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.

April 14, 2015

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Surrounded by Disney’s “Frozen themed party decorations and pink and purple birthday hats, Knatalye Hope and Adeline Faith Mata reached a monumental milestone April 11 when they turned 1 year old.

The girls’ birthday fell almost a month after their successful separation surgery, during which a team of highly-specialized surgeons worked in shifts for more than 24 hours to make the girls two.

“I can’t believe it’s been a year,” said Elysse Mata, the twins’ mother. “It’s gone by so fast.”

Knatalye and Adeline were born at Texas Children’s Pavilion for Women on April 11, 2014 via Caesarean-section at 31 weeks gestation after weeks of extensive prenatal imaging, multidisciplinary consultation and planning at Texas Children’s Fetal Center. The babies each weighed 3 pounds, 7 ounces. Surgeons allowed the girls to grow and gain strength for 10 months before undertaking the difficult task of separating them. Since then, the twins have been progressing well as two separate little girls.

On April 8, Adeline underwent surgery to place a tracheostomy to aid in her breathing and lung development. The surgery also included removing the metal rods placed in her pelvis during the initial separation surgery, removing some shunts in her bladder and also placing a gastrostomy button, a special tube which helps to deliver food and medicines until a child can chew and swallow. Adeline remains in the hospital’s Pediatric Intensive Care Unit and continues to receive daily physical and occupational therapy.

On April 13, Knatalye underwent surgery to remove the rods in her pelvis and also to add a gastrostomy button for her feedings. She is currently on room air (no breathing assistance) and recovering from surgery in the PICU. She will resume daily physical and occupational therapy once fully recovered.

“The progress both of the girls have made has been amazing,” said Dr. Darrell Cass, lead surgeon and co-director of Texas Children’s Fetal Center. “I wouldn’t be surprised if both of them are going home within the next few months.”

Cass was one of several people who stopped by a celebration held by Elysse Mata on April 9 at the hospital to honor all of the Texas Children’s staff involved in the girls’ care over the past year.

In between bites of birthday cake, Warren Boudreau, the surgical business analyst who helped prepare the operating room for the twins’ separation surgery, said he stopped by the party because he wanted to meet Elysse and tell her how proud he was to be part of something so unique and interesting.

“It was an experience I will never forget,” Boudreau said. “I’m glad I had the opportunity to be a part of it.”

Alvin Perkins, the supply chain manager for the operating room during the separation surgery, said he came by the party for similar reasons.

“I wanted to tell the mother that it was a pleasure having her girls in my operating room,” Perkins said. “Every kid who comes in here is my kid and these girls are no exception.”

Chief of Pediatric Gynecology Dr. Jennifer Dietrich, one of the surgeons who operated on the girls during their separation, popped in between procedures to wish the girls a happy birthday.

“I wish they could be here,” she told Elysee.

Although the girls could not attend the celebration for their care givers, Knatalye was able to participate in a Disney’s “Frozen” themed birthday party for family and friends.

“It was such a great day,” Elysee Mata posted on her Facebook page. “We had a great turn out and the girls received lots of gifts, love and hugs! Thank you to everyone who came to the party, sent birthday wishes, and prayers and support. We are extremely grateful! Looking forward to celebrating many more!”

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Dr. Wesley Lee, co-director of Texas Children’s Fetal Center and section chief for women’s and fetal imaging at Baylor College of Medicine, recently received the William J. Fry Memorial Lecture Award from the American Institute of Ultrasound in Medicine (AIUM).

The award recognizes a current or retired AIUM member who has significantly contributed in his or her particular field to the scientific progress of medical ultrasound.

Lee’s lecture titled, “Great Expectations: The Way Forward in Fetal Imaging,” was presented during the opening session of the 2015 AIUM/WFUMB Annual Convention in Lake Buena Vista, Florida.

Among his many accomplishments, Lee has authored 148 peer-reviewed articles and 20 book chapters pertaining to maternal-fetal medicine, prenatal detection of congenital anomalies, 3-/4-dimensional fetal sonography and fetal magnetic resonance imaging.

March 24, 2015

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Growing up can be tough, especially on girls, but there’s one way to make this journey through adolescence easier for moms and daughters – preparation.

“If you equip teens and preteens with the knowledge they need to navigate the changes and challenges that lie ahead, they’ll emerge stronger, healthier, more confident young women,” said Dr. Jennifer Dietrich, Texas Children’s chief of pediatric and adolescent gynecology.

Hosted by experts from Texas Children’s and Baylor College of Medicine Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Girls Elevated is an empowering, interactive one-day event that educates teens about their bodies and helps them cope with peer pressure and self-esteem issues that often occur during puberty.

Girls between the ages of 10 and 18, and their mothers or caregivers, are invited to attend separate, age-appropriate sessions to hear from physicians, law enforcement and other experts on topics girls want and need to know about, from physical development to personal safety to healthy relationships and more.

This year’s keynote speaker, Jamie Schanbaum, will deliver an inspirational talk about overcoming adversity, positive body image and self-esteem, after losing her legs and fingers to bacterial meningitis. Her mission is to prevent others from suffering from this vaccine preventable disease.

Since the event’s launch in 2014, 120 participants attended Girls Elevated. This year, organizers are expecting an even larger crowd of 240.

Girls Elevated will be held from 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. on Saturday, April 11, at the United Way Community Resource Center at 50 Waugh Drive, Houston, TX, 77007.

Click here to register online for Girls Elevated 2015! The deadline to register is Friday, April 10.

March 3, 2015

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I felt compelled to share the story of my late son, Anthony Jaxon Llanas, who was born at Texas Children’s Pavilion for Women on October 16, 2014. Alongside his two older siblings, he was my pride and joy. I only knew him for one month, but in those 29 days, we developed a strong, unbreakable bond.

Anthonyand MommyUnlike my previous pregnancies, this pregnancy was complicated. At 32 weeks, I was hospitalized at the Pavilion for Women. During my two-week stay, many of the nurses were wonderful and made me feel comfortable. Because of polyhydramnios (excessive amniotic fluid), I had an emergency C-section and delivered a handsome 4 pound, 7 ounce baby boy.

While still in my womb, I knew Anthony’s chances for survival would be uncertain. When I was 20 weeks pregnant, Anthony was diagnosed with esophageal atresia – a congenital defect where the upper esophagus does not connect with the lower esophagus and stomach – and tracheoesophageal fistula, an abnormal connection between the esophagus and the trachea. Two weeks later, doctors discovered he had coarctation or narrowing of the aorta. Anthony was also diagnosed with CHARGE syndrome which was not confirmed until after my son passed away peacefully in my arms.

Despite Anthony’s lengthy list of health problems, I was overjoyed to see his precious little face staring right at me, but at the same time, I was nervous about his prognosis. My Little Angel was wheeled away to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at Texas Children’s Newborn Center where many of the NICU nurses took excellent care of him and answered all of my questions. He spent two weeks in the NICU before he was transferred to the Cardiovascular ICU, where a team of physicians and nurses closely monitored him.

As I struggled to stay positive while my baby was courageously fighting for his life, Anthony’s health problems quickly stacked up, one after another. Shortly after birth, Anthony was diagnosed with choanal atresia which prevented him from breathing through his nose. At 10 days old, doctors diagnosed him with severe immune system deficiency. His T-cells were lower than most normal babies at birth.

JuliaWhen Anthony was one week old, he had his first surgery to correct esophageal atresia, and two days later, he had surgery to treat choanal atresia. Anthony underwent bypass open heart surgery a few days later to repair the narrowing of his aorta, which eventually caused his heart rate to increase and be off rhythm. He was placed on an Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation (ECHMO) machine because his lungs and heart were too weak to function on their own. While he was on the ECHMO machine, his left lung collapsed. The day after his bypass, he was taken off the machine, but since his heart could not tolerate it, he was placed on the ECHMO machine for a second time. Sadly, Anthony’s extremely weak heart and lung were not cooperating.

On Wednesday, November 12, 2014, doctors told us Anthony’s heart rate was steadily dropping and that his body was not recovering from the multiple surgeries. He was getting sicker and they felt there was nothing more that could be done.

After hanging on for so long and enduring all of the surgeries to save his life, he passed away in my arms in a room full of people who loved him. He was by far the strongest and the most beautiful baby boy I’ve ever met. As all parents who’ve dealt with a loss of a child, I wish I could have done things differently to prevent his death, but with the support of Zoey’s Angels, they’ve helped me understand that I did as much as a parent could do and that his memory is not erased. If anything, it has just begun.

Four months after the tragic loss of my baby, I am back at work. While it’s been a difficult road for me and my family, my colleagues and manager, Lindi Stegeman, have been so supportive and I am so grateful to be working with such wonderful people.

February 24, 2015

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During the early morning hours of February 17, Elysse Mata sat holding her babies tightly, kissing them as tears ran down her face. She was saying goodbye to her girls, conjoined for the last time before undergoing a historical surgery that would offer them their first chance at separate lives.

“We’ve been waiting for this moment for a year,” Elysse said. “Ever since we found out the twins were conjoined, we’ve been praying and hoping this day would come.”

Conjoined twins Knatalye Hope and Adeline Faith Mata – known by their family simply as Hope and Faith – were born at Texas Children’s Pavilion for Women on April 11, 2014 via Caesarean-section at 31 weeks gestation after weeks of extensive prenatal imaging, multidisciplinary consultation and planning at Texas Children’s Fetal Center. The babies each weighed 3 pounds, 7 ounces.

Surgeons allowed the girls to grow and gain strength for 10 months before undertaking the difficult task of separating them. During that time our comprehensive team of surgeons, physicians, nurses and support staff prepared for the day that had finally arrived. The lead surgeons had met and thoughtfully examined every aspect of their procedure, the simulation staff prepared the team for complications, and Critical Care nurses were readying the PICU for the girls post-surgery.

Letting go

In those quiet, prayerful moments before the surgery, Elysse’s husband, John Eric, and their 5-year-old son, Azariah, were also near, kissing the girls’ foreheads and squeezing their tiny hands while they anxiously awaited the start of the surgery that would change the girls’ lives forever. A group of extended family, friends and a Texas Children’s Hospital chaplain joined the Matas for an emotional prayer.

Lead surgeon Dr. Darrell Cass entered the room, gave the family a hug, and with the help of supporting operating room staff, escorted the girls to Texas Children’s Operating Room 12. Members of the girls’ NICU care team, who had been by their sides for almost a year, lined the hallways in an emotional show of support.

Just after 7 a.m., Hope and Faith were wheeled into the operating room where a team of 12 surgeons from seven specialties, six anesthesiologists, eight highly trained nurses and support staff spent nearly 24 hours performing an operation that would eventually separate the twins.

Surgery begins

During the first few hours of the procedure, Anesthesiologist Dr. Helana Karlberg and Surgical Nurse Audra Rushing prepped the girls for surgery. At 1:10 p.m., Chief of Plastic Surgery Dr. Larry Hollier made the first incision. For the next 18 hours, the surgical team worked in shifts to separate the twins, who shared a chest wall, pericardial sac (the lining of the heart), diaphragm, liver, intestines, bladder, uterus and pelvis.

As the surgeons continued the difficult task, family and friends gathered in a large, room praying and supporting the parents while they waited for updates from the surgical team.

“This is the (most difficult) feeling ever,” said John Eric Mata as he and Elysse waited for their first in-person update. “It’s giving me too much time to think. I’ll be a lot more comfortable when they say they are separated. I’m ready for that.”

At one point, the family was told there had been a rocky part in the procedure when the twin’s livers were being operated on. During that process, surgeons explained there was quite a bit of blood loss and that the anesthesiologists and cardiologist in the room had to keep up with that and maintain the girls’ blood pressure.

“At times it was difficult,” Hollier said. “But it was controlled very rapidly, allowing us to move on with the procedure.”

Hours later, Eric and Elysse heard the answer to months of prayers when Pediatric Surgeon Dr. Oluyinka Olutoye met them in a private consult room and delivered the good news – the twins had been successfully separated.

“This is the farthest they’ve been from each other,” Olutoye said when we greeted the family around 1 a.m. “They’re about 30 feet apart right now.”

They are two

Separate for the first time, the twins were taken to different operating rooms where surgeons continued to work on the girls’ critical organs. Just before 10 a.m., the surgery was complete, and the family visited their girls, apart for the first time in rooms next to each other in the PICU, where they are being cared for by a team of their NICU primary nurses and their new PICU nurses.

Elysse said she and her family are extremely grateful for the team that separated her babies, and the countless hours they put into understanding the girls’ condition, and how best to treat and care for them.

Cass and several of the other surgeons, including plastic surgeon Dr. Ed Buchanan, met the family in Adeline’s room to share in the family’s joy and relief. They gave the family a summary of the monumental procedure and explained what they should expect in the next few days.

“Thank you for your trust,” Cass said to the Mata family. “We are going to keep doing everything we can to get them through this. So far, so good.”

Hollier said that to the best we know this is the first time a case of this magnitude – conjoined twins connected at the chest, abdomen and pelvis – has ever been done.

“It could not have gone better,” he said. “It was phenomenal team work and great preparation on the part of the institution.”

Click on the photo to view a gallery showing the Mata’s journey to separation.
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A dream realized

By late morning Wednesday, February 19, Elysse and John Eric were again with their babies, watching over their girls, now in two beds, in adjoining PICU rooms. It was a moment they had been waiting for since more than a year ago when a routine ultrasound revealed that Elysse was carrying conjoined twins. They traveled from their hometown of Lubbock to Texas Children’s Fetal Center, where the next chapter of their journey began.

Today, their family has a promising new chapter, thanks to the compassionate expertise of our physicians, nurses and countless staff and employees.

“We love them,” Elysse said of the girls’ medical team. “They mean the world to us, and they will forever hold a special place in our hearts.”

Conjoined Twins Separation Surgical Team

  • Plastic Surgeon Dr. Ed Buchanan
  • Lead Pediatric Surgeon and Co-Director of Texas Children’s Fetal Center Dr. Darrell Cass
  • Chief of Pediatric Gynecology Dr. Jennifer Dietrich
  • Pediatric Urologist Dr. Patricio Gargollo
  • Transplant Services Surgeon Dr. John Goss
  • Anesthesiologist Dr. Kalyani Govindan
  • Chief of Plastic Surgery Dr. Larry Hollier
  • Lead Anesthesiologist Dr. Helena Karlberg
  • Plastic Surgeon Dr. David Khechoyan
  • Pediatric Urologist Dr. Chester Koh
  • Cardiovascular Surgeon Dr. Dean McKenzie
  • Pediatric Surgeon and Co-Director of Texas Children’s Fetal Center Dr. Oluyinka Olutoye
  • Anesthesiologist Dr. Olutoyin Olutoye
  • Chief of Orthopedics Dr. William Phillips
  • Lead Surgical Nurse Audra Rushing
  • Anesthesiologist Dr. Steve Stayer

Learn more about the Mata twins and the preparation Texas Children’s team took on to care for the girls:
Mata conjoined twins born at Texas Children’s
Tissue expander surgery allows twins to prepare for separation surgery
Mata twins’ care team helps create swing for baby girls
Radiology team helps prepare surgeons for separation surgery with 3D model