By Ruth Ann Ruiz
The Post Newspaper Features Editor
Shriners Children Hospital in Galveston has gone from being a world class children’s burn center to becoming a world class children’s burn and orthopedic hospital.
During the dark anxious days of the pandemic, Shriners of Houston merged with Shriner’s of Galveston, and now the team of experts in both specialties is busy treating young patients who have both burns and orthopedic needs.
Dr William Phillips, Chief of Orthopedics, shared some of the harrowing examples of how the team is working together. For instance, in a tragic automobile accident, a young girl’s burn on her legs were so severe they required amputation to prevent infection from spreading throughout her entire body.
Not all children are as tragic as the one described above; some are coming in for finding the right prosthesis for them to be able to gain function of limbs.
“If a child wants to play the violin, we try to create a prosthesis that enables the child to play a violin. We aim to give the children as much normal use of their bodies as is medically possible,” shared one of the Imperial Ladies of the Shrine.
“We don’t just provide orthopedic care, we treat very complex orthopedic injuries,” explained Mark Hodges of the Shriners Hospital.
Teaming up to cover the needs of burn and orthopedic patients will help facilitate the experts in providing the best treatment options possible for children who are suffering from burns or have orthopedic conditions and/or cleft palates.
The hospital has an onsite prosthetic workshop with certified prosthetic staff. Each child who needs prosthetics is given individual attention right on the site and the team in the prosthetics can create pieces that defy the old standard. Their work reaches into the dreams of the child to give them a limb that can host the trendiest child’s shoes.
Because their patients are still growing, the child will need artificial limbs and specialty shoes that keep up with the growth of the rest of their body.
The hospital is a one stop ideal way for a youngster and family to keep up with the growing child’s prosthetic needs. The child can be seen by a doctor and meet with the prosthetics department on the same day.
Included on site is a lab where human cells are used to create skin grafts. “It takes one month to grow one inch of skin,” shared another of the Imperial Ladies of the Shrine. This makes for greater ease in getting burn victims the skin grafts they will need in their painful recovery process.
All the care given to the youngest humans who are suffering is done through a multi-layered team starting with the Shriners themselves who were founded 150 years ago. As a non-profit fraternity, the group determined during the polio epidemic that they would begin using their fund-raising skills towards children.
The first Shriners Hospital was opened in Shreveport, Louisiana in 1922. The Galveston burn hospital was born out of the need to treat burn victims after the Texas City Disaster and has been treating burn victim for over 50 years.
Though Houston hosted the orthopedic center for many years, now with the merger patients and their families will be able to come to Galveston and experience the same level of care along with a coastal environment throughout their treatment.
Shriners is more than a medical center. It is a place where the staff are impassioned about their work and the patients they serve. “From the physicians to the staff here at Shriners, it is our heart’s mission to care for the children with orthopedic and burn needs,” said Mae Wheatley, Director of Inpatient Services.
Chief of Orthopedics, Dr. Phillips fills a lot of grim tasks in his daily work, yet he brandishes a smile and a bright bow tie to adding a bit of delight to his patient’s day. A youngster overwhelmed with their own pain and fears along with very concerned parents are an area that the hospital is familiar with assisting in making for a little comfort in their time of agony.
As part of the merger and to provide for the needs of the patients they serve, the hospital will be breaking ground on a 40-unit living facility for patients, their families, and medical personnel.
All patients who come to Shriners are treated regardless of their ability to pay. Those who come with insurance are also welcome and, in many cases, patients have been referred to Shriners from other hospitals because of their expert specialization in orthopedic and burn care.
Shriners is a non-profit organization and as such there is always a need for funds. If you wish to learn more about how you can be a part of donating, please contact
If you know of a child who needs orthopedic treatment, please call the hospital at