Apr 14, 2020 / Rheumatology

Share Your Story: Found My Calling

Meet Shelby, a patient seen by our Rheumatology experts. Learn more about her journey below.

Blog written by Shelby of Georgetown, TX.

My parents have always said that I was an extremely bubbly and joyful toddler - I never fussed or complained. When I turned 2, my right thumb swelled to the size of an acorn and I would frequently cry. My parents were scared and confused and took me to many doctors around the Austin area.  
Doctor after doctor and nobody could diagnose what was going on. Most of the time, my parents were told that maybe it was a broken bone or even cancer. After countless specialists, we were sent to Scottish Rite for Children and I was able to see Dr. Punaro in the Rheumatology clinic, where I was diagnosed with juvenile psoriatic arthritis. My mom’s first question was, “How do we cure this?” Dr. Punaro told us this was going to be a chronic condition and what she said next was life changing. “This is not going to define Shelby in any way. She can still do anything she wants in her life, and we will adjust her treatment accordingly.” 
The diagnosis may have been scary, but the difference between Scottish Rite and other places, is the attitude that surrounds everything they do. Everyone there looks at kids as more than just a patient. They see a child. A child with dreams, life goals and milestones. A child that just so happens to also have an illness or a condition. Scottish Rite gives children their childhood back and encourages them to pursue the same kind of life that every other kid would pursue. 
When I was 12 years old, I told Dr. Punaro that I wanted to dance. She said, “Do it!” Not only did she help me recognize my limitations, but she helped me recognize my strengths. My mom also did such a marvelous job of encouraging my sister and me to push past barriers in life. As an adult, I am so incredibly thankful she instilled that in us. My arthritis may have caused me some pain, but through it all, I learned so many life lessons which will someday help me to move mountains. 
When it came time for me to think about college, I decided to attend The University of Texas and pursue a degree in nursing. My nurses and doctors at Scottish Rite were amongst my greatest encouragers when I was struggling with arthritis and I want to do the same for other children. I am about to graduate, and I plan on becoming a nurse practitioner, specializing in rheumatology. I am also a recipient of the Scottish Rite Legacy Scholarship and this has aided me in the ability to pay for college without debt - a gift I am incredibly grateful for. 
Now, 18 years since my first visit to Scottish Rite, I am in the Nurse Extern Program and I truly believe that I have found my calling. My own experiences have allowed me to help other kids. I them to recognize that limitations are just challenges to overcome and barriers to break. I am grateful for this opportunity and it is truly magical to come back and work here. 
Scottish Rite has made me who I am today. My diagnosis was seen as an opportunity to grow and face challenges, versus a barrier that I had to deal with. My sister is also a patient in the Rheumatology clinic and financially, Scottish Rite gave my family the ability to afford world class care for the both of us. 
Life is too short to feel sorry for yourself or waste time on things you don't enjoy. Childhood is something that you never get back and Scottish Rite helps kids to feel like they are on an adventure. From the giant crayons that welcome you in the parking lot to the friendly wave from a security guard, Scottish Rite is more than a hospital. 



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