Healing RGV’s Youngest Patients 

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In March 2006, the Rio Grande Valley welcomed its first freestanding children’s hospital. For the past 16 years, South Texas Health System Children’s — formerly known as Edinburg Children’s Hospital — has been meeting the healthcare needs of the community through its pediatric services in cardiology, gastroenterology, ear, nose, and throat, and more.

To date, STHS Children’s remains the only dedicated pediatric hospital south of San Antonio. In addition to having the largest pediatric intensive care unit in the RGV and the only dedicated children’s emergency room, it is certified as a Center of Excellence for its asthma program.

As the hospital marks 16 years of operation, STHS Children’s CEO Lance Ames reflects on this milestone and said the mission remains the same as the day it first opened its doors.

“Our goal is to make sure that kids go home and return to being themselves,” he said. “Loving life, going to school, developing their talents — music, sports, computers, robotics — whatever it may be.

“That’s our passion: helping kids heal. We brought specialty pediatric care to the families of the Rio Grande Valley so they don’t have to leave the area to seek care at other major medical centers.”

Taking measures that go beyond just medical care, the 107-bed facility provides its pediatric patients with playrooms, an on-site Ronald McDonald House, and a child life specialist — all in effort to improve a patient’s overall experience.

“Culture is everything for us,” Ames said. “We hope that when people come to our hospital, they feel that positive energy. When you’re in a hospital, you really need someone there that makes you feel confident you’ll be well taken care of.

“You need someone that’s going to lift you up and help you to feel hope and positivity amidst all the challenges and stress that you’re going through at that moment.”

Dr. Nicholas Pereira, STHS Children’s medical director and pediatric hospitalist, has been working with the hospital since its inception, bearing witness to the tremendous impact it has had on the region.

“Originally, we were a small unit inside of South Texas Health System Edinburg with just 30 beds and we were getting overwhelmed with pediatric patients,” Pereira said regarding the need for a dedicated pediatric hospital. “The main idea was to keep the patients in the Valley and provide this community with the healthcare services their children need so we don’t have to send them to San Antonio or Houston.’”

Since welcoming its first patients, STHS Children’s has continued to grow and introduce new programs and services. Five years ago, the Ronald McDonald Family Room opened on the hospital’s third floor to provide a quiet resting area for parents and family members of hospitalized children to enjoy a bit of calm and normalcy in a homelike atmosphere equipped with beds, laundry services, and a living room area.

Another way STHS Children’s helps patients feel at ease and heal beyond the medical is through visitations from a child life specialist.

“They have their ways and means to bring a little humor and entertainment to these kids so that they can forget their illness, even if for a little bit,” Pereira said.

Ames adds the hospital is always looking to grow and welcome new pediatric healthcare services to the RGV. One project that patients and their families will soon be able to enjoy is an outdoor garden featuring scenic pathways, colorful landscaping and a life-size checkerboard set.

“We’re so grateful for all the trust that the Rio Grande Valley community has put in our children’s hospital over the years,” Ames said. “And we’re so excited to be able to continue to serve them and to be the best children’s hospital in the Valley for years to come.”

For more information on STHS Children’s, visit southtexashealthsystemchildrens.com or call (956) 388-6800. The hospital is located at 1102 W. Trenton Road in Edinburg.

Elisa Garcia