March 14, 2017

Texas Children’s recently celebrated the opening of the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) E Pod, a newly designated 9-bed infant acute cardiac care unit at West Tower. Since opening on February 22, NICU E Pod has helped to significantly reduce the occurrence of cardiac case cancellations.

“Over the last six months, we were seeing an alarming increase in the cancellation of surgical cases and cath procedures due to a lack of inpatient bed capacity,” said Matt Timmons, director of Cardiology at Texas Children’s Heart Center. “During the last 18 days since the unit opened, we have had no cardiac case cancellations, which is a huge step forward in improving the care and experience we deliver to our patients and families.”

To create additional Heart Center capacity, Texas Children’s physician and nursing leadership teams from the Heart Center, Critical Care and Newborn Center – and many other subspecialties and support services across the organization – collaborated to expedite the successful opening of the new unit.

“We were fortunate to have the NICU E Pod available,” said NICU Nursing Director Heather Cherry. “After meeting with several subspecialty leadership teams, we collectively decided to open the NICU E Pod to provide additional bed capacity for our acute cardiac care patients. This collaborative decision allowed us to support an additional nine patients needing our care.”

Recently, acute care nursing partnered with the Heart Center to successfully add capacity for cardiac patients in the four-bed cohort on 10 West Tower. While this has been extremely helpful, the need for additional capacity still existed. The NICU E Pod provides an extension to 15 West Tower for acute cardiac care patients under 12 months of age. While the cardiology team oversees the treatment of these acute care patients, the NICU E Pod is staffed by the Newborn Center nursing team.

For patient families like Randal and Sabrina Pemberton from Lubbock, Texas, the opening of the unit could not have come at a better time. Since the first day the NICU E Pod opened, they have been with their daughter Aaliyah, who at just 8 days old, had surgery to repair an aorta and two holes in her heart.

“We’ve had a wonderful team of doctors who are taking great care of our daughter and the nurses have been fabulous as well,” Sabrina Pemberton said. “Overall, given our circumstances, it’s been a great experience at Texas Children’s Hospital. We couldn’t have asked for anything more.”

Besides collaboration from clinical staff, reaching this milestone so quickly – in a matter of one week – would not have been possible without the help from Texas Children’s support services which included Information Services, Facilities, Epic, Biomed, Supply Chain, Pharmacy and Environmental Services.

“This unit was a great example of collaboration by multiple subspecialties and departments, and shows how we are all “One Texas Children’s Hospital,” said Chief of Cardiology Dr. Daniel J. Penny. “The ability to open this unit so quickly and safely exemplifies our commitment to our patients and their families.”

With Texas Children’s anticipated growth, the Pediatric Tower – which is slated to open in August 2018 – will house 126 beds for pediatric and cardiovascular intensive care patients, which will provide additional bed capacity and even more opportunities to serve our patients and their families in the future.

“The Pediatric Tower is the long-term solution for our Heart Center’s rapid growth,” Timmons said. “The NICU E Pod and the 10 West Tower cardiac cohort are successfully bridging the gap until we move into the new tower.”

February 14, 2017

Last week, Texas Children’s employees celebrated The American Heart Association’s Go Red for Women campaign by learning about heart health through education and free blood pressure checks, provided by the Employee Medical Clinic.

Year-round, the Employee Medical Clinic offers a Healthy Heart Program at no cost for employees. The program features three individual sessions with a registered dietitian who will work with you to improve your blood pressure and/or cholesterol through healthy lifestyle modifications including nutrition, physical activity, stress management and blood pressure monitoring. Click here to learn more.

February 7, 2017

2817LaurenKANE175Congenital heart surgeon Dr. Lauren Kane was recently awarded the Carolyn E. Reed Traveling Fellowship from The Thoracic Surgery Foundation (TSF). Kane is the first congenital heart surgeon to receive the distinguished honor.

Established in 2013 in conjunction with Women in Thoracic Surgery, The Carolyn E. Reed Traveling Fellowship is an annual award presented to an established female thoracic or cardiac surgeon. The award provides recipients the opportunity to travel to another institution to learn a new skill or technology.

“I am truly honored to receive this award,” Kane said. “Carolyn was a wonderful, well-respected and beloved leader in the field of cardiothoracic surgery. I am thrilled to have the opportunity to pay tribute to her legacy as I collaborate with surgeons internationally who share my passion for enriching the lives of children with congenital heart disease and defects.”

Kane plans to travel to New Delhi, India to collaborate with an outstanding program there focused on advanced congenital heart disease.

“Dr. Kane is a vital member of our team and I am proud that she has been recognized with this coveted fellowship,” said Surgeon-in-Chief Dr. Charles D. Fraser Jr. “I look forward to her returning from her travels with a unique perspective of the keys to success of international programs similar to ours.”

Texas Children’s Heart Center is ranked No. 2 nationally in cardiology and heart surgery by U.S. News & World Report. The Congenital Heart Surgery Service offers a comprehensive surgical program that includes every procedure available for the treatment of pediatric heart disease and defects. The team cares for children of every age, including preterm and low-birth-weight newborns, tailoring procedures and treatments to the needs of each individual child and his or her family. During surgery, this individualized approach includes cardiopulmonary bypass and neuroprotection strategies customized to each patient’s condition and needs, helping to ensure optimal outcomes are achieved. For more information visit

For more information about the fellowship visit TSF’s website.

January 31, 2017

2117heartmarathoninside640When Jack Guyre was born, he was diagnosed with a congenital heart defect called Tetralogy of Fallot, which changes the normal flow of blood through the heart. Surgeon-in-Chief Dr. Charles Fraser Jr. repaired the defect when Jack was 9 months old. Following a relatively healthy childhood combined with monitoring by Texas Children’s cardiologists, Dr. Henri Justino placed a stent via catheter in Jack’s heart in 2014.

Jack, now 12, isn’t restricted in his activity, and he is not on any medication. He visits Texas Children’s once a year for a check-up and enjoys playing competitive soccer. With the approval of his cardiologist, Dr. Daniel Penny, Texas Children’s cardiology chief, Jack set out to accomplish a bucket list goal – completing the 2017 Aramco Houston Half Marathon.

On January 15, in a sea thousands, Jack crossed the finish line alongside his mom and dad with an impressive time of 2:44:25. Though he will likely need to undergo heart surgery again in the future, his parents and doctors couldn’t be prouder.

“Jack has overcome challenges that none of us, thankfully, have had to face,” Penny said. “And he’s come through those with great spirit and determination.”

Click here to watch Channel 11 KHOU’s story about Jack’s extraordinary accomplishment.

December 20, 2016

122116chdpajamasinside250When Anne Currie was 5-years-old, she underwent her first congenital heart surgery at Texas Children’s Hospital. Following additional procedures, Currie, now in her 30s, leads a happy and healthy life and comes back to Texas Children’s for regular check-ups with the Adult Congenital Heart Disease Program (ACHD) team.

Texas Children’s ACHD Program enables patients with congenital heart disease to receive seamless continuation of care from birth to adulthood. Members of the multidisciplinary team, who are trained in both pediatric and adult congenital heart disease, offer a full spectrum of services and advise patients on the wide spectrum of medical problems that patients like Currie experience throughout their lives.

To celebrate the 30th anniversary of her first surgery, Currie enlisted the help of her friend and fellow adult congenital heart disease patient, Holly Hancock, to surprise heart patients at the hospital with specially-designed pajamas from Heroic Hearts®, a company Hancock created.

Hancock, who underwent her first heart surgery at just hours old, spent time at Texas Children’s when she was 9 and continues to be seen by Texas Children’s ACHD team, too. As a young patient, she dreaded putting on a drab hospital gown as the excess fabric made it hard to move around and was thin causing her to always be cold. Little Heroes® by Heroic Hearts® offers comfortable, creative, hospital-friendly apparel tailored to young heart patients.

Recently, the pair, alongside Hancock’s husband and parents and Currie’s mom, gifted 10 current Texas Children’s heart patients and their families with pairs of the pajamas. The group shared stories with families about their time in the hospital and inspired them as the families were able to see how well the women are doing today. In addition to the pajamas, patients received stuffed animals named Ruby and Beau, who star in the hospital’s one-of-a-kind animated series of videos designed to educate families about complex heart conditions. To watch the series visit

“My heart is so full and grateful going into this holiday season all because of you,” Currie said of the patients she met during her visit to Texas Children’s. “I hope they all understand that Texas Children’s is for life, not just for kids.”

December 13, 2016

121416perfusionists640When a child has open heart surgery at Texas Children’s Hospital, they receive some of the best care in the country. Our Heart Center, ranked No. 2 in the nation, is equipped with state-of-the art technology, highly trained and skilled surgeons and anesthesiologists, as well as a team of unsung heroes called perfusionists.

Perfusionists operate the heart lung bypass machine needed to keep a patient alive during open heart surgery. The machine takes deoxygenated blood out of a patient’s body, runs it through an artificial lung to give it oxygen, and then pumps it back into the patient’s blood stream.

While the idea may sound simple, the procedure and process is not and is performed at the Heart Center by a longstanding team of experienced and professional perfusionists.

“Perfusionists are absolutely vital when we perform open heart surgery,” said Surgeon-in-Chief Dr. Charles D. Fraser Jr. “What they do is extraordinary and allows us to do very complicated operations on children who otherwise would not be able to survive.”

Fraser recognized the benefit of a strong perfusion team early on and is responsible for creating a dedicated pediatric team at Texas Children’s in 1995 shortly after being named chief of Congenital Heart Surgery. All three members of the original team – Mary Claire McGarry, Maryann Mueller and Deb Surprise – are still working in the Cardiovascular Operating rooms today and remember what it was like in the beginning.

Mueller remembered Fraser recruited her and her colleagues from the Texas Heart Institute where they worked with both adult and pediatric patients. The first few years at Texas Children’s, she said, were spent honing their skills to provide the best perfusion for children.

Surprise recalled how Fraser brought with him a new approach to pediatric perfusion. His idea was to create a specialized pediatric protocol that would be tailored to each individual child.

“Everyone was invested in the success of Dr. Fraser and what he was trying to accomplish,” Mueller said. “We wanted him to be successful – and for our patients to come in, have surgery and then head home to lead healthy lives.”

Over time the team grew to what it is today, eight perfusionists who work closely with the surgical team. Due to their ever evolving skill levels, the team continues to see more complex patients, many of whom have benefited from the hard work of the surgeons and clinical staff at Texas Children’s Heart Center.

Fraser and his team recently performed their 10,000th heart procedure with the use of heart lung bypass on Adult Congenital Heart Disease Program patient 31-year-old Stephanie Granger, who was born with a congenital heart defect and had two surgeries as a baby and another when she was 6. Years later, she developed secondary problems from her heart defect.

“I started having some abdomen pain, so I went to my primary doctor,” Granger said. “They ran a CT scan and found there was a problem with my liver due to my heart.”

Soon thereafter, Granger scheduled heart surgery at Texas Children’s not only for herself but for her newly adopted daughter, Zoey, as well. Zoey was born with a similar congenital heart defect and needed surgery just like her mother.

“When we adopted her, we told them we were open to various conditions,” Granger said. “We told them we had a family history of congenital heart disease and that we fully understood it.”

McGarry said she can’t believe the team just reached the 10,000 pump case milestone and that it’s a testament to how far they’ve come.

“People now from all over the world come to see what we do,” she said. “It’s amazing and makes me very proud to have been a part of the program for so long.”

December 6, 2016

113016juliekuzin175Julie Kuzin, a nurse practitioner at Texas Children’s Heart Center, recently received the 2017 American Association of Nurse Practitioners State Award for Excellence. This prestigious award is given annually to a dedicated nurse practitioner in each state who demonstrates excellence in their area of practice.

“Since joining the cardiology team in 2004, Kuzin has cemented her place as a smart and thorough clinician who delivers safe, effective, and efficient care to our patients and their families,” said Angela Gooden, a pediatric nurse practitioner and manager of Advanced Practice Providers in Cardiology, who nominated Kuzin for this award. “We applaud Julie for the outstanding contributions she has made to the APRN practice at Texas Children’s Hospital and across the state of Texas.”

Kuzin was recognized for a number of achievements, including her leadership in advancing professional standards and practice guidelines across the organization. In partnership with Texas Children’s, Kuzin was instrumental in developing a post-master’s Acute Care PNP certification program at Texas Tech University School of Nursing in 2014 to meet professional practice needs for increased access.

Kuzin has been an active participant in efforts to reform NP practice in the state of Texas. She has travelled to multiple legislative sessions and has disseminated key information from those visits. Her fervent commitment to advancing the scope of practice at Texas Children’s was most inspiring by her colleagues when she served as the first assistant director of Acute Care Advanced Practice Providers prior to taking on faculty duties with Texas Tech. Also, Kuzin has served as a model and mentor to providers with her participation in evidenced-based practice and research.

“Many of our APRNs are unsung heroes in their practice, doing what is ordinary to advanced nursing practice but is seen as extraordinary to patients and families,” said Charley Elliott, director of Advanced Practice Providers at Texas Children’s. “We congratulate Julie for achieving this prestigious state award of excellence.”