“Our patients and their families are so thankful to have Driscoll here in the Rio Grande Valley so close to them,” Dr. Butchko said. “They appreciate the level of care that is offered, and sometimes they can’t believe it’s right in their backyard.”

Gary Butchko, MD, can’t envision a more rewarding job than being a pediatric cardiologist. He quite literally is mending hearts of children. Going home each day with that knowledge is reward enough, but the kind words he receives from patients’ families also hit home.

Driscoll Children’s Heart Center offers excellence in pediatric and congenital heart care using state-of-the-art facilities. The cardiology program has been providing quality, compassionate care to patients in South Texas since 1963. The Heart Center has the largest network of consult services available to the pediatric health care providers of the region. The same care that is provided at Driscoll Children’s Hospital in Corpus Christi also is available at Driscoll Children’s Medical Plaza-McAllen, as well as in clinics in Brownsville, Laredo, Eagle Pass and Rio Grande City.

“We maintain the high quality of healthcare that Driscoll is known for and is unrivaled by any institution in the state,” said Dr. Butchko, who regularly sees patients at Driscoll Children’s Medical Plaza-McAllen, but also travels to the other Driscoll facilities throughout South Texas. “It’s a reassurance to our patients and their families that we can refer them to Corpus Christi, which is just two hours away instead of having to send them to San Antonio or Houston. Also, all of our clinics’ charting systems are directly connected, so once a patient’s information is in my system, it’s in the system in Corpus Christi and all our other clinics, making it easy for our team to work together.”

The Driscoll Children’s Heart Center offers complete outpatient evaluation, echocardiograms, stress tests, cardiac catheterization, cardiac intervention and cardiac MRI. It also offers complete electrophysiological services, including pacemaker implantation and testing, as well as general cardiology consultation for heart murmurs, chest pain, heart rhythm and sports participation.

The majority of the work done at Driscoll Children’s Heart Center involves congenital heart defects. It can be worrisome to learn that your child has a congenital heart defect, but they’re actually more common than one might think. Almost one in every 100 newborns in the United States has a congenital heart defect. Congenital – meaning present at birth – defects usually are treated with surgery, catheter procedures and medication. Thanks to skilled surgeons and advances in pediatric heart surgery and interventional catheterization, nearly every form of congenital heart disease can be treated.

“There have been so many advancements made in the field, it’s really astounding,” Cardiovascular and Thoracic Surgeon J. Mark Morales said. “Obviously, when you tell a parent that their child has something wrong with their heart, the parent’s fears are going to run wild. Thankfully, most children with heart problems go on to enjoy happy and healthy futures.”

Advances in ultrasound imaging techniques have led to sophisticated tools such as fetal echocardiograms, making it possible for many congenital heart malformations to be diagnosed as early as the 12th to 20th week of pregnancy. This type of imaging can identify a heart defect early and gives the family and doctors the ability to begin preparing a solution.

Most children’s heart problems can be alleviated with surgery and treatment. Then, it’s up to the parents to help their child lead a normal life.

“What we, as pediatric cardiologists, try to do is optimize qualify of life and minimize restrictions,” Dr. Butchko said. “No. 1, it’s very hard to hold a child back from physical activity. They want to go, go, go. With surgery, treatment and medication, we heal the heart. Then, we talk to the parents and encourage them to let their child lead as normal a life as possible.

“Our mission is to serve the children of South Texas, but we’re here just as much for the parents, as well. And, we want them to know their children are in good hands.”

The Driscoll Children’s Heart Center team includes: Driscoll Children’s Heart Center Medical Director John Brownlee, MD; Dilachew Adebo, MD; Sergio Bartakian, MD; Gary Butchko, MD; Garbine Goya, MD; Muhammad Khan, MD; Jatin Patel, DO; Brandon Phillips, MD; Brad Raisher, MD, and Billy Rios, MD. They team up with cardiothoracic surgeons: J. Mark Morales, MD; Mark Bielefeld, MD, and Lucien Durham III, MD, PhD.

“It really is a team effort here at Driscoll,” Driscoll Chidren’s Heart Center Medical Director John Brownlee said. “We have a great group of cardiologists and cardiothoracic surgeons. They all fill specific roles, but at the same time, they communicate with each other to make sure we’re giving the best possible care. The same can be said for the communication with our staff and administrative personnel.”

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