Every year, Shriners Hospitals for Children® selects two National Patient Ambassadors to represent the health care system’s patients. The ambassadors, Connor & Mia spend the year sharing their stories of perseverance in the face of adversity and the ways Shriners Hospitals for Children has made a dramatic difference in their lives.
Connor, 14, was born with a bilateral incomplete cleft lip and complete cleft palate involving the hard and soft palate. As a newborn, his condition was so severe that he was even unable to create the suction needed to feed. By the time he was 3 weeks old, he was failing to gain weight and was about to be admitted to a hospital. That’s when Connor’s family learned about Shriners Hospitals for Children — Chicago. There, his RN care coordinator gave his mother, Kelly, a special syringe, making it possible for her to finally feed her baby. And from that moment, Connor began an extensive treatment plan of surgeries and interventions that extends until he is 21, so that some repairs can be made after he has stopped growing. Connor’s condition affects not only his teeth and his ability to eat, but also his speech, hearing, and social and emotional well-being. In addition, Connor has a connective tissue disorder that eventually made it difficult for the active teen to participate in contact sports. Still, Connor’s can-do spirit and supportive family have helped him to find many ways to pursue his passions. Connor umpires for youth baseball, acts as a physical education mentor for other kids with disabilities at his school, and is an advocate and community volunteer. But most of all, Connor is a golfer. He maintains a busy training schedule and hopes to one day become a pro. And with his family, Connor is part of a large local annual fundraiser, a golf tournament that has over the years raised more than $200,000 for Shriners Hospitals for Children. “I just want to use my time as a National Patient Ambassador to help other kids,” Connor said. “I want kids to know that no matter what they look like, or how they walk, or what makes them different – that they shouldn’t let anyone else make them feel bad. I want to help other kids feel good about themselves and their differences. I’m excited to make an impact on other Shriners kids’ lives and spread awareness about our amazing hospitals and Shriners.”