By Betty Lawrence
Kevin and Laura Griesdorn of Maria Stein say it was an eye opener having their daughter treated at the Shriners Burns Hospital in Cincinnati.
Their daughter, Erin, a fourth-grader at Marion Local Schools, was born without her left ear (microtia). She became a candidate for treatment at the hospital because the hospital does a lot of ear reconstruction for burn patients.
The young girl has undergone five successful surgeries for her ear in the past four years.
The new ear was formed using some of her rib cartilage and skin grafting from her inner thigh. She has no hearing in the left ear, and uses a hearing aid in her right ear.
"It was all cosmetic surgery. They literally have constructed an ear for her, and there was some work to her right ear also," Laura Griesdorn says. Incredulously, the Shriners do not charge for their services. Everything is offered at no fee to the families.
"Before our first appointment, a driver even showed up and asked if we needed a ride to the hospital," Laura Griesdorn says.
"And they are so nice to me at the hospital," her daughter adds, grinning. "I get a bag of toys each time I go and make a lot of new friends."
The Shriners hospital also offers housing for the families while their child is in the hospital. Because of the severity of most burns, many children often are hospitalized for months on end.
"It has been such an eye opener for us," Laura Griesdorn says. "When I look around and see how some of these kids are injured, it makes you feel thankful for your own healthy kids. Erin's condition is minor compared to some of them."
The Shriners hospital also has an activity room, pet therapy, a summer camp for burn victims, clowns that perform at the hospital and birthday and going-home parties for the patients. Parents also are instructed on how to care for their recuperating child.
Erin said her favorite part of being at the hospital was the activity room.
"I get to cook. We've made pizza, cookies and brownie sundaes," she says, adding she also became good friends with 9-year-old Lacy Connel of Mulberry, Fla.
"They have their own jet and fly in kids from all over," Laura Griesdorn says. "Right now, there's children from Guatemala and Mexico. They flew one family in from Florida, just for a consultation. They paid for everything. They turn no one away."
Laura Griesdorn says it was a fluke how she discovered the services of the Shriners hospital.
"I used to work at the Korner Kafe here in Maria Stein, and I noticed the Shriners ring that one of our customers, Paul Alexander, was wearing," she says. "I talked to P.A., that's what we call him, and we got to talking abut Erin, and he introduced us to Bill Ringo who also was a Shriner. Bill then became our sponsor, and we filled out papers that permitted us to have Erin treated at the hospital."
The Griesdorns also have two older daughters, 14-year-old Amber and 12-year-old Leah, who visited their sister at the hospital.
"It's really a neat place. What they do there is awesome," Amber Griesdorn says.
Laura Griesdorn says her daughter is doing well, playing soccer and acting like any other kid.
"Before talking to P.A. and Bill, we never really knew what the Shriners was all about, but what they do is amazing. They not only treat the children, they take care of the whole family. I can't tell enough people about how great the hospital is," Laura Griesdorn says.