Fashion designer Rolando Santana is known for the elegant women’s clothing he creates. What people may not know about is his connection to Shriners Hospitals for Children.
As a child Santana was diagnosed with a very mild form of arthrogryposis – a congenital condition causing joint contractures in two or more areas of the body, typically the hands and feet. While growing up in Mexico, Santana underwent several surgeries to correct his feet and legs, but was told that he was too young to have surgery on his hands. During much of his childhood he wore special boots or casts.
Santana lived most of his life not thinking much about the condition of his hands and feet. Then, one day while Santana and his mother were riding a bus, a nurse from Shriners Hospitals for Children — Mexico City approached them and started asking questions about his hands. The woman – who would later become Santana’s nurse – suggested they visit Shriners Hospitals for Children to have his hands examined. Shortly after that encounter, Santana became a patient at the Mexico City Shriners Hospital.
Later, as a teenager, Santana moved to the United States and became a patient of Shriners Hospitals for Children — Philadelphia. There, he met with a number of specialists and underwent several surgeries and procedures to correct his hands.
Paving the Road to Success
Santana considers his experience and the care he received at Shriners Hospitals for Children — Philadelphia a pivotal part of his success, and what allowed him to be able to follow his dream to become a fashion designer.
“The doctors gave me the ability to use my hands beyond whatever I could have imagined, but meeting other children just like me gave me the strength to overcome my physical challenges. I feel very lucky that Shriners Hospitals for Children was there for me and a part of my story,” said Santana. “For this I will always be grateful.”
Today, Santana is one of New York City’s most acclaimed fashion designers. He draws his inspiration from Mexican art, famous artists around the world, and his mother – whom he spent countless hours observing making dresses. He thrives on always making women feel beautiful when wearing his creations. “Women are my fashion muses. They are classic, chic, and feminine. I love designing for them; this is my passion.”
Santana is making sure to give back to the place that helped make his dreams come true. Despite his busy schedule, he recently visited the Philadelphia Shriners Hospital, where he spent time drawing and sketching fashion designs with the kids. He also shared his own experiences with patients who are going through similar situations, giving them hope and confidence.