Social Work Students& Alumnae
- Kayte Thomas - Avery's Angels, CAO
- Nayely Pérez-Huerta - Community Organizer
- Melissa McMurry - Hospice Clinical Social Worker
- Deborah Chase Smith - Child Service and Maternity Care Coordinator
Dr. Carlos Gine, Kayte Thomas, & Dr. Jose Peiro
Kayte Thomas, CAO (Chief Administrative Officer, or Vice President), Avery's Angels Gastroschisis Foundation.
International Gastroschisis Conference, Speaker, 2010
What is Gastroschisis?
Gastroschisis is a birth defect which causes the intestines and occasionally other organs to protrude from the abdomen at birth. The prognosis in more industrialized nations is very good, with a 90% survival rate. In some countries unfortunately the survival rate is below 50%. However, some children have long term issues from this disease including but not limited to multiple surgeries, intestinal blockages, & organ transplants. Even the healthiest of gastroschisis patients tend to have prolonged feeding issues and slow weight gain.
About Avery’s Angels
Avery's Angels was formed in 2009 after the founder, Meghan Hall, lost her son Avery to gastroschisis. Avery's Angels is an all-volunteer team dedicated to supporting families as they go through their journey with gastroschisis. Primarily, we run a parent-to-parent support network which involves the veteran gastroschisis parents (& sometimes older gastroschisis survivors) reaching out to new families so they know they are not alone. At times we do contact hospitals at the patients/families request if they are having issues, & in the future we hope to fund grants for research. There are only 5 individuals on Avery's Angels administrative team, but with around 100 parent support volunteers. Avery's Angels is the only foundation in the world for gastroschisis.
Kayte was brought on board shortly after the creation of Avery’s Angels, and has been involved in gastroschisis outreach for 5 years - since her oldest child, Ashley, was born with gastroschisis. After one of their core volunteers, June McDowell, came across the information about an International Gastroschisis Conference in Spain, Kayte emailed to find out if they would be able to send a representative from Avery's Angels.
“My purpose in attending the conference was both to learn and be a "fly on the wall" so to speak so I could gather more information for use when speaking with new families and to educate the doctors on the trauma and stress that gastroschisis families endure as well as how Avery's Angels provides support.”
I was the last to speak at the conference… I told the doctors about how Avery's Angels began, the support we provide for families (which although it is primarily emotional support, we have provided financial support whenever possible & continue to do so), the depression & fear that these families experience, & the ongoing issues that we encounter. In the next few days, she will contact the doctors in Italy, Spain, Brazil, Germany, Mexico, Portugal, and others who expressed both the agreement that emotional support is desperately needed for their patients and their desire to collaborate with Avery's Angels.
About the Conference
“[O]nce the doctors heard about what our foundation does, they welcomed us with open arms… and were eager to share the "family perspective" with the physicians who attended the conference to remind them in a non-clinical way of what the families experience.”
The conference was designed to bring together physicians around the globe to discuss the newest research, medical techniques, & advancements regarding gastroschisis. The Spanish doctors who put this together, Dr. Carlos Gine & Dr. Jose Peiro, did this in a not-for-profit fashion: that is, they did not earn any money from this as many professional conferences would. Their sole intention was to advance the knowledge of gastroschisis & the care for these children. There were 94 doctors in attendance, representing 19 countries. These doctors have come up with new techniques to utilise MRI technology to monitor the fetus in utero, have found ways to use the baby's own umbilical cord to close the defect in the abdominal wall, and are actively pursuing research to find out what is causing this pandemic, despite a lack of funds.
“[T]o my dismay, there was not a single doctor from the United States.”
Two doctors especially stood out.
Dr. Gerardo Luna of Mexico, who operates on patients for free because there is such a lack of funding in his country yet he wants these babies to survive. This was such a contrast to my own United States-born gastroschisis child, whose 6-week medical stay topped nearly $400,000.
Dr. Lorenco Sbragia from Brazil, who has run into the issue that although the women have free medical care, they are reluctant to lose a day or two of work to leave their farms & travel 100-200km for a free ultrasound. Ultrasound technology can detect birth defects in utero & have lifesaving effects when the family & medical professionals are prepared in advance. To solve this issue, Dr. Sbragia has applied for a government grant to provide a mobile ultrasound machine, with which he will go on his own time every month to travel to women in various remote areas to provide ultrasounds at no charge, ensuring that their babies are either healthy or they will receive the care they need if there are any complications.
“I cannot express my gratitude to all of the physicians in attendance for both allowing me a glimpse into the amazing work they are doing & for expressing interest in Avery's Angels Gastroschisis Foundation. It was a huge honor for me to be in attendance at that conference.”
To donate to Avery's Angels or find out more about how you can help families in need, please contact email@example.com or call 919-633-3372.
"Hi!! My name is Nayely Pérez-Huerta; I graduated from Meredith College this past May with a Bachelors of Social Work and a major in Spanish. I am now working as the Community Organizer at El Pueblo, Inc. which is a NC non-profit advocacy and public policy organization dedicated to strengthening the Latino Community."
"I found my passion in the Social Work Department at Meredith College. I enjoyed the small class, intense discussions and diverse classmates. I served as Social Work Club President for one year, which I feel was a great honor. I graduated from Meredith College in 2005 with a BSW and minors in Psychology and Spanish. I then worked for Triumph, LLC, as a Mental Health Case Manager from 2005-2006. I completed the Advanced Standing MSW Program at UNC Chapel Hill from 2006-2007. After graduating from UNC, I worked at two Skilled Nursing Facilities as a part-time Social Worker. I began working for Duke HomeCare and Hospice in December of 2007 as a Hospice Clinical Social Worker. I am currently a Provisionally Licensed Clinical Social Worker, and expect to complete the requirements for my full license in early 2010. I continue to work for Duke Hospice and I have found that I am very passionate about caring for patients and their families at the end of life. I feel very blessed and honored to be present in the homes of families at such a delicate and difficult time."
"I am at Harnett County's Health Department working as a Child Service Coordinator and Maternity Care Coordinator. I am in graduate school at NCSU to get my MSW and my job is really flexible and willing to work with me."