Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital: A Year of Success and Recognition

For Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital, 2016-2017 was another successful year that brought a number of significant accomplishments.

In early 2017, it became the first and only pediatric hospital in the world to receive the Person-Centered Care designation from Planetree, a nonprofit organization that is focused on patient- and family-centered care. The recognition represents the highest level of achievement in patient- and family-centered care, which has long been an essential component of the Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital culture.

Additionally, U.S. News & World Report ranked the hospital among the top 50 pediatric hospitals for services provided in Cardiology and Heart Surgery, as well as Orthopedics.

The hospital reached yet another important milestone with the opening of its first pediatric medical office building. The Pediatric Specialty Center in Hollywood offers services for a variety of pediatric specialties, among them endocrinology, allergy and immunology, infectious diseases, genetics, nephrology, dermatology, pulmonology and otolaryngology. With a total of 20 physicians, 13 nurse practitioners and physician assistants and 35 support staff, the new facility will provide approximately 40,000 patients with world-class medical care every year.

In order to meet the growing emergency care needs of the community it serves, Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital Emergency Department saw a 14-bed expansion that increased its capacity to 36 beds. Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital multidisciplinary team of experts includes board-certified pediatric trauma specialists and emergency medicine physicians, specialized pediatric nurses and respiratory therapists certified in pediatric emergency care.

Estefano’s Birthday Wish Comes True

When it came time to blow out his candles on his 14th birthday, Estefano had only one wish: a new heart. Just 40 minutes later, the Pediatric Heart Transplant team at Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital surprised his family with a phone call that made his wish come true.

“He was playing at home when we got the phone call telling us there was a heart for Estefano,” said his stepfather, Alfonso. “I went to my wife with phone in hand with the news and then turned around and said to our son ‘get ready; there is another gift waiting for you.’”

The Weston teen is the hospital’s 30th heart transplant recipient and living legacy of a donor family who gave him the gift of a new life in time to go home for the holidays. Estefano and his family later reunited with the heart transplant team to express their gratitude and urge members of the community to become organ donors.

“I am so happy to be here and I am so thankful to everyone,” said Estefano. “I want to do many things like travel and I want to one day run a sanctuary for endangered animals. I thank the family for giving someone like me a second chance to live the life that I always wanted.”

Waiting for a Transplant

Estefano’s mom, Roxana, said she was grateful to be able to care for her son at home with the help of his doctors while he waited for a transplant.

“I know there are many children who do not have that opportunity and must live and wait for their hearts in a hospital room,” she said. “Most importantly we pray for the family who donated, and I thank them for giving us this gift because I know now that my son has the heart of an angel, thanks to them.”

Estefano was born with a single ventricle heart defect, a condition in which the heart does not use all four chambers to function normally. He underwent five open heart surgeries since the age of 2. The surgeries allowed his heart to function better and sustain him, but his heart began to fail and the team assessed the need to put him on the transplant list.

“Estefano waited over two years for his heart,” said Maryanne R.K. Chrisant, MD, Medical Director, Pediatric Advanced Heart Failure, Cardiomyopathy and Transplant. “He and his family realize that receiving a heart transplant is a second chance for Estefano to lead a more normal life.”

Amazing and Humbling

Frank Scholl, MD, Chief of Pediatric and Congenital Cardiac Surgery and Surgical Director of Heart Transplantation at Joe DiMaggio Children's Hospital, said having the privilege to care for so many transplant patients and provide them with an opportunity for a new life is truly an amazing and humbling feeling.

“At this time and with this great joy, we need to remember to thank our donor families who have given the ultimate gift to another human being,” Dr. Scholl said. “We simply could not do this without them.”

The Pediatric Heart Transplant program received approval from the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) on December 10, 2010 – culminating years of strategic planning, including the formation of a pediatric cardiac transplant team with the right mix of expertise and compassion. Five days after the program began, the team performed its first heart transplant.

Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital Program Recognized as ECMO Center of Excellence

In August 2016, the extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) program at Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital received an important recognition when it was named an ECMO Center of Excellence by the Extracorporeal Life Support Organization (ELSO), an international nonprofit consortium of healthcare institutions. The designation honors programs that demonstrate excellence and exceptional care in extracorporeal life support by reaching the highest levels of performance and quality.

ECMO is a form of temporary mechanical circulatory and respiratory support that is designed to help in the recovery of patients with heart or lung failure. Since its inception in 1984, the ECMO program at Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital has evolved into one of the most respected in the nation. The program provides patients with state-of-the-art equipment and an extensively trained team whose competency matches national standards. The distinction makes Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital the only pediatric hospital in Broward County to have earned the ECMO Center of Excellence designation.

“This recognition provides me with great satisfaction. It requires a team of people who are dedicated to maintaining a very high standard of safety, efficiency and responsibility for patient care,” said Gerald Lavandosky, MD, Medical Director of the ECMO program. “It’s very gratifying to be surrounded by a group of nurses, respiratory therapists and staff who are dedicated to taking care of patients who would otherwise die if it weren’t for this program.”

Cochlear Implants Give Nikki the Gift of Hearing

Nikki was born severely deaf but can hear now, thanks to double cochlear implant surgery at Joe DiMaggio Children's Hospital. The Cochlear Implant Center assists children who have severe-to-profound hearing loss and receive limited benefit from conventional treatment options such as hearing aids.

New Epilepsy Monitoring Unit at Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital Helps Doctors Find Answers

The fall 2016 opening of the Epilepsy Monitoring Unit (EMU) at Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital brought pediatric patients and their families access to specialized care that is solely dedicated to the evaluation, diagnosis and treatment of epilepsy.

Overseen by pediatric epileptologists and staffed by nurses and EEG technicians specializing in epilepsy, the four-bed unit features the latest technology for round-the-clock audio and video monitoring, allowing for immediate management and treatment. With the new technology, doctors can remotely log in and evaluate patient recordings.

“If we’re at home, and we want to see a patient in the EMU, we could easily do so. It makes the diagnosis very accurate because we’re looking at it in real time,” said Diana Martínez, MD, chief of Neurology at Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital. “It’s state-of-the-art equipment.”

Sima Parikh, MD, and Stefanie Berry, MD, both pediatric neurologists who are board-certified in clinical epilepsy, are in charge of interpreting EMU readings. Parents are given the results as soon as the study is completed, and treatment is immediately initiated, if necessary.

“Our resources help make evaluation, management and treatment much easier for the patient and for the healthcare worker,” said Dr. Parikh. “We look forward to helping patients with epilepsy in a more effective way.”

Palliative Care Provides Better Quality of Life for Patients, Families

When children are coping with life-limiting illness or serious chronic conditions – such as cystic fibrosis, congenital heart disease or cancer – the stress on them and their families can be enormous. Memorial’s Pediatric Palliative Care Program at Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital works to improve the quality of life for these families by providing supportive care, in conjunction with curative treatments or at the end of life.

The program’s services include:

  • Expert pain and symptom management
  • Psychosocial and emotional support
  • Spiritual support
  • Sibling counseling
  • Coordination of care between families and multiple caregivers
  • Discussion of goals of care
  • Identification of community resources

The program also offers innovative treatments from integrative medicine, such as massage, yoga, aromatherapy, art and music therapy, guided imagery and reflexology, to name a few. All pediatric palliative care patients and families receive care from a dedicated, interdisciplinary team of palliative care specialists throughout the child’s illness.

“Every family member is affected by a child’s chronic or life-threatening condition and can feel overwhelmed,” said Lynn Meister, MD, Director, Pediatric Palliative Care, Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital. “As caregivers, we on the palliative care team become a part of these families, and we are honored to walk with them on their journey.”

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