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Over a decade of love: Jessie's "Shriners kid" story

Tampa patient ambassador recalls years of care and love

Over a decade of love: Jessie's "Shriners kid" story

Typically, when you see a child crying at a hospital, you assume it is due to discomfort or the anxiety an impending medical appointment brings. For Shriners Hospitals for Children — Tampa patient ambassador Jessie, it was the exact opposite.

“Jessie used to cry when it was time to leave because she didn’t want to go,” her mother, Eileen, said while referencing her daughter’s earliest days at the Tampa Shriners Hospital. “She would walk as far away from me as possible – as quickly as her little legs could go.”

Eileen credits that behavior to the connection they have with the doctors, nurses and other staffers Shriners Hospitals for Children — Tampa. “This place has never felt like a hospital to us. [They] are our family. [They] always have been, and always will be.”

Jessie on the cover of SandsJessie's family has a long history with the Tampa Shriners Hospital, as Jessie has been a patient since 2006. She was born with spina bifida, bilateral hip dysplasia and clubfoot; all of which she has received support and care for at Shriners Hospitals for Children — Tampa. Jessie also makes frequent visits to the seating department for any wheelchair adjustments she needs, as well as the Pediatric Orthotic and Prosthetic Services – Southeast, LLC department for maintenance of her knee-ankle-foot orthotics (KAFOS). The KAFOS provide Jessie with extra bracing above her knee to the top of her leg, which helps her be more stable when walking.

“Thanks to all the efforts of many at Shriners Hospital, Jessie can walk with her crutches or walker instead of having limited mobility with a wheelchair,” Eileen said.

The now 11-year-old is actively involved in her weekly dance group, REVolutions Dance, and loves it. She is scheduled to attend a dance intensive program alongside group mates this summer in Minneapolis and is looking forward to the lessons the week brings. She also loves to read, make crafts, play with her American Girl dolls and her cat, Nicole. She is a happy girl and her smile is infectious; one of the many things Tampa Shriners Hospital staffers remember about the soon-to-be middle school student.

When you ask Jessie what she likes most about Shriners Hospital, she says “everything!” The friendly faces walking the hospital hallways, the lovely ladies groups who make her feel like royalty, and getting the opportunity to be involved in events and meet other Shriners kids herself. Jessie is happy to share the story of her own medical journey and was featured on the front cover of the local Egypt temple’s publication, The Sands, with a caption that read “This is Why We Do What We Do.”

“Shriners [Hospital] will always have a special place in my heart,” Eileen said. “Being able to see so many doctors collaborate together all for the same result of Jessie being the best Jessie she could be... it is what I wish every parent with a special needs kid could experience.”

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