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Sarah’s Story

Once unable to walk, she is now unstoppable.

There is simply no stopping 11-year-old Shriners Children’s Boston patient Sarah. Horseback riding, basketball, altar serving and book club…these are just a few of the activities she is up to these days.

Ten years ago, it would have been hard to imagine Sarah would be able to embrace these experiences.

Sarah was born in China and suffered severe burns over roughly 60% of her body when she was just 1 year old. As she approached age 2 and her burn scars had contracted to the point that she could no longer stand or walk, her birth family made the difficult decision to bring her to an orphanage. Despite the pain she was in and her inability to walk, Sarah was nicknamed “Mei-Mei” by the American volunteers at the orphanage, because she was always happy and upbeat.

Loving Adoptive Parents Bring Sarah from China to Seek Burn Care in the U.S.

Her joyful spirit caught the eye of Teresa, who was browsing Facebook one day in 2013. She saw a photo of Mei-Mei moving around the orphanage on a scooter with an infectious smile. Teresa and her husband, Michael, felt drawn to Mei-Mei almost immediately and decided to adopt her after consulting with some of the volunteers and nurses who helped treat her in China.

Prior to bringing Sarah home to the U.S., Teresa and Michael met with a plastic surgeon in their hometown of Washington, D.C. It soon became clear that Sarah’s injuries were outside of the specialist’s comfort zone and they would need to seek more specialized care. Teresa called Shriners Children’s to inquire about care options for Sarah and was impressed. “It was obvious that Shriners Children’s had expertise that nobody else had, and we were on the same page with them from that initial contact on,” said Teresa.

Comprehensive Scar Management and Overall Care at Shriners Children’s

With burn injuries like Sarah’s, scars contract as a child grows, causing mobility issues. Over the years, Sarah’s doctor, plastic surgeon Daniel Driscoll, M.D., has performed surgeries to keep up with this growth and is currently focused on Sarah’s legs and feet.

“Sarah has a personality twice her size,” said Dr. Driscoll. “She is one the most driven patients I have treated and is always compliant with her care back at home after each procedure. Sarah, her family and I work together to see where her function needs improvement as her bones grow faster than her skin. We can do these complex procedures for Sarah because of our medical expertise in reconstructive surgery and scar management. It is also due to the great support of the Shriners International philanthropy that we can help patients like Sarah.”

Like all Shriners Children’s patients, Sarah’s care team also includes physical and occupational therapists, nurses, care managers and child life specialists. While the distance between her home in Washington, D.C. and her physicians in Boston may seem far to others, Teresa explains that it is actually more convenient. “It was unexpected to me that all of the specialists Sarah needs are right here under one roof at Shriners [Children's]. Shriners has created an environment where Sarah is happy and comfortable despite the difficult procedures she has to go through,” she said. “We drop everything and go to Shriners Children’s because all of Sarah’s care is in one place.”

Sarah, her family and I work together to see where her function needs improvement as her bones grow faster than her skin. We can do these complex procedures for Sarah because of our medical expertise in reconstructive surgery and scar management.
Daniel Driscoll, M.D., plastic surgeon, Shriners Children's Boston

Sarah Thrives In and Out of the Hospital

Sarah is now a fifth-grader with an infectious excitement and many dreams and plans. When she is not taking riding lessons at the The Pony Pool where she is learning to ride, groom and care for horses, she might be found at basketball practice or competing in the weekly Battle of the Books reading competition with her schoolmates. This February, she will go to the Great Lakes Burn Camp, as she does every year, where she makes friends with other burn survivors. When the warm weather arrives, Sarah will be back to swimming, diving and soccer.

No story about Sarah would be complete without sharing her love of animals. She has big plans to become a dog sledding racer in Alaska because she finds it “really cool.” At home, she takes care of her dog Sophie and is excited to bring her new puppy Ash for agility training in the spring. Speaking of the spring, that is when two babydoll sheep will join the family’s chickens to round out this vibrant family that also includes humans – Sarah’s parents, older brothers Stephen and Daniel, older sister Julia and cousin Hannah.

When asked how she feels about Shriners Children’s, Sarah lights up as she mentions her favorites: child life specialists Rebecca and Brooke, and Shriners volunteer Fred. She also really likes the food in the cafeteria. “Shriners helped me walk, stand, run, grow hair and grow tall too,” she said. For patients like Sarah, nothing is impossible.

Meet Sarah

This spirited 11-year-old has never let her burn scars hold her back.

Sarah, age six

Sarah flashes her captivating smile on Easter Sunday at age 6.

Sarah, age seven

7-year-old Sarah proudly waves the American flag at the Kena Shriners Valentine's event.

Sarah, age eight

Who is this soccer star? Here's Sarah on the field at age 8.

Sarah diving into pool

Perfect form for this diver! Sarah also loves to swim in the summer.

Sarah holding dog

Sarah snuggles with her puppy Ash on the day they met. She will take him for agility training this spring.

Sarah holding chicken

Sarah's family has chickens and dogs and will welcome two babydoll sheep this spring.

Sarah and mom on horseback

Sarah and her mom Teresa enjoy a trail ride in Yosemite National Park. There is just no stopping this joyful girl!

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