Driscoll receives $100,000 grant to serve high-risk infants

BROWNSVILLE — Driscoll Children’s Hospital has received a $100,000 grant from the Valley Baptist Legacy Foundation to expand access to care for high-risk, fragile and premature infants once they leave neonatal intensive care units at area hospitals.

The grant will be implemented through Driscoll Children’s Hospital’s high-risk follow-up program, which provides developmental evaluation that identifies signs that suggest a need for early intervention.

Driscoll operates a Maternal Fetal Medicine clinic five days per week at the Driscoll Children’s Specialty Center in Brownsville.

Through the grant, Driscoll will provide two days per month of staff services in direct patient care at the Brownsville clinic. The clinic will provide long-term developmental monitoring for high-risk infants discharged from Driscoll Children’s Hospital’s neonatal nursery, or from neonatal units at local hospitals who meet the criteria, including former premature babies and those who experienced neonatal complications.

Dr. Ryan Loftin, medical director for maternal fetal medicine for the Driscoll Health System, explained that the mothers of babies born prematurely often experience a complicated pregnancy. About 30 of these mothers are monitored before birth at the existing clinic. The grant will allow Driscoll to expand services for their children, Loftin said.

“We find the babies who are at risk before birth,” Loftin said, adding that the example of a mother who might have been exposed to the Zika virus is an easily understood example. Children born with birth defects requiring surgery are another. Such children usually require two to three years of follow-up monitoring, he said.

“We know that they have a higher risk of developmental delays. These kids need closer monitoring to make sure they don’t fall through the cracks.”

The clinics will provide coordinated care, watch the kids develop and offer opportunities for early intervention, he said.

“There are life transitions we take for granted that these kids may need help with to transition to a normal childhood,” he added.

Loftin said teams of Driscoll specialists fly together out of Corpus Christi to the clinic, including nurse practitioners and speech, physical and occupational therapists. This approach allows the families receiving services to stay in the Valley, he said.

“We are so thankful for this grant. This gives us the opportunity to serve some of the Valley’s infants who may be at risk for developmental delays,” said Jeremy Goodman, director of the critical care transport and high-risk follow-up program at Driscoll Children’s Hospital.

“The shared long-term goal for families and health care professionals is to work collaboratively toward ensuring high-risk children maximize their potential for growth and development, ensuring a healthy future,” Goodman said.

Based in Harlingen, the Valley Baptist Legacy Foundation supports programs that promote healthy lifestyles and increase access to health care in Cameron, Hidalgo, Starr and Willacy counties.

“We are honored to extend the reach of the Valley Baptist Legacy Foundation through this vital project. Together we will serve the most fragile children in Cameron, Hidalgo, Starr and Willacy counties,” said Martha Avery, vice president of development at Driscoll Children’s Hospital.