Preserving medical care for kids prompts family crusade

Misty Yanish of Maple Lake knows all about the need for good medical care and how the right doctors, nurses and hospitals can make all the difference in the world.  And she is determined that others continue to have the same quality of care that she has received at Shriners Hospital for Children.

Misty, who graduated in 2002 from Maple Lake High School, has traveled to Shriners in Minneapolis since she was two years old for medical care made necessary by Cerebral Palsy.

But last fall, families who have considered Shriners a home away from home for their sick children received notification that the hospital could be closing.     The International Boards of Directors and Trustees of Shriners Hospitals for Children cited rising health care costs in targeting its Minneapolis facility out of its 22 hospitals for possible closure. A vote will take place among the delegates at the International Shriners meeting that is set for Minneapolis in July. Should the recommendation pass, the hospital would close at the end of this year.

However, if Misty and her mother, Ruth Pribyl, have their way, the hospital will stay open to meet the needs of children for years to come.

Ruth pointed out that Misty has had 10 surgeries over the years at Shriners to help straighten Misty’s legs. The latest surgery came in early December, when Misty had surgery intended to ease the arthritis in her elbows and make it possible for her to use a walker.

“And more than 55,000 children go through the out-patient facilities,” Ruth said. “When they say there is no one utilizing this hospital, how can they say that? Where has Misty been coming to for 18 years?”

And it’s not just the level of care for children that has made saving the Shriners a personal mission for a mother and daughter.  “Misty’s not just a patient here,” Ruth said. “Misty’s not just a number. Here, she has a name. And when she comes in the door, she hears ‘Misty’s back.’”

Misty and her mother are not seeking to simply preserve their own source of medical services, since Misty will no longer be eligible for treatment at Shriners when she reaches the age of 21.  “I’m really not doing this for me anymore,” Misty said. “I’m almost done here. It’s for the other kids.”

And her mother identifies with the needs of other parents.  “I don’t know where I would have been without this hospital, and that’s the God’s-honest truth,” Ruth said. “I don’t know if Misty could have graduated high school and gone on to college without the help of these people.”

Misty is now attending St. Cloud Technical College with a major in Child Care and Adult Care Education. In the summer, she works at Camp Courage in Maple Lake as a counselor.

Ruth said it was her understanding that the Shriners organization seeks to centralize medical care by sending patients from Minnesota to Chicago and St. Louis for treatment. And she pointed out that it isn’t just children from Minnesota utilizing the Minneapolis facility, but families from Canada, Wisconsin, North and South Dakota, Nebraska and Iowa.

“Some people travel so far,” Ruth said. “God has blessed us in being so close to this hospital, but others come so far already. And now they’re telling them they’ll have to travel farther.  “When I was bringing Misty in, I couldn’t have afforded to travel any farther than I did.”

To help save the hospital Misty and her mother have gotten involved in a letter-writing campaign to show the Shriners organization how important the Minneapolis facility is to children.  “A ton of families is involved in writing letters to the various Shrine Temples and trustees,” Ruth said. “I’m told they are being bombarded with letters. I pray that they are.”

Ruth said she and other parents are going to make themselves visible at the Shriners convention in July to save what they feel is an important area resource for children.  “This isn’t just a hospital here,” she said. “There’s so much love that goes on in that place.”