August 22, 2017

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.”

June 13, 2017

Lynlee Boemer, a miracle baby who underwent fetal surgery performed at Texas Children’s Fetal Center to remove a large tumor (Sacrococcygeal Teratoma) growing from her spine, celebrated her first birthday on June 6.

Last week, Jeff and Margaret Boemer were at Texas Children’s for their daughter’s follow-up clinic appointment with Dr. Oluyinka Olutoye, co-director of the Fetal Center. Since their daughter’s surgery, Lynlee is meeting all of her milestones and is very active. She loves to crawl, pull up to stand and has several favorite words she likes to say like, “hi, bye-bye and Mama and Da-Da.”

“She has been in physical therapy, and thankfully, we have been able to take a break from that since she is doing so well,” said Lynlee’s mom Margaret Boemer. “She’s pulling up and almost walking. But we’re also seeing other doctors to check for GI and urology type issues. But other than that, she is doing really, really well.”

Boemer says one of the biggest blessings of sharing Lynlee’s story has been that other women pregnant with babies who have the same diagnosis as Lynlee are reaching out to her via social media, and she is able to give them hope and often refers them to Texas Children’s Fetal Center.

Boemer was 23 weeks and 5 days pregnant with her daughter Lynlee when she underwent emergency fetal surgery to remove the baby’s Sacrococcygeal Teratoma (SCT), a large vascular mass. Occurring in only 1 in 40,000 pregnancies, Lynlee’s SCT was robbing her blood supply and would eventually cause heart failure.

Lynlee had a 50/50 chance of survival. Olutoye and a surgical team worked for approximately five hours to remove the tumor growing from the baby’s tailbone, which was almost larger than the baby herself.

During the surgery, Lynlee’s heart stopped and had to be re-started and she was also given a blood transfusion. Surgeons made an incision in Margaret’s uterus and pulled out the baby from her legs to her torso so they could remove the tumor. Once the incision was closed, Lynlee was placed back inside of her mother and Margaret’s uterus was sewn shut and she was on bed rest for the remainder of her pregnancy. Surgeons were able to remove about 90 percent of the tumor, but as the pregnancy progressed, the tumor began to grow again.

Margaret was 36 weeks pregnant when Lynlee Hope was born for the second time via C-section on June 6, 2016 weighing 5 lbs., 5 oz. Lynlee was taken to the level 3 NICU for an evaluation, but was doing so well she was transferred to the level 2 nursery. At 8 days old, Lynlee underwent a second surgery to remove the rest of the tumor from her tailbone including some that had grown inside of her body.

Olutoye removed the remaining SCT tissue and Lynlee recovered wonderfully in the NICU and was able to go home just weeks after her surgery.

The family, from Lewisville, Texas, is now enjoying life at home as a family of five and they come to Texas Children’s for check-ups as Lynlee grows.

“We’re thankful that we gave her a chance at life,” Boemer said. “And we’re very grateful for all that the doctors at Texas Children’s have done to give her that life and all the wonderful care that they gave me and Lynlee while we were here.”

May 16, 2017

Hearing the words, “you’re pregnant” can be an exciting, life-changing moment. But for many couples struggling with infertility, the journey to parenthood is frustrating, stressful, and can at times feel hopeless.

For almost two years, Brooke Schmitt and her husband, Daniel, struggled to start a family, but infertility issues got in the way of achieving their dream of parenthood.

“My OB/GYN ran several tests, and it turned out that my numbers were really low,” Brooke said. “Since my ovaries were not releasing eggs, my doctor recommended that I consult with a fertility specialist.”

After consultations with other providers, Schmitt chose the Family Fertility Center at Texas Children’s Pavilion for Women, a regional and national leader in providing advanced fertility services to families who have had difficulty conceiving.

Since opening in July 2014, the center’s reputation was strengthened even more in 2016 when its success rates for in-vitro fertilization (IVF) reached a milestone – 47 percent of embryo transfer patients at the Center achieved clinical pregnancy.

Dr. William Gibbons, chief of Reproductive Medicine at the Pavilion for Women and founding director of the Family Fertility Center, credits the Center’s success to numerous factors – state-of-the-art technology, research and support of Texas Children’s Hospital.

“Texas Children’s allowed me to have resources that many IVF programs don’t have,” Gibbons said. “They enabled us to build the absolute best lab that we could have, and we have almost as much research lab space as clinical lab space.”

The Family Fertility Center is the first in Houston and among the early adopters in the U.S. to offer the EmbryoScope, an embryo monitoring system that provides continuous moving time-lapse images of embryos as they grow. This technology allows fertility specialists to identify the healthiest embryo to transfer to the patient to improve IVF success.

Realizing the uncertainties that often accompany fertility treatments, the Schmitts relied on the Center’s expertise and state-of-the-art capabilities to help facilitate their dream of becoming parents. After consulting with their reproductive endocrinologist Dr. Paul Zarutskie, Brooke and her husband elected to pursue IVF.

“I was really lucky – my numbers were great,” Brooke said. “They retrieved about 41 eggs, and 39 of them fertilized successfully.”

At the end of day five, 12 of Brooke’s embryos were still living. All of them underwent genetic testing, and five of them were healthy. She and her husband, Daniel, implanted an embryo. The other four healthy embryos were cryogenically preserved for future implantation.

Brooke was implanted with an embryo on February 5, 2016. After undergoing blood work to confirm the couple was pregnant, the test came back positive.

Their daughter, Sophia, was born October 19, 2016.

“It’s a surreal feeling to know that you’re a parent and you’ve made this baby,” Brooke said. “We know we couldn’t have made her without the help of Dr. Zarutskie and the fertility team. Between the talent and the state-of-the-art technology there, it was a perfect combination that produced a perfect outcome.”

To read more about the Schmitts’ story in Texas Children’s Annual Report, click here. To learn more about Texas Children’s Family Fertility Center, click here.

May 3, 2017

On April 23, more than 30,000 people from across the Greater Houston community laced up to participate in the 2017 March for Babies walk at the University of Houston, including more than 850 Texas Children’s employees, patients and their families who all share the same passion for improving the health of babies.

This year, Texas Children’s contributed $125,000 as the Premier sponsor of the 4.5-mile walk and our employees have personally raised more than $93,000 to date to support the March of Dimes. Baylor College of Medicine, Greater Houston Anesthesiology and Morrison partnered with Texas Children’s and sponsored snacks and dessert, water, t-shirts, a tent and disc jockey.

Several months prior to the March for Babies walk, departments and units from across the organization formed their own teams to help raise money and rally support around this worthy cause. Creative teams across the organization hosted barbecues, designed and sold t-shirts, held bake sales, arranged bike tours and even paid to give their leaders a pie in the face to raise money and awareness. Each of the 60 teams raised an average of $1,900 all of which helped Texas Children’s exceed this year’s fundraising goal of $120,000.

“It was great to see everyone come together and support one another to give every baby a fighting chance,” said Cris Daskevich, senior vice president at Texas Children’s Pavilion for Women. “Since 1984, Texas Children’s and Baylor College of Medicine have received more than $16 million from the March of Dimes to support research to prevent birth defects and prematurity. Our long-term partnership has helped significantly improve outcomes and quality of life for some of our most fragile babies – giving hope to patients and families when there once was none.”

Texas Children’s employee Leanne O’Brien and her husband, Kiran, were Houston’s 2017 Ambassador Family for the March of Dimes. Their twins, Remy and Ronan, were cared for in the neonatal intensive care unit at Texas Children’s for four and a half months.

April 25, 2017

In 2012, we first met the Perkins sextuplets on Connect when they were born 10 weeks premature at Texas Children’s Pavilion for Women. Today, these babies aren’t so little anymore. On April 23, Andrew, Benjamin, Caroline, Allison, Levi and Leah celebrated their fifth birthday.

“Part of me can’t believe we made it this far,” Lauren Perkins said. “I remember when they were little babies dreaming of this time. If I can make it until they are four or five and we’ll be past all these bottles and the potty training and the diapers, then we’ll know we’re good. We definitely survived the little years.”

For Lauren and her husband Dave, every day is a busy day in the Perkins home, especially when you have to keep up with six energetic five year olds who will start Kindergarten in the fall. Leah, who stayed at Texas Children’s neonatal intensive care unit much longer than her siblings, already attends a special school for children with developmental and physical disabilities.

So, what is a typical day like in the Perkins home? Recently, we visited the family to find out and to see how much their babies have grown over the last five years.

Referred to as the Perkins Pack – Texas’ first surviving set of sextuplets – a typical day includes preschool class three days a week, swim, soccer and dance classes. While they love to listen to music, watch TV and play outside, they also enjoy helping their mom cook. The sextuplets also have plenty of chores to do around the house like making their beds and picking up their toys. They are at an age where they all enjoy playing together.

“It’s definitely a lot of teamwork for me and my husband,” Perkins said. “I take care of them during the day, and when Dave gets home from work in the evening, he prepares dinner, gives them baths, and is very involved in their day-to-day lives including being an assistant coach on their little soccer team.”

The Perkins never imagined that they would be blessed with six beautiful babies. After struggling with infertility, the couple decided to try one round of intra-uterine insemination and ovulatory stimulating drugs to conceive what they hoped would be their first child.

“It’s pretty crazy that I carried six babies at once and they’re all here and we’re all good,” Perkins said. “It’s a miracle and a true testament of what God can do.”