February 16, 2016

A year ago, Knatalye and Adeline Mata lay on an operating table at Texas Children’s Hospital conjoined from the chest to the pelvis. For the next 26 hours, a team of surgeons and support staff separated the girls in an historic and intricate procedure meticulously choreographed to ensure that each step of the process would lead to and support the steps to come. Throughout the procedure, the Mata family stood by, waiting and praying for good news.

Just before 10 a.m. on February 18, 2015 the family counted their prayers as answered when they saw their girls, apart for the first time in adjacent rooms in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit, where they were cared for by a team of specialized nurses. Since then, the almost 2-year-old twins have been discharged from the hospital and are living relatively normal lives in Littlefield, Texas with their parents Elysse and John Eric, 6-year-old brother Azariah and 5-month-old sister, Mia.

“The girls are both doing awesome,” said Dr. Darrell Cass, one of the lead surgeons in the separation case. “Neither have experienced any complications and both are making steady progress.”

Knatalye is beginning to walk, talk and eat by mouth. Adeline is meeting milestones as well. Her lungs are continuing to improve and she is slowly being weaned from ventilator support. Both girls are still undergoing physical and occupational therapy.

Several members of the medical staff involved in the girl’s care got to see how much Adeline and Knatalye have grown and how far they’ve come during a recent visit the Mata family made to Texas Children’s for follow-up appointments with pediatric subspecialists monitoring the twins’ health and development.

Aimee Renaudin, one of Adeline and Knatalye’s primary nurses in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, said she is amazed that the girls are doing so well.

“You would never know how they started off their lives together,” she said. “Elysee and Eric have taken such good care of them.”

Dr. Oluyinka Olutoye, the other lead surgeon in the separation case, said it’s a blessing to see how far Adeline and Knatalye have come.

“It’s always a joy to see the changes that have gone on,” he said. “They’ve gone from just being little babies to now trying to walk and talk and interact with you.”

John Eric said his daughters have far exceeded his expectations and that he and Elysee are enjoying being able to care for the girls at home.

“It’s nice to be able to have all of us together and to be able to wake up and know that they’re there,” Elysee said. “It’s fun to be able to be mom and dad, which we didn’t get to do for the first 10 months of their lives.”

The Mata family will return to Texas Children’s this summer for a checkup. During that visit, surgeons will operate on Knatalye, removing the metal struts used to stabilize her rib cage and to close her chest wall.

To read more about their journey click here. See photos from the Mata family’s latest visit to Texas Children’s below.

January 12, 2016

11316perioperativeinside640If you ask Nakeisha Archer, president-elect of the Greater Houston Chapter of the Association of periOperative Registered Nurses (AORN), who inspired her to pursue nursing, there’s one person who comes to mind – her grandmother.

“When I was a little girl, my grandmother shared stories about how she loved taking care of patients in their homes,” Archer said. “She was a private duty nurse and the joy she derived from helping others motivated me to become a nurse.”

After graduating from nursing school with several clinical rotations under her belt, Archer spent six years as a labor and delivery nurse, which included a few years as a travel nurse. Before obtaining her MBA in health care management, she realized her niche was in the operating room (OR).

“I spent a lot of time in the OR as a labor and delivery nurse but I knew there was more to learn,” Archer said. “After completing a perioperative internship program, that’s when my passion for periop began.”

As assistant director of Perioperative Services at Texas Children’s Pavilion for Women, Archer leads a dynamic team of more than 40 nurses who assist with the planning, implementation and evaluation of patient care before, during and after surgery. These activities include patient assessment, creating and maintaining a sterile and safe surgical environment, providing pre- and post-operative patient education, monitoring the patient’s physical and emotional well-being and working closely with the surgical team to provide safe patient care during each phase of the surgical care process. Archer also collaborates with her non-nursing team whose roles are critical to the perioperative process. These include secretaries who schedule new cases, surgical technologists who scrub the cases, and perioperative care technicians and anesthesia technicians who provide specialized team support.

“Perioperative includes the entire surgical experience,” Archer said. “We see between 175 to 210 cases per month which include open, robotic and laparoscopic surgeries to treat a number of gynecological conditions including cancers, urological issues, as well as general surgery, fetal interventions, caesarean deliveries and in vitro fertilization procedures.”

The Pavilion for Women has four Main OR’s, two OR’s in labor and delivery, one procedure suite in the Main OR, and two procedure rooms in the Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility Clinic. Two more Pavilion for Women Main OR surgical suites will open in May 2016 bringing the total to six OR’s to meet the increasing demand for perioperative services.

Archer says the need to hire and retain experienced perioperative nurses to fill these new positions is one of her top priorities. She says the best way to home “grow” our nursing staff is by providing consistent educational tools and internship programs to cultivate their skills so they can easily adapt to this fast-growing nursing specialty.

“We have a lot of openings right now in periop on the Pavilion side because we’re growing,” Archer said. “Most hospitals that do not have a shortage of experienced OR nurses offer a consistent internship and residency program every six months. When you keep that pipeline going and keep those nurses coming in and consistently train them, they will be ready to be placed in their new roles.”

Since joining the Pavilion for Women two years ago, Archer is thrilled to offer the second perioperative internship program for nurses later this month. This endeavor, which will continue every six months, is part of a joint partnership with Texas Children’s Pediatric Perioperative Services.

When Archer assumes her position as AORN president in May, her passion to advance educational opportunities for nurses will be one of her primary goals.

“One of the things that I think we as leaders don’t always do is have a really good succession plan for our nurse leaders as well as our nurses who are leading at the bedside,” Archer said. “We need to provide them with opportunities to grow and re-energize their periop voices by engaging members around issues that impact them.”

Leading a multi-generational nursing workforce has become a tremendous challenge too. Archer plans to collaborate with nursing leaders to help reframe perceptions about generational differences and to view these attitudinal and behavioral differences as potential strengths.

While much of Archer’s day is spent attending meetings, rounding with nursing and physician staff and staying abreast of all the cases scheduled for each day, she says at the end of the day, her greatest joy is taking care of her patients – just like her grandmother did.

“On a really good day, I can go to our waiting area and have conversations with some of the patients and families, and make sure that things are going well,” Archer said. “That’s really the fun parts of the job. If we could do that all day, it would be really good.”

August 25, 2015

What would you do if your pregnant patient, who was five centimeters dilated, told you in the examination room, “I need to get married before I have my baby?”

For Dr. Karla Wagner and her Maternal Fetal Medicine (MFM) team at Texas Children’s Pavilion for Women, the response to their patient’s request was a no brainer. Instead of saying no, they embraced this rare and exciting opportunity.

“We knew how important it was for our patient to get married before her baby arrived,” said Aimee Jackson, a nurse practitioner and clinical manager for maternal medicine at Texas Children’s Fetal Center. “It wasn’t a matter of, “Can it happen?” It was more like, “It will happen.”

With little time on their side, the MFM staff sprung into action to fulfill their patient’s wedding wish. Within an hour, they pieced together a simple, yet elegant ceremony for expectant mom Stephanie Tallent and her soon-to-be husband Jason Nece.

The couple planned to get married over the weekend, but their plans abruptly changed on August 21 when Wagner discovered during Stephanie’s reassessment exam that she was five centimeters dilated and her baby was still breeched. Luckily, the couple had their marriage license in the car along with a white sundress that Stephanie planned to drop off at the dry cleaners.

With these two items checked off the list, the rest of the components for the ceremony fell perfectly into place.

“Stephanie got the good luck tradition for a bride,” Wagner said. “She borrowed a beautiful pearl necklace from one of my nurses, we found something blue, we decorated the room with flowers, and I gave her a bouquet of roses that I grabbed from my office so she could hold it as she walked down the aisle.”

The staff rounded up the wedding troops to ensure every detail of the ceremony was covered. Texas Children’s videographer Wally Crow and photographer Allen Kramer captured the ceremony, maternal fetal scheduler Ashanti Riggs sang a cappella and the hospital’s chaplain Johnna Faber officiated the ceremony.

Wagner’s primary nurse Susan Hardee Crosky played the “Wedding March” on her cell phone, as Wagner walked her patient down the hallway aisle into Clinical Room 3 where Stephanie and Jason exchanged their vows in front of a congregation of roughly 25 Texas Children’s MFM employees.

At the end of the ceremony, the staff quickly scrawled on a piece of paper, “Just Married” and stuck it on the back of Stephanie’s wheelchair before she was whisked away to the delivery room. Later that afternoon, Stephanie and her husband welcomed their precious baby girl, Sophia, who was delivered by caesarean section.

“I love the maternal fetal department,” Stephanie said. “They pulled everything together at the last minute and did an unbelievable job. We cannot be any happier than we are right now.”

For Wagner, she is proud of her team who went above and beyond to meet the spiritual needs of her patient.

“We value the importance of family and spiritual values,” Wagner said. “We all came together as a team on such short notice to make this couple’s wish come true, while at the same time, meeting the medical needs of our other patients in clinic.”

August 12, 2015

81215BWCameron640Dear Cameron,

Why fit in when you were born to stand out.

One year ago on July 17, you burst into the world. Your daddy raced us to Texas Children’s Pavilion for Women, and just 26 minutes later, you were born. After getting over the initial shock of your quick arrival, it sunk in that my life was changed forever. It was during your first bath that our nurse pointed out your dimples. To this day, your dimples remain one of my favorite things about you. Not only are they an adorable and unique facial feature, they are a constant symbol of your happiness. You are the happiest and smiliest baby I have ever known. You flash your smile and wave at anyone that catches your eye. It’s no wonder that people are so naturally drawn to you.

You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself in any direction you choose.

It seems like just yesterday you needed me for everything from holding your head up, getting your burps out and marathon nursing sessions. In those early days, I marveled at your every move. Watching you grow, learn and reach milestones has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. You’re not walking just yet but have several other skills that you are honing to perfection. Your fierce ball throwing, jumping and speed crawling abilities have given your athletic parents high hopes for a sporty future. Your gravitation towards books warms my heart and I love watching you light up as you explore the words and pictures. “Turn the page” was the first instruction that you consistently followed, but only with your left hand.

Oh, the Places You Will Go

The travel seed has been firmly planted in you. It was on your first out-of-town trip to the Texas Hill Country at 10 weeks of age that we discovered the ridiculous amount of baby gear you require. At four months old, you conquered a 10-hour road trip to Destin, Florida to celebrate Thanksgiving with the family. At six months, we rush ordered a passport for you, as sadly your great grandmother in England passed away. On your first flight, the Dreamliner Captain welcomed you into the cockpit and totally dug your Snoopy bomber jacket. Even though the circumstances for the trip were sad, the extended family fawned over you and happily introduced you to mushy peas. At eight months, your daddy wheeled you up and down the hilly San Francisco streets and you experienced life behind bars in an Alcatraz jail cell. Your passion for the outdoors and new experiences has made me giddy for the lifetime of travel we have ahead of us.

81215BWDearCameron640Family, like branches on a tree we all grow in a different direction, yet our roots remain as one.

You are blessed to receive so much love from your entire family. Your Grammy and Pops enthusiastically swing you at the park, play endless games of peek-a-boo and chase you around in your red sports car. Your Nanny and Grandad love exposing you to music, culture, travel, and puppies. Even though your Nanny swore she wouldn’t be “that Grandma,” she proudly showcases you all over social media. Your free-spirited nanny Sarah lovingly cares for you day after day and encourages you to become whoever it is that you want to be.

To the world you may be one person; but to one person you may be the world.

Cameron, you have taught me to practice patience, to be more selfless and to live in the moment. You have allowed me to trust my Mommy instincts and that it is ok to break “parenting rules.” I am infinitely grateful for the bond you have solidified between your Daddy and me. We are a team and you are our M.V.P. You are generous in your cuddles and sloppy kisses and gentle towards other babies and animals. You are courageous, determined and show resilience when you fail. You delight in your accomplishments and value the praise you receive. I admire these qualities and hope that the baby you are today is an indication of the man you will become.

Your first year felt both long and short and hard and effortless, however the one constant is that my love for you grows at a faster rate than you do. I am so proud to be your mom. As this first chapter in our lives together comes to a close, I will end this letter with the wise words of Dr. Seuss: “Cameron, you’re off to great places, today is your day, your mountain is waiting, so go get on your way.”

Love, Mommy (Julie Griffith)

Click on this image to watch a video slideshow of Cameron’s first year.

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July 28, 2015

72915Zarutski640As a child, we’ve all asked ourselves this question, “What do I want to be when I grow up?”

For Dr. Paul Zarutskie, the newest team member to join the Family Fertility Center at Texas Children’s Pavilion for Women, his interest in reproductive medicine happened unexpectedly.

As a young teenager, Zarutskie dreamed of becoming a pilot and aeronautics engineer who designed missiles. When he was awarded a high school grant to intern in a lab in Philadelphia, a blunder in the paperwork misassigned him to a reproductive endocrinology lab.

“I wasn’t disappointed at all,” Zarutskie said. “The science was so fascinating to me, that I never looked back. I knew this was my calling.”

Since that inspirational moment in his youth, Zarutskie finds tremendous joy helping infertile couples achieve their dream of starting a family. As a tireless patient advocate, pioneering researcher and renowned contributor to the field of reproductive medicine, Zarutskie has devoted much of his career to advancing cutting-edge fertility treatment technologies to help patients achieve the best pregnancy outcomes.

As a reproductive endocrinologist for more than 30 years, Zarutskie has developed innovative treatment protocols, drugs, devices and laboratory procedures, including intracytoplasmic sperm injection and cryopreservation, a technique that freezes and stores sperm and eggs to protect the ability of couples to conceive in the future. Zarutskie was also one of the first infertility specialists in the United States to introduce preimplantation genetic screening services into clinical practice that examines embryos for inherited genetic abnormalties, which in turn, can help identify the healthiest embryo for transfer.

Zarutskie earned his medical degree from Hahnemann Medical College, Drexel University, followed by an OB/GYN residency at Duke University Medical Center and a fellowship in reproductive endocrinology at Harvard Medical School’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital. He served most recently as chief of the Division of Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility at the University of Washington in Seattle.

After making the 2,343-mile trek to Houston, Zarutskie is thrilled to join such a reputable team of physicians, nurses and staff who share his same passion at the Family Fertility Center.

“I have known Dr. William Gibbons for a very long time and I am impressed with the incredible work being done here, particularly in the area of genetics and reproduction,” said Zarutskie, who is also an associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Baylor College of Medicine. “I am privileged to be part of this amazing team and continue to pursue my passion of helping would-be parents achieve their dream of having a baby.”

Beyond the in-depth knowledge and expertise Zarutskie brings to the Family Fertility Center, his approach to patient care helps couples find comfort knowing there is hope beyond infertility issues.

“Dr. Zarutskie is incredibly compassionate and personable, but very intelligent in explaining why I am having trouble getting pregnant,” said Family Fertility Center patient Katie Walford, who was referred to Zarutskie after her friend had successful IVF treatment with him 20 years ago. “I wanted to go with someone who I could trust.”

Besides seeing his patients, Zarutskie has published numerous scientific research articles in prestigious national and international fertility journals. Currently, he is collaborating with research colleagues to explore how obesity and metabolic issues affect oocyte retrieval, as well as how genetic markers are better defining the window of embryo implantation to improve fertilization outcomes.

“I am delighted to have someone of Dr. Zartuskie’s experience and reputation join our Pavilion for Women family,” said Dr. William Gibbons, director of the Family Fertility Center and chief of reproductive endocrinology services at Texas Children’s. “He has the skill set and the experience to enrich our practice and help us continue to provide exceptional care to our patients.”

Click here to watch a video tour of the Family Fertility Center. If you have questions, want to schedule an appointment with Dr. Zarutskie or Dr. Gibbons, or learn more about the benefits available to full-time Texas Children’s Hospital employees, call Ext. 6-7500.

June 16, 2015

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By Janielle Harrison

In less than a month, my husband, Terrence, and I will welcome the arrival of our precious daughter, Addison, at Texas Children’s Pavilion for Women. Her expected delivery date is July 24.

While most mothers-to-be discover their expecting after taking a simple home pregnancy test, that wasn’t the case for me. I never knew I was four weeks pregnant until my husband took me to the emergency room because I was having dizzy spells, feeling lightheaded and my blood pressure spiked. While I was waiting for my X-rays and blood test results to come in, Terrence and my 8-year-old son Dramodd stepped away to get something to eat. When they came back with their McDonald’s bags clutched in their hands, I broke the exciting news, “We are expecting!”

My husband was completely shocked and excited at the same time, and so was I. Immediately, he called his mom and dad to tell them the exciting news that they’d be grandparents! My son’s immediate reaction was, “Mom, you’ve been pregnant all this time and you didn’t know it?” I think he was saying my belly was getting slightly “bigger” like a pregnant person.

bwatchAs my due date approaches, my last trimester is going pretty smoothly. The first few months of my pregnancy was tough since I couldn’t hold anything down. I was severely dehydrated and my OB/GYN Dr. Carla Ortique had me admitted to the Pavilion for Women where I stayed overnight to receive intravenous fluids and anti-nausea medication. The nurses took excellent care of me. I am still taking medication for high blood pressure and visiting Texas Children’s Maternal Fetal Center every week to monitor my baby’s growth and development.

As we prepare for our daughter’s homecoming, my husband and I finished decorating Baby Addison’s nursery with princess and frog theme colors: mint green, lavender and chocolate brown. So many of our family members have showered us with beautiful gifts for Addison and they are so excited to meet our little princess.

I haven’t packed my hospital bag yet, but I am working on it. I expect to have everything ready to go by July 1 in case Addison decides to make her debut ahead of schedule.

May 19, 2015

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By: Dr. Charles Fraser, Jr.

It’s hard to imagine how precious the bond between a grandparent and grandchild is until it is personally experienced. For my wife, Helen, and me, that unforgettable moment occurred on April 10, 2015.

It all started with an early morning wake-up call from our son-in-law, David, who told us Laura was having contractions and suggested we head to the hospital. At 1:30 a.m., Helen and I – and several of our family members – hurried to Texas Children’s Pavilion for Women where we waited anxiously for the birth of our first grandchild. I say “grandchild” because none of us knew – nor did Laura and David know – whether they were having a boy or a girl…..until three hours later.

fraserAfter much anticipation, Laura gave birth to our adorable grandson, George Henry Nachtigall, at 4:40 a.m. He weighed 8 pounds and 14 ounces. When we visited Laura and David in the labor and delivery room, our hearts melted when we laid eyes on our grandson for the first time. We were overjoyed as we took turns cradling him in our arms. We were so happy for Laura and David to become new parents, and we were thrilled to assume our new roles as doting grandparents to George Henry.

What made this a truly remarkable experience was watching the outstanding care Laura received from her team of physicians and nurses at the Pavilion for Women. While it’s very rare for me to be on the labor and delivery floors – I am in the NICU a lot – I was overwhelmed by the nurturing atmosphere and the family-centered care my daughter received during her stay. Helen and I were so impressed that we sent an email to Texas Children’s CEO Mark A. Wallace chronicling our daughter’s experience and our experience at the Pavilion for Women.

The Pavilion for Women is truly an amazing place. Before its historic opening in 2012, I remember the early dialogues and the meticulous planning that went into building such a wonderful state-of-the-art facility. From a gaping hole in the ground, I watched the entire construction progress from my 19th floor office window in West Tower. Since my grandson’s birth, I’ve gained a new appreciation of why so many families, like my own, choose to deliver their babies at the Pavilion for Women.

My grandson, George Henry, is a little over a month old now. As a new grandfather, it’s fun thinking about all the things this little guy has brought to our family. He is such a joy to be around, and he is definitely the center of attention for me and Helen. George Henry’s great grandfather, Dr. Denton A. Cooley, adores him too.

Laura and David are doing well. They are learning how to be new parents and we’re learning how to be new grandparents, and as you can tell, we love every minute of it.