Miracle Month of May benefiting Driscoll Children's Hospital
Put your money where the miracles are!
Author: KIII Staff
Published: 3:16 PM CDT April 25, 2019
Updated: 2:07 PM CDT June 9, 2019
FEATURES 9 Articles

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — Every year, Kiii-TV has supported Driscoll Children’s Hospital and the Children's Miracle Network. It's a tradition that will continue during this Miracle Month of May.

For the entire month, 3News will be sharing exclusive, heartwarming stories featuring children, families and doctors who have been a part of the miracles at Driscoll Children's Hospital. Every Monday and Thursday, 3News will present these Miracle Stories at 6 p.m., as well as Tuesdays and Fridays on 3News First Edition.

This special month will culminate in the Children's Celebration from 2-5 p.m. June 9th at Whataburger Field,  but you have the entire month to donate!

To donate, you can text "Driscoll" to 71760 or call 1-800-815-1504.

You can also donate online at DriscollChildrens.org/donate.


Miracle Month of May benefiting Driscoll Children's Hospital

Chapter 1

Miracle Story: The Driscoll Twins

Ximena and Scarlett Torres

A pair of conjoined twins from the Rio Grande Valley were successfully separated three years ago by a team of surgeons at Driscoll Children's Hospital in Corpus Christi.

The twin girls were 10 months old at the time. They were born as triplets, but only two of the girls were conjoined.

Now, three years later, they are living proof that miracles really do happen.

RELATED: 3News Extra: The Driscoll Twins

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It was back in 2016 when Ximena and Scarlett awaited their separation surgery. A touching photo went viral before the surgery -- the team of more than a dozen medical experts holding hands, heads bowed in prayer, asking for divine intervention.

"It wasn't just the surgeons," Dr. Haroon Patel said. "It was a combination of nurses, or personnel. We had a team of 45 to 50  people involved."

Patel was the lead surgeon during the separation procedure. He recalled the long day and has now had time to absorb the magnitude of the complex operations that they accomplished.

"Prior to this set of conjoined twins in a triplet pregnancy, there's not been any known survivors," Patel said. "So we feel very fortunate. Very blessed. And the fact that they're doing so well, is great."

Ximena and Scarlett recently caught up with 3News at Driscoll Children's Hospital's specialty clinic in the Rio Grande Valley. Today, they are full of energy and embracing life to its fullest.

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The twins are thriving.

"This is Scarlett Torres and this is Ximena Torres," their mother Sylvia Ambriz said.

Ambriz and her husband Juan said the girls' recovery is nothing short of miraculous.

"Feel blessed, because all the people that would watch the news reports of my two children, or follow their progress on social media, they prayed for them. They worried about this. They would send me things for my girls and I am forever thankful," Ambriz said. "That helped me, because my daughters weren't the only ones suffering. I was also going through my own rough parts of life."

As far as a prognosis for the rambunctious four-year-olds, Dr. Patel said it is all good.

"The time that I am seeing them is being spaced out even more, which is a good thing. It means that they need less and less in terms of surgical care," Patel said. "Now that is not to say they wont need care, but at least for the immediate near-term future, there's not a whole lot they're needing surgically."

Ximena has been a little slower in making progress. She has only one kidney and it is not functioning properly, so she is seen often by her doctors. However, her mom and dad believe what gets them through the rough spots -- the seemingly endless trips to the doctors office -- is one very important element in their lives.

"We are here, moving forward and nothing is ever going to stop us, because we know God is with us," Ambriz said. "And with the help of all these wonderful doctors and nurses, we will succeed."

With deep faith and positive words, they believe blessings will come for Ximena, Scarlett and the rest of the family.

As for as the other sister in the set of triplets, named Catalina, she is doing well and also thriving.

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Chapter 2

Miracle Story: Eyla Saenz

This toddler is not only a survivor, but she is also a walking medical mystery.

Once again 3News is teaming up during the month of May with Driscoll Children's Hospital to bring you the latest miracle stories.

This toddler is not only a survivor, but she is also a walking medical mystery.

At only 16 weeks pregnant, Melissa Saenz' water broke. She was rushed to the emergency room where she was told her unborn daughter, Eyla, would most likely not survive.

RELATED: Miracle Stories: Eyla Saenz

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Eyla was miraculously brought into this world at 26 weeks -- alive, but not without challenges ahead.

"She had grade three, almost grade four bilateral brain bleeds," Saenz said. "Two holes in her heart. She had very premature lungs because of course she was so tiny, and had multiple blood transfusions and things like that."

Eyla is now two years old and is full of curiosity and sparkle.

A year ago though, she was fighting to eat. She couldn't take a bottle. The food was going into her lungs.

Eyla's eating condition is not considered rare, but it was big a problem on top of many for her. She ended up needing a feeding tube in her stomach.

Dr. Ashok Jain, a pediatric gastroenterologist at Driscoll Children's Hospital, has been working with her to keep her food down.

"So we actually end up feeding her beyond the stomach, directly into the small intestine so that no formula can come up," Jain said.

Over time, with therapy, she was able to advance her way of feeding from the intestines to the stomach, and eventually learn to eat by mouth -- but not without the help of Driscoll's therapy teams.

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"Speech therapists, dietitians," Jain said. "So there are a lot of other team players that come in, along with the child's attitude and mom's help."

"I say she is the secret shopper of Driscoll because she is in every department here," Saenz said.

Eyla continues to travel to Driscoll Children's Hospital three times a week for therapy and to see a team of doctors. Despite her progress, she is still a medical mystery to be solved.

"They're trying to figure out why she doesn't grow," Saenz said. "She's very small for her age. She eats like a horse and doesn't gain a pound."

Saenz said she and Dr. Jain work closely together through food logs and different tests to try solve the problem.

Eyla's family lives in Ricardo, Texas, near Kingsville. Traveling back and forth can be exhausting, but Saenz said it's easier for her to come to one spot where everyone already knows her daughter's medical history.

"Having all of her doctors here, her specialists, you know, they can always meet when they want to and they're all in the same area," Saenz said.

Eyla still has a long road ahead of her as she continues to also battle chronic lung disease, but her positive spirit keeps everyone around her motivated to keep working toward her success and future.

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Chapter 3

Miracle Story: Anabelle Rojas

This special two-year-old girl's parents were told before she was born that she might not be able to take her first breath.

Almost three years ago, Ana Davila and Steve Rojas received the news of having a baby girl, but never expected the road blocks they would encounter. While Davila was pregnant she was told during one of her checkups that her baby had an abnormally small chin that would make it almost impossible for her to breath.

In order for Davila's daughter to survive, she was advised to seek care at Driscoll Children's Hospital.

RELATED: Miracle Stories: Anabelle Rojas

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"If you want her to have the best chance, you need to go up to Corpus and you need to go to Driscoll," Davila said.

And that's what they did.

Anabelle Faith Rojas was delivered at Bay Area Hospital and immediately transported to Driscoll Children's Hospital. She was extremely tiny so in order to figure out a plan to correct her chin, a replica of her skull was made.

"There is such a tiny little space, and maneuvering so small you want to just get in and get out and do the best job you can," Dr. Kevin Hopkins said.

Anabelle's parents admit that seeing their daughter go through it was not easy, but the staff at Driscoll gave them faith that everything was going to be alright.

"It's hard but Dr. Hopkins reassured me and my wife, and I still remember he put his hand and said, 'I'm going to take care of your baby. Don't worry,'" Rojas said. "And I still remember that."

At two weeks old, Anabelle underwent a procedure where plates and screws were inserted into her jaw to make it bigger and open up her airways.

"We turn the screw a couple of times a day to lengthen the jaw to where we want it to get and then we take the device off," Rojas said.

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Anabelle recovered from the surgery well and her parents said that is due to the customized level of care Driscoll gave.

"They actually are way more understanding, so instead of forcing her they still get what they need to get done from her, but then they adjust their approach to accomodate her," Rojas said.

They said that level of compassion extended to the whole family.

"I was like, hey, we are at Driscoll again because everyone's nice, because even in the parking lot as you're walking inside people are saying hi to you, and 'How you doin'?' and 'How's your day going?'" Rojas said.

Anabelle's parents said they are so blessed to have their bubbly two-year-old girl and the help of Driscoll Children's Hospital.

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Chapter 4

Miracle Story: Child Life Services

Child life specialists play an important role by working with the kids to explain the medical procedures they are going to undergo.Subtitle here

Driscoll Children's Hospital works tirelessly to try and give children the best medical care available.

Child life specialists play an important role by working with the kids to explain the medical procedures they are going to undergo.

12-year-old Luis Leal plays Madden '15 in the Teen Room at Driscoll Children's Hospital. 3News was there to see him playing the Cowboys versus the Eagles, and Tony Romo was the Cowboys' quarterback.

RELATED: Miracle Story: Child Life Services

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It's the position Leal played in real life before he was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer.

"I used to play football. I was the quarterback and it's really fun to play," Leal said. "Even though it's on a game, it feels like I'm playing."

He was playing against one of many child life specialists on staff at Driscoll Children's Hospital. They handle everything from playing with the kids to telling them what all that will happen before and after their surgeries.

"We have a bunch of different roles," Child Life Specialist Lisa Cervantes said. "So one of the questions we get asked often is, 'What is your typical day like?' And there is no such thing as a typical day."

Cervantez is the lead child life specialist at Driscoll -- a job she loves, and one where the rewards are many. She told 3News about one young patient who recently told her how much she appreciated her.

"She said, 'I have a statement to tell you,' and I said, 'okay, what is it that you want to tell me?' And she said, 'You're the best!'" Cervantez said. "And that absolutely made my day. My week."

Cervantez also pointed out that kids like Leal need play areas for many different reasons, like to help them deal with their medical issues.

"I like to come in and see what other kids are playing and ask them if I can play with them," Leal said. "It's really fun."

The younger children can use other activity rooms where building blocks, crayons and coloring books are available to them. The child life specialists are also right there to help them learn and try to ease the pain of their hospital stay.

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Chapter 5

Miracle Story: Nate Boehl

At just five years old, he is already a survivor.

Nate Boehl is strong, smart and resilient. At just five years old he is already a survivor.

His journey started three years ago at Driscoll Children's Hospital when his parents brought him in for an unusual fever.

Nate was pale, tired, and unknown to them at the time, showing classic symptoms of leukemia.

RELATED: Miracle Story: Nate Boehl

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"Unusual bruising, the child is pale and very tired," Dr. Mba said. "Sometimes they complain about bone pain and start to limp."

Dr. Mba is the medical director for the Cancer and Blood Disorder Center. She said she sees this all too often.

At Driscoll Children's Hospital, almost one out of every three kids seen in oncology are being treated for leukemia.

"The good news is leukemia is highly curable in children," Mba said.

At two years old, Nate began frontline treatment called the Roadmap. The guide shows the phases in treatment over an average of three years, recommended by the National Cancer Institute.

It's a general protocol that is proven to cure this type of cancer.

"The goal is to cure but this is not an easy journey," Mba said. "We anticipate complications and we expect complications."

"There were lots of things, that if it was going to happen, it was going to happen to Nate," Nate's mother said.

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Nate was in and out of the emergency room. He lost his hair twice, and toward the end of his treatment his body started to show a rare and dangerous side effect from the harsh chemotherapy he was receiving.

His liver was failing.

"The child that was diagnosed with the worst thing parents can imagine and came out stronger than anyone could imagine," Nurse Shannon Broughton said.

Broughton remained close to Nate's side through his continuous treatment, watching him prevail against needing a transplant. She said seeing kids like Nate in her department shows her how incredible kids really are.

"They could be in here getting a blood transfusion or chemo and trying to ride off in one of the cars, or they're doing puzzles or playdough or you know, they don't know that they're sick," Broughton said.

Child play is a key factor in creating a stimulating and enjoyable atmosphere for the young patients who are sometimes there for eight hours at a time. Dedicated staff like Broughton and Dr. Mba are what help kids like Nate get through tough times like these.

As for Nate, he is looking forward to having his health back and being a normal kid again.

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Chapter 6

Miracle Story: Brandon Despain

This teen has overcome long odds to still be standing today.

Doctors and staff at Driscoll Children's Hospital are used to treating some of their patients for years on end.

One of those patients is a 17-year-old junior at King High School who continues to beat the odds even after being diagnosed with cystic fibrosis.

Brandon Despain has overcome long odds to still be standing today.

RELATED: Miracle Story: Brandon Despain

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"He wasn't expected to make it," his grandmother Beatrice Gallagher said.

Like all teens Brandon loves to be on his phone. His grandmother sat down with 3News to help tell his story.

"He had a life expectancy of 17 when he was born, but now he can go into his 40's," Gallagher said. "That's what's great about Driscoll."

Brandon was born at 24 weeks and not long after that it was discovered that he had cystic fibrosis. He ended up staying in the neonatal intensive care unit for 18 months and has had to undergo a number of surgeries and procedures.

"Considering how many challenges he's had, he's doing really well," Dr. Ana Maria Paez said. "His family is very supportive and engaged in his treatment. They're very organized in providing his care for his lung issues, and for his diabetes they check his blood sugar diligently and give him insulin diligently, but a very good family. He's doing very well because his family gives him his medications and gets him his follow ups."

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Brandon's family has to make sure he also takes the 30 daily pills he has to have to stay strong, but his grandmother points to the care he receives at Driscoll as the real reason behind his good health.

"There's miracles here. Every day you walk out of here knowing that if you have to come back, you're going to be taken care of and have all, everything you need here," Gallagher said.

It's a real comfort to his family, who depends on the hospital's expert staff to continue to deliver the care Brandon needs so he will live a long and healthy life.

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Chapter 7

Miracle Story: NICU babies at Driscoll Children's Hospital

The NICU started on the third floor of the hospital but has expanded to private rooms and more than 60 beds, all equipped with the latest devices.

Miracles happen routinely at Driscoll Children's Hospital, but there's no place where it is more apparent than the hospital's Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.

It's where the tiniest premature babies receive 'round-the-clock attention, and from there typically go on to lead normal lives.

The NICU has been saving lives since Driscoll Children's Hospital opened its doors. The department operates as a Level 4 NICU, providing 24/7 healthcare at the highest level.

RELATED: Miracle Story: NICU babies at Driscoll Children's Hospital

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"We have achieved that and we continue to achieve that by the services we provide," NICU Director Chris Joyle said.

Joyle has been with Driscoll for more than 20 years. He said patients include pre-term and newborn babies faced with different types of illnesses.

"Being a Level 4 center, we see a variety of diagnosis," Joyle said.

Close to 40 patients are seen daily. Many families travels from different areas, but the NICU staff makes it their mission to ensure that parents understand their child's needs long after they leave.

"Our nurses and neotologists help those families understand those things so they can provide that care when they get home," Joyle said.

As the need for more care grows, so do the resources. The NICU started on the third floor of the hospital but has expanded to private rooms and more than 60 beds, all equipped with the latest devices.

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"We just make sure that as a Level 4 center that we keep up with up to date with technology for our patients," Joyle said.

One of the newest additions is an Angel Eye, a camera attached to the wall so parents can watch their infants in real-time through their cellphone. Joyle said the technology is a gift made possible by fundraising events like Fiesta de los Niños and the generosity of the community.

"We have a lot of people that donate," Joyle said. "A lot funds that are available for us that we can provide these services."

Those services are life changing for families.

"More care for more kids, and that's what we thrive on is making sure that we provide the best, safest quality care for our patients and our families," Joyle said.

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Chapter 8

Miracle Stories: The volunteers at Driscoll Children's Hospital

Some of the great work at Driscoll can't be done without their volunteers.

During the Miracle Month of May, 3News aims to show you the work that is being done at Driscoll Children's Hospital. Much of that work cannot be done without the help of volunteers who make a real difference.

"Great satisfaction," Gift Shop Manager Kathy Kramer said. "It's gratitude off the scale."

The gift shop at Driscoll Children's Hospital is a fully stocked shop where you can easily find the perfect gift, and it is run by the hospital's auxiliary.

RELATED: Miracle Stories: The volunteers at Driscoll Children's Hospital

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"We're taught here to do things the Driscoll way," Kramer said. "It's a constant customer service program that's focused on patients and families. How to treat them better. How to treat everyone better who comes through the door."

Kramer said the work is challenging but rewarding. She has been volunteering her time there for 19 years.

"If you have spare time come see us and join our team," Driscoll Hospital Auxiliary President Susan Webb said. "We're fabulous. We love it there, it's just contagious."

The hospital's Cottage Shop is where Manager Susan Barnett gets shoes and other gently used clothing items ready for resale.

"I love children and people from all walks of life, no matter what their income bracket is, I just make sure they get nice quality stuff for a nice price," Barnett said.

There's also the Carousel Cookie Shop, where bakers are always serving up fresh and hot cookies. It's another spot run by volunteers who are working hard to help their customers while raising money for the hospital so it can continue its mission of high-quality medical care.

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Chapter 9

Miracle Stories: Ethann Valdez

Despite his limitations, Ethann is a bright young man who lives a full life.

When you meet Ethann Valdez, watch out! His smile will melt your heart.

The nine-year-old has surpassed doctors' expectations.

"You know all kids are perfect and great, but some just stand out a little bit and he's certainly one of those," Dr. Jon Roberts said.

Dr. Roberts, a pediatric pulmonologist with Driscoll Children's Hospital, has been a part of Ethann's medical team. He said Ethann was diagnosed with geleophysic dysplasia, a type of dwarfism.

RELATED: Miracle Stories: Ethann Valdez

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Ethann's condition is progressive. His tissues get stiffer over time making it harder for the heart to function.

This past April Ethann finally underwent open-heart surgery at Driscoll Children's Hospital. It took seven hours for skilled surgeons to successfully repair two of his heart valves.

Ethann's family was excited to share the news on his Facebook page to thank all of their prayer warriors for getting them through such a nerve-wracking stepping stone in Ethann's health journey.

"You always expect the worst but pray for the best," said Brittney Hernandez, Ethann's mother.

Despite his limitations, Ethann is a bright young man who lives a full life. He loves science and spends lots of time watching his favorite TV show, "Ghost Adventures." He looks forward to playing and running with his dogs and his classmates once he's fully healed.

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