Shriners International, founded in New York City in 1872, is an organization composed solely of master masons, and early next year, Shriners Children’s, the healthcare organization they founded, will celebrate its 100th anniversary in the Twin Cities. Its first site, founded in 1922 in Louisiana, was focused on treating children with polio. Over the years, the institution has added many additional orthopedic services to help children with cerebral palsy, scoliosis, limb deficiencies, sports injuries, club foot, spina bifida and more.
“While we do a lot of surgical care, we also have very strong physical therapy as well as occupational therapy programs,” says David Voller, the clinic administrator in its Woodbury location. “We're also highly recognized for our prosthetic and orthotic care.”
Shriners Children’s treats children up to the age of 18 and even those in utero. “When a mother has an ultrasound and the child is diagnosed as having an orthopedic condition, we actually start meeting with families right away to talk about the trajectory of that child's life,” he says.
Due to changes in how children are treated, in 2020, the hospital moved from Minneapolis to a smaller location in Woodbury. “Just like in the world of adult orthopedic care, we recognized that in pediatrics, most of our surgical procedures are being done in an outpatient setting. So, there was a movement to a more ambulatory setting.”
Also, because of advances in treatment, David explains that they’ve been able to shorten the length of stay and the course of treatment for many children. “We were able to get away from the traditional hospital environment and allow them to do more of their healing at home. Moving forward, with the advances happening now, the next generation of healthcare is about the ability to do remote monitoring and telehealth care. Instead of a child having to be driven six, eight, or even 10 hours to come here for a 30-minute appointment, it can be done virtually.”
Something else they now offer and what makes them unique in the imaging world, especially for pediatrics, is the use of an EOS device. David says it provides low-dose radiation and also allows for vertical images. “For scoliosis patients, in particular, research is showing that young women who have had scoliosis will have greater odds of getting breast cancer later in life because of the higher dose imaging that was traditionally used. By using this EOS device, the belief is that studies will show that as these young women age, they will be less likely to develop breast cancer.”
Its newest offering is a cranial helmet program for children who are diagnosed with plagiocephaly (flat head) as well as torticollis, a condition in which neck muscles don't necessarily move.
Before the move and pre-Covid, Shriners Children’s Twin Cities was serving about 3,300 children a year. Since then, it has hovered around 2,600. “We're now looking to re-establish and bring those numbers back,” says David.
Something very special that makes the hospital stand out is its treatment of children regardless of their ability to pay for their care. A 501(c)(3) organization, it relies on donations in order to provide the most up-to-date care for kids without health insurance or other means. “We have one of the highest ratings for charitable donations in the industry,” he says.
In addition to care, donations are also used to bring joy into children’s lives. “We have nationwide programming for events and activities for children with any kind of disability,” says David. “It allows these children to be able to do a lot of things they wouldn't normally have the ability to do. We provide the staff and resources for camps and events that allow them to showcase their skills such as fishing, shooting or whitewater rafting. They show how their limitations or perceived limitations are not limitations at all.” The Shriners come and help staff those camps.
“I had a chance this summer to go to Wisconsin where we had a camp for kids to go fishing,” he says. “We had about 40 children there and every one of them had some kind of limb deficiency. I watched these kids fish and catch some of the most beautiful trout that I'm only envious of catching. It was an absolute ball to watch them have such an awesome time.”
Donations can be made all year round on its website, and the organization also holds special fundraisers throughout the year. There are many ways to get involved and support Shriners Children’s Twin Cities. From special events to volunteering to help fundraise or support patient needs and activities, there is always a way to help patients and their families receive life-changing care.
With next year being its 100 anniversary, the clinic will be having some special events and programs. Look for those to be announced starting in January.
“Working with a staff who are just as infatuated with supporting the kids as I am and getting to do things to help our team be successful in the work they do serving these children, it’s just a joy,” says David.
To find out more, go to shrinerstwincities.org.