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My Patient Experience at the Shriner’s Hospital

Updated on November 2, 2014
The Shriners Hospital patient experience
The Shriners Hospital patient experience | Source

As my parents’ third baby, they knew something was not quite right when I was breach. A C-section was planned and the doctors quickly discovered I was born with broken legs. Being born in the 1980s, there was no internet readily available for my parents to research symptoms, but the diagnosis of Osteogensis Imperfecta was quickly determined by the medical staff.

Osteogenesis Imperfecta (OI) is a genetic disorder resulting in fragile bones that are easily prone to fracture. I was diagnosed with Type 3 OI and living in rural North Dakota, there was not medical care readily available in our area to properly treat children with OI. My young life was forever changed, however when I was referred to the Shriner’s Hospital and my experience there as a patient helped shape me into the adult that I am today.

Learn about what the Shriner’s Hospital and the work they do below. I also share my story as a patient at the Shriner’s Hospital, life after leaving the Shriner’s and lay out my recommendations for future patients.

The Shriners Hospital provides medical care for children with a variety of issues.

Major medical issues treated at the Shriners

Orthopedic Issues
Cleft Palate
Spinal Cord Injuries

They’ve been providing care since 1922 and have 22 locations. The Shriner’s Hospital is different from most other medical facilities because they not only specialize in pediatric care and rare conditions and disorders, but they provide care to families and patients at no cost.

Shrine Masons
Shrine Masons | Source

So how can they provide specialty care regardless of a patient’s and their families’ ability to pay? The Shriner’s Hospitals rely heavily on donations and charitable giving. The hospitals were founded by the Shrine Masons which are primarily responsible for fundraising and managing endowments that help fund medical costs.

Some characteristics that make the Shriner’s Hospitals unique from other children’s hospitals:

  • They focus on fostering a child’s self-esteem and positive self-image as much as providing physical medical care.

  • They offer support for not just the patient, but the entire family and siblings of the child receiving care.

  • The Shriner’s also focuses much time, staff, and resources to research to help develop ground breaking new treatments.

  • They provide customized care to all children and will not turn those away who need medical attention.

  • Their staff has specialty experience working with children which means there is never a shortage of child life specialists, doctors with funny ties, nurses with big smiles, bright colors and décor that appeal to children throughout their facilities, and frequent events and visitors for their patients.

My Journey as a Patient at the Shriner’s Hospital

As earlier stated, growing up in a rural area there were not a lot of medical facilities, let alone medical staff that had experience treating children with OI.

Child's hospital room
Child's hospital room | Source

At the age of 2, my parents were referred by our local hospital to the Shriner’s Hospital in Minneapolis, Minnesota which had a team of medical professionals experienced in treating children with OI and other orthopedic conditions.

Throughout my childhood, I visited the Shriner’s at least once per year. Packing our family of 6 for what was sometimes an overnight stay and sometimes a few weeks stay during surgeries was no easy feat for my parents; but every time we had an appointment, the staff greeted us with open arms and a friendly smile. In fact, many of the nurses and doctors remembered me each time I went back from the time I was 2 until I left at age 18.

During my time, I experienced most every treatment the Shriner’s had to offer a child with an orthopedic condition, from helping me find my first (of many) wheelchairs to working with physical therapists to strengthen my body, to consulting with nutritionists and surgeons who performed a variety of surgeries.

Below are just some of the procedures I had during my time as a patient at the Shriner’s:

  • Rodding surgery in which metal rods were placed into my femurs to stabilize and strengthen the bone.

  • Spinal fusion and rodding to combat scoliosis (a common symptom of OI).

  • Custom leg braces to strengthen my leg muscles and try to combat bowing of the long bones.

  • Custom fit for manual and electric wheelchairs, walkers, and forearm crutches.

  • Yearly check ups and progress reports to monitor overall health and wellness.

  • Transition planning as I neared the maximum age of 18.

Shriner's Hospital Patient Success Story

Despite memories of pain and the physical work it took to get through multiple procedures during my time at the Shriner’s the staff always had our wellbeing at heart. The nurses and doctors there were as familiar as my aunts, uncles, and teachers back home. Whether it was the nurse who taught me how to “breathe in healing to my body and breath out the pain” as she helped me recover from surgery or the doctors who never failed to make jokes during our consultations, I cannot say enough good things about the Shriners.

I cannot say enough good things about the Shriners. I largely credit the care I received at the Shriner’s Hospital with helping shape me into the adult I am today. It was not just the medical care that allows me to be able to walk and have strength in my limbs and back which gives me the opportunity to work and manage my household, but also the emotional support I received from the staff during my time that which was a significant part of my maturity process into a young adult.

Being a patient there also provides children a unique opportunity to meet other children just like them experiencing the same conditions or treatments. Without the Shriners, many of these children would probably never have the opportunity to meet other kids and families going through the same experiences and build lifelong friends. Many kids who grew up with me at the Shriners are still my friends today.

Life after the Shriners

Transitioning out of the Shriners can be a challenge for many patients.

Child waving goodbye
Child waving goodbye | Source

After experiencing specialty, top notch care for so many years as a child and adolescent, transitioning out of the Shriners system after kids turn 18 can leave a lot of unknown questions for themselves and their parents.

  • Where will I go after this?

  • How will I find a medical facility that specializes in my disorder or condition?

  • Will I find the same level of care after I leave?

  • How will I afford my own medical care going forward?

Thankfully, many Shriner’s Hospitals offer transition planning for patients as they approach their 18th birthday and graduate from high school. They offer much information about where to find medical care in the area, independent living organizations, resources for college planning, etc. If your child is in high school there is no time like the present to start planning.

When I was 18, I attended the free session that the Shriners offered before my last appointment with them as a patient. While the Minneapolis metro area offers a wide variety of medical care for people with orthopedic conditions, I had a more challenging time as I transitioned out of the Shriner’s system in finding a medical facility that had experience with someone with OI.

What is your favorite part about the Shriner's Hospital?

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Some tips for transitioning out of the Shriners:

  • Look for a good family medicine practitioner in your area. Even if they do not have experience directly with your condition, they probably have connections to someone who does and can take care of your basic medical and prescription needs in your area.

  • Don’t be afraid to call your Shriners and get a referral from your doctor to another facility that treats adult patients.

  • If your new medical facility requires traveling to and from, check with your local county health agency to see if you qualify for travel assistance.

  • Stay in touch with fellow patients and staff. Thanks to the internet and social networking this is easier than ever today and you’ll never know when those contacts will come in handy when you need it later down the road.

Recommendations for Future Patients

If you are thinking about becoming a patient at a Shriners Hospital or are nervous about your first visit, please know that you are walking into a facility that has children’s health, well being, and future at the core of everything they do.

Make a checklist of your medical needs
Make a checklist of your medical needs | Source

You will be in good hands. Below are some tips to make the most out of your Shriners Hospital experience:

  • Ask open and honest questions of your doctors and staff.

  • Be honest with your providers there. They will recommend many different approaches to make sure your child receives the best care available.

  • Ask the staff to connect you to other parents of children with similar conditions that your family is experiencing. The social support can turn into lifelong friendships and provide a priceless opportunity to learn from other patients’ and families’ experiences.

Have you been a patient at a Shriner’s Hospital? Share your experiences in the comments!

Are you thinking of visiting a Shriner’s Hospital? What attracted you to their medical care or what are you hoping to get out of your visit/experience with them? Leave a comment, below!


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    • TurtleDog profile image

      TurtleDog 2 years ago

      I've heard nothing but good things about Shriner's. Better put...I've never ever heard anything bad about Shriner's. Good well thought post. Voted up and interesting

    • easylearningweb profile image

      Amelia Griggs 2 years ago

      You have written a wonderful hubpage, Rachel. Shriners Hospitals will always hold a special place in my heart because I witnessed the miracles they perform first hand. Many years ago, I worked at the Philadelphia Unit of Shriners for about 6 years, as their Computer Coordinator. Things were very different back then. It has since been rebuilt and relocated next to Temple University Hospital, also in Philadelphia.

      Here is the most memorable experience for me: there was a research lab where electrodes were implanted to stimulate a patients muscles. One day, there was a special announcement that a young boy (we'll call him Johnny) who could not walk and was confined to a wheelchair, was about to stand. Back then the building was small compared to what it is was a family atmosphere and everyone knew each other. Many of us flocked down to the lab to watch as Johnny stood up...a miracle, only possible through the tremendous efforts of Shriners hospital. We clapped and watched as this wonderful miracle took place.

      That was only the beginning, and so much has changed since then. But since that was in the 80's, it was amazing back then to be able to witness this.

      I will always remember Shriners and what tremendous things they have done, and they continue to do.

      Thank you for writing this hub.

      Hats off to Shriners for all the good they do for children.



    • WheelerWife profile image

      WheelerWife 2 years ago from Minnesota

      Hi TurtleDog - thank you for your nice comments and for stopping by. It's true, I've also never heard anything negative about the Shriners - they really are a selfless place that touch the lives of so many!

      easylearningweb - thank you so much for sharing that story! As you said, those are the kinds of amazing experiences that the Shriner's makes possible for kids every day. Thank you for stopping by.

    • bankscottage profile image

      bankscottage 2 years ago from Pennsylvania

      Wonderful Hub WheelerWife. Glad the Shrine was so helpful to you and your family. I selected "other" in your survey as my favorite part of Shriner's Hospitals. because my favorite part is working there. I have the privilege of working part-time at a Shriner's Hospital in Erie. Everyday is always a heartwarming experience. Thanks for sharing your experiences.

    • MJsConsignments profile image

      Michelle 2 years ago from Central Ohio, USA

      I was in Rainbow, it seems, a lifetime ago. We worked with the Shriners on some of their fundraising for these amazing hospitals. It's always great to hear the stories of the people they've helped. I'm glad they were able to help you.

    • mySuccess8 profile image

      mySuccess8 2 years ago

      Great article highlighting some service characteristics a hospital can have in providing good medical care services and social services, among others, based on first-hand experience. Congrats on Hub of the Day!

    • WheelerWife profile image

      WheelerWife 2 years ago from Minnesota

      bankscottage - thanks for your nice comments! It's so neat to hear from people who have actually worked there!

      MJsConsignments - thanks for all the help you have done to help fundraise! Those funds really do make a difference.

      mySuccess8 - thanks so much for stopping by! Glad you found the article interesting :)

    • colorfulone profile image

      Susie Lehto 2 years ago from Minnesota

      WheelerWife, I was delighted to read your hub about your experience at the Shriner's Hospital, am happy it was so good. Congrats on HotD!

    • PegCole17 profile image

      Peg Cole 2 years ago from Dallas, Texas

      From what you've shared, organizations like the Shriner's are invaluable to the welfare, physical and emotional help of children and families in need. So glad to read of your positive experience with this organization and the staff that sound like they were genuinely caring and attentive to you.

    • Mhatter99 profile image

      Martin Kloess 2 years ago from San Francisco

      I am a shriner. good job on this.

      thank you

    • WheelerWife profile image

      WheelerWife 2 years ago from Minnesota

      hi colorfulone - thanks for the nice comment! Glad you enjoyed the read!

      PegCole17 - thanks for checking out my hub! Invaluable is a great way to describe the help the Shriner's provides for children and families.

    • WheelerWife profile image

      WheelerWife 2 years ago from Minnesota

      Mhatter99 - cool! you're a Shriner! thanks for everything you all do for the hospitals, patients, and families :)

    • DzyMsLizzy profile image

      Liz Elias 2 years ago from Oakley, CA

      Congratulations on HOTD! Very well done, and a unique perspective.

      We had a rather brief experience with them when my daughter was 16. She had problems with her feet, which apparently skipped a generation, as she had the same problems as my mother, namely, bunions.

      It got so bad that her shoes were painful to wear, and our primary doctor recommended a bi-lateral bunionectomy. We could not afford that, and were referred to the Shriner's Hospital in San Francisco.

      Luckily, that was less than a half hour drive from where we lived then, so there was only an issue with traffic and having to pry ourselves out of bed for early-morning appointments.

      They asked for her schoolwork, as they even had a classroom on-site, so kids could stay current with their assignments.

      She was in the hospital only about a week, and went home with walking casts, and the use of a wheelchair. Her high school provided a home teacher until such time as she was able to navigate on crutches, and go back to school.

      While she was there, she did meet another girl younger than herself, and they did stay in touch for a few years after.

      All of this was back in 1984, and that Shriner's Hospital had been there "forever."

      However, the last time I was back in San Francisco, it appeared to have been partially torn down, and the rest abandoned. It was an old brick building, and probably did not meet earthquake codes.

    • WheelerWife profile image

      WheelerWife 2 years ago from Minnesota

      DzyMsLizzy - thanks so much for sharing your story! I'm glad to hear you also had a great experience there. I wonder if they rebuilt the hospital? Would be too bad if it was torn down! Thanks for stopping by :)

    • SusanDeppner profile image

      Susan Deppner 23 months ago from Arkansas USA

      What a wonderful testimonial to an amazing organization. I don't have any experience with the hospitals, I just remember parades and other activities that raised money for the Shriners. Good to read a first-hand experience from a lucky lady who was able to benefit from the care there. Thanks for sharing!

    • WheelerWife profile image

      WheelerWife 23 months ago from Minnesota

      Thanks for your nice compliments, SusanDeppner - I AM a lucky lady! Shriner's were a huge part of helping me be the adult I am today :)

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