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Old 12-27-2010, 05:52 PM
Dangermouse Dangermouse is offline
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Default Re: Masonic Shriners Pedophile Pigs

FORT MYERS - Brittany Groth of Estero was 8 when a doctor noticed a curve in her spine.

A check with a specialist confirmed it. Brittany had scoliosis - and bad. The curve in her spine measured some 50 degrees, twisted into a backward "S."

Her orthopedic doctor put her in a brace, and that's when her mother, Theresa, got a glimpse of what the family would face financially. The brace cost $9,575. The insurance covered about $4,500 of it. Ultimately, Brittany would need five braces and six surgeries.

Then a chance conversation with a neighbor offered Brittany a path to wellness and her parents financial security.

"He said to me, 'I'm a Shriner, and I can help,' " Theresa Groth remembered.

The neighbor, the late Walter Rohrich, sent the Groths to the Shriners Hospital for Children in Tampa, a specialized medical center for children with orthopedic problems like Brittany's. For seven years now, doctors have operated on her spine, supplied her with braces and performed regular progress checks. All for free.

All medical expenses paid

A little more than 700 southwest Florida children get free medical care from the Shriners, the 135-year-old men's fraternity that's perhaps best known for their funny fez hats, silly clowns and toy-like "Tin Lizzy" cars.

Beyond their public antics, the Shriners have a very serious mission.

Today, the Shriners' 22 hospitals are something of an oasis in an otherwise turbulent health care sea. Nationally, 9.4-million children are without health insurance, according to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Poor children on Medicaid struggle to find doctors who will accept the low-paying government insurance. Even insured families like the Groths can get saddled with high deductibles and copayments as insurers shift costs onto policyholders.

The Shriners take any child younger than 18 who has a condition that's treated in their orthopedic, burn and spinal cord centers. It does not matter whether they are insured or uninsured. It doesn't matter if they are rich or poor. The organization pays all medical expenses. Its money comes from donations, endowments, fundraisers and individual Shriners themselves.

The Shriners will even transport patients and their parents free-of-charge by van, or pay airfare for those who need to go to an out-of-state Shriners hospital. Hospitals have parent bedrooms and discount deals with area hotels if they're unable to accommodate a family.

All told, the 22 hospitals cost nearly $2-million a day to run.

"If he hadn't helped us, I don't know what we would have done," Theresa Groth said of her neighbor.

The Shriners have been doing medical charity since they established their first hospital in 1922. Mostly, they operate out of the public spotlight. That's changing, though, as aging members work to capture the attention and support of younger generations.

"We don't honk our own horn," said Bob Sneckenberger of Fort Myers, who joined the fraternity 48 years ago in Detroit.

He now manages public relations for the Araba temple in Fort Myers. Sneckenberger said the national organization has recently hired a consultant for a public awareness campaign. Locally, Sneckenberger also is working with county emergency services, schools, hospitals and health departments to make sure those organizations understand what the Shriners do.

"This isn't scientific or anything, but through surveys we think about half the patients in our hospitals are there by chance," Sneckenberger said.

Just like Brittany Groth.

Making hospital visits fun

Brittany returned to the hospital last week for a checkup. Her last surgery was in February, and doctors were continuing to monitor her progress.

Surgery wasn't exactly fun, confessed Brittany, who is now 15. But she couldn't be more pleased with the doctors and nurses who have taken care of her.

"Everyone is really nice and kind," she said while waiting for doctors to examine her. "They take really good care of me. It's not like going to the hospital. They make it fun."

X-rays showed how much her alignment had improved since starting the Shriners treatment. Still, things weren't going quite right. Her back hurt, and she was getting strange sensations in her arms, hands, knees and feet.

"I'm having tingling in my arms," she told Dr. Harry Kim, one of the hospital's orthopedic specialists.

Kim brought in a neurologist, Dr. Raymond Fernandez, one of the Tampa area specialists who consults with the hospital. The doctors couldn't pinpoint what was causing the sensations - the symptoms weren't consistent with spinal cord compression or other nerve problems - and decided she needed to return for more tests.

"I think in this kind of situation we have to look beyond conventional thinking," Kim told Brittany and her mother.

She will return this month for testing.

Since 1985, 40,000 children have been treated at the Shriners Hospital in Tampa. They come in with anything from a broken bone to complex conditions like spina bifida, cerebral palsy and spinal deformities.

The hospital takes children from Florida and southern Georgia. On a recent Tuesday morning, the waiting room was filled with volunteer drivers from Florida cities as far away as Pensacola, and children who zipped around in wheelchairs or climbed on and off parents' laps.

The 60-bed hospital is part research center, part manufacturing plant and part research and training grounds.
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