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Sisters Achieve Greatness Thanks to Shriners Children’s

Andie Sue and Kaysie Li are receiving the specialized pediatric care they need to achieve their dreams at Shriners Children's Northern California

Andie Sue and Kaysie Li are teenage sisters whose eyes light up when they talk about the activities they love. Andie Sue is a 17-year-old competitive equestrian with dreams of becoming a Paralympian. Kaysie Li is a 15-year-old devoted to training her Australian shepherd, Rusty, as a service animal, with hopes of someday becoming a veterinarian.

The two sisters were adopted from China – Andie Sue when she was 15 months old and Kaysie Li when she was 5 – and each wear a prosthetic limb on one leg. The girls were both born with a congenital limb deficiency in one leg which required amputations soon after they were adopted. Their surgeries were performed at Shriners Children’s Northern California and they have been receiving specialized care ever since.

Orthopedic surgeon Joel Lerman, M.D., has led their care team over the years and the Pediatric Orthotic and Prosthetic Services (POPS) team plays an influential role in allowing the girls to live actively.

POPS Department: Dedicated to Function and Fit

“When Andie Sue first came to us, our pediatrician insisted we go to Shriners Children’s,” said their mother Barbie. “She said we’d get the best care there. And over the years we’ve tried other orthotic and prosthetic specialists closer to home, but they never came close to the care we are receiving at Shriners Children’s. We can’t get the same quality of care anywhere else.”

Over the years and as the girls have grown, the POPS team at Shriners Children’s Northern California has provided custom-fit prosthetics for the girls. POPS specialists focus on fit, function and comfort for specific activities that patients are interested in. For Andie Sue, that special activity is competitive horseback riding.

“I started riding when I was very young,” said Andie Sue. “I started riding bareback, because we didn’t know how to make my prosthetic leg work in the stirrup. I needed my foot to fit straight forward in the stirrup, not angling out, and I also needed my heel to sit low in the stirrup, lower than my toes. The heel needs to be low so it’s secure, but the toes need to be in and forward so they don’t get caught on anything.”

When she was 5, Andie Sue knew exactly what design she needed to support her riding. Her certified prosthetist Eric Smith, who is highly skilled in his profession, was up for the task.

“Designing a prosthesis around the equestrian work Andie Sue is doing requires a unique fit and function when she’s sitting in the stirrups,” said Eric. “For control and balance, equestrians ride in a dorsiflexed, or toe-up, position. We took a foot which has a limited range of dynamic toe action and modified it to increase the range. It required some creativity, but we have to think outside of the box to support our patients and the activities they love.”

Unlike her sister Andie Sue, Kaysie Li is known for choosing artistic, bold designs for her prosthetics.

“I’m very creative and artistic, and I want my prosthetic to reflect that,” said Kaysie Li. “Over the years, Eric has messaged my mom saying he has the perfect pattern for my next prosthetic. That has always made me feel like I’m Eric’s only patient and that he is so focused on making sure I’m comfortable and confident about my appearance.”

The POPS team remains dedicated to maintaining their prosthetics as they grow to ensure the girls are well-equipped to continue chasing their dreams.

“They never make us feel guilty about being too hard on a leg,” said Barbie. “They always tell me, ‘It’s your job to keep them active and it’s our job to keep up with them.’ They always want the girls to be active, out there and comfortable.”

At Shriners Children’s, the team always wants the prosthetic legs to be perfect!
Barbie

A Warm and Fluffy Hospital Experience

Kaysie Li also discovered a passion for service animal work during her care journey at Shriners Children’s. Volunteers would visit her bedside with service dogs while she was recovering from surgeries. This has had a profound positive effect on her. Kaysie Li now trains service dogs of her own, so she can support other pediatric patients just like her someday.

“The therapy dogs have had a big impact on me,” said Kaysie Li. “I remember being in recovery, missing my own dog at home, and then a big fluffy dog would come in and lay his head on my lap and my mood would instantly change. I want to give that to other kids because it felt really good when people did it for me.”

Shriners Children’s is the Perfect Fit

Barbie is grateful to Shriners Children’s for building prosthetic legs that gave her girls the ability to achieve their dreams, and applauds the care team for actively listening and being invested in the entire well-being of her children.

“Over the years, we gave other prosthetics teams a try because they were closer to home, but their attitude was often, it doesn’t need to be perfect, the girls are still growing.” said Barbie. “At Shriners Children’s, the team always wants the legs to be perfect.”

The Shriners Children’s team will continue to keep up with Andie Sue and Kaysie Li as they grow. We look forward to hearing about their future activities and adventures, and will be cheering for Andie Sue when she makes it to the Paralympic Games one day.

Kaysie Li and Andie Sue Achieve Greatness at Shriners Children's

View Transcript

Opening screen: Shriners Children's Northern California logo

Bottom third: Barbie, Mother of Andie Sue and Kaysie Li

Barbie: We were first introduced to Shriner's Children's when we knew we were adopting a child from China who needed an amputation of her right limb. Dr. Lerman was the surgeon who performed the amputations for both of my daughters.

Bottom third: Andie Sue, Patient at Shriners Children's

Andie Sue: Dr. Lerman first amputated my leg when I was 15 months old. He seen me figure out what I wanted to do with life. He seen me figure out my love for horses. And it's been really cool to show him all of the new competitions that I've gone to and the awards I've received. Dr. Lerman and Eric have been super supportive for my journey to the Paralympics.

Bottom third: Eric Smith, Certified Prosthetist

Eric Smith: Designing a prosthesis around the equestrian work that Andie Sue's doing has been really fun. We had to go outside the box and see a design of a prosthesis that is going to fit and function right as she's in those stirrups.

Bottom third: Kaysie Li, patient at Shriners Children's

Kaysie Li: My interest in dogs actually didn't really start until I was 14, and I've always loved them, dogs, because they're super cute. They make an impact when you're going through a surgery. Just like having that fluffy dog, cute dog right next to you. I want to do that for other people because that felt really good when it was done for me.

Kaysie Li: This is Rusty. He's a red tri Australian shepherd being trained for service and therapy.

Kaysie Li: Eric has been amazing about making our prosthetics. He always makes sure that they are fit right. He cares about just the tiniest bit of detail.

Eric Smith: It's really fun to match the prosthesis with the legs. And so they really feel like it's part of them and it's part of what makes them special and strong.

Barbie: See, it's really hard to say thank you enough to the staff. They've done so much for our family. And I don't even know how to express that gratitude to them for how comfortable they've made us feel. A lot of people would say it's just impossible and Shriners has said every step of the way it's possible. So thank you.

End screen: Shriners Children's Northern California logo

Meet Kaysie Li and Andie Sue

The sisters credit our POPS team for going above and beyond to provide care that allows them to achieve their dreams.

Kaysie Li with her dog

Kaysie Li with her dog that she is training to be a service animal.

Andie Sue wearing riding gear

Andie Sue posing with her competitive horseback riding gear.

prosthetist Eric Smith working with Andie Sue

Andie Sue with certified prosthetist Eric Smith during an appointment.

Kaysie Li with her dog

Kaysie Li with her service dog hanging out in the hallway at Shriners Children’s while her sister was in an appointment.

Eric Smith working in POPS department

Certified prosthetist Eric Smith working in the POPS lab at Shriners Children’s Northern California.

Andie Sue with her mother, Barbie

Andie Sue and her mother, Barbie.

Excellence in Care

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orthopedic conditions treated at shriners children's

Orthopedic Care
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Shriners Children's locations ranked by U.S. News & World Report among the "best children’s hospitals for orthopedics" in the United States in 2020.
Orthopedic Care at Shriners Children's Northern California

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