February 12, 2019

On February 5, nearly 100 people attended Texas Children’s Hospital West Campus’ remembrance ceremony, honoring 38 children who were taken from this world too soon over the past two years.

The event was coordinated by the West Campus remembrance planning committee that included representatives from Child Life, the Social Work department, Family Support Services, and the Palliative Care team. The decorations consisted of beautiful floral arrangements created by Bubbles & Blooms and lighting, donated by the Lamar University Dance and Theater Department.

The ceremony opened with a welcome from Ivett Shah, Vice President of West Campus. The West Campus Chaplain, Al Cabrera, followed with a beautiful spiritual reflection.

As the program commenced, participants began reading the names of each of the children being honored as a poem entitled Remembering was recited. A translator was also present from interpreter services, to translate the program to Spanish speaking guests.

Following the program, a reception was held with food, a touching photography slideshow of the children accompanied by music, and a keynote speaker who shared his journey as a parent on the road to healing after losing a child.

Chuy’s Tex-Mex restaurant of Katy graciously donated dinner, and Chick fil A Katy Green generously provided drinks and dessert as well. After the closing remarks a balloon release was held. Each attendee wrote a special message on a balloon and sent them up to the heavens with their loved ones.

The families were presented with Forget Me Not seeds and a sapling gift to plant in the memory of their child. There was also a table available to staff and family members with available resources and social work support.

“We have received overwhelming feedback from those who attended, about how impactful and important the event was,” education coordinator, Mandy Owens said. “The West Campus remembrance planning committee would also like to thank our Texas Children’s Hospital volunteers and employees for the immense amount of assistance they provided.”

February 11, 2019

On February 4, The Woodlands Recognition and Rewards Committee proudly presented the winners for the second quarter Woodlands Shining Star award to the very deserving winners, Karen Cortez-Calbang and Dr. Brent Schackett.

The employee-recognition award was launched after the opening of Texas Children’s Hospital The Woodlands in April 2017 and honors those who go above and beyond to provide exceptional care to our patients, families and staff in The Woodlands.

Cortez-Calbang is a registered nurse that has been part of Post-Anesthesia Care Unit (PACU) since The Woodlands campus opened.

“Her spirit is indefinable,” staff nurse and co-worker, Nhi Hoang said. “Karen is a natural born leader.”

Through her devotion of always putting her patients and team members first, Cortez-Calbang has earned great admiration and respect from patients, families, and her team. According to Hoang, regardless of the situation she is always calm and collected which is a great comfort to her patients.

“She inspires everyone she meets,” Hoang said. “She makes me and others want to be better nurses every day as we see her kindheartedness as a charge nurse.”

Schackett is an anesthesiologist who was nominated for constantly putting the patient first and providing high quality care. His focus on the patient and doing what is right helps to ensure the patient and family have a good experience every single time.

“He is warm, authentic, and selfless,” certified registered nurse anesthetists and co-worker, Meghan Duggan said. “He collaborates with every team member to make the day enjoyable.”

A huge congratulations and thank you to Cortez-Calbang and Schackett for being the Shining Star and going above and beyond for our patients, families, and co-workers.


It’s Heart Month, which is always a special time at Texas Children’s as we celebrate our patients and families, the care we provide at our No. 1-ranked Heart Center and our many milestones. This year, we’re kicking off Heart Month celebrating yet another momentous first.

A team of experts at Texas Children’s Heart Center®, led by congenital heart surgeon Dr. Iki Adachi, became the first in the United States – and only the second in the world – to implant the Jarvik 2015 ventricular assist device (VAD), a groundbreaking new technology Adachi helped develop.

“Dr. Adachi is truly a pioneer and a world-renowned authority on mechanical heart support,” said Dr. Christopher Caldarone, Texas Children’s chief of Congenital Heart Surgery. “His work in the development of the Jarvik 2015 VAD has been tremendous and is a great example of the power of Texas Children’s in bringing new technologies to benefit our patients.”

Bridge to transplant

For patients with heart failure, a VAD can buy valuable time until they match an organ. In some rare cases, a VAD can be used as a permanent therapy for heart failure or can even improve heart function to such a degree that it makes a transplant unnecessary. VADs can either simulate heart function with pulsing action or allow a continuous stream of blood to flow through the heart. Continuous-flow VADs tend to be smaller and quieter but also more durable, and in recent years have yielded improved results in adult heart failure patients.

The Jarvik 2015 is the first and only implantable continuous-flow VAD designed specifically for small children. Development took more than a decade and was not without setbacks. After the previous prototype failed to gain FDA approval, the team of engineers enlisted Adachi to assist with crucial design modifications to the VAD’s pump while keeping the size of the device small – about the size of a AA battery. Following extensive testing in the Texas Medical Center, the FDA approved the Jarvik 2015 for clinical trial.

A chance at life

One of the most significant benefits of this new technology is that it allows the patient to become stronger, making them a better candidate for transplant. Such was the case with Katlyen Hickman.

You would never know by looking at Katlyen today that the smiling, energetic four-year-old needed multiple surgeries to save her life only a few months ago. She was born with complex congenital heart disease, including ventricular septal defects and small left heart structures, and despite numerous procedures and surgeries during her first years of life, her condition was rapidly deteriorating this past fall.

“It was clear she was moving in the direction of needing heart transplantation,” Adachi said. “She was admitted to the ICU and her heart was just getting worse and worse.”

Though the Jarvik 2015 had been cleared for clinical trials, it hadn’t been approved for commercialization. But because Katlyen’s case was so dire, and because she was too small to receive an adult-size VAD, Adachi and Texas Children’s were able to obtain expanded access from the FDA to implant the device. The fact that the team was already very familiar with the Jarvik 2015, following their extensive laboratory testing, helped facilitate the process with the FDA.

The results couldn’t have been better. Not only did the device keep Katlyen alive, but it also improved her blood flow, which helped her organs recover. This success paved the way for the next critical step in her journey – a heart transplant, which she received on November 23, 2018. It was the day after Thanksgiving. Only a month later she was discharged and spent Christmas at home with her family.

Adachi anticipates the Jarvik 2015 will do well in the upcoming multi-institutional clinical trial and hopes its availability may further accelerate the trend toward the use continuous-flow devices in children.

“Pediatric VAD support will continue to evolve as the pediatric mechanical circulatory support area matures,” he said. “The popularization of continuous-flow devices could be a landmark event that represents a paradigm shift in the field. And Texas Children continues to lead that shift.”

Learn more about Texas Children’s Heart Center and the Jarvik 2015 VAD clinical trial.

The Clinical Research Center/Research Resources Office presented the Clinical Research Award for First Quarter 2019 to Ruth Eser-Jose, research coordinator with the Immunology, Allergy, Rheumatology and Retrovirology (IARR) Department.

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

Eser-Jose first joined Texas Children’s Hospital in 2005 and worked in the General Clinical Research Center (GCRC) as a staff nurse. She later transitioned in 2015 to her current role with IARR. Her research activities in the CRC focus on coordination and management of research participants in the Pediatric HIV/AIDS Cohort Study (PHACS) and International Maternal Pediatric Adolescent AIDS Clinical Trials Network (IMPAACT) Cohort HIV studies.

February 5, 2019

In response to an increased demand for short-term, non-chronic care, Texas Children’s Hospital The Woodlands has expanded its Acute Care Unit from 32 beds to 45.

The need for the 14-bed expansion was evident shortly after the hospital opened its doors two years ago, said the unit’s assistant clinical director Roxanne Vara.

“We were at capacity several times last year,” Vara said. “This expansion will allow us to admit more of our patients closer to home.”

The additional beds in the Acute Care Unit are located on the third floor of the hospital. By mid-February, the expansion will include a playroom equipped with a section dedicated to patients 12 and older. This section will house a PAC-MAN video game donated by The Woodlands facilities team among other age-appropriate games.

“We always want to be able to say yes if a child needs a bed at our campus, and this expansion is how we are able to continue to do that,” said Assistant Vice President Ketrese White. “We are continuously strategizing about how and where to expand and move forward.”

February 4, 2019

For Jarred Bolt, receiving a job offer near the end of his internship with Project Search at Texas Children’s Health Plan (TCHP) was as unexpected as it was exciting.

“When I received the great news from my job coach, I said, ‘This is impossible! How am I hired?’ And everyone cheered,” said Bolt, who’s now a claims and transactions entry clerk with the Health Plan.

Project Search, the program that brought Bolt and the Health Plan together, was launched in 1996 out of Cincinnati Children’s mission to help people with disabilities find employment opportunities. TCHP partners with Houston Independent School District (HISD) and the Texas Workforce Commission to place students with intellectual developmental disorders and other diagnoses in Project Search internships at the Health Plan. The program is in its third year at TCHP, and Bolt is their first internal hire.

“Jarred is just very personable,” said Health Plan Claims Administration Manager Jenni Aguilar. “He always speaks, and he always has a smile on his face. He’s just a good, smart young man, and he is a really good asset for our team.”

Throughout the duration of their year-long internships with Project Search, interns rotate to different departments where they learn various areas of the business, acquire new skills and meet new people. During Bolt’s final rotation, the Claims team started a big project that required all hands on deck. Although Bolt was interning in another department, the Project Search coaches suggested he be placed on the Claims project.

Bolt was a natural. He sped through data entries, and his work helped the team to push the project across the finish line. His dedication and willingness to step up caught the eye of Health Plan leaders, and he officially started as a full-time Claims employee in August.

For many of the interns, the skills they learn through Project Search are brand new. And typically by the end of the internships, they are able to apply their newly learned skills – like computer literacy and business etiquette – in future positions.

“You just have to give them a chance,” Aguilar said. “These kids are really smart. They may sometimes communicate a little bit differently or handle things a little bit differently, but that’s what makes them unique.”

Bolt rides the Metro to work, he clocks in by 7 a.m., and he promptly starts checking off tasks. He prizes punctuality and pitching in where needed. Some of the skills he’s learned, in addition to vast computer know-how, include mailing handouts, distributing mail and scanning forms.

“The Project Search partnership is a strong example of one of the many ways Texas Children’s invests in building healthy communities,” said Dr. Heidi Schwarzwald, chief medical officer of pediatrics at Texas Children’s Health Plan.

To qualify as interns with Project Search, students must be 18 to 22 years old and meet certain requirements, such as having a high school diploma or GED. At the Health Plan, in addition to their internship rotations, they take classes from an HISD teacher once a week. The application process gets competitive, as there are only 10 spots available, but the Health Plan hopes to eventually increase capacity.

“This is a program that could successfully expand across the system, and I’d be happy to talk to anyone who would want to be an advocate for seeing it through,” Schwarzwald said. “The more all of us at Texas Children’s get involved in programs like Project Search, the greater the influence we can have on helping differently abled people thrive.”

It’s time to lace up your sneakers and hit the pavement! Texas Children’s and the Houston Marathon Foundation Family Fun Run are hosting the West Campus Family Fun Run and The Woodlands Family Fun Run in April and May. Registration is open for both runs and spots are filling up fast. So, sign up today to guarantee a spot for you and your family.

Texas Children’s Hospital West Campus

West Campus will host the seventh annual West Campus Family Fun Run at its campus on Saturday, April 6 with a 9 a.m. start time. The event will include both a 1K and 3K course. Following the run, families can enjoy various activities until noon at the Family Fun Zone.

Registration for the West Campus Family Fun Run will close at 5 p.m. Monday, March 25. Click here to register and learn more about the upcoming event.

Texas Children’s Hospital The Woodlands

Texas Children’s Hospital The Woodlands will host its third annual Family Fun Run event on Saturday, May 4. The event will offer a 1-mile course and will begin at 9 a.m. Post-race activities will follow until 11 a.m.

Registration for The Woodlands Family Fun Run will close at 5 p.m. Monday, April 22. Click here to register and learn more about the upcoming event.

Additional information

Participants – including those who need walkers and wheelchairs – are welcome at both Texas Children’s Family Fun Run events. 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.

Good luck and happy running!