February 25, 2019

Texas Children’s promise to provide the highest quality care to all those who come to us hasn’t changed. But Houston and the surrounding area, and the complex medical needs of our patients, are ever-changing.

To meet those needs, Promise: The Campaign for Texas Children’s Hospital was launched, with a goal of raising $475 million by 2020. The monumental fundraising effort focused on several crucial initiatives that would allow us to expand our reach in Greater Houston and beyond and to offer our world-class care to even more children who need it.

The response from the philanthropic community has defied all belief. Not only did we meet our goal, we shattered it. More than 183,000 donors raised $578.4 million – $103.4 million over the original goal – and two years ahead of schedule.

“Our plan for the largest expansion in Texas Children’s history was ambitious, but the response was extraordinary, far exceeding our wildest dreams,” said Texas Children’s President and CEO Mark Wallace. “From the very beginning, we had the support of generous philanthropists in the community, and that support remained constant – and is still absolutely vital to our success.”

Keeping our promises
  • To ensure that children who require complex care always have a place to go for treatment

Every year, more and more families come to Texas Children’s for life-saving care – care they can’t receive elsewhere. At one point, in November 2013, Texas Children’s was full and on drive-by status. Other hospitals were calling, wanting to transport their most critically ill patients, but we couldn’t accept the transports. We had to say “no.”

Texas Children’s Board of Trustees quickly approved a measure to build a new facility that would enable us to care for more children with complex conditions who require treatment that only Texas Children’s can provide.

The result – the Lester and Sue Smith Legacy Tower. The cutting-edge, 640-square-foot expansion is Texas Children’s new home for heart, intensive care and surgery, and was named for Lester and Sue Smith in honor of their transformational gift.

Before the Lester and Sue Smith Legacy Tower opened, our ICU was almost always at or over 100 percent capacity. Now the average is in the low 90 percent levels, giving us room to accept transfers of critically ill patients and to move our own patients into critical care if they need it.

  • To bring a dedicated pediatric hospital to a growing community

Just a short time ago, families from north of Houston were regularly traveling 40 miles or more to our Texas Medical Center campus with children who had chronic conditions and required ongoing treatment and management. It was too far. These families deserved the highest-quality, dedicated pediatric care close to home.

Through the overwhelming generosity of donations to the Promise Campaign, we were able to build Texas Children’s Hospital The Woodlands, which opened in May 2017. Now families living north of Houston have access to the area’s first dedicated pediatric emergency center, state-of-the-art operating rooms, world-class critical care services and an accredited motion analysis lab.

The effect in the community was felt immediately. Our first-year numbers for admissions, outpatient visits, emergency center visits, surgeries and special procedures doubled projected estimates. Moreover, expanded access in The Woodlands has freed up services at our Texas Medical Center campus for children with even more complex conditions.

  • To advance the practice and science of pediatric medicine

From its world-class neurology and cardiology departments to a comprehensive Fetal Center that is one of only a few in the world, Texas Children’s offers specialty services for children who require complex care. Philanthropic support for these programs helps bring comfort and healing to children from this community and from across the world.

The Promise Campaign raised vital funds for several of our world-class divisions and centers of excellence, such as the Jan and Dan Duncan Neurological Research Institute (NRI) and Texas Children’s Trauma and Grief Center (TAG).

Promise Campaign support for the NRI has already led to some remarkable advances, such as the identification of a likely culprit gene responsible for mild-to-severe regression of previously acquired motor and language skills. A potential link between a group of genes responsible for cellular waste-disposal disorders in children and Parkinson’s disease has also been discovered.

Texas Children’s TAG is committed to raising the standard of care and increasing access to best-practice care for traumatized and bereaved children, adolescents and their families. Generous funding through the Promise Campaign has enabled the TAG Center to expand care beyond our main campus clinic into the community to help children and families in schools, community clinics, mobile clinics and primary care pediatric offices.

  • To recruit and retain world-class physicians and scientists

Not a day goes by when one of Texas Children’s most notable experts isn’t being recruited by another leading children’s hospital. To recruit and retain world-class physicians and scientists, endowed chairs are our most powerful too.

Through the Promise Campaign, generous donors have helped Texas Children’s bring the best and brightest from across the country, including our Surgeon-in-Chief Dr. Larry Hollier, the S. Baron Hardy Chair in Plastic Surgery, and Dr. Michael Belfort, our Gynecologist-in-Chief and F.B. McGuyer Family Endowed Chair in Fetal Surgery.

Once an endowed chair is in place, the chair holder has access to significant funds that may be used to provide support for innovative research projects or to launch new programs.

  • To offer quality care to children in our community regardless of their family’s ability to pay

When Texas Children’s Hospital began in 1954, its founders made a promise that it would be a place where all children would receive the very best care, regardless of their families’ ability to pay.

That’s a promise we’re still keeping today. More than half of our patients are on Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Plan. It is Texas Children’s responsibility to serve our community. Every child deserves the very best health care.

During the Promise Campaign, Texas Children’s Hospital provided an average of $13 million in charity care each year.

It’s been less than a year since the Lester and Sue Smith Legacy Tower opened its doors for the first time to care for our most critically ill patients at Texas Children’s Medical Center campus. And, in that short period of time, Texas Children’s has made great strides for our patients and their families.

On May 22, 2018, Smith Legacy Tower opened with 45 critically ill patients. Four months later on September 25, Texas Children’s No. 1 ranked Heart Center opened in Smith Legacy Tower to deliver care to 64 patients. Since that historic moment, Texas Children’s critical care, cardiology, surgical and radiology teams have been busy.

To date, Smith Legacy Tower has had 3,870 patient admissions in the pediatric and cardiac intensive care units. More than 5,000 patients have received care at Smith Legacy Tower’s outpatient Heart Center clinics, and over 450 catheterization and 476 MRI procedures have been performed in the new tower.

A total of 2,356 surgeries were completed in Smith Legacy Tower’s state-of-the-art surgical and cardiovascular operating rooms, totaling 9,495 surgical hours. In the first three months of opening the tower’s new helipad, Texas Children’s had 66 helipad landings, allowing for even greater access to Texas Children’s for the sickest patients.

“I don’t know of any other children’s hospital in the country that has the type of experience that Texas Children’s has in bringing all of these elements together,” said Texas Children’s Surgeon-in-Chief Dr. Larry Hollier. “With Legacy Tower providing much larger, more functional spaces for our patients, clinical and surgical teams, we are delivering on our promise to ensure every child receives the right care, at the right time and in the right place.”

West Tower Backfill Project

Following the successful opening of Smith Legacy Tower, construction is now underway to backfill and renovate the patient care spaces on floors 7 and 15 of West Tower that were left vacant from the patient moves.

Part of the West Tower Backfill project involves transitioning patient care services out of the Abercrombie Building which currently serves as Texas Children’s general pediatrics and pediatrics hospital unit. As one of the hospital’s oldest facilities, the smaller spaces and limited technological capabilities have historically presented challenges for providers, clinical care teams, patients and their families.

“When our executive steering committee was formed to look at space planning and space management for our clinical programs, one of our guiding principles was to decrease or eliminate care in Abercrombie,” said Assistant Vice President of Nursing Jennifer Sanders. “As our patients and staff become more dependent on technology, there are challenges due to the age of the facility.”

7 West Tower

As part of the backfill project, 7 West Tower will become a 32-bed dedicated hematology and oncology unit that will include 22 hematology-oncology rooms and 10 bone marrow transplant rooms.

Formerly known as the Progressive Care Unit, several patient rooms had been set up as pods where four patients occupied one room. Construction is underway to reconfigure this space into four private rooms. Renovations will also include a multi-disciplinary work area, larger family lounge and respite areas.

Cancer and hematology patients from other parts of West Tower and Abercrombie will move to 7 West Tower once renovation is completed. The targeted date of completion is September 2019.

15 West Tower

While 15 West Tower used to be Texas Children’s cardiovascular intensive care unit, this space will be redesigned to meet the future growth of our acute care patient population.

By converting this space from critical care to acute care, 15 West Tower will become a 36-bed acute care Pediatric Hospital Medicine (PHM) unit that will include a family lounge and respite spaces. The unit will include four behavioral health rooms, multi-disciplinary work area and space for our PHM providers.

Patients from Abercrombie 5 and 6 will move to 15 West Tower, and during this transition, 7 South Abercrombie will be a “patient ready” floor that will serve as an acute care unit during high patient census. The targeted date of completion is July 2019.

6 West Tower

The last component of the West Tower Backfill project is the reconfiguration of 6 West Tower that will address different patient populations on one floor. Expected to be completed in late 2020, 6 West Tower will become a separate inpatient and outpatient dialysis and pheresis unit. While this floor used to house the administrative offices for critical care physicians, the hospital’s neonatology offices are still located there.

“Collaborating with our facility planning and development partners, our nursing team has played a crucial role in leading the West Tower Backfill project,” said Associate Chief Nursing Officer Jackie Ward. “The patient move from Abercrombie to West Tower will help us meet the future growth of acute care, while enabling our patient care teams to collaborate more efficiently in these new, enhanced spaces. This change will also enhance and improve our patient and staff experience.”

An energetic crew of 30 health-conscious Texas Children’s employees, some of their friends and one enthusiastic Heart Center patient mom recently teamed up to put a whole new spin on celebrating Heart Month.

The multidisciplinary group of physicians, nurses, physical and occupational therapists, and nutritionists from our cardiac intensive care unit (CICU), along with several employees from other critical care medicine (CCM)-related departments and services, met at RIDE indoor cycling studio in Houston Heights to sweat for a cause, raising money for Texas Children’s CICU and CCM patients and their families in a charity spin class.

“An event like this shows you the kind of amazing people we have at Texas Children’s,” said Dr. Paul Checchia, medical director of the Cardiac Intensive Care Unit. “Not only does it reflect their dedication to our patients, to give up their personal time – and their sweat – to benefit children with heart disease, but it also shows their dedication to the team, to each other and to their own heart health.”

The idea first came to Dr. Patricia Bastero, Texas Children’s medical director of Simulation for Critical Care Medicine, after the CICU team held two previous spin runs together.

“Lots of us love spin – it gives you strength and cardio, it’s great for you,” she said. “But it’s also a great way to bond with friends. I thought, ‘Why not take it a step further and do it to benefit our families?’ So we started to spread the word through email, on Facebook and with custom-made flyers, and I want to thank Pamela Biggs for all the work she did in helping us to keep people informed about the event.”

Texas Children’s has one of the nation’s largest, busiest and highest-acuity critical care services. Each year more than 6,000 children are admitted to our intensive care units, including approximately 800 children with heart disease admitted to our CICU, the majority of whom have undergone heart surgery. Understandably, because of the complex nature of these cases, critical care treatment can be stressful for patient and family. It can also mean lengthy stays or lots of travel to the hospital, which can add up.

The funds raised through the charity spin class will help defray some of those costs incurred during hospital visits, such as parking or gas.

“An event like this not only raises much-needed funds to support out families, but it’s an incredible team-building event,” said Dr. Lara Shekerdemian, Texas Children’s chief of Critical Care. “We are lucky to have ICU and Heart Center teams whose commitment to our patients extends beyond the doors of the ICU. Excellent teamwork outside leads to even better teamwork and patient care in our ICUs.”

The event was so popular that there are already plans for future charity spin classes. Bastero also hopes it inspires other groups in the hospital to host similar events, both for our patients’ health and their own.

“There are so many groups across the hospital that do similar things for patients and their families, but every little bit helps,” she said. “When many people join together for a common purpose, we can make a bigger difference.”

Learn more about the CICU and critical care services at Texas Children’s Hospital.

When Nicole Tenney took her daughter Aubree home from the hospital in August of 2017, the last thing on her mind was how often she would talk to her newborn and how she would make connections with her through speech.

All the new mom could think about was whether she was going to be able to make it through the day without having to call one of the many clinicians she and her daughter had gotten to know during their 136-day stay in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Texas Children’s Hospital’s Medical Center Campus.

“Aubree was born at 24 weeks gestation and overcame several challenges while at Texas Children’s,” Nicole said. “But she still had a long way to go, and I was willing to do anything to help keep her moving forward.”

So, when Aubree’s physicians, nurses and therapists with the SOAR Program, also known as the High-Risk Neonatal Follow Up Clinic, at Texas Children’s Hospital The Woodlands suggested that Nicole also participate in the hospital’s upWORDS Program, she jumped at the opportunity.

Developed in association with the LENA Research Foundation and generously supported by Kohl’s Care, Episcopal Health Foundation, Ed Rachel and the Powell Foundation, upWORDS gives parents the knowledge of how to improve the quantity and quality of language spoken with their child and educates them on the long-term impact language can have on their child’s success in life. The program includes group classes where parents learn to use the LENA System™ to monitor their home language environment and are taught simple techniques to increase interactive talk with their child.

To measure a participant’s home language environment, the LENA System™ uses a small recorder that fits inside a vest worn by the child. The recorder measures the amount of words a family speaks to their child and how much their child responds in return. The recording is then translated into data that the parents can use to see how much they are talking to their child and identify opportunities to increase the level of spoken interaction they have with their baby.

Texas Children’s via its Section of Public Health and Primary Care launched the upWORDS program in June 2016 as a pilot program at Texas Children’s Hospital West Campus in partnership with the Section of Public Health and Primary Care and Speech Therapy department at West Campus. Since then, 502 families have participated in the program, which is now being offered at 10 locations across the Greater Houston Area.

Late last year, Texas Children’s extended the program to NICU parents via two sets of classes at Texas Children’s Hospital The Woodlands. The classes are supported by the SOAR Program and several of the therapy teams in The Woodlands. About dozen family members – including Nicole and Aubree – attended the classes, graduating from the program on February 14.

“The biggest thing I learned was to give Aubree a chance to respond to me however she could,” Nicole said. “This and many of the other tips I learned really helped. Aubree’s development in speech increased by seven months during the time we were in upWORDS.”

Maura Dugan, manager of the Section of Public Health and Child Abuse Pediatrics, said some parents in the NICU classes increased the number of words spoken to their children by 25,000, and that 84 percent of upWORDS participants who graduated from upWORDS classes last year reported they spoke more to their children, and 79 percent reported an increase in the number of conversational turns or instances of back and forth verbal exchanges between them and their children.

Dugan said the NICU classes in particular have been a huge success as the majority of the participants are dealing with a lot of issues and greatly needed the support of experts as well as other parents who are going through similar things.

Led by upWORDS Health Educator Jennifer Howell and Listening and Spoken Language Therapist Allison Haggerty, the NICU classes not only teach parents and caregivers the importance of early talk and turn taking, but how to implement talking tips into their everyday routine like singing, pausing and chatting while out and about with their baby.

“With the help of staff and each other, parents work through some of the challenges they face in everyday life,” Dugan said. “And, each week they get to watch their children interact and achieve various milestones.”

Dr. Candice Allen, medical director of the SOAR Program, has helped get the upWORDS NICU class started and said they are a great addition to the services her team already provides families who are transitioning from the NICU to home.

“The more support we can give these parents and babies the better,” she said. “We want them to go on to lead healthy and productive lives, and language is a big part of that.”

To learn more about or register for the upWORDS program at Texas Children’s, click here.

Experts from Texas Children’s Hospital are regularly invited to give lectures and presentations at national and international conferences, where they share their knowledge and experiences caring for some of the rarest and most complex pediatric medical conditions. Now a new video series from Texas Children’s Service Line Marketing provides direct access to those experts.

Medically Speaking features some of the brightest minds from several Texas Children’s specialty and subspecialty areas. The series is meant to be a helpful educational resource for parents and a convenient way for physicians and other caregivers to stay up-to-date on the latest in pediatric medicine. Viewers can watch talks on a variety of interesting topics, including advancements in surgery, breakthroughs in research, new clinical trials, and novel and back-practice treatments for specific conditions.

In this episode, you’ll hear from Texas Children’s ophthalmologist Dr. Madhuri Chilakapati speaking about strabismus, an eye muscle imbalance commonly known as crossed eyes, lazy eyes or wandering eyes. During the talk, Madhuri reviews the different types of strabismus, shares common pain points from parents and ways to offer better support, and shares possible treatment options.

Be on the lookout for more Medically Speaking episodes on Connect, or view additional episodes now.

Learn more about the services provided and conditions treated by Texas Children’s Division of Ophthalmology.

This presentation is not intended to present medical advice or individual treatment recommendations, and does not supplant the practitioner’s independent clinical judgment. Practitioners are advised to consider the management of each patient in view of the clinical information. All content is shared for informational purposes only, and reflects the thoughts and opinions of the original author. No physician-patient relationship is being created by the use of this presentation. The presentation sets out recommendations based upon similar circumstances and is provided as an educational tool. The presenters are not attorneys, and to the extent this presentation provides commentary on current laws and regulations affecting health care activities, it is not intended as legal advice.

Your name, title and department. How long have you worked here?
Valerie Rippey, RN, BSN; Inpatient staff nurse, Post Anesthesia Care Unit at Texas Children’s Hospital West Campus. I have been a part of this unit for four years but part of Texas Children’s for 10 years.

Tell us how you found out you won a super star award.
I was told to attend a staff meeting during the day that was imperative to changes on our unit. When I arrived I sat in the meeting as my assistant director and manager were going over the Texas Children’s Hospital Core Values and expectations on our unit (not out of the ordinary). There was a power point presentation that went along with the meeting and then our manager asked us about anyone we would select that role models the Texas Children’s values and what it means. Before I knew it I looked up as she was saying that we have someone on our unit who exemplifies these values and staff has taken note of it and they are a “super star” on and off the unit. She changed slides and when I looked, it took me a second to realize the picture was of me!

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?
Receiving the super star award was by far the biggest surprise in my professional career. I had no idea I was receiving this award nor did I expect it. It was a great feeling knowing that those around me have noticed my extra efforts to help create a stronger team dynamic in perioperative services. My unit has undergone many changes in the last couple of years and I decided recently to become more involved and be a part of the change. My leadership has been very supportive in allowing me to be able to branch out into different roles such as charge nurse, preceptor, and retention chair for perioperative services. They have provided the flexibility in my schedule to attend hospital-wide meetings, classes and always remain an accessible and valuable resource for me. Through these roles I have been able to build relationships with my peers as well as the entire multidisciplinary team.

What do you think makes someone at Texas Children’s a super star?
There are so many super stars at Texas Children’s. I feel that no matter where you go or which campus you step in, everyone goes out of their way to make you feel welcomed. A Texas Children’s super star is someone who goes out of their way to go above and beyond to take care of our patients, families and each other on a daily basis.

What is your motivation for going above and beyond every day at work?
Each and every day I am constantly motivated by children and their families. Over the last 10 years at Texas Children’s I have been fortunate to meet some of the most resilient little humans I have ever seen in my life. The fact that I can make a difference in a child and family’s life that will last a lifetime is what keeps me pushing to be better. I believe in the mission and core values of Texas Children’s and strive to embrace them daily.

What is the best thing about working at Texas Children’s?
The best thing about Texas Children’s is the magic. The magic that happens within the walls and outside as well. If you take a step back and just watch… you’ll see it. It’s every time providers and patients hug as if they are family. It’s in every little step that is taken and created to provide each and every child the very best care. It is the genuine love, support, care and compassion that is shown through all who wear a badge with the infamous red logo. It is the pride that comes shines out of me when someone asks where I work and I reply “Texas Children’s Hospital.” This is the place where truly amazing people make magical things happen every day. We ARE Texas Children’s Hospital.

What does it mean to you that everyone at Texas Children’s is considered a leader? What is your leadership definition?
The thing about Texas Children’s is that leadership comes in all shapes and forms. It does not matter what your job description is or what letters come after your name. Leadership is a characteristic that Texas Children’s recognizes throughout the entire organization. To me leadership has nothing to do with the position or title you are holding but everything to do with your influence on others. Leadership is building relationships and giving respect before the expectation of gaining it. I feel a true leader not only adds value and success to their team but strives to build other leaders.

Anything else you want to share?
The only reason I am able to do the things I have set out to do on my unit is because I have an amazing team around me that supports, encourages, and comes together like no other department I have worked in. The staff in perioperative services at West Campus are the true super stars day in and out. I am just the lucky one who brought the attention to it. They are my family away from home and I couldn’t be more grateful to be surrounded by such an amazing team.

To better understand the impact of parental incarceration in Harris County, Texas Children’s Section of Public Health Pediatrics recently led a needs assessment of children of incarcerated parents.

The year-long study was funded by Texas Medical Center’s Health Policy Institute and involved Baylor College of Medicine, the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston, and the Harris County Sheriff’s Office.

“We wanted to better understand the needs of children with incarcerated parents in Harris County Jail as well identify opportunities to support these children,” said Nancy Correa, senior community initiatives coordinator for Texas Children’s Section of Public Health and Primary Care. “Parental incarceration as an adverse childhood experience has been largely overlooked and not well-studied, which is significant considering the United States has the highest incarceration rate in the world and The Annie E. Casey Foundation estimates 5.1 million American children have a parent in jail or prison during their childhood.”

After conducting interviews with inmates and caregivers of children that have parents in Harris County Jail, researchers found that seven percent of all Harris County children have a parent who spends time in the county jail each year, half of inmates have at least one child under the age of 18, and 61 percent of incarcerated parents provided all or most of the financial support for their children before being jailed.

“If the person who is incarcerated is the breadwinner, lots of family needs all of a sudden become really critical,” said Dr. Chris Greeley, the section chief of Public Health and Primary Care. “Sometimes people will get incarcerated for something relatively minor, and they can’t afford to pay bond. Because of that, a kid’s life is irrevocably altered.”

During a February 12 press conference, Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez underscored the multiple hardships children of incarcerated individuals face.

“Children are traumatized by being separated from their parent,” Gonzalez said. “Sometimes they have to change homes and schools routinely. These children also suffer shame and feelings of isolation, and have urgent basic needs like food and emotional support.”

The Sheriff said his office’s goal is to make visitation at Harris County Jail – the largest jail in Texas and the third largest in the United States – more child-friendly by making the visitors’ lobbies more inviting, developing curricula and training deputies on interacting with children when they visit the jail.

Gonzalez said he also plans on reviewing his department’s policies and determining best practices for when deputies arrest a parent when a child is present. He also plans on updating the Harris County jail website to include information on community resources.

“Children of incarcerated parents have been overlooked,” Correa said. “They are the innocent and forgotten victims of crime in our community, but there are things we can do to help.”