April 4, 2018

Texas Children’s Security Services was informed of an alleged armed robbery in Garage 21 at Texas Children’s Pavilion for Women on Saturday, March 31, and immediately communicated the information that we had to all physicians and employees to allow individuals to take additional safety precautions.

After a thorough investigation of the alleged incident, authorities have concluded that the report was falsely made. There was no robbery and no weapon.

At Texas Children’s, the safety and security of our patients, families, employees, providers, volunteers and visitors is of the highest priority. Although this report was not accurate, please continue to be vigilant about your safety. As always, Texas Children’s Security officers are available to escort employees to their cars. For escorts, call the Service Response Center at ext. 4-5400 or ask an officer for assistance. Please be aware of your surroundings and report any suspicious activity by calling 911 or the Texas Medical Center Police Department at 713-795-0000.

We regret any undue concern caused by the communication informing individuals of the alleged robbery.

Sara Montenegro

April 3, 2018

National Doctor’s Day was held on March 30 and is a national holiday that honors physicians for the work they do for their patients, the communities they work in and for society as a whole. In honor of the holiday, physicians were treated to a special lunch at Texas Children’s Hospital Medical Center Campus, Texas Children’s Hospital West Campus and Texas Children’s Hospital The Woodlands. After their meal, we visited with some of them about their professions. Listen to what they have to say and learn more about why they became a doctor, what they love most about their jobs, why they are at Texas Children’s and what they like to do in their free time.

Candice Gardemal can calm the most nervous patient visiting Texas Children’s Specialty Care Cy-Fair for an eye exam. The certified ophthalmic technician wins over patients of all ages with her warm, bubbly personality and an endless amount of tricks up her sleeve, some of which are so effective they have been published in medical journals.

“She’s phenomenal,” said Dr. Mary Kelinske, an optometrist at the center who has been working with Gardemal for the past five years. “I couldn’t do my job as effectively without her.”

Gardemal’s role at the center is to get the vitals of a patient’s eye before Kelinske walks into the exam room. Most of the time, this includes patients reading various charts containing letters, numbers, and sometimes, pictures. And, almost always, it requires a patient’s eyes being dilated, a process adults, much less children, find unsettling.

Gardemal’s stealthy moves and methods of distraction, however, are magical, allowing her to get the job done quickly and usually with no fuss. From the moment she walks into the exam room, she is smiling, talking and pulling out toys from various drawers and cabinets around the room.

“Look right here,” she said energetically while pointing to a silver, shiny pinwheel that lights up in the dark. “There you go! You did it! You are so smart!”

For some of her tougher cases, Gardemal puts on a super hero mask just to get a laugh. Other times she points to one of the colorful, sea-themed murals she has painted on the exam room walls.

“Ms. Gardemal is an exceptional artist,” said Chief-of-Ophthalmology Dr. David Coats. “She combines her charisma and her art to enhance the appeal of our clinics and to put our children as ease. Her work includes small paintings and huge murals, some of which hide instruments that can be frightening to children.”

When dilating a patient’s eyes, Gardemal uses a technique she developed that involves a pile of tissue, the patient’s belly button and a tall tale that goes something like this:

“OK now, hold these tissues real tight over your belly button so that none of these eye drops can get inside,” Gardemal enthusiastically tells her patients. “If the drops get inside your belly button, hair will start sprouting up around it!”

This simple technique is so effective, Gardemal published an article about it in the Journal of American Association of Pediatric Ophthalmology. She got another article published in the same journal about a technique Gardemal came up with called the pinch patch. The technique uses a pinch in the fold of an eye patch to make what is typically a flat surface over a patient’s eye convex and therefore much more comfortable.

“Ms. Gardemal routinely dreams up and implements innovative ways to improve patient comfort,” Coats said. “One of the best innovations she has developed is the pinch patch. This is a simple modification to an eye patch that makes wearing an eye patch much more comfortable, which has been great news for our young patients who often must wear an eye patch several hours a day for many months or even years.”

Most recently, Gardemal has been working with Kelinske to provide a better clinical experience to patients with a range of physical, developmental and behavioral differences, including ADHD and Autism. Through exams geared toward the unique requirements of these patients, Gardemal and Kelinske have modified their approaches, as needed, to keep patients as comfortable as possible, both physically and emotionally, and to help get information and deliver care as accurately and efficiently as possible.

“My goal is to distract my patients with fun and leave them with a good memory of the eye doctor,” said Gardemal, who as a child had to visit the ophthalmologist frequently due to a condition called strabismus. “My childhood doctor always gave me a high five and a smile to make me feel more comfortable and it worked. I want to do the same for my patients. I want them to leave the clinic feeling like they had a good time.”

Click here to learn more about the Texas Children’s Special Needs Eye Clinic.

Don’t miss out on the fun at the second annual Texas Children’s Hospital and Houston Marathon Foundation Family Fun Run at Texas Children’s Hospital The Woodlands. Registration for the event ends at 5 p.m. Monday, April 23, or whenever we reach our maximum event capacity of 1,500 runners, so hurry and sign up if you haven’t already.

Texas Children’s Hospital The Woodlands will host the fun run at its campus on Saturday, May 5. The event will offer a 1-mile course and will begin at 9 a.m. Post-race activities will follow until 11 a.m.

Participants – including those who need walkers and wheelchairs – are welcome. There will not be prizes given to top finishers as all participants will receive an award for taking part in an event designed to educate and encourage Houston-area families to adopt active, healthy lifestyles.

Click here to register and learn more about the upcoming event.

Good luck and happy running!

Now that there are officially two lively golden retrievers walking the halls of Texas Children’s Hospital Medical Center Campus, the Pawsitive Play program has become everything our president and CEO expected and more.

Bailey, the hospital’s newest service dog, was recently welcomed by Mark Wallace and his wife, Shannon. The Wallaces donated Bailey as a gift to Texas Children’s in memory of their beloved dog, Cadence, after making the rounds with the hospital’s first therapy dog, Elsa, and realizing that being a service dog was a lot of work.

“This is a massive organization, and lots of different buildings and hundreds and hundreds of really, really, sick patients,” Wallace said. “So Shannon said we need to sponsor a second Pawsitive Play service dog, and I said OK, let’s do it.”

Their generous pledge and initial $80,000 contribution to the program will enable Texas Children’s to hire more animal-assisted therapy coordinators and therapy dog teams specifically trained to provide therapeutic interventions to patients and families in Legacy Tower.

The Pawsitive Play program began in December 2015 with a generous donation from the Shackouls family.

“It is our hope that the support and love these therapy animals provide will help countless children in making their treatment and recovery journeys brighter,” Bobby and Judy Shackouls said. “We look forward to watching this program grow into something even bigger because every child, no matter their age, gender, background or health condition, deserves to feel the unconditional love and comfort these animals can provide throughout the healing process.”

Bailey, like Elsa and other therapy dogs, offers distraction and motivation to patients undergoing certain medical procedures. However, it’s not just her that aids in this process. Bailey’s handler, Adair Galanski is a Texas Children’s child life specialist who collaborates with medical teams, and physical and occupational therapists to visit with five to 10 patients each day who are having a particularly difficult time during their hospitalization.

“As much as I love my job, and think I’m good at what I do, I can never have that same connection with families that Bailey brings,” Galanski said. “Bailey is that peacemaker and that bridge for us to be able to really connect with kids who might not want to connect through words, but can connect through her.”

Although Bailey has already started seeing heart and critical care patients, she was hired to work specifically in the hospital’s newest expansion, Legacy Tower. The doors of the first phase of Legacy Tower will open to patients, families, and employees like Bailey on Tuesday, May 22.

As soon as the Wallace’s laid eyes on Bailey they knew they had made the right decision and look forward to many more furry friends joining our team in the future.

“These wonderful dogs are adding a lot to the culture of the hospital,” Wallace said.

Forty-five campers attended Camp Keep Smiling March 23-25, participating in everything from arts and crafts to ropes courses and more.

Camp Keep Smiling is a camp for children with cleft lip and palate. Hosted by the nonprofit Camp for All, the camp provides a safe, fun environment for patients between the ages of 10 and 16 to engage in meaningful social interaction and gain self-confidence. Participants can enjoy activities like canoeing, fishing, archery, ropes courses, basketball and arts and crafts.

Admission is free of charge for patients as it is supported directly by donations.

Texas Children’s Pediatric plastic surgeon Dr. Laura Monson, who helped start the camp, leads the camp with other team members from the plastic surgery division. Physicians, nurses, OR staff and child life specialists serve as counselors who notice tremendous strides in the campers towards the end of the session.

Barbara Elias, the ventricular assist device (VAD) coordinator for Texas Children’s Heart Center, was recently honored with the Daisy Award, a national award that recognizes clinical nurses for the extraordinary work they do for patients and families each and every day.

Elias was recommended for the award by the mother of a patient who said that for the past 16 months Elias has gone above and beyond for her and her daughter, showing them both “the utmost care and compassion.”

“No matter what time of the day or night, she is always just a phone call away,” the mother said. “Even after the numerous times we woke her in the middle of the night, Barb jumped into action and showed as much care for my daughter as I do as her parent.”

The mother said Elias always maintained a professional demeanor while giving her daughter and family emotional support.

“She is a great asset to the heart failure program,” she said. “I hope one day she will receive as many blessings as she has bestowed upon the countless patients and families she has touched through her kindness.”

Elias has been Texas Children’s since 2015, starting out in the adult VAD program before moving to pediatrics. In her job as the VAD coordinator Elias is the liaison and general resource for all VAD patients, families and caregivers, conducting a variety of tasks including obtaining insurance and prior authorization for all VAD implants, conducting preoperative assessments and evaluations, intraoperative pump preparation, postoperative rounds, assistance with daily interdisciplinary rounds, pump assessment, wound care and management, collaboration with teams for procedures on VAD- supported patients, daily management of all device patients including family updates, monitoring of anticoagulation and patient transport.

Elias also handles teaching patients and family members device therapy at discharge, and VAD education and training to various other audiences such as paramedics and school personnel. She also coordinates outpatient therapy in areas sometimes not associated with Texas Children’s when patients live in alternate locations and participates in VAD patient research.

“Barb is excellent at what she does and always puts our patients and families as ease,” said Congenital Heart Surgeon Dr. Iki Adachi. “She is a perfect fit for the Daisy Award.”

To learn more about the Daisy Award and/or to nominate someone for the recognition, click here.