Breath of Life

Breath of Life

Pulmonary care team helps young girl overcome a complex condition

Anna Catherine Thibodeaux has survived more medical complications in her first two years than most adults will have in a lifetime.

Born on Feb. 1, 2014, to Brian and Danyale Thibodeaux after only 24 weeks of a 40-week term, Anna Catherine was beset by a myriad of complications and diagnoses. When she arrived in the neonatal intensive care unit she weighed only a pound. She spent her first nine months there clinging to life, and coded multiple times.

“I was told she would not survive, that she had a zero percent chance to live,” says her mom, Danyale, a former assistant vice president for a credit union who quit her job to oversee Anna Catherine’s around-the-clock care.

Today, Anna Catherine is nearly three years old. She continues to fight to overcome a tangle of medical conditions, none more important than those affecting her lungs.

An external ventilator breathes for her, although her mom hopes one day she’ll outgrow that need. Anna Catherine has had multiple procedures and operations to protect her delicate lungs.

Anna Catherine’s pulmonary care is directed by Dr. Thomas Horsman and the rest of the medical team at Our Lady of the Lake Children’s Hospital.

“When we go, all the staff know Anna Catherine,” Danyale says. “We have a huge team; the whole team is so professional, and I love all her doctors.”

Because of Anna Catherine’s complex breathing issues, Dr. Horsman is a vital leader on her care team. “He pays attention and he listens to me as a mom,” says Danyale.

Anna Catherine’s condition is complex and severe, and unfortunately isn’t the only one. The need for pediatric pulmonary care continues to grow as more premature babies survive, yet need consistent care and support from pulmonary specialists.

The pediatric pulmonology group continues to expand and is now provided at satellite clinics, so that patients can receive these critical services in their own communities.

Baby Anna Catherine enjoys a day in the park
with her father, Brian Thibodeaux, and mother, Danyale.

Our mission is to provide pulmonary care for the pediatric patient that is comprehensive, state-of-the-art and accessible,” says Dr. Horsman.

In addition to expanding locations where care is available, the pediatric pulmonary team recently added two physicians who bring expertise as well as experience in treating Louisiana children.

In July, Jessica Brown, DO, MPH, and Andres Carrion, MD, joined the team, which already includes pediatric pulmonologist Rafael Cilloniz, MD, and sleep medicine specialist Dwayne Henry, MD.

Dr. Brown is Board Certified in sleep medicine. She and Dr. Henry are providing the latest treatment of sleep disorders.

Meanwhile, Dr. Carrion holds the distinction of being the first staff physician to have completed his residency at Our Lady of the Lake Children’s Hospital, and then to have left and completed a Fellowship in a subspecialty before coming back to join the team.

“Their addition will allow the development of new programs and improvement upon our current programs so that we can provide comprehensive and cutting edge pulmonary care that meets the needs of any pediatric patient,” Dr. Horsman said. “It also improves patient access to care. More providers means shorter wait times for new patients to be seen and more accessibility for our current patients to be seen for an acute illness.”

With Dr. Brown and Dr. Carrion on board, the pediatric pulmonary team can explore adding programs for the treatment of highly complex pulmonary problems.

For now, they’re helping to provide improved access and more experience in the pulmonary function test lab, bronchoscopy, tracheostomy and home ventilator, as well as in the treatment of asthma, sleep disorders and chronic lung disease of prematurity.

The Thibodeaux family is thankful for the pulmonary team that’s helping Anna Catherine battle and overcome her many medical complications.

“Anna Catherine is perfect for us; she completes our family,” Danyale says. “She’s happy from the time she wakes up to the time she goes to bed. And at the end of the day, I’m lucky.”

The Pediatric Pulmonary Medical Team

The pediatric pulmonologists at Our Lady of the Lake Children’s Hospital diagnose and treat issues related to breathing and sleep, especially in the general functioning of a child’s respiratory system. They treat approximately 5,000 patients annually, and work with allergists and immunologists to treat underlying problems that cause difficulty breathing including asthma, cystic fibrosis, neuromuscular conditions, and chronic lung disease associated with premature birth.

They also support families in managing tracheotomies and ventilators, and perform approximately 150 bronchoscopies annually.

  • Dr. Jessica L. Brown — Board Certified in general pediatrics and pediatric sleep medicine; Board Eligible in pediatric pulmonology.
  • Dr. Andres Carrion — Board Certified in general pediatrics and board eligible in pediatric pulmonology.
  • Dr. Rafael Cilloniz — Board Certified in pediatric pulmonology.
  • Dr. Dwayne Henry — Completed separate Fellowships in pediatric nephrology and sleep medicine; Board Certified in sleep medicine.
  • Dr. Thomas Horsman — Board Certified in pediatric pulmonology.