Shriners Encourages Patient’s Love for Swim Team and Horseback Riding


Young girl in a wheelchair flexing her muscles

Maren is an eight-year-old little girl with a quick wit and impressive memory. She’s a voracious reader, knows the proper medical names for all her medications and loves school. She loves swimming the backstroke for her local swim club in Elk Grove, Calif. and riding horses.

When Maren was two years old she was diagnosed with cancer in her spine. Maren would spend a difficult year battling cancer that left her with a spinal cord injury and paralyzed from her mid-spine down. Maren’s doctors declared her cancer-free a year later but knew she had a long road of rehabilitation ahead of her. This is why Maren’s doctors encouraged her parents to seek out Shriners Hospitals for Children – Northern California (SHCNC) for rehabilitation care.

Spinal cord injuries are just one of the many specialty areas of pediatric care offered at SHCNC. It’s also a place for pediatric colorectal care, an important component of Maren’s rehabilitation journey. Her diagnosis is multi-faceted and many specialists weighed in on the best possible care for her. SHCNC offered a very caring approach to dealing with hard realities that accompanied Maren’s spinal cord injury.

Maren’s medical team is led by Loren Davidson, M.D., medical director for the spinal cord injury program, and includes physiatrists, orthopaedic specialists, physical therapists, occupational therapists as well as urologists and gastroenterologists.

“Dr. Davidson is amazing,” said Maren’s mom Samantha. “He and his entire team were wonderful when it came to educating us about Maren’s needs, helping us navigate and advocate for Maren at school and everything else.”

Over the years, Maren’s medical team has helped her live her fullest life. Physical and occupational therapists helped Maren learn to move her body and use her wheelchair. The urology and gastroenterology specialists helped Maren and her parents manage her urinary and bowel needs as well.

“The urology staff are truly experts,” said Samantha. “They taught us so many tricks because they are so knowledgeable and have treated so many children over the years.”

This year, Maren is getting ready to start third grade at her local public school. Her team at SHCNC has been there every step of the way! They helped educate Maren, her parents and her teachers about her needs. They event went as far as visiting her school and giving a power point presentation to educate administrators, teachers and friends about the Maren’s condition. The SHCNC physical therapists educated the school about Maren’s medical condition, abilities and needs in order to help her and others feel comfortable.

“The physical therapy team, doctors and nurses made sure that we were well equipped with information to take and educate the school,” said Samantha. “Shriners has always educated us, including Maren, with many strategies to increase her independence.”

A spinal patient in a swimming pool

Maren also has many interests outside of school. She rides horses with Project R.I.D.E., a Sacramento-area nonprofit providing therapeutic recreation in the form of horseback riding instruction for people with special needs. She also swims for her local swim club and is the only member of her team who uses a wheelchair. She can do a backflip in the pool and her favorite stroke is backstroke.

“Backstroke is my favorite because I can also look up towards the sky,” said Maren. “And I love swimming because I love how my body feels in the water.”

Maren also loves to read. It’s hard for Maren’s mom to keep up with her book-reading appetite. She is just finishing the 13-book series, “A Series of Unfortunate Events” and looks forward to the next series she discovers.