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news item News Thursday, June 6, 2019 Wednesday, June 5, 2019 7:07 PM - Wednesday, June 5, 2019 7:07 PM

Clubfoot patient pushes past shyness to become patient ambassador for the hospital he loves

Meet Phoenix, patient ambassador

Eleven-year-old Phoenix is a Shriners Hospitals for Children — Salt Lake City patient ambassador. Named for the mythical bird that symbolizes living life transformed, Phoenix is doing just that. An active boy who has faced many years of medical treatment to correct clubfoot, Phoenix shares his journey with others in an effort to give back to the hospital he loves.

Phoenix was born with bilateral clubfoot, a diagnosis his parents, Shane and Chariti, were aware of and prepared for prior to his birth. They heard about Shriners Hospitals for Children from another hospital and felt it was the best place for treatment. They intended to take Phoenix in at 2 weeks of age, but plans quickly changed upon delivery when their newborn developed a severe viral lung infection, a brain hemangioma and seizures. Phoenix spent two weeks in neo-natal intensive care before he was finally able to go home. The stress and worry from the experience loomed as Shane and Chariti prepared to tackle the next hurdle facing their baby.

The Shriners Hospital experience – a sigh of relief and newfound perspective

Phoenix had his first appointment at Shriners Hospitals for Children — Salt Lake City at 2 months of age. The family met with Kristen L. Carroll, M.D., and serial casting began that day.

“All of our stress and worry after our first visit to Shriners Hospital was eased,” Shane recalls. “After meeting with Dr. Carroll, we knew that Phoenix was going to be able to be straightened out.”

Chariti agreed. “We breathed a sigh of relief and thought, we can do this.” At 6 months, Phoenix underwent an Achilles tendon lengthening surgery. At age 2, he had a tendon transfer procedure and was in the hospital for a week. He was in and out of casts through age 4, and wore daytime and night-time braces for many years.

Shane and Chariti are grateful for Dr. Carroll’s approach to treatment. Prior to the final set of serial casting at age 4, surgery was once again on the table. Dr. Carroll expressed her preference for one more round of casting in an attempt to spare Phoenix the additional surgery. It worked. “She got the results she was looking for,” Shane said. “It was awesome to see how she wanted to try that before resorting to surgery.”

“We owe Dr. Carroll so much,” Chariti said.

Perseverance and perspective seemed to come naturally to Phoenix as he faced his challenges. His parents discovered theirs one day while waiting for their son to come out of surgery. They had wandered in to Central Activities, a large playroom in the center of the hospital, and observed a teenage boy with prosthetic legs, a prosthetic arm, and just three fingers at the end of his natural arm. They watched as he absently dribbled a basketball. Suddenly he took off at a run toward the hoop, and slam-dunked the ball. After witnessing that, Shane recalls thinking, “How can I ever say I can’t do something in life? It was a testament to the hospital, and how it affects patient’s lives. He was just being a kid, having a good old time. We watched him for a long time.”

“I think that’s where our perspective really changed,” Chariti added. “Seeing that boy while our son was in surgery.”

“We had life-changing experiences at Shriners Hospital,” Shane added.

A positive outlook and giving back

Today Phoenix wears orthotics in his shoes and gets bi-annual check-ups. His prognosis is good. He enjoys jumping on the trampoline, riding his bike and hanging out with friends. Recently, he completed a 12-mile mountain bike ride with his scout troop. Although he experiences some pain and tires easily, Phoenix is determined. Coming to Shriners Hospitals for Children — Salt Lake City is a happy experience. After 11 years, it feels like a second home. A “Shriners Hospital day” means fun, not fear.

Phoenix sees his patient ambassador duties as a way of giving back. Last December, he addressed the hospital’s Board of Governors. This month, he shared his story with 150 Wyoming Shrine Bowl football players and coaches. “He’s very quiet, but he still does this,” Chariti explains. “He has a big love for the hospital.”

Phoenix as a babyPhysician treating Phoenix