When it comes to Montreal’s paediatric hospitals, most people think about the Montreal Children’s or Ste. Justine. Yet there is another institution that does a great job of treating babies and young people: the Shriners Hospital for Children.
Located on Cedar Ave., this hospital focuses on orthopaedic ailments, treating injuries and disorders of the skeletal system as well as muscles, joints and ligaments.
For families in need of this kind of highly specialized care, the Shriners makes a world of difference. Kaleb-Wolf is a 4-year-old with osteogenesis imperfecta, also known as brittle bone disease. The genetic disorder is characterized by fragile bones that break easily. His mother, Marie-Hélène De Melo Torres, says a team from the Shriners was there as she delivered her son.
“He had fractures when he was born,” she explains. “He couldn’t move his legs. But it wasn’t as stressful as it could have been because we knew that specialists were taking good care of him.”
De Melo Torres says the Shriners’ staff offered not just medical care but emotional support as well. “They provided a social worker who helped us deal with the frustration and guilt we felt every time a fracture occurred, which would happen even when we picked him up or changed his diaper.” The staff encouraged Kaleb-Wolf’s parents to cuddle and touch their newborn, showing them safe ways to do so.
Over the years, Kaleb-Wolf’s progress has been followed by the hospital. Recently the head of rehabilitation went to evaluate his classroom, recommending modifications to the school’s washroom to meet the young boy’s needs.
The Shriners is part of a network of 22 hospitals across North America that specializes in specific medical issues such as cleft lips and palates, spinal cord injuries and burn care. The hospitals are supported by the fundraising activities and volunteer work of the members of the Shriners, a men’s fraternity that has auxiliary groups for women.
In Montreal, the Shriners Hospital is also at the forefront of research, having developed medical techniques and treatments for a variety of orthopaedic abnormalities. Last year, two of its leading researchers, Dr. Frank Rauch and Dr. Pierre Moffatt, announced they had identified the genetic defect underlying MDMHB, a painful bone disease that causes an unusual series of symptoms including severe tooth decay, osteoporosis and spine fractures in teenagers. Their work will allow for improved screening and treatments of the disease.
The profile of the Shriners is likely to rise in 2015 when it moves into a brand new facility in N.D.G. The $127 million being poured into the building will see a doubling of its space and the ability to offer improved care to more patients. Jerry Gantt, a member of the board of directors, says the new location will have four operating rooms instead of its current two.
“We will be able to do more surgeries specifically during the summer months so kids don’t miss school,” he said. As well, the hospital will have 22 single rooms instead of the current 20 shared rooms, which will allow parents to spend more time with children who have to stay overnight.
Teaching and research will continue to be an important part of the hospital’s work; Gantt confirms the new facility will include a surgical skills laboratory for teaching, which he notes is the first of its kind for any Shriners hospital. The lab will allow for the simulation of a surgery, which can be watched by up to 200 people.
No family likes to imagine a child in need of serious medical care, but for those who require it, they can take comfort knowing that the Shriners is a world class facility, sought out by not only Montrealers but also people from around the world.
For more information about the Shriners, visit www.shrinershospitalsforchildren.org/canada.