Shriners Children’s Patient, Burn Survivor Inspires Donation to Therapy Team
Thirteen-year-old Courtney and her aunt were on a flight home from Courtney’s recent appointment at Shriners Children’s Ohio when the man sitting in the same row struck up a conversation with the pair.
That stranger, Scott McNair, asked their reason for traveling, and that opened the door for Courtney to explain why she was at a hospital in Ohio.
Two years earlier, Courtney was in a fiery car crash that left her with significant burn injuries. She had to relearn how to walk and use her hands after one hand was amputated due to her injuries. She still wears custom pressure garments to help flatten any scarring, and still travels from her home in South Carolina to Ohio for follow-up visits.
McNair, who works in healthcare, said listening to Courtney’s story was inspiring and exactly what he needed. “I was coming off a string of frustrating days, so meeting someone who had been through so much and handled it with grace and humor was really inspiring,” McNair said.
Courtney has embraced her burn recovery journey and said, for her, making jokes helps her cope with the painful aspects of recovery. “It’s obvious I have scars so I use it to my advantage,” she explained. “For Halloween I dressed as a pirate because I thought the scars looked really cool with my outfit.”
Her aunt said Courtney also jokes with people that her scars were the result of a fight with a shark. “Of course, I tell people I won,” Courtney said with a laugh.
Courtney said her fighting spirit, along with the specialized treatment from Shriners Children’s, helps her stay motivated during her recovery. But Courtney said the most meaningful experience is meeting another burn survivor: her occupational therapist, Lisa. “She has scars just like I do,” Courtney explained. “Only another burn survivor knows what this has been like, so I feel like she really understands what I’m going through.”
Lisa Meister, who sustained a burn injury when she was in graduate school, said that sharing her experience can help encourage kids when they’re learning how to walk, stand or even sit up.
Their bond was top of mind at the end of the flight when McNair made a promise to Courtney.
“I told her I was going to make a donation to Shriners Children’s in her name, and asked how she wanted the money directed,” he explained. Courtney didn’t hesitate when she said the gift should be directed to the occupational therapy department.
Just a few days later, McNair made good on his promise and wrote a check for $2,000 for the occupational therapy department at Shriners Children’s Ohio. “It means a lot that Courtney wanted this donation to help other patients on their burn recovery,” Meister said. “We’re all really proud of how she’s recovered, and I hope she realizes that she’s an inspiration to all of us.”
Courtney didn’t know if McNair followed through with the donation until Meister surprised her at a recent clinic appointment with a ceremonial check. “I can’t believe my story made someone want to donate to the hospital,” Courtney said. “It feels really good knowing I made a difference.”
That good feeling was echoed by Bethany Deines, senior director of philanthropy, who thanked McNair on behalf of the hospital. “He told me Courtney’s energy and positivity inspired him, and that flight was the highlight of his week,” Deines said. “I am delighted to welcome Scott to our donor family.”
After seeing the check, Courtney made a promise of her own. “I’m going to be an occupational therapist when I grow up so I can be just like Lisa and help kids.”
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