Free to be Me: Isabella’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.
From birth, Isabella had difficulty feeding and sleeping. Her parents, Roselyne and Tim, went from doctor to doctor seeking answers, but no one could identify a cause. As she grew, her parents became convinced that something was seriously wrong. Isabella’s speech sounded like she was whistling and she had ear and sinus infections constantly.
Searching for answers
For five years, Roselyne and Tim sought answers for their little girl but continued to be unable to obtain even a cause or a diagnosis. Some professionals thought Isabella was cognitively impaired; others thought she was deaf. One day a family friend in the Chicago area heard about the issues Isabella was facing and suggested the family apply for treatment for Isabella at Shriners Hospitals for Children — Chicago. The family did not know at the time that their friend Dick Anderson was a member of Medinah Shriners and, at the time, Chairman of the Board of Governors of the Shriners Hospital in Chicago. Anderson was glad to be of help. He has said that helping Isabella and her family find the help they needed was life-changing, and that he wished all the Shriners understood the impact they can have on the health care system’s patients and families.
At their first appointment, an interdisciplinary team of professionals assessed Isabella and, within minutes, provided a diagnosis. Isabella had a submucous cleft palate, a form of cleft palate that is not easily identifiable, as the palate is covered by a thin membrane. “It felt like the whole world came down on us; we finally knew the diagnosis,” said Roselyne. Isabella was scheduled for surgery to repair the cleft and subsequently received speech therapy for two years.
Finding her own voice
Isabella, now 14, lives in Florida with her family. She has gone from struggling to be understood to becoming a gifted vocalist and hopes to perform professionally one day. Isabella volunteers at a local veterinary hospital, pet sits and babysits. She enjoys painting, poetry and outdoor activities. She also actively seeks ways to give back to Shriners Hospitals for Children.
WATCH HER STORY, “FREE TO BE ME: ISABELLA’S STORY”
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