Meet Patient Ambassador Paige
Not many people can say they look forward to going to the hospital, never mind going in for surgery. However, 11-year-old Paige looks forward to traveling to Shriners Hospitals for Children — Boston every three months, even if that means going into the OR. Paige was born with a port-wine stain birthmark on her face. At the age of 2 she began seeing plastic surgeon Matthias B. Donelan, M.D., for treatment. Ten years later, Dr. Donelan and Paige are still close. Whenever Paige is in the hospital, the two don their matching OR caps that are embroidered with “Paige’s Dr.” and “I love Dr. Donelan,” a cherished gift the family gave to Dr. Donelan in 2016.
Paige is not only resilient but also kind-hearted and selfless. She finds joy in helping others, whether that be calming down patients outside the hospital operating room or by nursing stray animals back to health with her friends. This is only one of the many qualities that makes Paige a great Patient Ambassador. We recently caught up with Paige and her mom, Shelly, to learn more about Paige and her experience at the Boston Shriners Hospital.
Please tell us your story. How did you become a Boston Shriners Hospital patient?
Paige: It all started when my parents noticed that my birthmark was changing. The doctor told them that I needed laser surgery. I don’t remember this time because I was only 2 years old! Our insurance would not cover it, but that’s when a family friend, who was a Shriners [Hospitals] patient at the time, told us about Shriners. We applied and I was accepted as a patient!
Tell us a bit about yourself: school, hobbies, family and your favorite things!
Paige: I am going into sixth grade and my favorite hobby is skating. I was actually just skating before this interview with my brand-new rollerblades, and my mom had to call me to come inside! You can see me skating in the video message I made for other Shriners patients.
My family consists of my mom, my dad, me and my dog, Benny, who I call my baby. I love to spend time with my friends Sydney, Brenna, Addison, Sam, Lily, May and Klaire. I know Sydney and Brenna from church, Lily and May are my neighbors, and Addison and Sam are friends that I made at school and daycare. Klaire is a lifelong friend as we have been friends since I was a month old. My friends are so important to me so it has been hard not seeing them during coronavirus. But I am so lucky to be able to still play with them online!
What are some of your favorite memories at the Boston Shriners Hospital?
Paige: One of my favorite times is when we are with Team Brave and we go out to fun activities with child life staff and the Boston firefighters. There is always something fun to do, and Team Brave helps us learn about different cultures because Shriners patients are kids from around the world. Although we may not all speak the same language, we still have fun no matter what. My favorite meeting was when we went to a cooking class and made spaghetti and decorated cupcakes. I shared the cupcakes with my family, Dr. Donelan and the Team Brave bus driver. Everyone thought it was so nice that I gave the bus driver a cupcake because I thought he should have a treat too for helping us kids!
Shelly: Paige has a pen pal who she met outside the OR before getting laser surgery one day. Ever since then, the two write each other notes and leave them with Rebecca from child life, who shares them with Paige and her friend when they visit the hospital. It’s the coolest thing to see the connection they have made despite only meeting twice in person.
Tell us about your special connection with Dr. Donelan. How did you think of creating the awesome matching OR caps?
Paige: Dr. Donelan is always kind and caring, and we give him little gifts to show our appreciation for him. He is the best doctor I have ever had! The caps were a gift idea because my mom knew someone who could make them and we just went with it. I like the caps because they are something unique and special.
Shelly: I work at a surgery center and came up with the idea of embroidering caps as a gift. Dr. Donelan told us that the caps are the best gift he has received and he keeps them safely tucked away in his locker until we come to the hospital.
What does Shriners Hospitals for Children mean to you?
Paige: Shriners means a lot to me. One of my favorite times of year is when I get to go to Boston and hang out with the friends that I’ve made over the years, including nurses, patients and Dr. Donelan. It is always fun to see them since we live in Iowa, which is nowhere near Boston.
Shelly: We have only had good experiences. I remember the first time we were at the hospital; I was really scared and I cried as she was going off to the OR. But from the minute we get to Shriners [Hospitals] to the second we leave, the staff is so good to us. We look at everyone at Shriners as family – the hospital staff and the other families. Everything that we need has been thought of, even before Paige or I realize it ourselves!
Thanks for your wonderful video message! What did creating that for other patients and staff mean to you?
Paige: Making that video allowed me to find a new way of showing gratitude. I also wanted to be an inspiration to those having a hard time due to the coronavirus. I was able to thank the nurses and doctors who work at Shriners [Hospitals] as well as tell them to stay strong and do what makes them happy.
We should be happy for what we have! For me, that means helping others. That is something that is really important to me. I just want to be able to help as many people and animals as possible. Plus, being at home so much allows me to snuggle with my puppy every single day. It’s not so bad when you look at the positives!
Can you tell us about the fundraising you have done for the hospital?
Shelly: Our local Shrine center here in Iowa, Za-Ga-Zig, supports us and Paige has a sponsor, or a "Shrine dad." For the first time this past year, the Iowa Shriners Organization decided to create a fundraiser specifically for the Boston hospital. It was called the Firefighter's Ball and took place in October 2019. This was a formal event and we invited the local firefighters to attend. The event was very educational because many people didn’t know where their donations were going. Paige was asked to speak about her experience at the Boston Shriners Hospital. When people look at Paige, she looks fine. People do not understand why she would need to go to a burns hospital. So, we were able to educate attendees on her port-wine stain birthmark and the amazing laser treatments at Shriners [Hospitals] that help kids like Paige. She made people cry with her story and her positive outlook on life! The event was a huge success and we hope to double, or even triple, the earnings raised next year.
Is there anything else you would like to share?
Shelly: We just don’t want to forget to mention how much we love Dr. Donelan and the rest of the staff at Shriners [Hospitals].
Paige: Yes, Dr. Donelan, Team Brave and everyone at Shriners make me so happy!
Shelly: When Paige was younger she thought that she was getting surgery to make her birthmark last longer so she could keep coming to Shriners. Her birthmark is in the shape of a heart on her cheek and Paige feels like it's part of her. We always jokingly tell Dr. Donelan that we want him to stop doing such a good job so that we can keep coming back!
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