In the early 1920s, a polio epidemic was sweeping the country, causing countless children to suffer, and their families to be faced with finding long-term medical care. At the same time, a fraternal organization, Shriners of North America (now known as Shriners International) was searching for a philanthropic effort to call its own.
From the beginning, the Shriners realized the need was greater than one facility could meet. In 1923, hospitals were established in Honolulu, Minneapolis and San Francisco (relocated to Sacramento, Calif., in 1997). The following year, the developing health care system expanded to Portland, Ore., St. Louis, Mo., and Spokane, Wash.
By the end of the decade, there were 14 Shriners Hospitals for Children. What began as a single hospital built in response to a single medical issue is now a 22-facility health care system with locations in three countries that provides care and treatment for a multitude of conditions. Since the first hospital opened, more than 1 million children have benefited from the Shriners' compassion and commitment.
Today, in addition to patient care, the mission of Shriners Hospitals for Children includes conducting research to expand medical knowledge and improve treatments, and offering educational opportunities to medical professionals.
Shriners Hospitals for Children provide care for orthopaedic conditions, burns, spinal cord injuries and cleft lip and palate. Within these broad service lines, many types of care are provided. For example, some facilities offer reconstructive plastic surgery, treatment for craniofacial abnormalities or care for sports injuries.
In addition to offering care regardless of our families' ability to pay, the hospitals take pride in providing treatment in a setting that emphasizes a multidisciplinary approach and the well-being of the whole child, and their family.
Many of the conditions treated at Shriners Hospitals for Children have long-term or even life-time effects or repercussions, and staff, including physicians, therapists and counselors, is acutely aware of the need to encourage and increase confidence, self-esteem and even independent living skills in our young patients, as well as work to heal the medical problem. The phrase "Love to the rescue" aptly describes their philosophy.
Since the founding of the first hospital in 1922, treating orthopaedic conditions has been the foundation of Shriners Hospitals for Children. The diseases and disorders treated are wide-ranging and diverse. Whether treating bone deformities such as clubfoot, neuromuscular conditions such as cerebral palsy, or genetic anomalies like achondroplasia, the goal is to help each child become as functional and healthy as possible.
Care for orthopaedic conditions is available at 20 facilities; with a large full-time staff of pediatric orthopaedic surgeons, as well as a comprehensive team of physical, occupational, speech and other therapists, Shriners Hospitals are able provide each patient with a customized care plan based on their overall health and medical conditions.
Shriners Hospitals for Children also treat the orthopaedic effects of cerebral palsy (CP), a neuromuscular condition affecting muscle tone, movement and coordination. There may be other complications, as well. CP is the most common disability that occurs before, during or immediately after birth.
Although statistics vary, there are more than 500,000 people in the U.S. with some degree of CP, and 3,000 to 10,000 infants are diagnosed annually as having the condition. Shriners Hospitals provided care for more than 10,000 children with this condition in the time frame of 2011 through August 2012.
One method used to determine the best course of treatment is movement analysis.
Twelve Shriners Hospitals have movement analysis laboratories, which are used to carefully observe and measure the way patients move, to understand how and why they move differently from children without mobility problems, such as cerebral palsy, to recommend treatments, and to evaluate how well those treatments improve their function.
The sophisticated technology of the movement laboratories is similar to the process Hollywood uses to animate characters for films and video games, and, in fact, the explosion of that field over the past several years has helped to increase the capabilities of the movement laboratories in the medical field.
In the movement analysis laboratory, specialized cameras measure the movement of highly reflective balls placed on the patient's feet, legs, arms, and torso. Other sensors on their skin tell which muscles are pulling. Force plates in the walkway measure how the ground is pushing on the patient.