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Natalie Dances Her Way to the Irish Dance World Championships

Patient ambassador with limb difference achieves national dance success

Even before she arrived in the United States, Natalie’s parents knew that they were adopting a baby girl with some type of hand/arm difference. They thought there was no treatment for her condition and regardless, they would love her just the way she was.

Through message boards on adoptive family-networking sites, Natalie’s mom, Jennifer, learned that Scott Kozin M.D. was considered "the guy” for hand surgery for children with conditions similar to Natalie's. And best of all, he was the chief of staff at Shriners Children’s Philadelphia, which was not far from where they lived. Jennifer quickly decided to seek his recommendation for care. 

When Dr. Kozin examined Natalie, he stated she was a candidate for thumb politicization (a hand surgery technique in which a thumb is created from an existing finger), but lengthening the arm would not be recommended due to her already fused elbow.

Since becoming a patient, Natalie has had two hand surgeries, the first in 2010 and second in 2016. She continues to be followed for annual appointments.

Natalie’s limb difference has not limited her activities. She has accomplished so much, especially as a competitive Irish dancer. She competes in a custom-made dress with a specially made left sleeve for her shorter arm. Irish dance is a sport that typically requires arms to be held straight at one’s side, which Natalie is physically unable to do.

Now, at the age of 13, Natalie is well-known by the judges and continues to make her mark competing with no accommodations. She has achieved great success both nationally and internationally. In July of 2021, she won the U.S. Irish Dance National Championship in her age group. She will be competing this spring at her first World Championship in Northern Ireland.

Jennifer, is very grateful for all the care her daughter has received over the years at Shriners Children's Philadelphia. She is most impressed with how the staff cares for the patients and their families.

Everyone involved in Natalie’s treatment at Shriners Children’s has been so caring. You can tell how much Dr. Kozin loves his job and the kids he takes care of by how he listens to parents, interacts with his patients, and puts everyone at ease.
Jennifer, Natalie's mom

Natalie is also appreciative of Dr. Kozin’s attentiveness and caring nature. “Every time I come to the hospital, he always remembers me and asks about my dancing,” said Natalie.

Because of the care she received, Natalie can ride a bike, swim and pick up small objects. She even likes to help her mother make dinner by chopping vegetables. She enjoys reading Harry Potter and Percy Jackson books and studying Greek mythology. She is also a proud Shriners Children's Philadelphia patient ambassador and has appeared in several marketing campaigns and videos like the one below.

Patient Ambassador Natalie shows off her Irish dance moves for St. Patrick's Day 2022

For the second year in a row, patient ambassador Natalie wanted to spread some St. Patrick's Day cheer! Thank you to all who make care possible for patients like her!
View Transcript

Hello! I'm Natalie and I'm a patient ambassador for Shriners Philadelphia. Wishing everyone a happy Saint Patrick's Day! Thank you for your support that helps kids like me.

Patient Ambassador Natalie

Natalie has been coming to Shriners Children's Philadelphia since she was a baby. After two hand surgeries and therapy, she continues to excel in dance as well as other activities like riding her bike and swimming. As a patient ambassador, she helps share our mission through dance and appearing in our videos and commercials.

A very young Natalie with green paint on her hands

Young Natalie finger painting before her initial surgery

A very young Natalie held by dad

Young Natalie sitting with dad during an appointment with Dr. Kozin

A very young Natalie in therapy

Natalie in occupational therapy with Justine after her initial surgery

Natalie dancing in hospital during filming

Behind the scenes footage of Natalie dancing at our last commercial video shoot

Natalie in a hospital room during filming

Natalie practicing her lines for our latest donation commercial

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