Helping HawaiÊ»i’s Keiki Stand Tall

For almost a century, Shriners has been providing specialized care for children with orthopedic conditions regardless of a family’s ability to pay.

Centrally located on Punahou Street just a hop and a skip away from Kapi’olani Medical Center stands the Shriners Hospitals for Children, a health institution whose services have helped youths in Hawai’i and throughout the Asia and Pacific region for over 90 years. To date, the clinic has treated more than 30,000 children with bone, joint and neuromuscular conditions.

With more than 22 locations across numerous cities including Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, Houston, Portland and Salt Lake City, Honolulu’s Shriners Hospitals for Children is the organization’s second oldest chapter, employing more than 180 employees from doctors and nurses to physical therapists and orthotics engineers.

In harmony with its mission, Shriners employees and volunteers strive to provide the highest quality care to children with neuromusculoskeletal conditions, burn injuries as well as other special healthcare needs with an approach that is compassionate, family-centered and collaborative. “Our level of healthcare is very comprehensive because we aim to treat not only the child’s physical weaknesses but also their emotional needs,” said says Director of Public Relations Mahealani Richardson.

Comprised of 24 hospital beds and numerous care facilities, Honolulu’s Shriners Hospitals for Children creates a custom treatment program for every patient. In addition to regular doctor appointments, patients also receive frequent visits from pediatric counselors, specialists and out-reach volunteers. “Oftentimes when dealing with an orthopedic condition, parents have to drive all over town to see different specialists and make appointments that are weeks or months away,” says Richardson. “At Shriners, it’s like a one-stop shop even if the child does not have health insurance.”

Created specifically to handle children, Shriners’ Honolulu branch is one of very few places on the island that offers an in-house pediatric neurologist. “Due to the doctor’s particular expertise, we have the capacity to treat those with various learning disabilities such as cerebral palsy, autism, ADHD and spina bifida,” says Richardson.

Although most of the center’s patients come from Hawai’i, a significant portion also comes from Pacific region countries like Fiji and American Samoa. For such visiting patients, the clinic pays for any and all travel expenses. Additionally, patients who must stay at the hospital for an extended period of time, along with their families, are welcome to stay at the facility’s family center. “We are very proud of our family center because it essentially works like a hotel,” says Richardson. “Th e families are able to have their own bedroom, kitchen and entertainment area while they wait for child to undergo treatment.”

In addition to long-term care patients, Shriners also treats children suffering from temporary orthopedic fractures. Th e hospital’s new fracture clinic is open to the public every morning between 7:30 a.m. to 9:00 a.m. “As a parent, it can be frustrating to have your child fall and not be able to see a doctor for days or even weeks afterward,” says Richardson. “Any child can visit our fracture clinic, get a sling and see a doctor the next morning without an appointment.”

From the moment one enters Shriners, it is undoubtedly apparent who the facility is made for. With walls colorfully adorned with images of children playing and sea animals as well as an impressive aquarium located in the lobby of the center, the campus is inviting, friendly and warm. Sounds of children laughing fill the air. “People always comment how happy the people here look,” says Richardson. “Despite the gloomy issues our patients have to deal with on a day-to-day basis, they are able to find joy in the specialized care they receive.”

To encourage morale and help the children cope with their individual ailments, Shriners dedicates a significant portion of its treatment program to recreation therapy, which comes in the form of field trips, performances and interactive games. “At Shriners we truly believe in the power of fun, so as much as their schedule allows we will take outings to places like Magic Island to go swimming or set up a makeshift bowling alley on the hospital lawn,” says Richardson. “Our recruiters do a terrific job bringing in singers and dancers to perform for the children or oftentimes, we will enlist the kids in a cooking or painting class.”

In maintaining a successful nonprofit operation, the center faces the continuous challenge of increasing awareness. “Most people know that we are here, but very few actually understand what we do,” says Richardson. “Th ere are always more children we can help, and it is just a matter of finding them.”

For the employees who work at Shriners, each day brings a new sense of appreciation and humility. “Th ere is so much we can learn from these children,” says Richardson. “Every day I come home a better person because of the example they set forth.”

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