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Patient’s Return to Shriners Children’s New England a Grateful Homecoming

“Shriners was home. It was comfort. It was care. It was being surrounded by family.”

When Krissy reflects on her care at Shriners Children’s New England, she doesn't sound like someone who spent the majority of her childhood in a hospital. Diagnosed with a rare skeletal disorder when she was 2, Krissy became a patient at the original site of Shriners Hospitals for Children on Carew Street in Springfield, Massachusetts. When a new facility was built next to the hospital in 1990, she was the very first patient wheeled through the doors. Recently, she walked back through those same doors, an emotional return to the place she credits with helping to shape her life today.

When she was a baby, Krissy’s parents noticed a difference in the length of her legs that affected her mobility. After seeing several specialists, she was diagnosed with Ollier disease and Maffucci syndrome. Both disorders involve deformity around the joints, limitations in joint mobility, bone shortening, leg-length discrepancy, gait disturbances, pain, loss of function and frequent fractures. Patients with these conditions also develop benign tumors of cartilage, called enchondromas, within the bones.

With very limited options, Krissy’s family sought treatment close to home at Shriners Hospitals for Children in Springfield. She had a bone graft when she was 3, and began her first round of leg-lengthening treatment when she was 5. From kindergarten through fifth grade, Krissy was never able to participate in a full school year. Thanks to an onsite teacher at Shriners Children's, a tutor, a cooperative school system and her strong work ethic, Krissy persevered. “I always felt like I was playing catch-up, and had to work much harder to try to keep up,” she said. “This really drove my approach to work and life – work hard, and make it happen!”

When Krissy was 9, she had a second, and much longer, round of leg-lengthening treatment after a femur fracture and stint in a body cast when she was 6. Instead of focusing on the difficult times, Krissy remembers Friday-night pizza dinners, dances and holiday celebrations. “I think about all of the joy and laughter,” she said. “More importantly, I think about how I had a whole team rooting for me. People who cared about me in ways I probably didn’t even fully realize at the time.”

Being an integral part of the opening ceremonies for the new hospital building – now Shriners Children’s New England – is one of Krissy’s fondest memories. “I remember riding in the parade just like it was yesterday. I felt like such a star!” she said. “And meeting the very first patient from the original hospital when it opened in 1925 was just amazing.”

The relationships and care are different at Shriners. It’s a security and a feeling of safety that’s been difficult to replicate.
Krissy, former Shriners Children's New England patient

As Krissy neared her teenage years, she still received routine treatment but was able to spend less time in the hospital. When she aged out of care at Shriners Children's, she sometimes found it difficult to make the same connections with new providers. “The relationships and care are different at Shriners,” she said. “It’s a security and a feeling of safety that’s been difficult to replicate.”

A part of Krissy remains at the entrance to the outpatient clinic at Shriners Children’s New England. A large print of a drawing she created with her sister hangs on the wall. Each letter in the word Shriners Hospital represents a distinct detail from her time as a patient. The drawing became an unofficial logo for the hospital in the 1990s. It was printed on T-shirts, promotional materials and a large rug placed in the new hospital’s lobby.

Krissy’s experience at Shriners Children’s gave her the drive and determination to chase her dreams. After graduating from Westfield State College, she received her master’s degree at Springfield College and got married. She then worked in human resources at ESPN headquarters before moving to her current role in corporate human resources at Disney. Krissy became a mom two years ago, a role she describes as the most important of all. She has had multiple enchondromas removed from her hands and feet and three knee surgeries as an adult, staying in close contact with her doctors to monitor her condition.

When Krissy came back to Shriners Children’s New England for a visit, she was thrilled to reunite with long-time staff members who participated in her care decades ago. She also had the opportunity to address the Board of Governors and express her gratitude for the life-changing treatment she received. “Thank you just doesn’t feel like enough,” she said. “Shriners gave me the foundation and set me up for success. You shaped who I am and how I handle life. I hope I have made you all proud because that is all I ever wanted to do.”

Meet Krissy

Krissy recently returned to Shriners Children’s New England and reflected on her care with heartfelt gratitude.

Krissy with daughter in front of Shriners Hospital Springfield, Massachusetts, sign she designed

Krissy stands with her daughter beside the logo she created to represent her time as a patient at Shriners Children's New England.

patient with leg brace on hospital bed with sister making funny faces

Krissy and her sister make silly faces while sharing the fun and excitement of "moving day" from the old hospital into the current site of Shriners Children's New England.

newspaper image of patient with a Shriner in parade

Krissy is held by a Shriner as they participate in the parade celebrating the opening of the new Springfield hospital.

patient in cast with oversized kitten stuffed animal

Krissy is all smiles despite being in a cast, as she healed from one of several childhood fractures.

patient with limb difference standing in front of fireplace at home

Krissy's leg length difference is clear in a photo taken at home in between hospital stays.

former patient with daughter conversing with staff

During her recent visit to Shriners Children's New England, Krissy reunited with members of the rehabilitation staff who cared for her as a child. She was also able to introduce them to her young daughter.

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