NEW ORLEANS -- The Shriners are well known for riding in little dune buggies in Mardi Gras parades, but those appearances help children get top medical care.
One teen whose life was changed by the Shriners, hopes her story will inspire people to support them.
It was an exciting time for the Nogues family. Baby number three was on its way. And then they had the first ultrasound.
"We were offered the option of terminating the pregnancy if we thought it was something that we didn't want to continue with, and that was offered to us several times," said Cheryl Nogues of Slidell.
"You get excited to have a child and to find out there may be something wrong, it gets you worried," said her husband Chris Nogues.
Karolina was born 16-years-ago with one leg shorter than the other. It was also growing more slowly than the rest of her body. The family was told to amputate, but then they went to the Shriners Hospital in Shreveport.
"Now I can do pretty much anything that I want to do and that feels nice because there was a point in my life when I couldn't," said Karolina Nogues.
Today Karolina is a senior at Mount Carmel Academy. She is Canada over the summer studying French. She loves horseback riding and surfing since doctors at Shriners Hospital made her legs the same length.
"Over the course of about seven years, they lengthened my leg seven inches, and so now my legs are even and I can do anything that I want to do," Karolina said with a huge smile and happy giggle.
From the ages of seven to 14, there were multiple surgeries with a permanent external fixator system. There was physical therapy. It was painful. And for 10 years, too many X-rays to count. That's why the Shriners are working to raise money for the EOS Imaging System, a state of the art X-ray that reduces radiation exposure by 85 percent.
"I think to have a machine that is a fraction of the radiation, will be so beneficial for kids like me that have X-rays every week," Karolina said.
"Why that's so critical, when treating little children, especially people with orthopedic or spinal conditions, where they have to have constant X-rays, multiple times a year, throughout the entire course of their treatment, which could be from shortly after birth until they're 18 or 21 years old. So this reduces their risk for cancer later on in life," said David Scheuermann, the Public Relations Chairman for Jerusalem Shrine Center.
The 22 Shriners hospitals worldwide treat children with burns, orthopedic conditions and birth defects like clef palates and neuromuscular conditions, no matter a family's ability to pay.
"A lot of these kids, they wouldn't get medical care if it weren't for Shriners," Karolina said.
Karolina hopes to be a teacher one day.
"I really love history and I love kids and I love teaching kids about the world," she said.
The Shriners are $200,000 away from their goal of buying the new, low radiation X-ray machine for their Shreveport hospital.
So they will be having canshakes across Louisiana Saturday morning at major intersections, or you can send a check to the hospital in Shreveport or the headquarters in Destrehan.
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