July 14, 2015

Texas Children’s is spotlighted in an hour-long documentary about Knatalye Hope and Adeline Faith Mata, who were born conjoined on April 11, 2014 at Texas Children’s Pavilion for Women. An elite surgical team at Texas Children’s Hospital successfully separated the twins 10 months later. Both girls are doing well and are with their family in Little Field, which is just outside of Lubbock.

Produced by Lincoln Square Productions, an ABC News Production Company, the documentary will air at 8 p.m. Thursday, July 16 on the Discovery Life Channel. Called “Conjoined Twins: Miracle Separation,” the documentary follows the twins’ extensive journey from birth through separation. It also includes the first interview with the Mata family since they made it home.

“We are truly honored to be able to share the Mata family’s remarkable story,” said Jane Latman, general manager of Discovery Life Channel. “Our belief is that their story will offer hope and inspiration to other families going through difficult situations.”

A large portion of the documentary focuses on the 26-hour separation surgery the girls went through at just 10 months old. Cameras inside the operating room captured the complex choreography between the surgeons, anesthesiologist and surgical nurses who worked tirelessly to separate the conjoined twins, who were fused from the chest to the pelvis.

“This surgery was not without its challenges with the girls sharing several organ systems,” said Dr. Darrell Cass, lead surgeon and co-director of Texas Children’s Fetal Center. “This is the first time a separation surgery for thoraco-omphalo-ischiopagus twins with this particular configuration has been successful.”

In addition to seeing what the twins went through during surgery, viewers of the documentary also will follow Knatalye and Adeline through every phase of the arduous process leading up to and following their separation. At only 8 months old, the twins underwent a tissue expansion surgery to prepare their skin for separation. The girls continue to receive a rigorous regime of physical, occupational and speech therapy.

Elysse and Eric Mata, the twins’ parents, share their feelings on the documentary about the entire ordeal and what they had to go through as a family to make it all happen. Elysee talks about how she lived out of a temporary home near the hospital for a year while her girls were at Texas Children’s Hosptial. Eric, meanwhile, maintained his job at their permanent residence nearly eight hours away, commuting to hospital as much as possible.

“They have only been a part of our lives for nine months, but they have done so much for me as a mom,” Elysse said a month before Knatalye and Adeline were separated. “I just can’t imagine not having them.”

71515Matainside640The encore of the documentary is scheduled for July 20 and October 9 on Discovery Life. Find out what channel Discovery Life is on in your area and with your provider here. The documentary also will air July 20 on TLC. Check the network’s website for showtimes.

71515SurgeryReview640Since Dr. Charles D. Fraser Jr. was made surgeon in chief five years ago, he has taken a morning each year to formally talk about the successes, challenges and goals of the Department of Surgery. This year’s talk happened July 10 in the packed Texas Children’s Hospital auditorium and focused on how far the department has come during the past five years.

“You are a tremendous department,” Fraser said to the group before delivering his presentation. “The work you are doing is extraordinary.”

Representing 600 employees and at least 9 different subspecialties, the Department of Surgery is dedicated to caring for and improving the health of children through patient care, education and research.

The department’s more than 80-member surgical team treats children in and around the greater Houston area via our five Health Centers and two, soon to be three, hospitals. The team also sees patients at other hospitals around the country and the globe.

Annually, Texas Children’s surgeons perform 25,000 operative cases and 115,000 clinic visits, including 90 fetal procedures and about 20 neurological laser ablations.

Fraser said his goal for the department has been and will continue to be three fold:

  • Deliver the best possible pediatric surgical care.
  • Be preeminent in pediatric surgical research.
  • Be the epicenter in educating tomorrow’s leaders in pediatric academic surgery.

In all areas, Fraser said, the department has improved. In terms of delivering the best possible pediatric surgical care, the Department of Surgery offers an expanded pallet of services, has fostered relationships with various other entities both inside and outside the hospital, and has created an organized effort to improve the quality of care provided at Texas Children’s Hospital.

The result of such efforts can be seen in the number of people visiting the Department of Surgery each year. The number of surgical outpatient visits last year was up 70 percent compared with 2009. That number was up 14 percent compared with 2013. The number of surgical cases, operating room hours and Texas Children’s Pediatric referrals also has gone up every year for the past five years.

“Our outcomes have garnered us a lot of attention,” Fraser said, highlighting the separation of conjoined twins Knatalye Hope and Adeline Faith Mata as well as Baby Audrina, who was born with her heart outside of her chest. “Your tireless effort to get the job done has paid off.”

As for research, the Department of Surgery still has room to grow. However, conducting pediatric surgical research has become an important part of the department’s portfolio, bringing in National Institutes of Health funding, seed grants and significant publications.

71515Surgeryinside640A product of the department’s dedication to such research is the Edmond T. Gonzales Jr., Surgical Research Day, which provides a forum for researchers to unveil their work highlighting remarkable advancements in the field of pediatric surgery. This year, almost 300 clinicians attended the event.

“We will continue to invest in research and we will continue to be good stewards of the money we receive,” Fraser said.

As for leading in educating tomorrow’s leaders in pediatric academic surgery, the Department of Surgery has made great strides, hosting several educational conferences, recognizing excellence and fostering achievement. In addition, Fraser said the department has created a distinct sense of community, participating in Texas Children’s events together, working collaboratively on setting priorities, and promoting and celebrating their own successes.

“We are one team and we are focused on the relentless pursuit of excellence,” he said at the end of his Friday talk. “Dream big, work hard and keep the faith.”

71515PFWmassages640As a neonatal nurse at Texas Children’s Newborn Center, Brittany Gonzalez spends most of her day on her feet doing what she loves – taking care of sick infants in the neonatal intensive care unit.

“At the end of my 13-hour shift, my feet are tired,” Gonzalez said. “When I get massages, it soothes my sore muscles and helps me relax. Even if it’s just for a few minutes, the effects are long lasting.”

Like Gonzalez, Texas Children’s and Baylor College of Medicine employees are taking advantage of massage therapy at the Bella Luna Boutique on the third floor of Texas Children’s Pavilion for Women. While these services cost a fee and require an appointment, the feeling of complete relaxation keeps employees coming back.

“I can clear my mind, listen to relaxing music and mentally drift away,” said Vickie Broussard, an employee development coordinator in the Facilities Operations Department. “The more I do it, the better I feel, and the longer the good feeling lasts with repeated sessions.”

Massage therapy helps Derek Blaylock unwind from the stressful challenges of balancing responsibilities at home with his job duties as a Texas Children’s patient and family advocate.

“It brings me to a place that’s relaxing and healing all at the same time,” Blaylock said. “It also helps me become more aware of my own body which can lead me to improved posture and the desire to exercise more and ultimately work and stress less.”

As a board-certified massage therapist at Texas Children’s, Candace Heredia says massage therapy is not a luxury, but something our bodies need regularly to improve emotional, mental and physical well-being.

When we’re stressed, our bodies release a stress hormone called cortisol. Regular massages reduce production of this stress hormone and increase production of dopamine and serotonin – the hormones that make us feel good, resulting in an endless list of soothing health benefits.

“A single massage session can increase energy levels, improve blood circulation and enhance mental and physical performance,” Heredia said. “Other health benefits include reducing lower back pain and fluid retention during pregnancy, strengthening the immune system and improving rehabilitation after injury.”

Since taking advantage of massage therapy at the Pavilion for Women, Texas Children’s Cardiology Chief Dr. Daniel Penny notices immediate relief from his chronic back pain.

“I’ve had a number of major back operations over the past few years,” Penny said. “There is nothing better to ease my back spasms than scheduling a massage appointment with Candace.”

Aside from these services, Heredia maintains a pretty busy schedule. She also performs massage therapy for Texas Children’s inpatients and outpatients after receiving written consent from their physician, provides massages during employee wellness events, and teaches infant massage classes to ease colic in newborns and promote parental bonding.

“It’s very rewarding to see employees, patients and their families benefit from massage therapy,” Heredia said. “It’s all about improving their quality of life and helping them achieve a healthier lifestyle.”

Need a relaxing massage? For more information about the Pavilion for Women’s Massage Services, click here. A half-hour massage is $45 and one hour is $75. Chair massages also are available for $1 per minute up to 15 minutes.

To schedule an appointment with Candace Heredia, call Ext. 6-2556 and to sign up for the next infant massage class, click here.

71515SSWendyKnight640Wendy Knight from Kangaroo Crew transport team is the latest Texas Children’s Super Star employee. “What makes one person standout from another is the little things,” said Knight. “It’s not only doing your job, but trying to put a smile on a little one’s face in one of the worst times of their lives.” Read more of Knight’s interview, and find out how you can nominate a Super Star.

Q&A: Wendy Knight, March 2015 Employee

Your name, title and department. How long have you worked here?
Wendy Kristine Knight, RRT, NPS. I am a respiratory therapist on the transport team, nicknamed the Kangaroo Crew, at Texas Children’s Hospital. I started working for the respiratory department at Texas Children’s, my senior year of high school through a program called HOSA (Health Occupations Students of America). I would get up at 4:30 a.m. and drive in Monday through Friday, work three hours, then drive home, change clothes and go to school. It made for a very busy and fun senior year. After I graduated I went to respiratory school and then was rehired in November of 1992. So I have worked at Texas Children’s for a total of 24 years.

What month are you Super Star for?
March 2015

Tell us how you found out you won a super star award.
One morning I was walking down the hall and a person was trying to get into our department to deliver breakfast food. I badged her in and as I was walked in I jokingly said “Hey everyone I brought food this morning.” About 15 minutes later my management team came down and said they had an announcement that one of the team had been selected as Super Star of the Month. I was looking at all my team mates trying to figure out which one had won the award. In my mind it could have been any one of us. I could not believe it was me when she said my name. Then everyone started kidding with me saying that I really did bring them food.

What does it mean to be recognized for the hard work you do?
It is quite an honor and I am grateful to receive this award but I think of it as recognition for the dedication and professionalism of my team. In my opinion, the Kangaroo Crew provides outstanding service to our patients, referring hospitals and to Texas Children’s. I am very fortunate and proud to be part of such a distinguished team.

What do you think makes someone at Texas Children’s a super star?
I think we are all great in what we do or we would not work for Texas Children’s. But if I had to say what makes one person standout from another it would be the little things. It’s not only doing your job, but trying to put a smile on a little one’s face in one of the worst times of their lives. It’s remembering as you jump into a situation, critical or not, as you begin your procedures that your patient has fears, feels pain and you may be their only advocate for compassion. Taking the time in a critical situation with a family who is having trouble understanding what is happening to their child and why, even when you feel rushed or harried. Also, the ability to give the parents peace as you transport their very sick child, because they know that you will treat their child as if they are your own.

What is your motivation for going above and beyond every day at work?
My grandfather always told me to strive to be the best me I can be. He was a huge influence in my life. Also, my teammates on the Kangaroo Crew inspire me with their dedication and support. They are a second family to me. However, by far, my biggest motivation is my patients. In their darkest moments, these children and their families depend on my teammates and I to safely deliver them into the world renowned care of Texas Children’s Hospital.

What is the best thing about working at Texas Children’s?
I love working with children. I realized when I was going through respiratory school that I was the happiest when I worked with children. As I rotated through hospitals in respiratory school I realized Texas Children’s was my first and last choice. I was determined to come back to Texas Children’s once I graduated. At Texas Children’s Hospital children come first. It isn’t a numbers game. They made sure your work assignments gave you enough time to be with your patients which enabled me to give the best quality care. As a teaching hospital Texas Children’s is at the forefront of cutting edge technology, research and medical treatment. It is an exciting place to work and I am thankful to be part of the Texas Children’s team.

Anything else you want to share?
Yes. I would like to thank Texas Children’s for this much appreciated award. I am grateful for the opportunities Texas Children’s provides me. I would like to express my gratitude to my teammate Melissa Campbell for so graciously nominating me. I would like to thank my teammates and the management team of the Kangaroo Crew. I am proud of our accomplishments and thankful for my place among you. Finally, I would like to acknowledge my family and friends who have supported me through every step of my career. I consider myself blessed by all those around me, family, friends and coworkers alike.

71515HealthCenterTours640With the opening of the outpatient and subspecialty building at Texas Children’s Hospital The Woodlands just 15 months away, steps are being taken to ensure the transition for staff, patients and their families is seamless.

One such step was taken June 25 and 26 when staff and leaders at the Woodlands Health Center and staff and leaders at the West Campus Outpatient and Subspecialty Building met and discussed what it’s like to go from working at a small community health center to a community hospital.

The 60-member staff at the Woodlands Health Center will move into the Woodlands Outpatient and Subspecialty Building in October 2016. The building will be adjacent to Texas Children’s Hospital The Woodlands, which will open its doors in the fall of 2017. A similar situation occurred five years ago when West Campus Outpatient and Subspecialty Building started seeing patients. The nearby West Houston Health Center closed and its staff moved to the outpatient and subspecialty building.

“The staff at West Campus has been through this and has a lot of good advice to offer,” said Julie Barrett, who recently was named director of outpatient and clinical support services for Texas Children’s Hospital The Woodlands. “During the recent field trip, they alleviated a lot of our anxiety about the move and got us really excited about working in a community hospital setting.”

Some of the topics covered at the meeting included differences between a hospital setting and a health center, lessons learned from West Campus’ transition, operational challenges, and relationship with Main Campus. In addition to the panel discussion, health center staff also had the opportunity to tour West Campus.

“The overall experience was extremely beneficial to our health center employees, many of whom have never worked in a larger hospital setting,” said Diane Scardino, vice president of medical subspecialty practices and Health Centers at Texas Children’s. “They needed to see and hear what their new setting will be like from people who have been in their shoes.”

Scardino and President of Texas Children’s Hospital The Woodlands Michelle Riley-Brown will continue to work together to provide additional training that will help staff understand and navigate the differences between working at a stand-alone health center versus one that is part of a community hospital.

Once completed, the Woodlands facility will be a 560,000-square-foot complex and will offer inpatient and outpatient specialty pediatric care. Facilities will include 22 emergency center rooms, 85 outpatient rooms, five radiology rooms, four operating rooms and 32 acute-care and 12 PICU beds with future expansion plans for up to 200 beds.

Along with serving families throughout The Woodlands Area, Texas Children’s anticipates serving families in counties throughout Greater North Houston, including Montgomery, Walker, Grimes, Liberty, Harris, Polk, San Jacinto and Hardin.

In November, Riley-Brown was named president of the hospital and Dr. Charles Hankins was named chief medical officer of the institution. Riley-Brown and Hankins assumed their positions as the Woodlands leadership team in January.

“We are working hard every day to prepare for the opening of Texas Children’s Hospital the Woodlands,” Riley-Brown said. “These site visits to the West Campus were important to host for the Woodlands Health Center staff, as it allowed them to get a glimpse into the similar capabilities of the future Woodlands hospital and outpatient services.”

71515HeartFAILUREICU640Texas Children’s Heart Center and the section of Critical Care Medicine cut the ribbon July 6 on a new, first-of-its-kind pediatric Heart Failure Intensive Care Unit. This highly-specialized 12-bed unit focuses on the treatment of children with heart failure, as well as those requiring intensive care before and after heart transplant.

“We are thrilled to be the first in the nation to offer this highly-specialized level of pediatric critical care,” said Dr. Paul Checchia, medical director of the Cardiovascular Intensive Care Unit at Texas Children’s Hospital. “Patient outcomes will only continue to improve as we treat their unique needs in this new setting.”

Checchia and Dr. Lara Shekerdemian, chief of critical care medicine at Texas Children’s Hospital, oversee the unit. Drs. Antonio Cabrera and Jack Price, associate professors of pediatrics-cardiology and critical care at Baylor, serve as associate medical directors of the unit. Shekerdemian had the honor of leading the recent ribbon cutting, which was attended by attended by the CVICU team, Heart Center leadership, Physician-in-Chief Dr. Mark W. Kline, Surgeon-in-Chief Dr. Charles D. Fraser Jr., Chief of Pediatric Cardiology Dr. Daniel Penny, and other Texas Children’s leaders.

“We are excited about our additional capacity and space to care for our critically ill cardiovascular patients in a less congested and more family supportive setting, said Kerry Sembera, a heart center clinical liaison.

Sembera and Gail Parazynski, assistant vice president of Critical Care, worked in collaboration with physician leadership to execute a successful intensive care room design as well as plan for safe transition of patients to this new environment. Patient Care Manager Amanada Wollam in partnership with the CVICU nursing team, were enthusiastic champions of the unit leading to a seamless transition.

The heart failure and cardiac transplantation programs at Texas Children’s Heart Center are among the largest and most successful programs in the world. More than 650 cardiomyopathy patients are cared for each year by a team of physicians, nurse coordinators and administrative personnel. When a transplant is not immediately available, a variety of circulatory support devices are used as a bridge to transplantation. Currently, Texas Children’s Heart Center is able to offer a wide range of mechanical circulatory support devices, as well as extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO), to children whose hearts are failing: Maquet Rotaflow, Cardiac Assist Tandem Heart, Thoratec Paracorporeal VAD (ventricular assist device), Thoratec HeartMate II, Berlin Heart EXCOR, Heartware LVAD and Syncardia Total Artificial Heart.

July 7, 2015

7815H2OChallenge640Texas Children’s is launching a 21-day water challenge for all staff starting Monday, July 20 to promote consuming the recommended amount of water during the dog days of summer.

As the temperatures rise, it is more important than ever to stay hydrated. Drinking enough water provides a variety of benefits including proper digestion, sustained energy levels and reduction of food cravings. It also prevents headaches and promotes a clear complexion.

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends adults take in at least 64 ounces of water per day. Although it sounds simple, consistently drinking the recommended amount can be challenging.

That’s why we are encouraging all Texas Children’s staff to take the 21-day H20 challenge! We want you to commit to drinking at least 64 ounces of water per day for 21 days. Challenges are usually more fun with friends, so invite your coworkers to participate. Let’s rock the ripple effect and unite around this simple yet powerful wellness goal.

Challenge details

  • Each participant will receive an individual 21-day H20 Tracker by July 20.
  • Post this tracker near your workspace and track your daily water intake.
  • Receive motivation and wellness tips throughout the challenge.
  • Look out for special water deals at our dining venues.
  • Get a Texas Children’s water bottle when you complete the program!

Ready to dive in?

Click here to take the challenge!