July 22, 2014


When Kansas native Parker Flax was just three-months-old, he developed a fever, rash, conjunctivitis and cold-like symptoms that prompted his parents, Jessica and Daniel, to take him to the pediatrician. He was quickly diagnosed with measles, but after blood work ruled out the initial diagnosis, he was sent home. Parker then began developing extremely high fevers, which hovered around 106 degrees and would not subside with medication. Following a bigger spike in his temperature, his parents took him to a physician in nearby Kansas City who performed a spinal tap and diagnosed Parker with bacterial meningitis. He was admitted to the hospital and given antibiotics. Following further testing, meningitis was ruled out, but the physicians did not know what was causing Parker’s symptoms.

The usually happy, carefree baby continued to have fevers and was oftentimes inconsolable. On September 18, while at home with Parker and his brother, Jessica had to administer CPR on her young son who had collapsed and wasn’t breathing. She knew in that instant that all of Parker’s previous symptoms contributed to this frightening episode. He was admitted to the hospital and the family finally received a diagnosis – Parker had suffered a heart attack and had Kawasaki disease with 100 percent blockage of the right coronary artery as well as dilation of the left coronary artery. The physician told the family he had never seen a patient so young with this diagnosis and sought advice from cardiologists around the country. When he received twenty-two different answers from twenty-two different cardiologists, the Flax family knew they had to take matters into their own hands and find the best possible treatment for Parker. Jessica went online and found Parker’s pediatric cardiologist, Dr. Carolyn Altman, at Texas Children’s Heart Center.

At the end of May, pediatric cardiologist Dr. Caridad delaUz, implanted the 19-month-old with the Reveal LINQ Insertable Cardiac Monitor.

“Parker was the first pediatric patient in Houston, and among the first in Texas, to receive LINQ cardiac monitoring device,” said delaUz. “I’m so glad we’ve been able to give his parents the peace of mind they’ve desperately yearned for since Parker was a baby.”

The device, released in February, is smaller than a key and wirelessly monitors Parker’s heart rhythm with specific parameters set by Dr. delaUz. The monitoring device inside Parker’s chest stores the information which is wirelessly communicated to a hub at his bedside. The device sends transmissions of any abnormal rhythms automatically to his care team here in Houston. The minimally-invasive procedure took less than ten minutes and allows Jessica and Daniel to sleep easier each night because they know Parker is being monitored by the Texas Children’s Heart Center team 24 hours a day.

July 1, 2014


Texas Children’s Heart Center is adding two new members to its Adult Congenital Heart Disease Program team: pediatric and adult cardiologist, Dr. Peter Ermis, and pediatric and adult cardiologist, Dr. Wilson Lam. Texas Children’s Heart Center is ranked #2 nationally in cardiology and heart surgery by U.S. News & World Report.

“With the arrival of Drs. Ermis and Lam, the Adult Congenital Heart Disease Program team is now among the largest in the nation,” says Dr. Wayne Franklin, director of the Adult Congenital Heart Disease Program at Texas Children’s and assistant professor of medicine and pediatrics at Baylor College of Medicine. “The growth of our program further enables us to provide exceptional care to pediatric and adult patients with congenital heart disease in our community.”

Dr. Peter Ermis
Ermis, who also serves as assistant professor at Baylor, has clinical interests in determining quality improvement measurements in the care of adults with congenital heart disease, transitioning congenital heart disease patients from pediatric to adult congenital based care and stress echocardiography utilization in adults with congenital heart disease. His research interests include resource utilization in adults with congenital heart disease; transition and location of care for adults with congenital heart disease; pulmonary valve replacement in adults with repaired tetralogy of Fallot; long-term follow-up in adults with repaired transposition of the great arteries; stress echocardiography utilization in adults with congenital heart disease; and mechanical support in adults with congenital heart disease.

Ermis is a member of the American Academy of Cardiology, American Academy of Pediatrics and the International Society on Adult Congenital Heart Disease. He is excited to become a part of the Adult Congenital Heart Disease Program team and work with world class physicians and staff who strive for excellence in patient care, education and research. Ermis looks forward to providing valuable care to a unique group of adults that often fall between the realm of general pediatric and adult cardiology. He will primarily see patients at Texas Children’s Health Centers – The Woodlands as well as the hospital’s main location in the Texas Medical Center.

Ermis received an undergraduate degree at Rice University. He earned his medical degree from the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio and went on to complete his residency and pediatric and adult cardiology fellowship at Baylor.

Dr. Wilson Lam
Lam, who also serves as assistant professor at Baylor, has clinical interests in adult congenital heart disease, primarily electrophysiology issues, complex arrhythmia ablation and lead extraction. His research interests include arrhythmias in adult congenital heart disease, medical education and established technology in novel areas.

Lam is a member of the American College of Cardiology, American Academy of Pediatrics and American College of Physicians. He is honored to be a part of the Adult Congenital Heart Disease Program team which cares for unique patients with complex anatomies and challenging cardiovascular issues. Lam looks forward to joining and contributing to this state-of-the-art program for a medical specialty that is still relatively new nationwide. He will primarily see patients at Texas Children’s Health Centers – Sugar Land as well as the hospital’s main location in the Texas Medical Center.

Lam received an undergraduate degree from Rice University. He earned his medical degree and completed his residencies in combined internal medicine and pediatrics at Baylor with adult cardiovascular diseases and electrophysiology fellowships at Baylor, Texas Children’s and the Texas Heart Institute.

The Adult Congenital Heart Disease Program enables patients with congenital heart disease to receive seamless continuation of care from birth to adolescence to adulthood. The multidisciplinary team of experienced congenital heart disease specialists is equipped to treat the entire spectrum of medical and surgical problems throughout life, including health and wellness, family planning, and preventative medicine.

June 10, 2014


Dr. Daniel Penny, chief of Cardiology at Texas Children’s Hospital and section head and professor of Pediatrics-Cardiology at Baylor College of Medicine, was recently presented the 2014 University College Cork (UCC) Medical School Medal. The award ceremony took place at Penny’s alma mater in Ireland on May 28.

The award, established in 2001, was created to honor those who have made exceptional contributions to medicine and society. Penny was chosen as this year’s recipient based on his sustained and excellent track record in pediatrics and pediatric cardiology; in leadership and expertise at an international level in academic medicine; in his support and inspiration for generations of medical students and trainees; and his work in establishing links between UCC and Texas Children’s.

“I am truly honored to receive this year’s UCC Medical School Medal,” said Penny. “It is a privilege to have the opportunity to have worked, and continue to work, in hospitals throughout my career which are leading the way in improving the health and well-being of children and families across the globe.”

Penny was born in Cork, Ireland, where he completed his medical degree at University College Cork, The National University of Ireland. He trained and practiced at top pediatric institutions, such as The Great Ormond Street Hospital in London and The Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne, Australia, where he served as chief of Cardiology before joining Texas Children’s. Penny also is a founding director of the Australia and New Zealand Children’s Heart Research Centre, a collaborative network for multicenter research across Australia and New Zealand. His research bridges cardiac physiology and clinical studies of congenital heart disease. In 2010 he was awarded his involvement in developing a Cardiovascular Institute in Hue City, Central Vietnam, for which he received the “For People’s Health” Award from the Vietnamese government.

April 22, 2014


Dr. Henri Justino, director of the C.E. Mullins Cardiac Catheterization Laboratory, is something of a magician when it comes to repairing a child’s heart in the least invasive way possible. He and his colleagues in the cath lab can remove a blockage, close a hole in the heart, and replace a defective heart valve using thin, flexible catheters and some deft flicks of the wrist, leaving no trace of their efforts other than a tiny incision near the patient’s hip.

One thing that has consistently bothered him, however, is the lack of available options for children with defective heart valves.

“Compared to the adult market, the pediatric market is simply too small for companies to invest in,” Justino said. “Seventy-five percent of children who need a valve replacement need a pulmonary valve, but there’s only one kind available today that can be delivered by a catheter approach and is approved for use in the pulmonary position. It’s expensive and hard to come by. We need another option.”

Justino and his partners – Daniel Harrington, Ph.D., at Rice University, and Kwonsoo Chun, Ph.D., at Baylor College of Medicine – are on a mission to create an artificial pediatric pulmonary valve that can be delivered by a catheter-based approach into the heart.

“Right now, we are working on getting the mechanics right,” Justino said. “We need a solid valve that works well, opens and closes well with every heartbeat, and is designed to last.”

Getting the valve’s mechanics right is no small feat. It must be small, thin and flexible enough to snake through a young child’s veins and through the chambers of the heart. Once it’s in the right place, it needs to expand to full size, anchor in place with no sutures or adhesive, and be durable enough to last many millions of cycles in a child’s heart, which beats up to twice as fast as an adult’s. They’re also trying to design the valve so that it can grow with a child over time.

“We’ve definitely got some challenges,” said Justino, who compares catheterization to a mechanic trying to fix the motor on a car while it’s still running. “We’re doing all sorts of procedures on the heart without ever having to stop the heart or put the patient on a heart-lung machine.”

And that’s the point – to fix the heart with as little disruption as possible.

“Open heart surgery does work very well, and it is a very good option if it’s your only option,” Justino said. “If you can get the very same result without having the chest opened, without a long scar, without using an artificial machine to circulate blood through your brain, and if you can go home the very same day instead of staying in the hospital for several days – even go to school the next day – why would you not want that?”

After three years of development, Justino, Harrington and Chun have a working prototype and are very close to completing their first milestone, which is to prove that it works in the lab setting and meets the criteria the FDA requires of valves. The next phase is animal testing: How does this device perform when it’s placed in a living organism, in contact with organs, tissue and blood? The final step, human testing, may be several years away depending on funding and how well the first two stages go.

“Our long-range goal, after all of this is complete, is to see if we can coat the valve with living tissues and various kinds of cells to make the device more biocompatible with the patient, similar to what Dr. Jacot and his team are doing,” Justino said. “But that’s a long way away. For now, our main goal is to get the best performance we can from this valve and then get it on the market – helping children – as quickly as possible.”

Cutline: Drs. Henri Justino, Daniel Harrington and Kwonsoo Chun examine the prototype valve in a high-cycle tester.

March 25, 2014


March 21, 2013 was the day our relationship with Texas Children’s Hospital changed. My husband, Matt, and I are both employees at the hospital, so Texas Children’s is very near and dear to us. We have enjoyed our many years serving our patients and working with the wonderful employees of this organization. I have been a nurse here for 16 years and my husband has worked here for 13 years, currently in the Texas Children’s Heart Center. We’ve spent so many days throughout the years walking the halls of Texas Children’s doing what we love, but on March 21 we realized we were going to be experiencing the hospital as parents, not just as employees.

Luke, our unborn son had been diagnosed with a congenital heart defect – coarctation of the aorta. The fetal cardiac imaging team at Texas Children’s detected this defect through a fetal echocardiogram. This enabled them to see the function of Luke’s tiny heart, at just 22 weeks gestation! Although in disbelief, we were thankful for this early detection as it was critical for many reasons. Not only did it help the medical teams plan for Luke’s delivery, but it also allowed Matt and me to ask questions and fully understand the defect and how it might impact him. Even though we work in health care, we had so many questions and were increasingly anxious about the health of our son. Between our wonderful OB, Dr. Kimberly Bobo, at Texas Children’s Pavilion for Women, and the Heart Center and Fetal Center teams, we felt less anxious and certainly very prepared for the possibilities. We were comforted by the countless support staff and multidisciplinary experts we worked with for the months leading up to Luke’s birth. We were never treated as if our questions and concerns were naive and always felt as if each person we encountered was giving us their full attention and compassion for our situation.

As Luke’s birthdate neared, our excitement, as well as our fears grew – the unknown factors were many, but we knew that his care teams were as prepared as possible to handle any situation. His delivery was uneventful (thank goodness!) and there was a NICU team on hand to start his care immediately. He spent a few days in the NICU being monitored closely. Luckily, he remained stable and after a reassuring echocardiogram, we were sent home. It wasn’t until our one month follow up appointment that we learned the narrowing in his aortic arch had worsened and it was time for surgery.

No parent should ever have to experience their child going through heart surgery and the related recovery. It can be a frightening experience and one that we hope to never have to go through again. That being said, the team of experts at Texas Children’s who cared for Luke is among the best in the country. We found comfort in knowing that this is a very typical day for the surgical and medical teams who cared for Luke as they encounter highly complex cardiac patients on a daily basis and perform high volumes of surgical procedures just like Luke’s frequently. We knew he was in the best hands possible for a positive outcome.

32514TimmonsB640After a very long day of waiting while Luke was in the operating room, we learned his surgery was extremely successful and spent the next several days recovering with him in the cardiovascular intensive care and cardiac acute care units. Luke had an uneventful recovery period so we were able to take him home just a few days after his surgery. Since that time, we have been followed by his cardiologist and Luke is currently a very happy, healthy 7 month old boy.

We are so thankful for the numerous individuals who looked after Luke during this phase of his life and who continue to ensure he remains healthy. One of the reasons Texas Children’s is so remarkable is the sheer number of clinical and technical experts who are involved in the care of just one child. From cardiology, congenital heart surgery, obstetrics, maternal fetal medicine, cardiac imaging, critical care, and acute care, Luke encountered truly inspiring individuals who are experts in the care of children with congenital heart disease. As a parent, it is almost hard to believe that so many experts are available to us to care for our child. As fellow employees, we are proud to be a part of the amazing team at Texas Children’s and know that we are providing this level of care and compassion to all patients and families.

You can learn more about Luke’s journey by watching this video.

February 18, 2014


Dr. Daniel Penny, chief of Cardiology and section head and professor of Pediatrics-Cardiology at Baylor College of Medicine, will present the 12th Annual William J. Rashkind Memorial Lecture in Pediatric Cardiology at Cardiology 2014, the 17th Annual Update on Pediatric and Congenital Cardiovascular Disease. The conference, hosted by the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, will take place in Lake Buena Vista, Florida February 19 through 23.

“I am honored to be delivering the keynote address at this year’s Cardiology conference,” says Penny. “This is a great opportunity to showcase the cutting edge techniques and thought leadership we practice at Texas Children’s Heart Center.”

Cardiology 2014 is a comprehensive post-graduate course for pediatric cardiologists, neonatologists, surgeons, nurses, intensivists, anesthesiologists, sonographers, perfusionists and all those involved in the care of neonates, children and young adults with cardiovascular disease. This year’s theme is “Innovations: What We Know. What We Need to Learn. Where We Need to Be.” Penny’s speech, The Quest for the Ultimate Team, will discuss the importance of assembling a comprehensive team of specialists and experts to deliver the best possible care to pediatric cardiology patients.

In addition to the keynote address, Penny also will serve as a panelist during a discussion about the management of aortic valve disease and represent Team Houston during a quiz bowl which will test his knowledge against experts in the field from around the United States. Other Texas Children’s Heart Center experts who will be giving presentations or attending the conference include:

  • Dr. Carrie Altman, medical director of Pediatric Cardiology at Texas Children’s and associate professor of Pediatrics at Baylor.
  • Dr. Paul Checchia, medical director of the Cardiovascular Intensive Care Unit at Texas Children’s and professor of Critical Care Medicine at Baylor, will present: Maximizing Success in the Coming Age of Values-driven Healthcare: Turning Things Upside Down to Get Them Right Side Up and will also represent Team Houston during the quiz bowl.
  • Dr. Silvana Lawrence, medical director, community and program development at Texas Children’s and associate professor of Pediatrics-Cardiology at Baylor.
  • Dr. Keila Lopez, pediatric cardiologist at Texas Children’s and assistant professor of Pediatrics at Baylor.
  • Dr. Kristen Sexson Tejtel, pediatric cardiologist, Center for Preventive Cardiology at Texas Children’s and assistant professor of Pediatrics-Cardiology at Baylor.

Visit the conference’s website for more information on Cardiology 2014.

February 4, 2014

Celebrate the 10th anniversary of Go Red for Women by wearing red this Friday, February 7, to raise awareness for heart disease. Texas Children’s Hospital badge-holders that wear red will receive a free heart healthy sweet treat with purchase* during lunchtime at the following Texas Children’s dining locations:

  • Clinical Care Center Food Court
  • Pavilion for Women Fresh Bistro
  • West Campus Luby’s DOTS Kitchen
  • Meyer Building The French Corner

For heart health education, blood pressure checks and tips to live a long and healthy life, please stop by the Employee Health and Wellness Go Red for Women booths on Friday, February 7:

  • Pavilion for Women Fresh Bistro: 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
  • West Campus DOTS Kitchen: noon to 1 p.m.

*While supplies last.

Go Red heart health tips:

G: Get your numbers: Ask your doctor to check your blood pressure and cholesterol and monitor them regularly.

O: Own your lifestyle: Stop smoking, exercise, eat healthy, and manage stress.

R: Realize your risk: Heart disease kills one in three women. Learn about the risk factors, your family history, and the keys to prevention.

E: Educate your family: Make healthy food choices for you and your family and teach your kids the importance of staying active.

D: Don’t be silent: Tell every woman you know that heart disease is our number one killer.

The Employee Medical Clinic supports your personal health needs and offers convenient access to exceptional primary and urgent care services on the main campus. The clinic delivers many services including urgent care for personal illness and injury, preventive care, care management for chronic conditions, and counseling to help employees adopt the healthiest possible lifestyle. For more information or to make an appointment, please call Ext. 4-2150.

For more information visit goredforwomen.org.