October 17, 2017

Kristen Marie Hersey, RN, Women’s Services, passed away on July 30, 2017 at the age of 33.

Kristen was a member of the inpatient Women’s Services Labor & Delivery Team. Kristen dedicated her life to helping others and was always willing to help even when exhausted. Kristen loved her job! She considered being a nurse more of a calling than a job. Kristen cherished being able to help others bring life into the world and had a pure joy for every baby born. Kristen cared for so many people and made friends wherever she went. Kristen loved her children more than anything, and taught them to pray and thank God for all of our gifts and made sure they knew how much they are loved. Kristen was a friend to all, her loving personality, giving spirit, listening ear, and that smile that could light up the unit will be greatly missed by her team and fellow employees.

Kristen is survived by her loving husband, Shawn; children, Isla and Rowan; mother, Lisa; father, James; stepfather, Mark; Mother- and Father-in-law, Tammie and Gary; sisters, Trina Ouztz (husband, Matt) and Alli Combs (husband Drew); Sister-in-law, Kati; nieces and nephews, Emma, Liam, Eli, Lily Anne, William, Grady, Layton, Allison, Austin, Abigail; and many other loving family and friends.

October 10, 2017

Texas Children’s collaborative work to develop a novel device to anchor the chorio-amniotic membranes during fetal surgery was recently funded by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute Of Child Health & Human Development (NICHD) of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

Partnering with Baylor College of Medicine, the Department of Bioengineering at Texas A&M University, and local life sciences commercialization firm Fannin Innovation Studio, the $225,000 Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grant will be used to advance the development of a device that can be introduced into the uterine cavity under ultrasound guidance to anchor the chorio-amniotic membranes, thereby reducing the risk for premature rupture of membranes (PROM) during fetal surgery.

Preterm PROM is the most frequent complication associated with fetal surgery and can increase the risk of premature delivery that could potentially add the insult or prematurity to the fetal anomaly that leads to the need for fetal surgery.

Through the Texas A&M undergraduate and graduate design program, a group of Texas A&M engineering students collaborated with Dr. Jimmy Espinoza and OB/Gyn-in-Chief Dr. Michael A. Belfort, obstetricians and gynecologists, and fetal surgeons at Texas Children’s and Baylor, to create the device in 2016. Espinoza and Belfort challenged the students to develop innovative tools that could be percutaneously introduced into the uterus during fetal surgery to anchor the chorio-amniotic membranes in order to reduce the risk of preterm PROM.

Fetal surgery is a relatively new discipline that aims to reduce the risk for fetal death in conditions such as twin-to-twin transfusion syndrome, severe fetal anemia, congenital diaphragmatic hernia or fetal hydrops, or reduce the long term complications and improve the quality of life in conditions such as spina bifida. Texas Children’s and Baylor are at the forefront on fetal surgery in the U.S. and have innovated techniques to make fetal surgery safer for the mothers and their unborn children.

After extensively collaborating with Texas Children’s surgeons to understand the challenges of anchoring the chorio-amniotic membranes during fetal surgery and the need for refinement, the collaborative team developed a device that can be percutaneously introduced into the uterine cavity under ultrasound guidance in order to anchor the chorio-amniotic membranes to reduce the risk for preterm PROM. This new innovation in fetal surgery could potentially be used in all fetal surgeries because of its percutaneous approach and should reduce the risk for the most common complication associated with fetal surgery, namely pre-term PROM.

“The development of new devices and new approaches in fetal surgery is very important to make fetal interventions safer not only for the fetus but also for the mother,” said Espinoza, co-director of the Fetal Center at Texas Children’s. “The decision to proceed to fetal surgery is very altruistic for the mothers because they will be exposed to risks associated with surgery for the benefit of their unborn child. Thus, we have the obligation to minimize those risks. This award recognizes the academic partnerships that are necessary to advance the frontiers of fetal surgery.”

The team’s invention has won the top prize at Texas A&M University’s 2016 annual Engineering Design Showcase. The project was judged against over 700 students on more than 150 other projects.

October 3, 2017

Texas Children’s President and CEO Mark Wallace and his wife, Shannon, recently donated a very special gift to the Texas Children’s Pawsitive Play Program in memory of their beloved black Labrador, Cadence. The Wallaces have generously pledged an initial $80,000 contribution to the program to enable Texas Children’s to hire another animal-assisted therapy coordinator and therapy dog team to provide therapeutic interventions for patients and families in the Legacy Tower.

“Shannon and I are both animal lovers through and through, and we could not think of a better way to honor Cadence than by donating to the Pawsitive Play Program in her memory,” Wallace said. “We were very attached to Cadence, who brought us so much joy before she passed away. We saw what a positive impact Elsa has made on our patients and their families, and we know the addition of a new therapy dog will allow even more of our patients, employees and staff to benefit from this program in the Legacy Tower.”

Since joining Texas Children’s one year ago, Elsa, Texas Children’s first therapy dog, has provided targeted therapeutic interventions to patients and their families in numerous patient care settings at the Texas Children’s medical center campus. The hospital’s second therapy dog will be specifically trained to care for patients and families in the critical care environment.

“The Pawsitive Play program has made an incredible difference in the healing process for our patients and their families,” said Texas Children’s Assistant Vice President Sarah Maytum. “And the impact extends to our employees and physicians as well. Elsa brightens everyone’s day. I often see her in the hallway, surrounded by a crowd of employees who have stopped to greet Elsa as she is on her way to see patients.”

Texas Children’s will again collaborate with Canine Assistants, a non-profit organization in Atlanta, Georgia, that has matched more than 1,500 therapy dogs, including individual and hospital placements. The organization will conduct a site visit to learn more about the critical care areas of the Legacy Tower before selecting the ideal therapy dog for that environment.

Many of the clinical areas that are moving into Legacy Tower have had great success with the Pawsitive Play Program already. Elsa visits the intensive care and progressive care units on a regular basis. While some patients will not be able to receive a visit from the new service dog because of their clinical conditions, the families, visitors and staff throughout Legacy Tower will be able to experience the comfort of our newest therapy dog.

The Wallaces’ contribution will support Texas Children’s second therapy dog and its handler over the 8-year service life of the dog. Texas Children’s plans to have this new furry companion on staff in early 2018. This will allow sufficient time to get the newest furry member of the team oriented and ready for the opening of Legacy Tower.

“Legacy Tower is so distinctive and innovative,” Wallace said. “It is being equipped with the most advanced technology and much larger, family-centered critical care spaces. It will complement the hospital’s existing ORs and radiology services, and will be home to Texas Children’s No. 1 ranked Heart Center. With so much to look forward to, Shannon and I thought it would be great to bring a special new therapy dog to the patients we will care for in our new critical care tower. We are so fortunate to be able to do something like this, and we both can’t wait to welcome our new friend.”

August 22, 2017

On August 5, more than 450 patients and families traveled from all over the country for the 2017 Texas Children’s Newborn Center family reunion. The reunion celebrated former patients who graduated from the Newborn Center in 2016 after spending 10 days or more in our neonatal intensive care unit (NICU).

The reunion was held at Texas Children’s Pavilion for Women where parents shared stories of hope and triumph with other NICU families and reconnected with the nurses and doctors who delivered life-saving care to their critically ill babies.

“The NICU reunion is one of the most special times of the year for us,” said Texas Children’s Chief of Neonatology Dr. Gauthum Suresh. “The families were so grateful to be able to come back and share the great progress their babies have made. It gave them the opportunity to visit with the employees, physicians and other families that they spent so much time with while being cared for in our NICU.”

Highlights from the reunion included remarks from Suresh, Newborn Center Vice President Judy Swanson, Newborn Center Family Advisory Committee (NFAC) members Desiree Bradley-Collins and Katy Haynes, and blessings from Texas Children’s chaplain Naguib Kedeas.

The NICU reunion also offered children’s entertainment including a DJ, games, photo booth, face painting, crafts, airbrush tattoos, appearances from Minnie Mouse, SpongeBob Square Pants and Pikachu, and guests enjoyed a good old-fashioned Texas barbecue.

The Newborn Center team thanked everyone who helped organize this successful event including Texas Children’s NFAC Committee and Bad Pants, an organization that has raised more than $1 million to support the Newborn Center through the annual Bad Pants Open golf tournament.

Creola “Gwen” Calhoun, Unit Clerical Assistant, Women’s Services, passed away on July 10, 2017 at the age of 61.

Creola Calhoun, affectionately known as Gwen by those who knew and loved her began her career at St. Luke’s Hospital in March of 1982 before transitioning to Texas Children’s Hospital with the Women’s Services department in 2006. For 35 years, Ms. Gwen served the Women’s Services team as a patient care assistant and a unit clerical assistant on the Labor & Delivery and Antepartum Unit. Throughout her tenure, Ms. Gwen built many long-lasting bonds and friendships that she honored and cherished.

Gwen leaves to cherish her precious memories two daughters, Yolanda (Michael) and Yvonne (Lavarvia); two sons, Stafford Sr. (Viola) and Daniel (Melody); four sisters, three brothers, four grandsons, two granddaughters, one great granddaughter, and other relatives, and friends who loved her dearly.

August 1, 2017

As a mother to three young boys, Sarah Yarbrough made sure her babies received the best life-saving gift she could give them – her own breast milk. While breastfeeding has many health benefits for infants, Yarbrough knows the challenges that new mothers often experience during their breastfeeding journey.

“After the birth of my first baby, I had a lot of difficulty with breastfeeding,” said Yarbrough, a lactation consultant at Texas Children’s Pavilion for Women. “Without the help of a very dedicated postpartum nurse and my mother, I would have had a much harder time.”

Besides being a mom, Yarbrough finds her job at the Pavilion for Women very rewarding – educating new mothers on the health benefits of breastfeeding and helping them achieve their breastfeeding goals.

“We assist mothers with positions and techniques for breastfeeding and develop individualized care plans for families when feedings aren’t going as planned,” Yarbrough said. “We also assist families in all areas of the hospital with their unique breastfeeding situation including NICU moms who need help getting their milk supply established so they can feed their pre-term infants at the appropriate time.”

As a designated Baby Friendly Hospital, the Pavilion for Women has implemented several evidence-based breastfeeding practices which include teaching moms to respond to their infant’s early feeding cues rather than schedule feedings, implementing skin-to-skin contact between mom and baby after delivery and encouraging “rooming in” so mothers and infants can stay together 24 hours a day.

The Pavilion for Women provides other breastfeeding support services which include:

  • Baby Bistro provides one-on-one consultation with an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant. Prenatal and postpartum outpatient visits are available by calling 832-826-8881.
  • The Bistro is located inside Bella Luna Boutique on the third floor of the Pavilion for Women. The Bella Luna provides breast pumps for purchase or rental. Employees pay a monthly rental fee, but have the opportunity to get reimbursed through Texas Children’s Blue Cross Blue Shield insurance provider.
  • Employee pumping locations are located at all Texas Children’s Hospital campuses.
  • Mother’s Milk Bank prepares more than 800 syringes or bottles of milk each day for an average of 100 infants in the neonatal intensive care unit based on instructions provided by physician. Mothers who produce a surplus of breast milk can donate their supply to the Mothers’ Milk Bank.
  • Educational classes on breastfeeding are offered at the Pavilion for Women.

“When I began working at the Pavilion for Women, I was amazed at the amount of support given to breastfeeding moms, not only by the lactation team, but the entire Pavilion staff,” Yarbrough said. “To me, this supportive environment is the ideal place to deliver a baby.”

In recognition of World Breastfeeding Week from July 31 to August 4, the Pavilion for Women’s lactation support team has several activities planned including an event on Wednesday, August 2, at The Auxiliary Bridge that will include games, prizes and a photo booth.

June 27, 2017

Nearly two years ago, Kate Hurlbut, a nurse practitioner for Texas Children’s Pediatrics, and her husband Phillip, mourned the loss of their 7-week-old twin daughter, Ella, who was cared for at Texas Children’s Newborn Center.

Ella developed a widespread bacterial infection when she was five weeks old and fought hard for two weeks but passed away in September 2015. Their twin daughter, Anna, stayed in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) for 83 days before going home to be with her family and 3-year-old brother Luke.

Since Ella’s passing, Hurlbut says one thing that has helped her and her husband find healing is providing support to other grieving NICU families going through similar situations.

“As thankful as we are for the care we received when Ella passed, it also made us realize the need for a more private environment for parents to be able to say goodbye to their babies,” Kate said. “So, when the opportunity presented itself to raise money to open a bereavement room for the Pavilion NICU in Ella’s memory, we felt like this was our opportunity to improve bereavement care for other grieving families.”

Thanks to the Hurlbuts fundraising efforts, their vision soon became a reality. On June 22, the Butterfly Room in the NICU at the Pavilion for Women was dedicated during a special ceremony attended by more than 80 people including NICU leadership, staff and NICU families. Speakers at the dedication ceremony included the Hurlbuts, Chief of Neonatology Dr. Gauthum Suresh, NICU Nursing Director Heather Cherry and NICU Vice President Judy Swanson.

Just as the Hurlbuts envisioned, the bereavement room is designed like a nursery with a crib, comfortable seating for the family and a special private place for families to take as much time as they need to say goodbye to their baby.

“We are incredibly grateful we have been able to raise the funds for this room thanks to the generosity of our friends, family, co-workers and our community,” Kate said. “We hope this room will bring peace and comfort to other bereaved families for many years to come.”