Shriners at the Border: Brothers Helping Children
As the ambulance doors closed, nearly a dozen Nobles of Shriners International – from both Mexico and the United States – gathered closely around and silently formed a line, each man laying a hand on the side of the ambulance and resting a hand on the shoulder of the man in front of him. They bowed their heads and silently prayed for the safe transport and speedy recovery of the child inside, who would soon be on his way to Shriners Children’s Texas in Galveston.
On Valentine’s Day, 20-month-old Fernando was playing at his family’s home in Coahuila, Mexico, while his mother was boiling a pot of water nearby to make tamales. What followed was an accident all too common in households with small children; the pot of boiling water tipped and spilled on him. His parents rushed him to the local hospital, where they learned that Fernando had sustained serious burns over 35% of his body. After getting him stabilized, the team at the local hospital suggested he go to Shriners Children’s Texas in Galveston, the only verified pediatric burn center in the state of Texas.
Having never heard of Shriners Children’s, and knowing it was across the border in Texas, Fernando’s parents were worried about how they would get him there for the high-level treatment he needed. They didn’t worry for long.
“The local hospital coordinated with Shriners Children’s and arranged our travel to the border with the help of the local Shriners in Mexico and a group of Shriners in Texas,” Fernando’s mother, Valeria, said. “We had never heard of Shriners Children’s before this, but Shriners in Mexico and Texas made it easy for us and made all the arrangements.
The Laredo Shrine Club, a club of Alzafar Shriners based in San Antonio, stands at the ready to coordinate with their brothers across the border in Mexico to transport patients.
“We work as a team across international borders to ensure safe travel for these kids,” said Rick Reyes, Potentate of Alzafar Shriners. He praised the quick communication between Alzafar Shriners, the Laredo Shrine Club and their brothers in Mexico. For Reyes, the accomplishment spoke not only of their effective collaboration, but also to their shared compassion, friendship and collective willingness of spirit to help those in need. “All these attributes are common in Shriners everywhere,” he said.
When Fernando and his family arrived by ambulance at the Juarez-Lincoln Port of Entry Bridge in Laredo, the Shriners were there to witness his arrival and pray over him. “We are incredibly grateful to have played even a small part in helping that family,” Reyes said.
Once the family arrived in Galveston, Fernando received the highly-specialized care he needed for his burns, as well as compression garments to prevent further scarring. Fortunately, he did not need surgery or skin grafts, and after about 10 days, Fernando and his mother were able to return home to Mexico with a great outcome, and to continue to heal.
“Having the opportunity to assist in any way possible, it goes a long way. That’s what we do as Shriners,” Reyes said. “We’re wearing the Fez. That’s the common denominator. Whether you’re in America, in Mexico, or another country, you see that man wearing the Fez and you know they’ll do everything they can to help you.”
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