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news News Wednesday, May 13, 2020 Wednesday, May 13, 2020 2:06 PM - Wednesday, May 13, 2020 2:06 PM

Former patient Maria shares about the life-changing care she received at the Portland Shriners Hospital

Former patient Maria shares about the life-changing care she received at the Portland Shriners Hospital

As a young child, Maria lived and worked on a farm and in the fields of Hood River, Oregon, with her family. As the oldest of seven children (an eighth was later added), she was looked up to by her younger siblings, but was looked down upon by her peers. Struggling with a severe limp that challenged her physically, Maria fought just to get up from the ground without assistance. It also prohibited her from fully participating in school physical education programs, and eventually led to weight issues due to inactivity. Embarrassed and in pain, Maria went through her early childhood days keeping to herself while quietly dealing with the discomfort that surged through her hips and legs.

Maria’s parents took her to various doctors in the Hood River area, but after every exam and X-ray, they were told that nothing was wrong. They were told that she needed more calcium, that it was “growing pains” she was experiencing, or that she was simply making things up. As undocumented immigrants at the time, Maria’s father was afraid to pursue too many medical consultations – nor did they have the money to do so. It was not until after her father passed away, when she was almost 9 years old, that her mother started to become a strong advocate for Maria’s health and would not settle for empty answers.

Eventually, a Sunday school bus driver noticed Maria’s severe limp and convinced her mother that she should no longer be passive, but rather demand a referral from a local physician to see the doctors at the Portland Shriners Hospital, where they had the best pediatric orthopaedic specialists. Since Maria’s mother did not drive and spoke very little English, transportation had to be arranged, and 9-year-old Maria did all of the English-Spanish translation during her appointment.

After a few X-rays, an exam, and meeting with Michael Aiona, M.D., at the Portland Shriners Hospital, Maria did not return home that day. Instead, she underwent the first of two surgeries, which would span over four years of her life, to begin the process of correcting her severe bilateral hip dysplasia. Left undiagnosed, her condition would have prohibited her from walking at all later in life.

“It was a complete life-changer,” said Maria. “My life would be completely different if it were not for the caring help of the Portland Shriners Hospital. We had so little and they gave us so much”.

It was not until a recent visit back to the hospital as an adult that Maria began to recall memories of her days spent at the Portland Shriners Hospital as a patient. “Coming from very little, the hospital felt like a luxury hotel to me,” said Maria. “I recall a lot of kids sleeping in the same room, fun stuffed animals, and making friends with other patients who turned into pen pals. It was my first time playing video games!”

A few years later, one of Maria’s younger sisters started showing the same signs of hip dysplasia, and her mother demanded a referral to the Portland Shriners Hospital. Again, Dr. Aiona performed the same life-changing surgery on her sister, just as he had for Maria. By the time Maria’s youngest sister also started showing indications of severe hip dysplasia, the doctors in Hood River did not hesitate and immediately wrote a referral to the Portland Shriners Hospital!

Maria went on to graduate from Oregon State University, and then received her law degree from Whittier College School of Law in Southern California. She is now a practicing immigration law attorney who is very passionate about her job. Out of eight children in her family, seven have earned bachelor's degrees and five out of eight have advanced degrees. A great deal of their ambition and drive stems from their mother, who never gave up.

“I am forever grateful to the Portland Shriners Hospital. The work that Shriners [Hospitals for Children] does is so critical and important – they will help any child become the best person they can be. I am who I am today because of Shriners,” commented Maria.