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Reflecting on 38 Years at Shriners Children's

By Kathy Kelly Huston, Shriners Children’s Salt Lake City

When I joined this organization and the mighty team of about 65 staff members at the Salt Lake City Shriners Children’s location in 1984, our facility was truly the best-kept secret across the valley, so much so that I went to another children’s hospital by mistake for my first interview! Fortunately, the human resources director at Shriners Children’s was very understanding, and I was hired as front desk receptionist despite being geographically challenged. My heart was captured that first day: While on tour, a patient, who must have felt my nervousness, asked for a hug.

The early years were filled with learning opportunities about the amazing Shriners fraternity which founded Shriners Children’s and have continued to support it throughout the years in many ways. Imagine working in a hospital where world-renowned physicians, like Sherman S. Coleman, M.D., would skillfully treat children from across the Intermountain region and northern-most Mexico regardless of ability to pay.

I witnessed many surgical miracles for our patients, some of the most moving involving the incredible children from Juarez, Mexico. One young man with severely deformed feet was able to return home with the promise of a better construction job because his surgery would now allow him to climb a ladder. A girl from an orphanage, born without arms and legs but with the voice of an angel, kept her caretakers on their feet after she was fitted into a mouth-controlled electric wheelchair.

Annual Shriners’ caravans came to the hospital bringing everything from food and toys to office supplies and monetary gifts. Shriners from each of our supporting chapters worked diligently in their communities throughout the year to fill our cupboards and bank account with donations to meet the needs of our patients. The lines of vehicles, loaded to the brim, arrived by police escort, to our little hospital on the hill. It was all hands on deck for staff members who helped unload the bounty and conduct tours. Our chief of staff at the time, Dr. Coleman, a real pioneer in the orthopedic community, would present a couple of patients’ cases to the group.

Fast forward to the present. Paper health records are a thing of the past, while computerization and the continual medical advancements through on-going research in our own facilities is mind-blowing. The only things that haven’t changed are the Shriners' commitment to the children and the dedicated and skilled staff members across the system who make the magic happen for these incredible children and their families.

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