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Boston Shriners Children's Hospital: More than Burns

Back in 2004 it was my privilege to be asked to craft an article for Firehouse Magazine about the wonderful works being performed by the dedicated folks at the Boston Shriners Hospital for Children. You may recall that I covered some really important acts, actions, and activities put forth by this nationally-recognized treatment center. The work being done at the outstanding facility continues to this very day.

My friends at the Boston Shriners Hospitals for Children came to me recently and asked for some help. John Sugden and Kathy Golden approached me and asked me to create a bit of commentary which would allow them to share some important news with you about their hospital. Although the hospital is best known for its outstanding children's burn treatment facility, they wanted me to get out the word to the fire service that they are also specialists in the care of a number of other serious medical conditions, most notably among them the treatment of cleft palate conditions.

The first thing that you notice when visiting Shriners Hospitals for Children in Boston is the beautiful modern architecture of the nine story facility. Once inside you see a beautiful mural depicting the history and culture of Boston. But more importantly you notice the warm welcome from everyone from the receptionist to the doctors to the cafeteria staff. Because Shriners is a small pediatric hospital, the atmosphere is warm and friendly.

Let me state for the record that I was so impressed with the charitable work of the Shriners which I witnessed in Boston back in 2004 that when the next opportunity presented itself I joined with the Crescent Shrine Temple here in the southern half of New Jersey. I am also a Past Master at Ocean Lodge #89 and a member of the Scottish Rite Valley of Central Jersey.

It is critical to share one important fact of life to you. All Shriners hospitals have one important detail in common. All treatment is provided regardless of the patient's ability to pay. Talk about a true charitable endeavor. Once again you might be wondering how a boy from the Garden State ended up as a proponent of a children's hospital in Boston, and a really special hospital at that.

The answer is simple my friends. I was asked by a Brother Mason and a fellow Shriner to help out. John Sugden called me to ask for a favor. I met John back in 2004 during a visit to the Grand Lodge of Masons facility in downtown Boston. He is actually the friend of a friend. My pal Dennis Dowd, retired fire chief in Winchendon, and a former fire officer in Dover, Massachusetts is also a Brother Mason. It was Denny who set up the original visit through John.

The Shriners Hospitals for Children are the only philanthropic pediatric surgical care hospitals in New England. The hospitala are internationally known as centers of excellence for pediatric specialty care, research and education. Since 1968, the hospital has been a world renowned leader in pediatric burn care. Additionally, their medical team has treated hundreds of children with cleft lip and palate. In addition, they have expanded our services to include oral maxillofacial surgery, by collaborating with specialists from MassGeneral Hospital for Children.

During a recent phone conversation, John and Kathy asked me to create a new article which covers the whole range of medical problems for which the provides assistance. Let me share an important fact with you all. When a brother Mason asks for help, it is incumbent for you to respond, if at all possible. That is a tradition dating back many centuries.

John and Kathy wanted me to share a complete list of all the treatment regimens and condition that their facility is prepared to treat. The outstanding staff and support team in Boston have the ability to provide an extensive range of services. Here is the list of what they are prepared to provide:

  • Acute Burns
  • Reconstructive or restorative surgery
  • Severe scarring, resulting in contractures
  • Smoke inhalation injury · Cleft lip and palate
  • Oral and Maxillofacial deformities
  • Ear deformities
  • Hand deformities
  • Port wine stains and hemangiomas
  • Congenital hairy nevi
  • Non-burn conditions requiring wound care
  • Toxic epidermal necrolysis (TEN),
  • Staphylococcal scalded skin syndrome,
  • Abrasion/friction injuries, purpurafulminans,
  • Epidermolysis Bullosa

It is important for me to create a picture that accurately portrays the dedication of these outstanding individuals. Let me turn to my experiences during my earlier trip to their facility. At that time I met many of the hospital's key professionals. Let me suggest that my memory of this fine group of people is that they live, breathe, eat, and sleep teamwork. There appears to be a seamless interaction between the patient, the team, and the patient's family from the very first moment a patient enters this facility.

Let me stress to you that the word team is not strong enough to explain the bond that links these dedicated cares givers. From the doctors to the nurses, to those in the areas of pharmacy and therapy, each person outlined their part of the overall team effort. It is not uncommon for the doctors and pharmacists to hold daily conferences to arrive at the best possible medication regimen for their young patients.

Each patient and family is welcomed as part of the Shriners family and each patient's treatment while at a Shriners hospital is unique. Shriners' multi-disciplinary team includes surgeons, nurses, pharmacists, rehabilitation therapists and psychological therapists. This team approach provides the best possible outcome and quality of life for each patient, as evidenced by our ongoing outcomes studies. All of these services are provided within the walls of the hospital or at Massachusetts General Hospital which is connected to Shriners by an underground tunnel.

Let me suggest that one of the critical treatment elements revolves around the long-term relationships which are created at this facility because of the age and condition of the patients. The Shriners Hospital admits children from infancy up until the age of 18. They are then monitored through the ages of 21. In many cases, the treatment goes on over the course of many years. The interaction between staff, patient, and family is an extremely intense and personal matter.

Patients for the Boston Shriners Children's Hospital are accepted from all around the world. That is where you come in. I know of a lot of good burn centers and orthopedic facilities. However, I want you to know that Shriners is the best. Now you might say to yourself, wouldn't every hospital tell a writer crafting a story on their hospital that they were the best? Perhaps. However I want to assure you that the dedicated, team-like manner within which the staff at the Boston Shriners hospital works permeates every part of their approach to life.

Over the years, the Boston Shriners Hospital has been in the forefront of advances in treatment for the burned child. Their research continues to improve survival and promote the quick and complete recovery of the young burn patient. An important element of this revolves around the improvement of quality of life issues for burn survivors.

While my visit dealt with the Shriners Children's Hospital in Boston, what I would like you to do is consider becoming a champion for the network of Shriners Hospitals for Children which stretches across North America. In a world of hospital care driven mad by a spiraling array of cost-related and cost-driven treatment, it is particularly pleasing to note that the great works at this facility exist through the philanthropic largess of the Shriners.

This story has a strong personal thrust for me. A friend of long standing, who is a fellow fire commissioner with me here in Adelphia, and a brother from my own Masonic lodge, has had a fabulous interaction with the Shriners Hospital in Philadelphia. His daughter suffered nerve damage when she was born. After many years of treating at various places, she is now making great strides thanks to the medical team at that fine facility.

Shriners Hospitals for Children in Boston is a member of the 22-hospital network operated by Shriners International. Children up to age 18 with orthopedic conditions, burns, spinal cord injuries, and cleft lip and palate are eligible for care and receive all services in a family-centered environment, regardless of the patients' ability to pay. These hospitals are substantially funded through an endowment fund maintained through gifts, bequests and donations

Who are the Shriners? The Shrine of North America is known for its colorful parades, circuses and clowns. But there is also a serious side to this international fraternity of approximately 500,000 men belonging to 191 Shrine Temples, or chapters throughout North America. Since 1922, the Shrine has operated a network of specialized hospitals that treat children with orthopedic problems, burns, and spinal cord injuries up to their 18th birthday, free of charge.

The Shrine was founded in 1872 by a group of 13 men belonging to the Masonic Order. It was originally established to provide fun and fellowship for its members. But as the organization grew, its members decided to dedicate their efforts to helping others by establishing an official Shrine philanthropy — a network of specialized hospitals that have provided expert medical care to more than one million children.

Shrine charities have been cited a number of times as the most efficient health charity in the United States. Since the first Shriners Hospital opened in 1922, the Shrine has supported what has come to be known as the "World's Greatest Philanthropy."

The best known symbol of Shrinedom is the distinctive red fez that Shriners wear at official functions. Because Shriners are men who enjoy life, fun is a large part of the Shrine and the activities that help support the Shrine's philanthropy. Most Shrine Temples sponsor Shrine Clubs and special units, such as the motor corps, band or clown units and many other units of interest. They share in the camaraderie, deep friendships and good fellowship that are all part of being a Shriner.

The fire service has always been a great support to Shriners. The IAFF Burn Foundation has partnered with SHC – Boston for the past two years to sponsor the New England Walk for Burn Awareness fundraiser. This year's event raised $30,000.00 from sponsorships and donations. In addition, many local fire houses are running boot drives at 4th of July and other events throughout the year to support Shriners Hospitals for Children- Boston. The Sudbury firefighters raised over $5,300 for the care of the patients at Shriners.

Let me urge you to contact the Shriners to see if there is any way that you or your fire/EMS agency can be of assistance. I want you to know about the range of charitable care which is available at Shriners Hospitals. Like the title suggests, it is more than just burn treatment.

My friends at the Boston Shriners Hospital for Children would like to invite those in the fire service to visit the Boston Shriners Hospital for Children or a Shiners hospital in your region. They would also like to invite you to support their hospital and the children that they treat. If anyone is interested in donating or sponsoring an event please contact them at or 617-371-4883.

Your knowledge can make the all of the difference in the world during a critical life and death time when a quick trip to the Shriners Children's Hospital can make all the difference in the world. Let me urge you to learn as much as you can.

HARRY R. CARTER, Ph.D., CFO, MIFireE, a Contributing Editor, is a municipal fire protection consultant based in Adelphia, NJ. Dr. Carter retired from the Newark, NJ, Fire Department and is a past chief and active life member of the Adelphia Fire Company. Follow Harry on his A View From my Front Porch blog. He recently published several texts, including Leadership: A View from the Trenches and Living My Dream: Dr. Harry Carter's 2006 FIRE Act Road Trip. You can reach Harry by e-mail at