'Angels' at Shriners Hospital celebrate 50 years of pioneering pediatric care

CINCINNATI -- Tracy Roblero and her family were attending a holiday party when her young daughter, Julianna, climbed onto a bathroom counter and sat too close to a small tealight candle.

"I opened the door to find my daughter engulfed in flames," Roblero said.

By the time they arrived at Children's Hospital, the left side of Julianna's body was a collage of blisters and raw scar tissue: red, pink and yellow.

Although Children's Hospital provided immediate treatment for the injuries, the Roblero family turned to Shriners Hospital for the specialized pediatric burn treatment Julianna needed.

"One of the nurses over (at Children's) grabbed my face and looked me in the eye and said, 'I used to work over there. They're angels,'" Roblero recalled. 

After seeing what the staff at Shriners were able to do for her daughter, she said she can't think of a better word.

Shriners Hospital for Children in Cincinnati has been helping children like Julianna for 50 years, providing specialized, innovative care for young patients with spinal cord injuries, cleft palates, orthopedic problems and burn injuries like the ones Julianna had.

Within the hospital, a garment team makes custom compression clothing to protect young burn victims' fragile skin from irritation or further injury while it heals. For those with facial burns, masks do the same.

"We hope they'll be able to get back in society with scars that aren't noticeable," medical sculptor John Keenen said.

Shriners doctors treated Julianna's burns by removing healthy skin from other parts of her body and grafting it onto the burned areas. In the future, thanks to research performed on the hospital campus, this procedure could look much different. Doctors are already working on growing complete grafts from small patches of harvested skin.

These innovations could mean burn survivors recover more quickly and with less visible scarring. In the meantime, as one of those survivors, Julianna Roblero said the staff's genuine dedication to their patients is just as touching as the high-quality care they provide.

"It just makes you feel at home 'cause all the nurses are nice," she said.

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