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Linda and her son Tim were born without arms. They found support and medical care at Shriners Children's.

Tim and Linda, Born Without Arms

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Melanie Cole, MS (Host): Welcome. Today in our podcast- Imagine navigating the world without arms. It’s the reality for a suburban Chicago mother and son, Linda and Tim Bannon, both of whom found support and medical care for their condition at Shriners Hospitals for Children Chicago. The Bannons are my guests today on Pediatric Specialty Care Spotlight. Linda, welcome to the show and I’d like to start with you. Please tell us your story.

Linda Bannon (Guest): When I was born, my parents didn’t have any idea that I was going to be born with any kind of a disability. I was born without arms. Obviously, that was almost 40 years ago. They were just kind of taken aback and didn’t really know exactly how to care for me and things like that. So, when they had heard about Shriners Hospital, they knew right away that they needed to find a way to get treatment for me there. They took me there probably before I was even a year old and started doing some physical therapy. At one point they started making plans to get me some prosthetic arms to just start trying to do different things with those. Throughout the course of my life, I had several different pairs of prosthesis and just didn’t really much take to them.

When I was about 12 years old, I decided that I didn’t want to use them anymore. Then it was pretty much just a lot of physical and occupational therapy that I received at the hospital to make sure that anything that I wanted to do, I learned to do with my feet and was as functional as possible with that. The staff was really supportive in my decision to not use prosthesis, and just did a really great job of preparing me for independence without them.

Host: Then tell us about your time at Chicago Shriners Hospital. What was it like and what stands out the most for you? Is it how the staff treated you and your family? Is it the lessons that you learned about independence? Tell us what stood out the most for you.

Linda: I think the thing that stood out the most for me was the fact that even though I was a child, they really listened to what I had to say about what I wanted and took into consideration my input in how I was treated.

Host: So, Linda you got married, you had a child. Before we get to Tim, did you know ahead of time how Tim would be born?

Linda: Yes. We had pretty much all of the diagnostics that people do now with pregnancy. We had the scans that are done fairly early on, and there were red flags that went up with his. His heart had some malformations and they were also noting very early that his arms didn’t look like they were forming correctly. So, we were sent to a fetal specialist at that point just to kind of start planning what his care was going to look like after he was born physically. So, the first thing that came to my mind was to try and find the doctors at Shriners to see what kinds of advice they could give us or assistance they could give us in terms of making sure he was hitting developmental milestones as much as his age same peers.

Host: Tim, onto you. Tell us about your experience with the hospital, and how have they helped you navigate your condition and lead a life of independence?

Tim Bannon (Guest): Well to lead a life of independence for me at Shriners was very… It took a long process. It was a long process. I enjoyed the process. And I'm still enjoying the process now as a young man and seeing how they have changed from having me as a little child and a little boy and help me come along the way as a young man and a teenager.

Host: We've seen you in the media. So, you're a great spokesman for Shriners. What are some of the cool things that you can do now based on what they’ve helped you to learn to use your feet? Tell us about eating, writing, opening doors, and even playing the piano or riding a bike.

Tim: Well, I do tinker around with the piano and it’s been very fun trying to learn how to ride a bike, an upstanding, upright bike. I think it’s been just a wonderful time at Shriners how they help me around the house. They would show me how to do stuff in the hospital, and then I would take that home and do that around the home as a young boy and now as a teenager and a young man.

Host: Tell us how they’ve helped you… I mean obviously you’ve had to work very hard. I can imagine that you’ve put so many hours, and your mother too, into that type of therapy and learning to navigate it from the therapy sessions that you have at the hospital and then taking it home with you. How have they helped you socially and emotionally to really be this great young man that it seems like you are?

Tim: Well, through the emotional and social standpoint of things, they did, at one point, give me a social worker at the hospital. May I just say, he was a great man to work with, and it really helped me along the way to be the great young man and young boy that you see on TV and on the media.

Host: That’s amazing. I just I love both of your stories. What a wonderful family that you are. So, Linda, I’d like to start with you. Tell the listeners what you would like them to know about Shriners Hospitals for Children Chicago and what they’ve done for you and what they’ve done for your son. And because of that, what they’ve done for your entire family.

Linda: Shriners is really a great place to bring children with physical disabilities. They really treat not just the child, but the family as well because they want to make sure that everybody is involved in the care with the child. They include siblings in a lot of the activities that happen around the hospital, which I think is really important because the siblings are like the child’s first playmate. So, it’s important that those brothers and sisters feel included in what’s going on with the patient.

A lot of the recreation therapy programs are a great way to get the patients involved with each other. So, I just think that that hospital has really become kind of a home away from home or an extended family. So, it’s just really great environment for the kids to grow and learn about themselves while they're learning how to navigate life with a disability.

Host: Yes. That’s a lovely sentiment. And now Tim, you know, as you said, we've seen you on TV and in the media. Tell the listeners what you would like them to know in this podcast because other kids are listening. What would you like them to know about living with a disability, the importance of learning to be your own young man, and how important Shriners Hospitals Children has been for you?

Tim: Well, I really think that Shriners has been very helpful. For all the kids that are listening, it’s not that you have to live life like you think people around you are always just going to have some sort of a disability. When you see kids with disabilities, go up to them and say, “Hi, what’s your name?” Be kind to them and don’t make them feel excluded. So just try and make them feel like they are part of your crowd and your family basically and to make sure that they are feeling like they are basically loved, and they want to be respected, just like how you want to be respected. For all the adults and the parents, that people can be what they want to be. Tell that to your kids. That people would like to be what they want to be and would love to be respected and loved. That they want to have the same life as you guys. Tell them to go up to them and say, “Hello, what is your name and how are you?”

Host: I think it’s great. It’s just great information. Thank you so much both of you for telling us your inspiring story and for sharing with the community the ways that you both have learned to navigate and really been such great spokesmen for Shriners. So, thank you again for joining us. This is Pediatric Specialty Care Spotlight with Shriners Hospitals for Children Chicago. For more information, please visit shrinerschicago.org. That’s shrinerschicago.org. This is Melanie Cole. Thanks so much for tuning in.

About the Speakers

Linda Bannon | Tim Bannon

Linda & Tim are a mother and son from suburban Chicago. Both were born without arms.