July 29, 2019

Texas Children’s Cancer and Hematology Centers recently honored three team members with the Bravo Award for going above and beyond to ensure our patients and families receive the best possible care.

The award is handed out quarterly and recognizes nurses and other professional staff in the Cancer and Hematology Centers for outstanding performance. Anyone within the Texas Children’s system may nominate a member of the cancer and hematology teams for this award. The team’s clinic leadership will select the winners.

Last quarter’s winners of the Bravo Award were:

Suzy Gaius is a Financial Counselor with the Cancer and Hematology Center at Main Campus. Gaius was honored for spending countless hours explaining insurance plans and options to families and staff. She is always available to help us ensure patients receive ongoing care. Gaius is patient and never rushes families if they have questions or need more information.

Yadhira Huerta is a Social Worker with the Vannie Cook Vannie Cook Children’s Clinic in McAllen. Yadhira is a team player who always finds time to lend a hand and give accurate and compassionate advice. She is caring, respectful, and goes out of her way to find answers for patients’ needs. She is equally passionate about helping care for members of the care team at the Vannie Cook clinic.

Teresa Nafegar is a Medical Assistant in the Texas Children’s Cancer and Hematology Clinic Main Campus. Teresa is excellent at keeping patients moving through her pod in clinic. She is a great communicator to the medical team promptly updating them on patient needs and offering ways to increase efficiency. Nafegar also is able to find creative ways to communicate with patients with whom she may not share a common language.

July 9, 2019

The First Lady of Botswana, Neo Jane Masisi, was recently announced as an inaugural member of the Global HOPE International Council. The International Council which will comprise African leaders and dignitaries, noteworthy global health care leaders, philanthropists and other key influencers, will serve as advocates for Global HOPE to raise awareness for the program and the plight of children with cancer in Africa.

Masisi is an accountant by profession and has held various portfolios in Botswana within the private sector. She further embarked on a career as an International Civil Servant where she served the United Nations in USA, Ethiopia and Central African Republic. Masisi has extensive experience in management and budgetary controls, grants management and financial reporting. She is a member of the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA – UK) and holds an MBA.

Currently, as First Lady, Masisi is involved in national issues geared at addressing HIV/AIDS. She is passionate about girls and rural women, causes that she pursues in her personal capacity. Having worked in both Botswana and the international arena, Mrs. Masisi brings across a “global view’’ approach to issues that affect humanity.

Global HOPE (Hematology-Oncology Pediatric Excellence), recently celebrated its two-year anniversary. It is a transformative initiative focused on creating an innovative pediatric hematology-oncology treatment network in sub-Saharan Africa that will build long-term capacity to treat and dramatically improve the prognosis of thousands of children with cancer and blood disorders. The program was created in partnership with Texas Children’s Cancer and Hematology Centers, the Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation and Baylor College of Medicine International Pediatrics AIDS Initiative at Texas Children’s Hospital (BIPAI).

Global HOPE works closely with Ministries of Health in its three initial countries of focus including Botswana, Malawi and Uganda. Within two short years, the program has seen extraordinary progress, including treating more than 3,000 patients, training over 1,000 health care professionals, and graduating its first class of physician fellows from the Global HOPE Pediatric Hematology Oncology Fellowship Program, the first of its kind in East Africa.

While Global HOPE initiative is relatively new, the relationship with these countries in Sub-Saharan Africa goes back nearly 20 years with the implementation of Baylor International Pediatric AIDS Initiative (BIPAI), the largest pediatric HIV treatment network in the world, leveraging existing experience, infrastructure and public/private partnerships created through the initiative. To date, BIPAI has provided care and support to more than 1 million HIV-infected children and adolescents, and has trained more than 52,000 health care workers on issues of pediatric HIV. Building on this experience, Global HOPE is using this approach to address childhood cancer.

In the U.S., where there are 15,000 cases of pediatric cancer a year, over 80 percent of children survive and most have a very good quality life. In contrast, of the more than 100,000 children who develop pediatric cancer each year in sub-Saharan Africa, 90 percent die. In an effort to correct this glaring inequity, Global HOPE established a $150 million campaign to launch their program in three initial countries, including Botswana.

In September 2018, Dr. David Poplack, Director of Global Hope and Associate Director of Texas Children’s Cancer and Hematology Centers, had the pleasure of hosting His Excellency OP and Mrs. Masisi in Houston, Texas. The visit offered an opportunity to assess the progress made to help combat pediatric illnesses in Botswana including HIV/AIDS.

“As First Lady of the Republic of Botswana, Mrs. Masisi has an incredibly powerful voice capable of raising awareness and garnering support for initiatives to address childhood cancer in sub-Saharan Africa,” said Dr. Poplack. “With our hallmark program in Botswana, she was able to see the work we are doing firsthand, and I believe she has the ability to help expand our reach. I also believe she will be an extraordinary advocate for children with cancer and blood disorders.”

With the support of Mrs. Masisi and the entire International Council, Global HOPE will have the ability to expand its reach and to dramatically improve childhood cancer treatment and care in sub-Saharan Africa.

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.

June 24, 2019

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

The results of the 2019 U.S. News & World Report survey of Best Children’s Hospitals are in, and Texas Children’s Hospital is again among the best in the nation!

This year, Texas Children’s tied for third place among all children’s hospitals nationally, a ranking no other pediatric hospital in the state has ever achieved.

In addition, for the first time, Texas Children’s is ranked in the top 10 in each of the U.S. News & World Report-recognized pediatric sub-specialties. Six of our sub-specialties were ranked in the top 3 – two are ranked #1, two are ranked #2, and another two are ranked #3.

“We should all be very proud of this remarkable accomplishment,” said Texas Children’s President and CEO Mark Wallace. “It is because of our One Amazing Team and each team member’s steadfast commitment to quality and excellence that we were able to reach this achievement. Thank you for your dedication to Texas Children’s Hospital and to the patients and families we serve.”

Some highlights of the 13th annual Best Children’s Hospitals rankings for Texas Children’s include:

  • Cardiology and Congenital Heart Surgery is again ranked #1 in the nation, due in part to our increasing the number of RNs in the PICU with more than two years of experience, and exceeding thresholds in four-year combined risk-adjusted operative mortality.
  • Pulmonology, which first debuted in the top spot in the 2016 rankings, is again ranked #1 in the nation. We decreased the percentage of patients readmitted to the hospital to address asthma-related symptoms, and exceeded thresholds in structure metrics, such as mean LOS for asthma patients.
  • Nephrology moved up a spot and is now ranked #2 in the nation, with a significant decrease in hemodialysis catheter associated BSI and an improvement in children younger than 5 years of age receiving hemodialysis.
  • Gastroenterology & GI surgery rose to #2 in the nation from #4, achieving successful Kasai procedures in biliary atresia patients and improving the percentage of patients experiencing prednisone-free admission.
  • Cancer is #3 in the nation, up from #6. We increased the five-year survival of patients with neuroblastoma and increased the percentage of patients who received intravenous treatment antibiotics within an hour of triage.
  • Neurology and Neurosurgery remained at #3 in the nation, showing a significant improvement in 30-day unplanned return to the operating room for craniotomy and a decrease in readmission within 30 days of surgery for Chiari decompression patients.

Our entire list of rankings includes:

#1 Cardiology and Congenital Heart Surgery
#1 Pulmonology
#2 Gastroenterology and GI surgery
#2 Nephrology
#3 Neurology and Neurosurgery
#3 Cancer
#6 Urology
#7 (tie) Neonatology
#8 Diabetes and Endocrinology
#10 Orthopedics

Overall, Texas Children’s exceeded nursing intensity thresholds, made significant improvement in ICU CLABSI rates and exceeded thresholds for hospital acquired pressure injuries.

U.S. News & World Report introduced the Best Children’s Hospitals rankings in 2007 to help families of children with rare or life-threatening illnesses find the best medical care available. The rankings are the most comprehensive source of quality-related information on U.S. pediatric hospitals.

The U.S. News Best Children’s Hospitals rankings rely on clinical data and on an annual survey of pediatric specialists. The rankings methodology factors in patient outcomes, such as mortality and infection rates, as well as available clinical resources and compliance with best practices.

“The results also reflect the efforts of our team and their unwavering focus on the U.S. News survey,” Wallace said. “Compiling and refining our data is a continuous process and, with the support of our medical staff, in-chiefs, service chiefs, as well as Mark Mullarkey, Trudy Leidich, Elizabeth Pham and the entire Quality team, we have made significant strides this past year.”

This year’s rankings will be published in U.S. News & World Report’s “Best Hospitals 2020” guidebook, available in stores mid-September or online at usnews.com/childrenshospitals. You can learn more about Texas Children’s rankings here.

June 17, 2019

Although great strides have been made in the battle against pediatric cancer, some children still do not survive. When this occurs, Texas Children’s does its best to envelop families with love, support and knowledge on how they can cope with such a profound loss.

One such program offered to bereaved families by Texas Children’s Cancer Center is the Retreat for Renewal. The weekend retreat is held at Camp for All in Burton, TX and features fun activities, as well as therapeutic breakout sessions for reflection and expression.

“Retreat for Renewal is a safe space where families can express their feelings and meet other people who are going through similar situations,” said Nicolle Bengtson, a Child Life Specialist involved in the program. “The experience really allows these families to bond and open up about their individual experiences.”

Funded by the Cancer Center and generous donors, Retreat for Renewal has been offered for almost a decade. However, the retreat primarily served English speaking families. This year Retiro de Renovación had its inaugural year. This retreat was created for Spanish speaking families.

Attended by eight families, Retiro de Renovación was held in March and included a combination of fun camp activities, and therapeutic breakout sessions. Bengtson and Child Life Specialist Alyssa DeMoss organized the retreat after experiencing the continued success of the Retreat of Renewal and identifying an unmet need for additional emotional support for the Cancer Center’s bereaved Spanish speaking families, in the language that felt the most comforting to them.

“We are excited to offer even more families this level of bereavement support,” DeMoss said. “It was really beautiful to see the parents and siblings at the retreat connect, and watch as the families created a new and meaningful support network.”

Many of the families expressed how much the retreat meant to them in written comments. One family wrote that it was nice to be able to share their stories with other families going through the same thing. Another family mentioned meeting others who were going through a similar situation made them feel less alone.

“It was nice to take time to remember our loved ones,” the family member said.

The Spanish-speaking retreat – Retiro de Renovaciόn – was funded by the Texas 4000 for Cancer cycling team, which rode 4,000-plus miles from Austin, TX to Anchorage, Alaska, in an effort to raise money for cancer-related programs and efforts.

The group donated $25,000 of their proceeds to Texas Children’s for the Retiro de Renovación. The Cancer Center is grateful for the donation and hopes to be able to hold future Spanish-speaking retreats.

June 10, 2019

Camp Periwinkle Days came to the Cancer and Hematology Centers last week creating a fun surprise for patients and families arriving for their appointments.

“This could not have happened at a more perfect time,” said Sarah Payne as she watched her two daughters stuff with cotton a plush pig and monkey wearing astronaut outfits. “She was not excited about coming today.”

Organized by The Periwinkle Foundation and sponsored by Northwestern Mutual, the two-day affair included NASA-themed decorations and displays, various arts and crafts, face painting, games, music and more. The camp was held in the Cancer and Hematology Centers’ infusion and waiting room areas for easy access to all.

“Our goal is to bring the magic of summer camp to those who might not have otherwise have the opportunity to go,” said Doug Suggitt, executive director of The Periwinkle Foundation. “We are always so pleased to see the smiles on the faces of those who get to experience the camp and are thankful to our partners for making it such an impactful event for everyone involved.”

This is the ninth year Camp Periwinkle Days has been held at the Cancer and Hematology Centers and the third year for Northwestern Mutual to sponsor the event.

Northwestern Mutual Managing Partner Jeff Reeter volunteered at the camp and said it was a joy to participate in such a wonderful occasion.

“It’s a very heartwarming experience that probably impacts us more than the patients and families we encounter,” Reeter said. “We are so grateful to be a part of it.”

Director of Texas Children’s Cancer and Hematology Centers Dr. Susan Blaney said she is thankful for everyone who continues year after year to make the event such a success.

“Fighting cancer is hard,” Blaney said. “A little extra fun goes a long way for these patients, families and staff.”

To learn more about Camp Periwinkle click here. To learn more about Texas Children’s Cancer and Hematology Centers click here.