August 27, 2018
Members from the August 7 (top) and August 16 (bottom) rescues are recognized.

When people tell stories about the care Texas Children’s provides, they often use the same word: miraculous. With the heroic actions of our Kangaroo Crew in two recent cases, it’s easy to see why.

The first story took place on August 7. The team in Texas Children’s Mission Control received a frantic call from a surgery center north of Houston.

“There was a very panicked voice on the other end,” said ETM dispatcher Amber Lieberman. “She said, ‘We need your team, we need blood and we need you now.’”

A 6-year-old patient had suffered a lacerated carotid artery during a routine outpatient procedure. The surgical team had applied pressure to stop the bleeding, but the patient had lost too much blood and there was no emergency blood on hand. Without immediate assistance, the child might die.

Mission Control immediately sprang into action. A Kangaroo Crew team at Texas Children’s Hospital The Woodlands was dispatched to the patient. On the scene, the team swiftly assessed the situation and began preparing the patient for transport, taking special care to keep the patient as secure as possible since the team at the community surgery center was still applying pressure on the artery. One wrong move could mean disaster.

Meanwhile, Mission Control also dispatched the Kangaroo Crew from Texas Children’s medical center campus to take the emergency release blood to The Woodlands team. In a stunning display of coordination, Mission Control and the two teams orchestrated a hand-off of the blood just off Interstate 45 between The Woodlands and Houston. They planned down to the exact moment when each vehicle would arrive and also on which side of the highway they would meet. In the parking lot of an abandoned restaurant, the two teams connected almost simultaneously and the blood was handed off.

Once the patient was stable, the medical center campus Kangaroo Crew followed The Woodlands Kangaroo Crew to the Texas Medical Center in case support was needed during the drive. Mission Control constantly tracked the movements of each vehicle and coordinated our teams in the emergency center (EC) and operating room and interventional radiology (IR), providing constant updates on the patient’s condition and ETA.

When they arrived at the EC, Kangaroo Crew team members assisted the emergency staff until the patient was taken to IR. This is a story that could have had a much different ending.

“Because of the seamless coordination with Mission Control, it’s amazing what we can accomplish,” said Kangaroo Crew transport nurse Roma Frier. “It wouldn’t have happened like it did without the transfer center and the way it operates.”

Just over a week later, on August 16, the Kangaroo Crew was transporting a patient from another hospital in the Texas Medical Center to Texas Children’s neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). As they passed the Jan and Dan Duncan Neurological Research Institute, Michael Johnson, the EMT on the team, saw something startling at a nearby bus stop.

“There was an individual giving chest compressions to a man,” Johnson said. “I turned and yelled to the back, ‘We need to stop, I don’t think this guy’s breathing.’”

The Kangaroo Crew immediately stopped to assist. Members of the team sprinted to help and began CPR while another crew member stayed with the stabilized patient on board and contacted Mission Control, who alerted paramedics. Less than three minutes later, the Houston Fire Department (HFD) arrived on the scene and a unified command was initiated. HFD, assisted by the Kangaroo Crew, began administering advanced cardiac life support.

Within moments, the patient was revived.

As HFD and EMS prepared the cardiac arrest patient for transport to an adult hospital, the Kangaroo Crew proceeded to Texas Children’s NICU with our patient, who had been stabilized and monitored throughout the rescue.

This is another story that could have ended in tragedy. However, both the NICU patient and the gentleman are alive today, and the prognoses are excellent.

“This is a story that deserves celebration,” said Texas Children’s President and CEO Mark Wallace. “The heroes in the Kangaroo Crew and Mission Control are such a big part of this one amazing team. They are always running toward the problem, and they make such a huge difference here at Texas Children’s.”

Also awed by the heroic actions of the Kangaroo Crew that day was Craig Moreau, HFD captain and paramedic from Fire Station 33.

“I am convinced that the early decisive actions of the members of the Kangaroo Crew gave this patient the best possible chance for survival,” Moreau said. “If in the unfortunate event something drastic is to occur to me or any members of my family, I hope the Kangaroo Crew is nearby to assist. Their efforts went above and beyond the call of duty.”

The heroes on August 7 were:

Mission Control
Mona McPherson, Pediatric Medical Control
Amber Lieberman, Dispatch
Gloria White, Charge Nurse

Kangaroo Crew Transport Team 991 from The Woodlands
Adrian Gonzales, EMT
Shawnaka Holland, RN
Ryan Seaholm, RRT
Jacob Willits Martinez, Orientee

Kangaroo Crew Transport Team 992 from Main Campus
Ray Estlinbaum, RRT
Roma Frier, RN
Kim Karn, RN and Orientee
Michael Johnson, EMT

The heroes on August 16 were:

Kangaroo Crew Transport Team
Ashley Griffin, Orientee
Michael Johnson, EMT
Kristine Knight, RRT
Jennifer Rinaldo, RN

Click here to learn more about the Kangaroo Crew.

Click here to learn more about Mission Control.

At Texas Children’s, we feel strongly that it is our responsibly to educate patients about the health plans we are in network with and how they can access our expert care. Therefore, we want to make sure Amerigroup members are aware that Texas Children’s is not a participating provider with Amerigroup. Those patients have the right to change health plans to ensure continuity of care.

Amerigroup currently insures 9,500 past and present Texas Children’s patients under Amerigroup STAR, Amerigroup STAR Plus, Amerigroup STAR Kids, or Amerigroup Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) plan.

To make sure these patients receive uninterrupted access to care at Texas Children’s, we are recommending they change their coverage to a health plan that Texas Children’s is in-network with. As an eligible STAR, STAR Plus, STAR Kids, or CHIP plan member, they have a choice in the plan they select for coverage. They also have the right to change plans.

“We have been treating these patients out-of-network for the past five years hoping Amerigroup would work with us to either become an in-network provider or educate their customers about the options available to them,” said Kabby Thompson, director of managed care contracting. “It is clear that’s not going to happen. We feel it is in our patients’ best interest to educate them about the plans we are in network with and to help them transition into an in-network plan if that’s how they want to move forward.”

A similar plan of action worked well last November when Texas Children’s became an out of network provider to 6,000 Molina members. More than half have switched to an in-network plan.

A letter has been sent to patient families who have been a Texas Children’s patient within the past year and whose records say they are covered by Amerigroup. Depending on your role at Texas Children’s, you could receive questions from patient families and others about this change. Below is information to help you answer those questions and to places to direct people if you cannot.

“We appreciate your help in getting these patients and families the help they need,” Thompson said. “Their health care is important to us.”

Click here to access the information below and more.

How can Amerigroup patients and families change their health plans?

For Amerigroup STAR, Amerigroup STAR Kids and Amerigroup STAR Plus members: The Texas Medicaid program allows people to change their or their child’s health plan.

  • Patients and their families can learn more by calling the Texas STAR Program Helpline at 1-800-964-2777.
  • Patients and families can request to change their health plan at any time for any reason. If they call to change their health plan on or before the 15th of the month, the change will take place on the first day of the next month.
  • If they call after the 15th of the month, the change will take place the first day of the second month after that. For example:
    • If they call on or before October 15, their change will take place on November 1.
    • If they call after October 15, their change will take place on December 1.

For Amerigroup CHIP members: The Texas Medicaid program allows patients and their families to change their or their child’s health plan.

  • Patients and families can learn more by calling CHIP toll-free at 1-800-647-6558.
  • During the first 90 days after they or their child are enrolled in a health plan, they can change to another plan once for any reason.
  • If they show good cause, they can also change health plans at any time. An example of “good cause” is when they or their child can’t get the care you need through the health plan. An inadequate network or a change in the network status of their treating provider is also considered “good cause.”
  • They can also change health plans during the annual CHIP reenrollment period.

The Texas Medicaid program allows patients and families to change their or their child’s health plan every 30 days. They can learn more about how to do this and begin to make the change by calling the Texas STAR Program Helpline at 1-800-964-2777 (STAR or STAR Plus) or CHIP toll-free at 1-800-647-6558.

Questions patients and families might have about care at Texas Children’s:

As an out of network member, will patients still be able to receive care at Texas Children’s Hospital?

Rescheduling: In cases where Amerigroup has not responded to requests for both out-of-network authorizations and Single Case Agreements before the scheduled visit, Texas Children’s will contact patients/their families before their scheduled visit to reschedule once Amerigroup has responded.

Emergency Medical Care: Amerigroup advises that you go to an in-network provider for emergency care. Texas Children’s Hospital will treat children in the event they have an emergency. If a child is seen in the Emergency Center for emergency care, the medical team will work with the patient and their family to decide how to provide care after the doctor’s medical evaluation. Amerigroup will help find follow up care with a provider who is in network.

Urgent Medical Care: In order to receive urgent care at a Texas Children’s Urgent Care location, Amerigroup must approve an out-of-network authorization. This could be difficult because of the urgent nature of a patient’s condition and the time it takes to get an authorization. Amerigroup may also redirect care to another in-network provider.

Routine Care: In most cases, Amerigroup will require patients and their families to receive routine or urgent care from a network provider. In order to receive care at Texas Children’s, Amerigroup must approve an out-of-network. Amerigroup may also redirect care to another in-network provider.

Who should I contact if I have further questions?

If you want to learn more about changing your or your child’s health plan, you can call the Texas STAR Program Helpline at 1-800-964-2777 or CHIP toll-free at 1-800-647-6558.

If you have questions for Amerigroup, you may call their Member Services department toll-free at 1-800-964-2777. If you are not satisfied with the response from Amerigroup, you can contact the Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) by calling toll-free 1-866-566-8989.

If you have questions for Texas Children’s Hospital or Texas Children’s Physician Services Organization, you may call us at 832-824-1000 Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Central time. Texas Children’s Pediatrics can be reached at 832-824-2999.

What Medicaid Health Plans is Texas Children’s in-network with?

Texas Children’s Hospital and Texas Children’s Physician Service Organization are in-network with the following Medicaid Health Plans

Texas Children’s Pediatrics is in-network with the following Medicaid Health Plans

Five years ago Texas Children’s Health Plan celebrated the grand opening of The Center for Children and Women, a patient and family-centered medical home for Health Plan members. Now with two locations, one 50,000 square-foot facility located in the Greenspoint area of Houston, and another in the Southwest area, the center has flourished and continues to provide high quality community based primary health care.

“It is actually unbelievable, frankly. Going from a concept to what we have today, and being able to serve so many patients and members and families of Texas Children’s Health Plan,” said Assistant Vice President Tangula Taylor. “It is humbling, quite honestly, just to think about the impact that we’ve been able to make on the lives of so many.”

The Center for Children and Women is designed to ensure that all patients have access to proper care by providing extended hours to accommodate the families’ busy schedules. The Center’s health care model provides comprehensive care for the well-being of the whole patient. This is done with the help of many medical professionals on site every day such as pediatricians, advance nurse practitioners, OB/GYNs, certified nurse midwives, optometry, imaging, a laboratory and an onsite pharmacy, and behavioral health specialists. The medical home provides a means to address the shortage of primary medical care for families enrolled in government health care programs.

“The idea was really to create a comprehensive one stop shop for health care,” Taylor said. “We know that families that we serve have precious time, and when they come in seeking healthcare, we wanted to be able to maximize the time we have with them and bring forth a holistic approach to address all of their care needs in that moment.”

On August 17, the Center celebrated its anniversary with a party open to the community. The event included ice cream and cake, face painting, information booths and goody bags. During the celebration employees gathered along with a patient who was brought into this world by Center providers and has been a patient at the Center for the last five years. The group sang a special birthday song as she and her sister blew out candles.

“It’s like the Center has become part of our family. We come here for everything,” said Ivonne Solis, mother of the patients. “There are days when I feel like I spend the whole day here because one has a dentist appointment, the other is seeing the eye doctor and the other has a general checkup. And I know if she gets sick at school, for example, they see us quickly.”

Across the room enjoying the celebration with her children was Yesenia Cervantes, a former patient of the Center. For Cervantes, the phrase “you will like it so much you will not want to leave” can’t be more accurate. Today, she works as a patient access specialist at the Greenspoint location.

“The first time that I had my appointment I really loved my care, so then I said, I have to be part of this, of the Center,” said Cervantes. “I would love to work with the people here and I would like to be part of this organization.”

Cervantes is just one of the many patients who has experienced first-rate care at the Center. Over the course of five years the Center’s membership has gained over 35,000 distinct patients and nearly 400,000 total visits.

“It was our intention when we opened to grow the Centers to a point where they were completely sustainable, and we have been able to do that,” said Medical Director for Obstetrics and Gynecology, Dr. Lisa Hollier. “And in the process, we are delivering on better outcomes for women and children.”

The Center has received several awards and recognitions since it opened such as; The National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA) Level III Recognition four years in a row. The Center is NCQA Patient Centered Medical Home (PCMH) and Patient Centered Specialty Practice (PCSP) recognized. The Center for Children and Women was the first OB/GYN practice in Texas to receive PCSP designation. In addition, the Center is COLA Certified for clinical laboratory compliance and received COLA’s Laboratory Excellence Award and acknowledged by Centering Healthcare Institute as an accredited Centering Pregnancy site, to name a few.

“I see this center continuing to grow and serve the Greenspoint and Southwest communities, but I of course see a third center, a fourth and fifth and a six,” said Chief Medical Officer for Pediatrics, Dr. Heidi Schwarzwald. “Not just in the Houston area, but across our state, serving the needs of Medicaid families.”

With 11 total service lines, the Center for Children and Women has exceeded initial expectations and continues to serve patients with the highest quality care possible with a focus on healthy mothers, healthy babies and children, and healthy communities.

“We are very proud of what we have accomplished in the past five years, and the support we have received at The Center for Children and Women from the community has been energizing,” Lou Fragoso, president of Texas Children’s Health Plan, said. “We know the incredible impact The Center has on helping families stay healthy—it is a privilege to serve our plan members in the Greenspoint and Southwest Houston areas. As we cross this milestone, we are committed to continuing to expand access to the highest quality primary care possible for our plan members.”

View a photo gallery of pictures from the event below.

For more information about Texas Children’s Health Plan The Center for Children and Women visit


On August 18, Texas Children’s Hospital the Woodlands employees attended the annual Chamber of Commerce’s 2018 Chairman’s Ball, and snagged a few awards as well. This year’s theme was “Star Wars: May the Force be with You and Beyond.” The team won the “Best Done For You” award and orthopedics physician assistant, Danielle Comeaux, won “Best Costume” with her Padme look.

“There’s definitely a sense of pride that we’ve only been in this community as a full hospital for such a brief period, but have already made our presence felt with a number of awards and recognition,” said the Director of Business Operations, Eric Allum.

The annual event is a black-tie affair honoring the Chairman of the Board, Frank Holmes of Sam Houston State University, while celebrating the accomplishments of The Woodlands Area Chamber of Commerce. Along with costume and table decorating contests, the event was a night of food, fun, and mingling with many other organization from the community.

“It was a lot of fun. The Star Wars theme really allowed us to show our fun side as a children’s hospital,” Allum said. “It shows how much we support The Woodlands Chamber and our ongoing commitment to this community.”

It is important for Texas Children’s to attend these events to show the support that we have to the community inside and outside of the hospital.

“The Chamber puts on a first class event and we feel it’s important that the health care community is well represented,” Allum added. “We look forward to celebrating with our community partners again and seeing what fun theme is presented next year.”

Fetal surgeon and Ob-Gyn-in-chief Dr. Michael Belfort is often reunited with his patients, but the recent meeting he had with Sam Hancock was extra special. The teenager and his family made their way from Utah to Houston to meet Belfort, who saved Sam’s life before he was even born. The meeting was Sam’s 18th birthday wish and his parents, Alisa and Dennis, were happy to accommodate as Belfort’s name holds a high regard in their home.

“As a family, we are so grateful for Dr. Belfort,” Alisa said. “He deserves the credit for the skill and knowledge that gave Sam a chance at life.”

When Alisa was pregnant with Sam nearly two decades ago, an ultrasound showed severe swelling of her son’s neck. Doctors told her and Dennis their baby likely had a very serious condition and would not survive.

Later in her pregnancy, doctors noticed fluid building up in Sam’s chest cavity and told her there was no hope. That’s when the family found Belfort, who was practicing in Utah at the time and gave them the option of having fetal surgery. Belfort placed a shunt into Sam’s chest in hopes that fluid being produced would drain from his chest into the amniotic sac, relieving the pressure on his developing heart and lungs. The shunt worked for a short time, but then stopped. Belfort made a second attempt and it was successful in draining the fluid and taking the pressure off Sam’s heart and lungs.

Sam was delivered two months early as Alisa went into early labor because of extra fluid in her amniotic sac, a condition called polyhydramnios, which stretches the uterus making it extremely large. Despite several attempts to decrease the amount of fluid, labor could not be stopped.

Sam spent three months in the neonatal intensive care unit and underwent another surgery to place drains in his chest to relieve excess fluid. When he was discharged, Sam was on oxygen. At 2 years old, he was diagnosed with craniosynostosis, a condition where the skull bones are fused and cause a misshapen head. To correct the condition and to relieve pressure on his brain, Sam underwent yet another surgery.

Despite a rough start in life, Sam is a fighter. Though he battled some academic delays earlier in life, he worked hard to overcome his challenges and recently graduated with a 3.5 GPA and earned his Eagle Scout award. When asked what he wanted for his 18th birthday, he said he wanted to come to Houston to see Belfort, and to thank him for saving his life and never giving up on him.

“There are no words to express what I’m feeling right now,” Sam said after shaking Belfort’s hand and grinning ear to ear. “I am so happy to be here.”

Belfort said meeting back up with Sam and his family was a real treat and that he had never forgotten them.

“It was an unusual procedure at that time,” Belfort said of the operation he did on Sam more almost two decades ago. “I’m really glad it worked out. Sam is a delightful young man.”

During his visit to Houston, Belfort gave Sam and his family a tour of Texas Children’s Hospital and introduced them to Texas Children’s President and CEO Mark Wallace, who was so honored to meet Sam he personally sang Happy Birthday to the teenager.

After talking to Sam about his hopes and dreams, Wallace told him about his 10 leadership maxims and encouraged him to come up with his own personal definition of leadership.

“Now that you are 18, you are old enough to have your own definition of leadership,” Wallace said. “That definition should reflect you, your personality and your beliefs.”

Sam, who is looking forward to the next journey in his life and will soon be looking for a job, promised Wallace he would work on coming up with his personal definition of leadership and share it with him soon.

Texas Children’s Pavilion for Women and two of its surgeons recently received superior patient care designations from the Surgical Review Corporation, which develops and administers best-in-class accreditation programs for surgeons, hospitals and freestanding outpatient facilities throughout the world.

After a rigorous review process, the SRC accredited the Pavilion for Women as a Center of Excellence for Minimally Invasive Gynecology and two of its surgeons – Dr. David Zepeda and Dr. Xiaoming Guan – as Surgeons of Excellence in Minimally Invasive Gynecology.

The Pavilion for Women is now one of three hospitals in Houston and one of five in Texas with the Center of Excellence designation.

“Earning this accreditation signifies our ability to consistently deliver the safest, high-quality care to our patients,” said Nakeisha Archer, director of perioperative services for the Pavilion for Women. “Our program fosters quality improvement in surgery, and commitment to this process has focused our team on exceeding clinical benchmarks and guidelines. Most importantly, our commitment to excellence will improve the health and well-being of our patients. We are so proud to be leaders in quality care for women.”

Minimally invasive gynecologic surgery includes hysteroscopic, laparoscopic and/or vaginal procedures such as hysterectomies, fibroid removals and myomectomy excisions. Surgeons at the Pavilion for Women did almost 500 minimally invasive surgeries in 2017 and are on track to do more this year.

Karen Rosser recently had a minimally invasive procedure done with Zepeda and said her experience with the surgeon and the Pavilion for Women was incredible.

“I felt comfortable every step of the way,” said Rosser, who suffered chronic pain for years due to adenomyosis. “I never flinched at moving forward with surgery and am confident I received the best care.”

Zepeda said he is proud of the designations and believes they distinguish the Pavilion for Women as a leader in minimally invasive surgery.

“SRC’s accreditation program recognizes surgeons and facilities that demonstrate an unparalleled commitment and ability to consistently deliver safe, effective, evidence-based care,” he said. “This has always been our focus at the Pavilion for Women and always will be.”

Guan agreed and said he hopes patients looking for quality care can now be even more assured that the Pavilion for Women is the place to be knowing we have met rigorous standards for delivering high-quality perioperative and long-term follow-up care.

More about the surgeons

Dr. David Zepeda was born and raised in Houston and attended The University of Texas at Austin. Zepeda received his medical degree at the University of Texas at San Antonio Health Science Center in 1974. He completed obstetrics and gynecology residency at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston in 1978. Zepeda maintains an academic appointment as clinical associate professor at Baylor College of Medicine, where he is involved in residency and medical student education. He’s recognized in the Texas Medical Center for his expertise in gynecologic surgery, including pelvic reconstruction, DaVinci Robotic Surgery and advanced laparoscopic and hysteroscopic procedures. He is board-certified by the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology and has voluntarily recertified numerous times. He has been awarded the Distinguished Surgeon of the Year in Houston and has been voted among the Best Doctors of America. In addition to teaching, Zepeda has been involved with National Scientific Meetings in Ob/Gyn and has published on laparoscopic surgery. He is actively involved in continuing medical education through the medical center and national meetings in the specialty as well as numerous professional societies.

Dr. Xiaoming Guan
Dr. Xiaoming Guan is the Section Chief and Fellowship Director of Minimally Invasive Gynecologic Surgery at Texas Children’s and is an associate professor in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Baylor College of Medicine. Dr. Guan earned his medical degree at Fujian Medical College, Fuzhou in Fujian, China. He completed his Obstetrics and Gynecology residency at St. Joseph’s Hospital, a Mount Sinai School of Medicine affiliated hospital, in Paterson, NJ, followed by a fellowship in Minimally Invasive Gynecologic Surgery at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston. Dr. Guan brings extensive experience in treating complex and challenging cases of endometriosis, uterine fibroids, and pelvic masses. He is a leader in minimally invasive gynecologic surgery and a pioneer in the use of state-of-the-art robotic single-site technology and traditional single site and transvaginal Natural Orifice Endoscopy Surgery (NOTES) for advanced pelvic surgery. He also applies single-site or NOTES surgical technique in treatments of cervical incompetence with abdominal cerclage, urinary incontinence with sling, and pelvic organ prolapse with sacrocolpopexy. He serves on the editorial boards of the Journal of Minimally Invasive Gynecology and he is the author of numerous more than 40 publications.

More about SRC
Established in 2003, SRC is an internationally recognized patient safety organization dedicated to recognizing and refining surgical care. SRC is the leading administrator of quality improvement and accreditation programs for surgeons and hospitals worldwide. SRC’s proven methodology, known as the “Cycle of Excellence,” results in quantifiable and unparalleled improvement in the outcomes, patient safety and costs across surgical specialties. To measure improvement and develop best practices, SRC offers a multispecialty outcomes database that is the world’s largest repository of clinical patient data for minimally invasive gynecologic and bariatric surgery.

Texas Diversity Magazine recently announced its inaugural Houston Power 50 award recipients, and Texas Children’s Executive Vice President Michelle Riley-Brown and Vice President and Associate Chief Nursing Officer Jackie Ward were among those honored.

On the cusp of Women’s History Month, the goal of the award program is to honor women in the C-Suite from top companies who are making an effort to do great work within their companies, departments and communities in the city of Houston.

Selection for this distinction was based on each individual’s contributions to business growth and strategic direction, proven record of innovation and accomplishments in their area of expertise, and their ability to serve as an active role model by mentoring the next generation of professionals in their industry. Each awardee was recognized for standing atop their field in several industries such as technology, health care, oil & gas, financial services, government and retail.

“The Inaugural 2018 Power 50 award honors a diverse range of executive leaders of the highest caliber,” said Dennis Kennedy, founder and chairman of the National Diversity Council. “Our team takes great pride in honoring this group of accomplished women that continue to push innovation in business and beyond.”

Click here to read the full article on the Texas Diversity Magazine website.