December 18, 2018

Experts from across the country recently convened for the fourth Symposium on Coronary Artery Anomalies, hosted by Texas Children’s Heart Center®.

The event was founded by leaders of Texas Children’s groundbreaking Coronary Anomalies Program – the first of its kind in the nation – as a way for caregivers, researchers and others to gather and discuss the diagnosis and management of patients with coronary artery anomalies, such as anomalous aortic origin of coronary artery (AAOCA), which can lead to the phenomenon known as sudden cardiac death (SCD), which usually occurs in young athletes.

“Before we began to really focus on these conditions, there was very little data about the potential risks or causes, which in turn led to controversy surrounding the proper ways to evaluate, treat and monitor children with these conditions,” said Texas Children’s cardiologist Dr. Silvana Molossi. “This event provides an open, dedicated forum for discussion and information sharing, and has become a valuable resource for experts nationwide who are involved in the diagnosis and care of patients with these rare conditions.”

The event featured comprehensive presentations by members of Texas Children’s Coronary Anomalies Program, as well as 11 visiting faculty from some of the country’s preeminent pediatric health care institutions, including Boston Children’s, CHOP, Stanford University, Columbia University, UT Southwestern, and the Heart & Vascular Institute at Hartford Hospital in Connecticut. Major topics included AAOCA, Kawasaki disease and myocardial bridges.

An addition to this year’s conference was a special Patients & Families Symposium.

“We were astounded by the response to the family symposium before it even started,” said Molossi. “We expected between 25 and 30 people to register – we ended up having nearly 80 in attendance.”

During this day-long event, parents and children attended talks that addressed topics such as the impact of coronary anomalies on families and the importance of counseling and shared decision-making when determining a plan of care. And in a session titled, “This is My Story: Patients and Families Living with AAOCA,” visitors had an opportunity to hear from Texas Children’s patients and families who have had similar experiences of unknowingly living with these life-threatening conditions, receiving crucial diagnoses and making the tough decisions that follow, undergoing open-heart surgery, and living a normal life in the aftermath. This emotional and powerful session was followed by discussions about the importance of networking and building a sense of community and collective support for people affected by coronary anomalies.

About the Coronary Anomalies Program at Texas Children’s

Seeing the need for more complete data and a more specialized approach to care, experts at Texas Children’s formed the Coronary Anomalies Program. The multidisciplinary core team of cardiologists, congenital heart surgeons, radiologists and researchers works together to provide the best treatment for patients with congenital coronary anomalies, study outcomes, and educate health care providers and the public about these conditions.

A cornerstone of this team’s approach is the development and use of a clinical algorithm to facilitate the diagnosis and management of these patients. The team presents cases in monthly multidisciplinary meetings to determine the best course of action for each patient, and then tracks the patients’ outcomes over time.

For Lauren Meredith and her family, this holiday season has been a time of joy and gratefulness after the care and expertise they received from the experts in Texas Children’s Colorectal and Pelvic Health Program. It stands in sharp contrast to the nightmare she and husband, Ryan, experienced a year ago when their third child, Ava, was born with a rare congenital disorder of the colon that doctors thought would make her unable to pass stool. With sparse information and little time to weigh their options, the anxious parents had to make the quick decision to have Ava transported to a hospital in the Texas Medical Center for surgery – a colostomy – which she underwent at just 12 hours old.

Unfortunately, their long, hard journey was only beginning.

“We were sent home with relatively little information on how to properly care for her,” Meredith said. “I was making 10 to 15 calls a day to the doctor’s office, the insurance company and the medical supply company, but no one was helping. We felt completely alone and unprepared to tackle this complex medical issue.”

At a breaking point, Lauren began a search for help and answers online, where she first read about Texas Children’s Colorectal and Pelvic Health Program. On Christmas Eve 2017, she sent an email to Dr. Timothy Lee, pediatric surgeon and program director, explaining their ordeal.

The next day, the Merediths got their own holiday miracle.

“Dr. Lee emailed me back – on Christmas Day – and three days later we had our first appointment,” Meredith said. “The care, from the minute we walked in, was like stepping into a different world. The communication was incredible. I really felt like I was being heard for the first time.”

In August 2018, the colorectal and pelvic health team performed an operation to repair Ava’s initial defect and assess her gynecologic anatomy. And this past November, Ava had her colostomy reversal. Her prognosis is excellent.

Today, Ava – who turned one year old on December 13 – is a happy, healthy little girl who loves when her older brothers, Jackson and Greyson, sing to her and build forts for her to play in. She loves to snack, especially tacos. And she loves cuddles with her dad when he gets home from work.

“The team at Texas Children’s has given us so much to be thankful for,” Meredith said. “They took the burden off us and made us feel like they were on our side. We could tell from the very beginning that the entire Colorectal and Pelvic Health Program cared about Ava and wanted the best outcome.”

The full spectrum of care

A child’s diagnosis with a congenital disorder of the colorectal and urogenital system can be a heartbreaking and trying ordeal for families. Since these conditions are rare and often complex – and because no two cases are exactly alike – some institutions may lack the expertise necessary to provide effective treatment.

Fortunately, a highly skilled, multidisciplinary team of specialists at Texas Children’s Hospital offers patients and families the full spectrum of care for these disorders in our Colorectal and Pelvic Health Program.

Watch the video to learn more.

The Colorectal and Pelvic Health Program comprises four different specialties – pediatric surgery, pediatric urology, pediatric and adolescent gynecology, and gastroenterology – and provides treatment for several disorders and developmental anomalies, including imperforate anus, hirschsprung’s disease, cloacal malformation, cloacal exstrophy, and severe idiopathic constipation.

Regardless of the disorder, the team works together to develop a customized approach to care for these complex, and often sensitive, medical issues.

“Many of these conditions can have an extreme negative impact on the self-esteem of a child,” said Dr. Paul Austin, director of Texas Children’s Complex Urologic Reconstruction Program. “Knowing that we can make a positive difference through the care that we provide is extremely rewarding.”

Specialists collaborate to identify the patient’s specific issues and determine the best path to a positive outcome and improved quality of life, whether through surgery, medication or some combination of treatments. Additionally, the team has focused on improving patient care through clinical research and development of best practice pathways to standardize and streamline clinical care for this complex patient population.

“This hallmark of the program is providing multi-disciplinary collaborative care,” said Lee, pediatric surgeon and program director. “Even though these conditions aren’t common, we’ve seen more and more of them at Texas Children’s as our patient volume has grown. Parents can be confident when they come to us that they will be receiving truly comprehensive, collaborative care delivered by experts who have been treating these kinds of patients for years.”

Learn more about the Colorectal and Pelvic Health Program.

Santa Claus made his way to Texas Children’s Newborn Center last week to spread some holiday cheer – but he wasn’t the only one dressed up in red. Babies in the NICU at Texas Children’s Hospital Pavilion for Women and West Tower were dressed in their own tiny Santa hats and booties.

Vincent Michael Garza, born on December 6, was dressed in a green and white striped holiday-themed onsie when Santa walked in bellowing a spirited Ho, Ho, Ho! The days old infant gave Santa a quick newborn smile and then went peacefully back to sleep.

“I love this,” said Santa Claus, who has a personal connection to Texas Children’s – his own grandson spent over 100 days in the NICU when he was born. “It makes my day.”

Click here to watch a video of Santa visiting babies in the NICU at Texas Children’s Hospital Pavilion for Women.

Vincent’s mother, Norma Garza, said Santa’s visit meant so much to her, giving her a sense of joy, relief and normalcy during what was a longer stay at the hospital than expected.

“Everyone here has been so great,” she said. “Having Santa come by made it even better.”

Vincent and Norma got an equally as good surprise later that day – clearance from Vincent’s doctor to go home! The infant was discharged on December 12, just in time to spend the holidays at home with his family.

Stephanie Jones, a Texas Children’s employee, delivered her son, Levi, on October 8. He has been in the NICU at the Pavilion for Women ever since and might not be discharged by the end of the month. So, having Santa personally visit the infant was super special.

“Being here in general is hard,” Jones said. “A surprise visit like this helps bring peace of mind and a little bit of normalcy to our day.”

The visit from Santa was hosted by the hospital’s Newborn Center Family Advisory Committee and First Memories Texas, a volunteer group that helps families with babies in the NICU and CVICU at Texas Children’s to make memories and tell their children’s stories through photography.

Music is not only food for the soul, but also medicine for the body when it comes to health institutions like Texas Children’s. George Robinson, the grandson of Lillie and Jim Abercrombie, has partnered with Michael Clay, Executive Director and Co-Founder of Texas Music Project, to donate a $75,000 gift from the George A. Robinson IV Foundation.

It all started when Clay realized his family ties with the Abercrombies. They were Texas Children’s first major benefactors, whose kindness and foresight helped create our nationally recognized hospital. With this in mind, he knew that reaching out to his family, whose history runs deep in the organization, would lead to a great partnership with his company. Texas Music Project is a program for students, schools, and communities, which partners with musicians to help guide students down their own unique musical paths.

“We’re a grassroots resource for the community and kids for music,” Clay said. “I’ve learned that music therapy crosses over from not just schools, but into hospitals as well.”

The money donated goes to the Child Life department’s music therapy program, to upgrade media technology. Music Therapy, Child Life Media Producer, Bio Med, IT and the Facilities Planning teams have all been working with the Texas Music Project for the past year to bring George’s vision to fruition. The upgrade includes new audio systems, lighting systems for the broadcast, and most importantly, portable capabilities.

The idea was to upgrade the audio system in a way that could be taken anywhere in the hospital. Along with the main system located in the Zone, the Child Life entertainment center for patients, there is a mobile studio that allows for an efficient assembly process so that video can be streamed lived from room-to-room, if necessary.

The last portion of this partnership consists of producing a regular concert for patients called Rockin’ Robinson. This will include different musicians performing live for patients, to entertain them and lift their spirits. With the portable technology upgrade, these shows can be produced regularly and live streamed on ZTV, an internal television channel, for patients who are not able to leave their room.

“I am really grateful for the Robinson’s gift towards the technology upgrade,” Child Life Media Producer, Ashby Gleditsch said. “I am excited about what we will be able to accomplish in the future with live programming.”

On December 12, Robinson and his daughter Blair Robinson, along with Clay and the Texas Music Project team came to the hospital to shoot the pilot of Rockin’ Robinson. Dozens of patients, their families, and employees gathered in The Zone, for a concert as Blair sang and played the acoustic guitar with her band.

Music therapy is a very important component when it comes to an individual’s recovery process, especially with children. This gift will not only ingrain a new activity into the Child Life program, but also ensure smiles on patient’s faces and music in their hearts.

“I’m so excited about putting these shows in the rooms for the kids to see,” Robinson said. “My goal is to get this into all of the Texas Children’s campuses so that we can reach as many children as possible with a few songs.”

Texas Children’s Division of Otolaryngology recently hosted the 45th Annual Meeting of SENTAC (Society of Ear, Nose and Throat Advances in Children), one of the nation’s oldest and most respected ENT societies. It was the largest SENTAC conference ever, with nearly 300 national and international otolaryngology experts in attendance, including the largest ever turnout of allied health professionals.

“Multidisciplinary collaboration is one of the hallmarks of SENTAC,” said Dr. Deepak Mehta, Director of Texas Children’s Pediatric Aerodigestive Center and 2018 SENTAC president. “This event is not only for physicians, but also for audiologists, speech and language pathologists and therapists, advance practice providers, pediatricians, nurses and students. This experience is unique in that it brings us all together for a common purpose.”

The four-day event covered the entire spectrum of pediatric ENT topics, including sleep disorders, swallowing disorders, tracheostomy care and hearing loss. During the conference, over 60 presentations were given, including eight by experts from Texas Children’s – two of which won awards. Jessie Marcet-Gonzalez, CPNP, won first place for best podium presentation for her paper, “Effect of Inpatient Multidisciplinary Tracheostomy Team Rounds on Timely Outpatient Follow.” Texas Children’s audiologist Dr. Barbara Novak won second place for her paper, “Improving Loss to Follow-up: A Collaborative Citywide Initiation,” a project on newborn hearing screening in collaboration with Texas Children’s audiology clinical and cochlear implant specialist Dr. Samantha Lemelle, AuD.

Other event highlights included a banquet with live music and holiday lights at the Houston Zoo, and the first annual SENTAC Pediatric Otolaryngology Academic Bowl, presented by the Young Providers Committee. Texas Children’s took home the trophy, defeating teams from Rady Children’s Hospital in San Diego and Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin. Throughout the weekend, many said this was one of the best SENTAC conferences yet, both in terms of content and host venue.

“I feel pride in being part of Texas Children’s and all of us working together to put together such a fantastic meeting,” Mehta said. “The amazing support from Texas Children’s leadership and all the staff involved truly made it a success.”

December 4, 2018

Are you ready to PLAY 60? Texas Children’s Hospital and the Houston Texans are geared up and ready to go.

PLAY 60 is the National Football League’s campaign to encourage kids to be active for 60 minutes a day in order to help reverse the trend of childhood obesity. To help promote the campaign, the Texans and Texas Children’s have teamed up and created PLAY 60 Week.

PLAY 60 Week runs from December 3 through December 9 and is full of fun events aimed at helping further the PLAY 60 message and get children across the Houston moving.

The week kicked off with Smith Legacy Tower being lit red, white and blue – the official colors of the Houston Texans. The building’s first and third floor lobby ceilings and east windows will stay lit in these colors throughout the week.

PLAY 60 at the Park was held on December 3 at Levy Park. The event included appearances by two Houston Texans players, TORO, the Texans Mascot, Houston Texans Cheerleaders and Houston Texans Ambassador, Kevin Walters. The park was completely taken over by all things Texans including activity stations, an event passport, a giant Toss-Up game board and much more.

Other events going on this week include the PLAY 60 Challenge School Assembly at Piney Point Elementary in the Houston Independent School District, the Get Fit with TORO school program re-launch at a Katy Independent School District school and the PLAY 60 Kid of the Month reward ceremony at NRG Stadium. The ceremony will honor four out of 253 children who shared their PLAY 60 experience in our social media contest. The winners will receive a special stadium tour, lunch in the team auditorium and more.

PLAY 60 Week will conclude on Sunday, December 9 with the Kids Day game against the Indianapolis Colts. The Texans-Colts game is sponsored by Texas Children’s and celebrates the PLAY 60 campaign. A Kids Day game pep rally for patients and their families will be held at the hospital prior to the game.

Texas Children’s Hospital is the Official Children’s Hospital of the Houston Texans. The goal of the partnership is to inspire children to lead healthier, more active lives. You can learn more about the partnership by visiting

December 3, 2018

A muralist’s vision to transform the concourse of Wallace Tower into a vibrant piece of art has finally come true.

With the help of the Texan-French Alliance for the Arts, the Periwinkle Arts In Medicine Program and an anonymous donor, the concourse is now covered in large colorful paintings of dinosaurs, hearts, unicorns, spaceships, rainbows and more.

“As cars pull up, they’re greeted with this vibrant story that’s almost like a seek-and-find,” said Carol Herron, coordinator of the Periwinkle Arts in Medicine Program. “Can you find the dinosaur? Can you find the ship? It’s just something that’s inviting and really full of life, just like the hospital is.”

Patients with Texas Children’s Cancer and Hematology Centers as well as children who have spent time on Texas Children’s Hospital’s Renal Dialysis Unit created the bulk of the artwork represented in the mural. Pediatric patients from Foundation Lenval Children’s Hospital in Nice, France pitched in too, coming up with the portion of the mural that portrays a globe with a bridge going from Texas to France.

Texan-French Alliance for the Arts Executive and Program Director Karine Parker-Lemoyne and her colleague, Marjon Aucoin, art director for the W.I.D.E. School, organized the collaboration with the patients in Nice and facilitated workshops with patients at Texas Children’s to create the artwork for the mural.

Sebastien Boileau, a French-American muralist with Houston-based Eyeful Art Murals and Designs, then took the art, and with a handful of his fellow muralists, replicated it onto the walls of the Wallace Tower concourse.

“We didn’t put our artistic ego into it,” Boileau said. “We really tried to respect their vision, copying it stroke for stroke, discrepancies and all.”

View the professional and patient artists at work below.

Boileau, who has created some of Houston’s most-famed mural art, said the vision for the project, called “The Door to Hope,” came to him five years ago when he was visiting his friend whose child just had heart surgery. During his visit, he passed through the Wallace Tower concourse, which at the time was a blank canvas.

Being a muralist who likes to decorate large spaces, Boileau said he saw a lot of opportunity and took his idea to the Texan-French Alliance for the Arts. They in turn reached out to Texas Children’s. Once funding was secure, the project was green lighted and completed in just a few months.

During the painting process, Isaac Bogani, the patient Boileau went to visit in the hospital years earlier, joined the artist and helped him replicate a heart he created for the project. The experience was special for both Isaac and Boileau.

“This project is very dear to me,” Boileau said. “I’m really excited about it.”

Both Boileau and the Texan-French Alliance for the Arts have long-standing relationships with Texas Children’s. Boileau painted the mural featured at the playground adjacent to the Abercrombie Building. The Texan-French Alliance for the Arts has worked on various projects with the Periwinkle Arts In Medicine Program at the hospital over the past decade.

“We love working with Texas Children’s,” Parker-Lemoyne said. “This project has been amazing. It really honors the work of the children we worked with and exudes love, wonder and hope.”