Compassionate Care

A Mindful Method

Parker has experienced both physical and emotional healing.

Shriners Children’s recognizes the vital mental health connection to physical recovery

The morning 13-year-old Parker’s life changed forever began just like any other. He rushed out the door, hopped in his mom’s car, helped settle his baby brother, and they all headed to school, chatting excitedly about the day ahead. Less than 20 minutes later, paramedics were pulling the family from a heap of metal. 

That morning on the road, Parker’s mom, Sharonda, had a seizure and lost consciousness. As her car sped out of control, Parker jumped into action.

“Parker was sitting in the back, but when he realized something was wrong, he unbuckled his seatbelt and got to the front to take over the wheel,” Sharonda said. “He saved our lives.” 

While Sharonda walked away with a few broken fingers and a fractured tailbone, and her youngest son was unscathed, Parker was transported to the hospital with a broken ankle, broken ribs, punctured kidneys and a perforated gallbladder. 

Nineteen days into his two-month-long hospital stay, Parker was told he would need to have his leg amputated – his broken ankle hadn’t allowed blood to circulate properly. He was devastated. For months after the amputation, Parker’s mental health rapidly declined. 

“He developed severe depression and anxiety,” Sharonda said, explaining that the once avid athlete was convinced he would never feel like a kid again. But he was going to try. 

David Westberry, M.D.

Fighting the fight

Parker decided he would fight for the life he loved. A few months later, he found himself at Shriners Children’s Greenville, where an in-house Pediatric Orthotic and Prosthetic Services (POPS) team fabricates thousands of custom-fit assistive devices for kids every year. 

With consultation from physician David Westberry, M.D., a team of highly skilled physical therapists and orthotists began working to ensure Parker would make as full a recovery as possible. He was fitted with a prosthetic leg designed for comfortable support and, of course, lots of physical activity. 

Parker uses his experience to help others realize they’re not alone.

The mental/physical connection

Recovering physically had a tremendous impact on Parker’s mental health.

“These days, Parker is as strong as ever,” said Sharonda. “He rides bikes and four-wheelers with his friends. He plays basketball on his middle school team. He perseveres with a positive outlook. The team at Shriners Children’s helped break the chains off Parker, and now he’s limitless! They gave him his personality back.” 

And he’s not taking that for granted. Filled with a hard-won sense of compassion for those who are struggling, Parker never shies away from a friend in need. He recognizes and relates to physical pain as well as emotional pain. He knows what it’s like to hurt, and he wants to let others know they’re not alone in their experience. “Parker is using his story to comfort others,” Sharonda said.

Psychologist Ellen O’Donnell (pictured here with patient Andy) and her team follow patients through every stage of their care.

Working as a team for overall well-being

The staff of Shriners Children’s is concerned for our patients’ overall well-being, including helping them cope with devastating changes that can cause emotional or mental pain. Some of our locations have psychologists and/or psychiatrists on staff to help with these issues. It is just one aspect of what we call “wrap-around care.” 

For example, the Boston location has a psychiatry and psychology team that sees all patients admitted to the inpatient unit for serious burns. “We follow them through every stage of their care: from their stay in the hospital to outpatient care, and until they go back to their communities, families and schools,” said Ellen O’Donnell, Ph.D., director of clinical psychology services at Shriners Children’s Boston. “We also see patients who come in for ongoing surgeries or outpatient rehabilitation. We work very closely with the medical staff, rehabilitation therapists, and especially with nursing, care coordination, child life and, given our very large international patient population, our medical interpreters, to support our patients and their families. We work closely with the team to help patients cope with anxiety and manage pain, so they can meet their goals and recover as quickly as possible.” 

Our patients and families often need support adapting to their “new normal.” They may need help adjusting to scars, assistive devices or other physical appearance issues, and practicing how to tell others about their injuries, conditions and experiences during treatment and recovery.

Shriners Children’s is committed to providing a full range of resources and services to help our patients recover to the fullest extent possible and achieve their goals.


Shriners Children’s Philadelphia is one of our locations that has a psychologist on staff who is available to the care teams when psychosocial and/ or emotional issues get in the way of a child’s ability to meet their goals. Psychologist Heather Russell, Ph.D., provides examples of situations when it may be time for patients to receive help:

  • The child’s perceived anxiety and/or depression is interfering with their ability to get through the day (i.e., full participation in therapies, eating and sleeping well, taking recommended medications, completing activities of daily living, giving consent/assent for surgeries).
  • The child appears to be angry or is acting out a great deal of the time so that it is interfering with their ability to get through the day.
  • The child is having a difficult time coping with their pain.
  • The child is having difficulty sleeping or eating, and it cannot be explained medically.