankful for my leaders and coworkers’ encouragement and support helping me grow professionally and personally. I am blessed working with a wonderful team in Pathology. Even though we don’t have much patient contact working in the lab, the samples that we work with each day are not just a number but are precious samples from patients. It inspires me seeing my coworkers pursuit of excellence in doing their work providing diagnostic tools. We are part of the caring team behind the scene.


By Lindsey Gooding

I never thought I’d be able to forget the exhaustion that accompanied my son, William’s, four-week stay in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at Texas Children’s Pavilion for Women in April 2012. William has reached so many exciting milestones since he left the NICU two years ago.

The progress William has made between his first and second birthday still amazes me. At his first birthday, he wasn’t walking, he had no teeth and he had no interest in solid food. By his second birthday, he was a walking, talking, food-loving little toddler who finally had seven teeth.

I’d be lying if I said I didn’t worry about him not being on the growth charts for so long and his speech being delayed compared to others his age. When William turned two years old, I had him evaluated by a speech therapist because he wasn’t saying 50 words. They told me what I had known deep down in my heart. He didn’t qualify. He was learning a little more every day. William was doing things on his own timeline and that’s okay.

William is his own person. He was a preemie who has made remarkable progress. All we can do is love him, teach him and encourage him. He has met all his milestones. A few were several months behind but he’s done it and that’s what matters. He can kick a ball, he repeats things he hears, he knows all his body parts, he plays make-believe and he’s more independent with each day that passes. We couldn’t be more pleased with his progress.

Although a NICU stay can be exhausting, there were several things that made it an awesome, positive experience. The car seat education program was priceless. I got to have a little baby for longer than most. The nurses were so informative and helped me perfect my “mom skills.” Gordon and I enjoyed going out to dinner a couple of times which most new parents don’t get to do (and we had the best babysitters in town!). Since William received donor breast milk while in the NICU, I knew I had to give back by donating myself!

Gordon and I would love to add another little Gooding into our family. If we are ever blessed enough to welcome another baby into the world, we will be more prepared for a NICU stay. It won’t be easy but being a parent never is. Every NICU family has a different story. Some are harder than others. I try to always put things into perspective. Find the silver lining. My motto is: You have to embrace all the days, good and bad. In their own unique way they are very precious moments. It may not be what you envisioned but sometimes that’s okay.


The Clinical Research Center (CRC) presented the Clinical Research Award for Third Quarter 2014 to Kathleen Pitts, nurse practitioner, Department of Allergy & Immunology, Pulmonary, and Asthma Clinic, Baylor College of Medicine.

The award was established by the Clinical Research Center in collaboration with the Research Resources Office to recognize and honor individual contributions to protecting the best interest of the research subjects and compliance with applicable rules and regulations.

Ms. Pitts research activities in the CRC focus on allergy, asthma and pulmonary related issues.

Congratulations to Kathleen Pitts.

September 17, 2014

Given the continued presence of Ebola in West Africa, Texas Children’s has put appropriate plans in place to receive a patient with the virus.

“We know exactly what room in the Emergency Center we would put a patient, we know what personnel would go in, and we know what protective gear they would be wearing,” said Dr. Jeffrey Starke, medical director of infection control. “We have plans in place to deal with this and minimize, to the extent we can, possible risk to employees and physicians at Texas Children’s Hospital.”

Starke emphasized that the likelihood of such plans being carried out are very low.

Where Ebola is making the most impact

About 3,700 cases of Ebola have been detected this year in the West African countries of Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria, Senegal and Sierra Leone. The vast majority of cases have been in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, countries that have very few visitors to the U.S. and Houston. The cases in Nigeria have been traced to one man from Liberia who traveled to Lagos and died from Ebola, but the virus does not appear to have been widely spread in Nigeria.

“To put it into some perspective, think about it like this,” Starke said. “More than 20 million people live in the three most impacted countries – Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone – which means the case rate in those areas is one per 5,000 people. In other words, 99.98 percent of the people in those countries do not have Ebola.”

No confirmed Ebola cases have been reported in the United States, Starke said, adding that the only people at risk of getting the virus are those living in the countries where there is an outbreak. If someone were to show up in the United States with Ebola, it probably would be an American who got the virus while living abroad in one of the high-risk areas.

“Under that scenario, you already know the patient has Ebola, so you have plenty of time to take all of the appropriate precautions and do what’s necessary,” Starke said.

How we’ve prepared

To prepare for such an event, Texas Children’s leaders in Infection Control, the Emergency Centers, Critical Care, Emergency Management, Texas Children’s Pediatrics and other areas are monitoring daily Ebola updates and recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO). The group meets weekly to assess Texas Children’s preparedness plan as it relates to the most current information.

A specific protocol has been developed addressing the steps we would take should we receive an Ebola patient, and rooms have been identified in the Emergency Center and the PICU that would be used to isolate and securely monitor the patient.

We have an inventory of appropriate protective equipment, including full-coverage protective suits that have been deployed to Main and West campuses, the Pavilion for Women and transport services (Kangaroo Crew).

We also are developing information to share at in-person education huddles in areas that might be a point of entry should we receive a patient with Ebola symptoms.

Starke recently filmed a video responding to common questions and concerns related to Ebola. Click here for Starke’s FAQs video.

Where to find more information
Texas Children’s Ebola Education website (the latest Texas Children’s Ebola response and readiness information)
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
World Health Organization

September 16, 2014

Stay tuned to get your call to action September 23.

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