‘It Truly Was a Gift’

Lora looks back on two decades of treatment at the St. Louis Shriners Hospital

Nearly 21 years after she first was carried into Shriners Hospitals for Children — St. Louis, Lora walked out for the last time as a patient on a beautiful early summer day in June.

She squinted in the bright sunshine and talked spiritedly about her future, about her plan to attend Lindenwood University in nearby St. Charles as she chases her dream of becoming an animal geneticist.

That future is very much alive thanks to two decades of treatment at the St. Louis Shriners Hospital.

“The opportunity I had to be seen here for as long as I was, it truly was a gift,” she said.

It’s a gift of which she plans to take full advantage.

Lora had yet to make her entrance into the world when doctors first recognized she would need specialized orthopedic care. On her mother Tracy’s prenatal ultrasounds, doctors were unable to see the developing baby’s lower left leg.

There was no surprise when Lora was born without it.

The idea that life-changing help for Lora could be found at Shriners Hospital was born long before she was. Her mom Tracy’s two best friends in high school were patients at the St. Louis Shriners Hospital, and when she saw her daughter in need of orthopedic care, she knew just where to go.

“It was a no-brainer,” she said.

As Lora grew, so did her orthopedic needs. Perry Schoenecker, M.D., and J. Eric Gordon, M.D., treated issues with her legs, including a fusion of her lower-right one. Charles Goldfarb, M.D., operated on her hands to restore function to her thumbs. And two years ago, Chief of Staff Scott Luhmann, M.D., helped stabilize her spine to prevent scoliosis from endangering her life.

Through the years, Lora formed tight relationships with numerous members of the Shriners Hospital medical team, people with whom she hopes to maintain friendships now that she no longer is able to be seen as a patient at the hospital for children.

One of those medical team members is radiology technologist Melissa Warren, a 20-year veteran who has taken dozens and dozens of X-rays of Lora over the years. 

“The first time she could walk, she ran over to me and hugged me and thanked me for helping her get to this point,” Warren said. “That right there is why it is so amazing to work here.”

Those kind of relationships tend to form quickly at a Shriners Hospital and make being a patient here special.

“I got to see pictures of her prom dresses, talk with her about the boyfriends and see whatever her latest hair color was,” Warren said. “In so many ways, she’s kind of like my other daughter.”

These are the things that make leaving the Shriners Hospital system difficult, Lora said.

“This is a bittersweet day,” she said. “I have so many great memories. It’s tough to leave that behind.”

But she won’t be totally leaving it behind.

Lora will remain linked with Shriners Hospital thanks to its partnership with Washington University. All Shriners Hospital physicians – including Dr. Luhmann – also are professors at Washington University’s prestigious School of Medicine and have the ability to see patients at its two other affiliated hospitals, St. Louis Children’s and Barnes-Jewish.

“There’s a lot of comfort in that,” Lora said.

Lora also plans to stay connected to Shriners Hospital by supporting its current patients. Her advice to them and their families? “Trust your doctors. Trust the medical team,” she said. “They’ve been here for me all my life. They’ve been nothing short of amazing.”


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