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What are the Shriners Hospitals for Children, and how did they come into being?

No one should have to walk alone

This is the philosophy of the Shriners Hospitals for Children, a 22-hospital pediatric healthcare system which provides excellent, no-cost medical care to children with orthopaedic problems or burn injuries.

Since its founding, the Shrine has always been involved in charitable activities, and in the early 1900s, when the Shrine became a truly international organization, desire grew for the Shrine to establish an official Shrine philanthropy.

In 1919, Shriners at the Imperial Council Session (the annual Shrine convention) voted to establish a "Shriners Hospital for Crippled Children," to treat orthopaedic injuries, diseases and birth defects in children. It was to be supported by a yearly $2 assessment from each Shriner. The committee named to determine the site and personnel for the Shriners Hospital decided, after months of research and debate, that there should be not just one hospital but a network of hospitals throughout North America. It was an idea that appealed to the Shriners, who liked to do things in a big and colorful way. When the committee brought its proposal to the 1921 Imperial Session in Des Moines, Iowa, it too was passed.

The first Shriners Hospital opened in Shreveport, La., in 1922, and by the end of that decade, 13 more hospitals were in operation. The number of orthopaedic hospitals eventually reached 19 with the opening of the Shriners Hospital in Tampa, Fla., in 1985. Today, the orthopaedic Shriners Hospitals serve as major referral centers for complex and highly specialized orthopaedic treatments for children

Orthopaedic Care

Nineteen Shriners Hospitals provide orthopaedic care and rehabilitation to children with congenital orthopaedic deformities, problems resulting from orthopaedic injuries, and diseases of the musculoskeletal system.

Shriners Hospitals were among the first children's specialty hospitals in North America, and their pioneering efforts have earned them an international reputation in orthopaedic medicine and research.

Shriners Hospitals treat children in a family-centered environment, recognizing that while medicine might heal the child's body, tending to the child's sense of well being is equally important. The family is involved in the child's treatment, and each patient finds special support in meeting the challenges of his or her particular problem.

The medical staffs of Shriners Hospitals include pediatricians, urologists, neurosurgeons, plastic surgeons, geneticists, and other specialists to ensure comprehensive care for children with associated medical problems. The interdisciplinary medical team includes physicians, nurses, physical, occupational and recreational therapists, specially trained orthotic and prosthetic technicians, nutritionists, gait lab specialists, and other medical personnel.

Burn Care

Each year, thousands of children suffer burn-related accidents from one of the greatest hazards of childhood.

In the 1960s, recognizing the lack of medical expertise in the burn care field, the Shrine of North America opened three Shriners Hospitals with the three-fold purpose of treating severely burned children; conducting research and improving methods of burn treatment; and training and educating medical personnel in the care and treatment of burn injuries. In 1997, a new Shriners Hospital opened in Sacramento, Calif., providing burn treatment in addition to orthopaedic and spinal cord injury care.

Today, Shriners Hospitals remain pioneers in burn treatment and provide excellent medical care to severely burned children. These institutes are actively involved in research, and many of the advances in burn care have been the result of Shrine investigations. Since the Shriners Hospitals specializing in burn care first opened, the survival rate for children with burns over 50 percent of their total body surface area has doubled. Today, these specialized hospitals are saving the lives of children with burns over more than 90 percent of body surface area.

This impressive survival rate has been achieved through today's improved surgical procedures, medical technology and the coordinated efforts of many hospital staff members.

The treatment of burn injuries has advanced so dramatically in the past three decades that the Shriners Hospitals are now routinely saving the lives of patients who, in the past, almost certainly would have died. However, now that their medical needs can be met, these burn injury survivors face another challenge: that of returning to normal life in a society that places tremendous emphasis on physical appearance.

The burn care professionals at Shriners Hospitals have turned their attention to helping these patients function more normally in society. Some of the special programs that have been developed to address this need are the Reentry Program, Make-up Clinics, and Camp Ability.

Spinal Cord Injury Rehabilitation

Thousands of young people are paralyzed from spinal cord injuries each year. The Shrine of North America established three special rehabilitation units where young people with spinal cord injuries can find hope, strength, inspiration and the specialized medical care needed for rehabilitation.

In 1980, after more than 60 years of treating children with orthopaedic problems and burn injuries, the Shrine realized the unmet need of specialized care and rehabilitation for children suffering from spinal cord injuries. In 1980, Shriners Hospitals opened their first Spinal Cord Injury Rehabilitation Unit for children at the Shriners Hospital in Philadelphia.

Spinal cord injuries occur as a result of a neck or back injury and can cause partial or total paralysis. The Shrine's spinal cord injury units are among the few rehabilitation units in the United States specifically designed to meet the needs of children and teenagers who sustain these injuries.

The Shrine's spinal cord injury units provide long-term rehabilitative care and intensive physical, occupational and recreational therapy, to help spinal cord injured children relearn the basic skills of everyday life. Counseling is also provided to the patients, helping kids learn to cope with their injury and rediscover the fulfilling life that lies ahead for them. The rehabilitative programs are intense. Patients spend several hours each day relearning the skills of everyday life — how to dress, brush their teeth and feed themselves.

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