Free to be Me: Emily’s Story – 2017-2018 National Patient Ambassador
Shriners Hospitals for Children announces 2017-2018 National Patient Ambassadors in Daytona Beach Patients from Santa Rosa Beach, Florida, and Erie, Pennsylvania, selected as ambassadors
Every year, Shriners Hospitals for Children selects two National Patient Ambassadors to represent the health care system’s patients. The ambassadors spend the year telling their stories of perseverance in the face of adversity and the ways Shriners Hospitals for Children has made a dramatic, life-changing difference in their lives. The new national patient ambassadors were introduced during the premiere of their documentary called Free to be Me as part of Shriners International’s annual convention, known as Imperial Session.
Emily’s mother, Joy, did not experience significant issues during pregnancy, but moments after Emily was born, that changed. Emily was rushed by ambulance to a hospital in a larger city only hours after birth, and spent her first two weeks in the NICU, where doctors gave her a complete assessment.
Emily was born with spina bifida, as well as severe scoliosis (missing eight ribs on her left side) a leg-length discrepancy, additional orthopaedic conditions, bladder and kidney problems and other issues. When she was 6 weeks old, Emily had surgery to close the defect over her spinal cord. The following day, a long list of serious complications began, keeping her in the hospital for 28 days. During this time, the Mellishes learned about Shriners Hospitals for Children from a close friend. “It was comforting to know that even before I needed to worry about a place to take her orthopaedically, that someone had come forward and said there was a place where Emily would be taken care of,” said Joy.
Finding the right team
Emily was first seen at Shriners Hospitals for Children — Erie when she was approximately 6 months old. There, she has undergone several surgeries. Other surgeries, including a VEPTR (vertical expandable prosthetic titanium rib) procedure, which stabilizes the spinal curve and levels growth, were done through a collaboration between Shriners Hospitals for Children and Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh. Emily has also been seen at Shriners Hospitals for Children — Philadelphia, where external fixators were used to straighten Emily’s leg at the knee, and increase leg length.
After this, she was able to ride a bicycle for the very first time. Emily always amazes her doctors with her “no limits” attitude.
Giving back with Beads 4 Needs
Today, Emily is an energetic and sociable 11-year-old. She loves dancing, swimming, painting pottery and public speaking. In 2012, she started Beads 4 Needs, a foundation dedicated to raising funds for Shriners Hospitals for Children through bracelet and photograph print sales, and has raised more than $80,000 for Shriners Hospitals for Children – Erie. Without Shriners Hospitals for Children, Emily would not be Emily, she would be forced into a box,” said Joy. “With Shriners Hospitals, there are no limits to what she can do.”
WATCH HER STORY, “FREE TO BE ME: EMILY’S STORY”
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