Skip to navigation

What we're up to

news News Monday, January 20, 2020 Monday, January 13, 2020 12:56 PM - Monday, January 13, 2020 12:56 PM

Patient from 1950s never forgets time at Shriners Hospitals for Children — Salt Lake City

Patient from 1950s never forgets time at Shriners Hospitals for Children — Salt Lake City

By Delia Ozburn

This is the story of the six months that changed my life forever thanks to the Shriners and all of the wonderful people at the [Shriners] hospital.

When I began walking, I was quite pigeon-toed so my parents took me to a local doctor who prescribed corrective shoes; however, my condition only worsened. One of my uncles knew a Shriner who connected me with the Shriners Hospitals for Children in Chicago. At the age of 4, I began visiting the Chicago location. The doctor explained the problem was actually in my hips and prescribed a different type of corrective shoes and gave me exercises to do. Over the next eight years, my annual visits were encouraging as I was doing better; however, I still did not walk correctly.

Since my family had moved from Indiana to Greeley, Colorado, when I was in the seventh grade, my records were transferred to the Salt Lake City Shriners Hospital for my annual checkup that summer. After examining me, the doctor informed my parents that my condition would probably not improve. My heart sank. He went on to suggest that surgery could correct my walking if I wanted it. Having experienced embarrassing comments from junior high boys, I would do anything to be able to walk correctly.

On October 11, 1957, my mother and I took the train to Salt Lake City and I was admitted to Shriners Hospital. Thanks to the Daughters of the Nile, I was provided with a new dress to wear. A week later, I had my first surgery on my left leg, followed by a hip spica cast. Seven weeks later another surgery was performed on my right leg and the cast was extended so that it started from above my waist to my toes on both legs with a bar attached to my lower legs, which could be used to lift me.

For a week after surgery, I attended school in bed. The classroom was in the hall between the girls and boys wards and with one teacher for students in grades 3-8. I loved the opportunity to work on my own and actually completed the eighth grade curriculum in six months.

A week after surgery, the physical therapist provided me with a specially designed wheelchair since I couldn’t sit upright. It was great to be mobile!

After school and on the weekends we had occupational therapy, which was craft projects that included making a wooden shelf for knick knacks, ceramic items and more. There were weekly classes for the girls to learn how to embroider and for the older kids, bead work. Various volunteers gave us ukulele lessons and had us play musical instruments for a rhythm band. Once a month we watched a movie. On Saturday evenings, we watched TV for an hour. Sunday evenings we had devotionals with inspiring speakers and then returned to our wards singing, Now the Day is Over, which I still sing to myself each night as I fall to sleep. Shriner clowns, musicians and many other groups also entertained us. I don’t remember ever being bored.

Since I didn’t have a sister, I really enjoyed being in a ward with about 10 other girls. What a learning experience to meet children who had survived polio but now had to learn to walk again. One of the boys had been in an accident and was paralyzed from his waist down. I soon realized how fortunate I was.

Christmas was a special time as we had entertainment nearly every evening. We put on a Christmas play for the Shriners and then for our parents. On Christmas day, Santa arrived with laundry carts filled with a big bag for each patient with about 10 gifts provided by the Shriners and two gifts from home. Wow!

In February, my cast was removed and I quickly learned that you don’t spend four months in a cast and then get up and walk the next day. The physical therapist was encouraging and taught me the importance of perseverance. To strengthen my legs, I made a rug with a weaving loom with foot pedals.

On April 4, which was Good Friday, I had the best Friday because my mother arrived and I was able to walk out of Shriners Hospital with my toes pointing straight ahead. Not only had my walking improved, but I had also developed more self-confidence, a positive attitude about life and had witnessed compassion and dedication in action.

Later, in college, I met a young man who later told me he fell in love with me the evening we went for a drive and I told him the story of spending six months at Shriners Hospitals for Children — Salt Lake City. A few years later, he bought me boots for hiking, which I would never have thought of doing before eighth grade. I have since hiked to the bottom of the Grand Canyon and to the top of Pikes Peak. To me, those events are symbolic of my great life.