June 25, 2019

The first six years of Patrick Prudhomme’s life were touch and go. Born with sickle cell disease, the young boy experienced frequent episodes of pain when his sickled red blood cells blocked the flow of blood and oxygen to his body. He also endured various other complications of the disease, some of which landed him in the intensive care unit and had his family extremely worried about whether he would survive.

“It started with a fever and escalated quickly after that,” said Patrick’s grandmother, Joyce Watson about her grandson’s last major flare up. “I thought we were going to lose him.”

Today, thanks to the treatment Patrick receives at Texas Children’s Sickle Cell Center, he is a healthy 14-year-old ninth grader. Patrick has not had any pain or major health complications since he started the medication, hydroxyurea, eight years ago.

“I love Texas Children’s,” Patrick said. “Before I came here, I didn’t know what was going to happen to me.”

Patrick’s story, as well as those of many other sickle cell disease patients, were celebrated on June 19 in honor of World Sickle Cell Day, a time sickle cell patients, families, physicians, researchers and others join forces to raise awareness about sickle cell disease, an inherited red blood cell disorder that affects about 100,000 Americans and many more worldwide.

Held in the Texas Children’s Sickle Cell Center on the 14th Floor of Wallace Tower, the celebration provided fun, educational activities for all. Patients enjoyed refreshments, a variety of arts and crafts, and a visit from Elsa, one of Texas Children’s therapy dogs who helps comfort patients during their stay at the hospital.

See photos from the event below.

Family members and friends gathered information from various community organizations such as Supporting Our Sicklers (S.O.S.), Sickle Cell Association of Texas Marc Thomas Foundation, Novartis, H-SCOUT and The Periwinkle Foundation. They also heard from Dr. Amber Yates, co-director of Texas Children’s Sickle Cell Center.

“The work that is currently being done to find more treatments and hopefully a cure for sickle cell is extremely exciting,” Yates said. “I would never have imagined there would be this much involvement around sickle cell disease right now, but there is and it’s great.”

Some of those advancements include a FDA medication to help treat the symptoms of the disease in children 5 years old and older, Yates said. Another medication was recently granted accelerated approval pathway by the FDA and should be available for patients in the next one to two years. Other medications that would help patients during flare ups also are being studied.

Yates said gene therapy is another treatment being researched. In this therapy, the patients’ stem cells are coded to make non-sickled hemoglobin. This therapy offers another potential curative therapy for this disease.

Because this therapy could be a cure for the disease, Director of Texas Children’s Cancer and Hematology Centers Dr. Susan Blaney said Texas Children’s is playing a large role in the research going on surrounding sickle cell disease and that our experts are dedicated to finding more effective treatments and ultimately a cure for the disease.

Texas Children’s has been at the forefront of the fight against sickle cell disease for decades, screening newborns for the disease since the 1950s. Since 2011, these efforts have been expanded globally to Africa, where many more people suffer from the disease and screening and treatment are limited.

Texas Children’s is now treating children with sickle cell disease in Sub-Saharan Africa as well as training local physicians to do the same. Serving more than 1,100 children each year, Texas Children’s Sickle Cell Center is one of the largest in Texas, offering the latest treatments including hydroxyurea, transfusions and stem cell transplantation.

“We understand that this disease is life changing and that it affects people of all ethnicities across the world,” Blaney said. “That’s why we are here today recognizing you and renewing our commitment to tackling this disease.”

To learn more about Texas Children’s Sickle Cell Center, which serves patients from across the globe, click here. To watch Yates dive into the ins and outs of sickle cell disease on TedEd, click here, and to read a blog by Yates about sickle cell disease and why we celebrate World Sickle Cell day, click here.

While the Daisy Award recognizes nursing excellence in all clinical areas, Leslie Morris shares the many opportunities available for ambulatory nurses to be honored with this award for the great work they do in the outpatient setting. Read more

June 24, 2019

Texas Children’s employees share a responsibility to protect our patients, their families and each other from vaccine-preventable diseases like rubeola (measles), pertussis (whooping cough) and varicella (chickenpox). With the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reporting this year the highest number of confirmed individual measles cases since the disease was declared eliminated in 2000, our commitment to preventing the transmission of vaccine-preventable diseases is especially important.

In support of that effort and our mission to create healthier futures for children and women, Texas Children’s is introducing new immunization requirements for all employees and all new hires, regardless of their patient care duties. These requirements are detailed in the Appropriate Screening and Vaccination Protocol Policy (#305) and Procedure (#3357), and align with recommendations from the CDC and the Texas Department of State Health Services.

For an introduction to the new policy and helpful information about the safety, effectiveness and necessity of vaccines, please watch this video message from our Physician-in-Chief Dr. Mark W. Kline. To view the video message, click here.

Required Immunization Details

Under the new policy, all Texas Children’s employees must take one of the following actions prior to August 30, 2019:

  • Be immunized against vaccine-preventable diseases including measles, mumps and rubella; chickenpox; and tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis.
  • Provide written documentation of vaccinations, written documentation of disease history by physician, or laboratory evidence of immunity.
  • If an employee has a medical contraindication that prohibits him or her from getting vaccinated or a religious objection, they must complete the immunization exemption process, detailed within the Immunization Requirement Guide. Immunization exemption requests will be reviewed by Employee Health and may be subject to individual or committee review. Employees whose exemption requests are approved may be subject to reassignment to an alternative area if available, based on the level of risk they present to patients.

How will this affect employees who are non-immune?

Employees who are considered non-immune to measles, mumps and rubella, chickenpox and/or tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis received an e-mail from Employee Health on June 24 explaining the new immunization requirements and requesting compliance by August 30, 2019.

For more information on the new immunization requirement, where to receive vaccine(s) at no cost, how to submit immunity documentation, and information on the immunization exemption process, please review the Immunization Requirement Guide. If you have any questions, please call Employee Health at 832-824-2150, option 2.

As a global leader in pediatric and women’s health care, our Texas Children’s patients and families rely on us to take every possible action to prevent the spread of vaccine-preventable diseases. Thank you for helping to keep yourself and our community safe and protected by complying with these new immunization requirements.

The committed and talented individuals of Texas Children’s Child Life Department provide an invaluable service for our patients and their families, helping alleviate stress and anxiety during some of life’s most difficult moments.

This past fall, the Child Life team welcomed a new member, Marty McMahon, in the brand-new role of gaming activity coordinator. In this new position, McMahon is already creating exciting ways to engage patients using the power of technology.

“Technology is such a big part of children’s lives today, and we wanted to figure out how we could use it to help reduce anxiety and to promote learning and interaction for our patients,” said Diane Kaulen, manager of Child Life at Texas Children’s. “I had learned about gaming activity coordinators and similar positions by networking with other organizations and began exploring the possible therapeutic benefits of technology and gaming.”

Kaulen’s search led her to Child’s Play, Inc., a game industry charity dedicated to improving the lives of children with toys and games in a network of over 100 hospitals worldwide, as well as domestic abuse shelters and advocacy centers. She submitted a proposal, and though Child’s Play typically only allocates funding for one year, Texas Children’s was awarded a two-year grant this past fall to create the new position.

It was a chance of a lifetime for McMahon. He had already turned a lifelong passion for creating art and a love of video games into a degree in Game Art and Design from the Art Institute of Pittsburgh. After earning his degree, he began thinking about using his background and passions to help children and spent most of his earlier career in educational technology. Then he heard about the opportunity at Texas Children’s.

“For years I’d been attending gaming conventions where I encountered Child’s Play,” McMahon said. “I was so impressed by their passion and the great work they do that when I heard about the position at Texas Children’s, I knew I had to apply.”

In his role, McMahon has a wide range of responsibilities. In addition to individual in-room sessions with patients, he also assists other activity coordinators and child life specialists in West Tower’s Child Life Zone, and develops programming that encourages socialization and engagement with other children.

In addition to traditional video games, McMahon helps facilitate Child Life’s expanded use of technological resources that can help promote a sense of normalcy for patients during their time at Texas Children’s. These resources include virtual and augmented reality, 3-D printing, coding, and iPad and app engagement.

One example is how McMahon uses teleconferencing robots to allow patients who can’t leave their rooms to virtually attend Child Life events, such as our Easter Egg hunt or Camp for All.

And because these activities are included in patients’ treatment programs, all of McMahon’s patient encounters are recorded in the EPIC system used by Texas Children’s physicians, nurses and other members of the clinical care team.

Just in time for summer, McMahon has also developed and is currently piloting the 2nd Player Gaming Volunteer Program, which helps support larger gaming events at the hospital and allows volunteers to engage with patients through gaming and technology.

“The Child Life team is a dream to work with,” said McMahon. “Between all of our different specialties, from our librarians to our animal-assisted therapy coordinators and everyone in between, we have so many unique ways to create great experiences for our patients and to support them throughout their care journey.”

Perhaps unsurprisingly, McMahon’s work has already proved to be a huge hit with Texas Children’s patients – like 17-year-old Joel Couch.

“Sitting in the hospital, you can get down,” said Joel. “When Marty first visited me with games, even though I’m not usually a big gamer, it made me feel uplifted and positive to have that social interaction and someone who I can talk to and who I know will listen to me share what’s on my heart.”

Building connections

When Joel was 3, his parents noticed he was tripping and dropping things more. Those behaviors quickly gave way to more alarming concerns: Joel’s face was sagging, he was dragging his right leg, and he was unable to use his right hand. Doctors in the Couch family’s home state of North Carolina diagnosed him with pilocytic astrocytoma, a type of slow-growing brain tumor. Though benign, Joel’s tumor was on his brain stem, meaning it couldn’t be entirely removed. An initial procedure soon after diagnosis helped reduce the size of the tumor. Another surgery was required at age 9. But when Joel was 12 the tumor came back with a vengeance. His parents, desperate for help, turned to Texas Children’s.

Since he began receiving care at Texas Children’s, Joel has undergone 13 surgeries, all with Dr. Daniel Curry, director of Functional Neurosurgery and Epilepsy Surgery. He has also received care from the experts in Endocrinology, Physical Therapy, Occupational Therapy, Speech Therapy, Ophthalmology – and, of course, Child Life.

“Texas Children’s has definitely become our home away from home, but the connections we’ve made here have meant so much to us,” said Tonya Couch, Joel’s mother. “Despite everything we’ve been through, Dr. Curry and his team and all the other caregivers who help Joel, and people from Child Life, like Marty, have all made such a difference in our lives.”

For Joel, what was even more special than video games was the opportunity to see a 3-D printer in action.

“I’d heard about them before, but for many reasons never thought I’d be able to see how a 3-D printer works, much less have something printed for me,” he said.

Thanks to Marty, Joel now has a collection of 3-D printed items – including the Eiffel Tower and the Houston skyline – sitting on the window sill of his family’s apartment here in Houston.

“Working with Joel has been an amazing experience for me,” said McMahon. “He is so appreciative of everything we do in Child Life. I’m glad we get to share those experiences and value that time together.”

Learn more about the outstanding work done each and every day by Texas Children’s Child Life Department.

It’s time for the annual Periwinkle Kickball Classic, an event that raises money for an organization that provides healing programs and camps to children, young adults and families who are challenged by cancer and other life-threatening illnesses.

The one-day tournament will be held Saturday, November 2, at the Houston Sportsplex and ANYONE age 14 or older is eligible to play.

Each team is made up of at least 10 players, five of whom must be female. To enter, each team must raise at least $500.

This year, there will be two divisions:

“Just for Fun” – where your team will play in three round robin games in the morning but not compete in the playoffs.

“In It to Win It” – where your team will play in a multi-game tournament (each team is guaranteed three games). There will be champions in the Gold, Silver & Bronze brackets. We will also have a separate Texas Children’s Hospital bracket and crown a Texas Children’s champion.

Upon registering, you will select which division your team will compete in.

Click here to sign up your team today.

June 18, 2019

Melissa Nugent shares how Texas Children’s Well-being Studio is helping her reach her fitness goals and encourages her colleagues to take advantage of this great resource. More

June 17, 2019

No matter your goal – to lose weight, eat better, move more, develop a more positive mindset or all of the above – this summer is a great time to take advantage of Texas Children’s ongoing partnership with WW, the newly reimagined Weight Watchers program.

WW offers effective science-based programs, tools and experiences that encourage healthy eating and are flexible enough to fit into your daily life. Employees who sign up through Texas Children’s receive more than 50 percent off their WW membership, with the option to participate online or attend unlimited, in-person workshops in the community or right here at work.

WW meetings are held from 11:45 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., every Tuesday at Feigin Tower. Check out the Connect calendar for exact room locations, and click here for more information about Texas Children’s reduced membership pricing.

Sample WW recipes

Visit the Fresh Bistro in the Pavilion for Women, Dots Café at West Campus, and The Woodlands Cafeteria during the week of June 17-21 for WW recipes, recipe cards, and point values displayed for grab-and-go items.

Featured menu items include:

  • Salmon with roasted chickpeas and veggies
  • Rigatoni with turkey sausage and kale

Get a free WW Insiders Box

Employees who purchase a WW membership between June 17 and July 26 are also eligible to receive a free Insiders Box, featuring mini cookbooks, a sampling of bestselling WW products, exclusive access wellness partners, and $35 in coupons. New members have until August 9 to redeem their kit. Click here for Insiders Box details.

For more information about Texas Children’s partnership with WW and enrolling in the program, visit the Human Resources Well-Being page on Connect or contact the Well-Being team at wellbeing@texaschildrens.org.