May 6, 2019

Texas Children’s Emergency Management and Bone Marrow Transplant teams recently conducted their first full-scale radiation injury treatment exercise partnering with outside agencies to simulate their roles in a radiation-related event.

As a member of the Radiation Injury Treatment Network (RITN), Texas Children’s conducts annual exercises as part of our emergency preparedness activities. RITN is a system of hospitals affiliated with the National Marrow Donor Program providing comprehensive evaluation and treatment for victims of radiation exposure. MD Anderson Cancer Center is the only other RITN member organization in the Greater Houston area.

“Over the past three years, the Emergency Management team at Texas Children’s has worked closely with the Radiation Injury Treatment Network to increase the fidelity and realism of the drills we have been conducting,” said Dr. Brent Kaziny, Medical Director of Emergency Management. “Developing plans for such hopefully never-in-our-lifetime events is one of the many responsibilities of Emergency Management. Seeing plans tested first as tabletop drills and eventually as full scale exercises allow us to pinpoint where improvements need to be made. Texas Children’s Hospital has come so far, and watching these plans become operational is extremely rewarding.” 

Texas Children’s Emergency Management Manager Aaron Freedkin agreed and said if there was a radiation event nearby, Texas Children’s would get many of the affected pediatric patients.” 

“That’s why it’s so important for us to practice and prepare for such an event,” Freedkin said. “Last week’s exercise gave us a great opportunity to do that.”

The seven-hour event was the first full-scale radiation injury treatment exercise the organization has participated in and tested our response following the mock detonation of an improvised nuclear device that sends patients requiring bone marrow transplant or supportive medical care to Houston by way of the National Disaster Medical System.

The exercise involved various outside local, state and federal agencies including the Southeast Texas Regional Advisory Council, Veteran’s Affairs, and American Medical Response. The exercise began at Ellington Field, a joint military and civilian airport that would host the Patient Reception Center during a large-scale disaster. Run by the Veteran’s Affairs Federal Coordinating Center, the center would receive patients from outside Houston and coordinate available local resources.

Texas Children’s Bone Marrow Team Member Dr. John Craddock said understanding who the local players are and how to work with them is a great addition to the annual exercise, which typically has been a tabletop exercise with the exception of last year when it expanded to a large scale functional exercise involved Texas Children’s Hospital West Campus and Texas Children’s Hospital The Woodlands.

“This year, the exercise was full scale, giving us a more realistic idea of what we would be dealing with,” Craddock said. “I think it was very informative.”

During the exercise, Craddock and another members of the Bone Marrow Transplant team helped receive, triage and assign for transport to area hospitals 50 mock pediatric patients and 50 adult patients. The pediatric patients at Ellington Field were played by high school students from Friendswood High School. The adult patients at Ellington Field were played by adult volunteers from various civic groups including Bay CERT, a local Community Emergency Response Team.

The second half of the exercise took place on the fourth floor of the Pavilion for Women, part of which was turned into a Patient Reception Center for the patients coming to Texas Children’s Hospital for evaluation and/or treatment. Those mock patient and their family members were played by DeBakey High School students and saw members of our pathology, chaplain, social work, patient experience and case management teams before being transferred to a patient care room if necessary.

“This is the first time we’ve simulated going from plane to hospital,” said James Mitchell director of Organizational Resilience and Emergency Management. “Going through the entire process really expanded our knowledge about how this would work.”

April 30, 2019

Regem Biyo shares how grateful she is to begin her nursing career at Texas Children’s Pavilion for Women and how the organization is helping her grow in her new role. Read more

April 29, 2019

Dozens of families recently attended the first ever HEAR Houston Resource Fair, presented by Texas Children’s Audiology Program.

HEAR (Hearing Education, Awareness and Resources) Houston – held in collaboration with the Division of Otolaryngology and the Speech, Language and Learning Clinic – was designed to bring families of children living with hearing loss together, and to educate them about some of the numerous resources, programs and services available in the greater Houston area.

“Sometime such tremendous focus is placed on providing the right diagnosis and identifying the right treatment path for a child that is deaf or hard of hearing that care givers might discount the fact that the parents need help too,” said Dr. Wendy Steuerwald, director of Audiology at Texas Children’s. “We wanted to comprehensively highlight resources that both our patients and parents have benefited from, bring them here to Texas Children’s, and give people an opportunity to connect with one another and get the information they need.”

HEAR Houston featured more than a dozen vendors and exhibitors, selected with input from Texas Children’s audiologists and patient families. These vendors offered expertise and guidance on a broad spectrum of interrelated services and resources, including:

  • The latest in hearing aids, cochlear implants and caption telephones
  • Community outreach programs
  • Parent support groups
  • Educational audiology and services in schools
  • Speech-Language therapy
  • Deaf education
  • The transition from pediatric to adult audiology

The event also featured programs at Texas Children’s, including upWORDS – designed to help parents learn how to improve their child’s early language – and the Speech, Language and Learning Clinic, which provides evaluation, management and consultation for infants, children, adolescents and adults who have problems with communication, learning, feeding and swallowing.

The offering of resources was so comprehensive, even the vendors were impressed.

“Texas Children’s staff and physicians provided a wonderful venue for learning what resources are available for children who are deaf or hard of hearing,” said Sara Smith from Guide By Your Side™ – a family support program offered by Texas Hands & Voices™ that pairs families with children who are deaf or hard of hearing with trained parent guides who have walked in their shoes and can share their experiences, as well as direct families to information and resources. “It was truly wonderful to see ‘the village’ coming together – with so many support agencies, technology companies and educational programs present – to ensure each unique child has the opportunity to reach their potential.”

The response has been extremely positive. Plans are already being made to make HEAR Houston an annual event. But one of the most exciting developments is a plan to create a parent support group.

“To feel successful raising a child who is deaf or hard of hearing, parents seek the advice of other parents in similar situations – they want to interact with and learn from them,” Steuerwald said. “Our goal with this event was really to build a community. A support group will allow parents to socialize their children with other children with similar conditions, and it will continue to foster parent-to-parent education and discussion.”

Ella Grace Hurlbut, who was born prematurely at 27 weeks and who passed away at just 50 days old, has been the catalyst for bringing joy out of sorrow – most recently at Texas Children’s Hospital The Woodlands. Little Ella was the first neonatal intensive care unit baby that nurse Christina Snell cared for who passed away.

“I had a really hard time with it, and I didn’t know what to do with the pain that was having,” Snell said. “So, I decided I would do something good with it.”

That “something good” has culminated in the opening of a bereavement room called the Garden Room at The Woodland’s NICU. Designed by Snell and funded by her parents, Steve and Tammy Barr, the room is a non-sterile, peaceful environment where families have the chance to spend extra time saying goodbye to their child. The room also can be used by families who are getting used to caring for their MICU baby’s needs before going home.

Similar to the Butterfly Room at Main Campus’s NICU, the Garden Room features a crib, couch, two gliders, a chest full of clothes to dress their little ones in and a Caring Cradle. Donated by the Hurlbut family, the cradle cools a baby’s body after passing, therefore prolonging the amount of time a family can spend with their baby.

“Christina helped us make molds of Ella’s hands and feet, and to this day, those are my most treasured possessions,” Katie Hurlbut said. “I knew it wasn’t a coincidence when we found out she was the one leading the development of the bereavement room in The Woodlands.”

In addition to the Caring Cradle, the Hurlbut family also donated stuffed bears, clothes and linens to the Garden Room. Two artists, Alicia Kowalki “Los Queridos” and Genie Mack, provided beautiful pieces for the room’s walls.

“We are extremely thankful for the time and effort of those who contributed to this special space,” said Susan Romero, assistant clinical director of the NICU in The Woodlands. “It will give many families a great sense of peace.”

April 23, 2019

Following Washington State Senator Maureen Walsh’s “card-playing” comment undermining the role of nursing, Amanda Wenger shares why every nurse at Texas Children’s should be proud of the work they do for our patients. Read more

April 22, 2019

Texas Children’s launched online scheduling in English and Spanish to allow current, new, and referred patients to schedule appointments via DocASAP, our online scheduling partner.

After clicking the online scheduling button on Texas Children’s homepage, patients are directed to the new page where they can view all scheduling options available. Patients also can access online scheduling directly from provider profiles and department pages.

Since implementing this feature, over 1,400 appointments have been scheduled online. This online scheduling service is available at Texas Children’s three campuses – Medical Center Campus, West Campus, and The Woodlands Campus – and our specialty care locations in Houston and Austin.

Texas Children’s is the only pediatric hospital of the top five on the U.S. News & World Report Honor Roll to offer this easy and convenient online scheduling tool for patients and their families.

Click here to watch a video tutorial on how to schedule appointments online at Texas Children’s.

About Texas Children’s Patient Access Initiative

Launched in August 2017, Texas Children’s Patient Access Initiative is an on-going, collaborative effort to improve patient access across the organization. Since then, Texas Children’s has made significant progress to ensure patients easily and conveniently get in the door so we can provide the care they need, when they need it.

Click here for a list of other tools and features we’ve implemented across the system to improve access, care coordination and patient experience at Texas Children’s.

This week is Patient Experience Week at Texas Children’s, a time that we highlight and celebrate the compassion that we provide to patients daily.